Search Party has had an interesting television life, even by today’s standards. It started off as a TBS comedy in 2016, where it ran for two seasons. The show was renewed for a third season and made the jump to HBO Max, where it will close out its run with a fourth season that debuts on Friday, this weekend. The shift in the show’s quality with the move is notable, but that strange trajectory isn’t half as disorienting as the show itself.
Search Party follows the journey of Dory, played by Alia Shawkat, an aimless New York City millennial whose life finally finds some meaning when she learns that a college acquaintance named Chantal has gone missing. Dory takes it upon herself to solve the mystery of Chantal’s disappearance, dragging her group of reluctant friends along the way. Those friends — her wallflower boyfriend, Drew, their hyper-dramatic showoff Elliott and scatterbrained struggling actress Portia — aren’t invested in the case, since it becomes clear none of them were particularly close to Chantal, but like any good millennials, they’re invested in their friendships and hesitant to rock the boat.
And that’s really what this is — a viciously sharp satire of millennial culture, maybe TV’s best earnest attempt to roast millennial culture that feels like it’s coming from clear-eyed millennials themselves instead of a group of preachy boomers. The tone of the series is a little hard to describe, mixing black comedy, uncomfortable drama and genuine thrills on the way to exploring Dory, who can be sympathetic, alarming, frustrating and even despicable in turn as she struggles to keep control of the story she’s telling for herself, even as things spiral wildly and absurdly out of control.
Those familiar with Shawkat from her time as Maybe on Arrested Development will be impressed to see how well she’s grown as an actor, nailing Search Party’s tricky tone just right. Her co-stars — John Paul Reynolds as Drew, John Early as Elliot and Meredith Hagner as Portia — are also deft in their depictions of this strangely heightened reality, which feels part Broad City, part Killing Eve.
The show is wrapping with season four, which is probably just enough time to tie up loose ends. The show has so far gotten a little better with each season so here’s hoping it ends on a high note. We recommend it.