Season 2 of ‘Search Party’ is joyous torture to watch.
Search Party premiered last year with a strikingly funny and original first season. It was often agony to watch, but for all the right reasons.
It presented Millennial culture in a hilariously brutal and true light. Were some aspects a little overblown? Of course – that’s what made it so funny. But at its core was a deep familiarity with and affection for the culture it presented. Instead of toothless jokes about safe spaces or diversity, there were blunt and awkward conversations about not having health insurance and communicating with Baby Boomer parents.
It was like if the writers of The Great Indoors had ever met a single person under 30.
It was also a beautiful study in intrigue and bathos — a genuinely intriguing mystery that ended with an intense double-whammy of climax and anticlimax that was both shocking and extremely satisfying. The missing Chantal was safe and never in any danger. And our heroes killed Keith, the private eye who may or may not have been on her case. It was a masterful conclusion to a season in which you could never quite tell if the problems and the dangers were real.
The new season (I’ve seen all of it) picks up immediately after the end of the first, with Dory, Drew, and Elliott having just hidden a body from Chantal, Portia, and the beautiful Québécois Matthieu. It makes for a perfect imbalance between the vapid and the brutal, between dilemmas imagined and real.
This imbalance sets the tone of the season, and it’s a great new direction for the show. After searching so desperately for excitement, Dory’s finally found it, and it’s not what she expected. She sums it up well in episode 3: “I guess I just miss when my problems were about nothing.”
With a cast of characters who are all a little despicable in their own ways, Search Party has always been blissful agony to watch. With Keith’s death, that agony is doubled, and we’re forced to watch our heroes cover up a murder and carry on with their superficial lives.
But that doubling encourages us to see them more as real people. Elliott, often the hardest to watch, actually manages to keep his head in a crisis and emerges as something resembling a grownup for the first time ever. It’s a treat to watch him struggle to keep up his superficial veneer and use it as a social tool in the first episode.
He joins a dance party with the angriest and most pointed dancing I’ve ever seen.
This newfound sympathy and identification goes for the rest of the crew as well. While the first season inspired a certain amount of worry, it was during excruciating social situations they put themselves and each other into. I felt sorry for Portia cornered by an amorous and unstable Gavin, and for Drew confessing imagined infidelity to Dory. Now they’re in genuine danger and, despite the poor ways they may handle it, I can’t help but root for them.
And they do handle it poorly. Each member of the gang is driven to irrational, paranoid behavior in one way or another. It’s excruciating and heartbreaking to watch, and still, sometimes, very funny. It’s all the torture of the first season but with much higher stakes.
The high stakes do make for a different feel. With the mystery of Chantal solved, Search Party is no longer a search. It might be better called Damage Control Party. But that’s alright — it’s a natural continuation of last season’s finale. Another show might have treated Keith’s death more stylistically or even comically, but not this one. Instead it gives us a nerve-wracking and sometimes unbearable collision with consequence that’s surprisingly realistic.
And watching our inconsequential heroes deal with it is a real joy.
The new season is a delightful torment to watch, and I already can’t wait for it to come back for a third.