The following contains spoilers of the ending of Search Party Season 4 Episodes 7-10 on HBO Max.
Does Dory (Alia Shawkat) deserve all this? I can ask that question two ways: does she deserve the punishment thrust upon her by Chip (Cole Escola)? Or does she deserve to have friends looking for her after what she did? I can see arguments being made from all sides for these questions, and maybe that’s an interesting central conflict to have here.
As Search Party concludes its fourth (and possibly final) season, it leaves certain questions in the air about the morality and ethics of its characters, but it also leaves questions about the viewer’s morality and ethics in its ending. But before we go there, let’s check out where we went:
“That’s Fine, I Always Hated That House…”
Cue the long-awaited special guest appearance from the legendary Susan Sarandon as Chip’s Aunt Lylah (what a spelling!)—who is here to save the day! Well, save the day for Chip at least. She stylishly struts into Babyfoot, and buys all the gasoline there is to buy while on the lookout for Dory.
To complicate things, Drew (John Reynolds), Elliott (John Early), and Portia (Meredith Hagner) are all now in Babyfoot too after seeing a photo of Dory on Marc’s (Jeffery Self) Instagram. In a particularly fun moment, Portia posts on her Instagram about being cast as Dory in Savage: The Dory Sief Story to try and get ahead of getting recast. She does this all while being dressed as Dory, which turns into a delightful game of cat and mouse between Aunt Lylah and the three musketeers, in which neither is quite sure who is following who.
The hijinks end when they find (a thoroughly brainwashed) Dory and end of having to kidnap her since she won’t get in the car upon their request. Trapped in another trunk, Dory is transported back to a motel where they attempt to try and talk some sense back into her.
Meanwhile, Chip finds out Lylah is actually his aunt and his mother in a particularly horrifying turn of events. He spirals with the information given to him, but it also gives him some comfort and now connects certain dots.
“The Food Here Is Legit Yummy”
Elsewhere, we finally get an update about Chantal (Clare McNulty), whose family has gone basically bankrupt trying to get her out of jail. Ungrateful, and as conceited as ever, Chantal throws a temper tantrum leaving prison and also once she returns to the family’s abode (now a run-down apartment).
During a particularly tumultuous evening, she takes her brother-in-law’s LSD and then writes something of a manifesto entitled “Imperfect Ten.” She immediately takes this to Elliott’s former editor, who rejects it, and then in a dramatic (and dangerous) fashion throws it from the roof. This ends up being the red book that gravely injures Elliott’s co-host Charlie (Chloe Fineman) in a fun crossover moment.
In an Oprah-inspired moment, Chantal’s book becomes misinterpreted as the diary of a ten-year-old girl, and she gets invited on the show. The one catch is, of course, that they think she is a ten-year-old girl. In true talk-show fashion, though, this is never quite fact-checked and on the day of her appearance it’s revealed that she is actually well, an adult.
It feels very A Million Little Pieces and also very American Dirt to make a more timely reference, which is to say that people love fame more than they love the truth, and networks and publishers love money more than they love the truth.
In a callback to Season 1’s finale Chantal utters “honestly, myself” which just happens to be the moment that a tied-to-the-bed Dory is watching, which jogs her memory of all the events of seasons past which she had been brainwashed to forget.
“Maybe We’re Just a Lost Generation”
In perhaps the strangest and most hard to unpack twist of this batch of episodes is Dory’s behaviour in Episode 9. It’s a complicated episode that begins with her asking her friends what gets them out of bed every day, and ends with it being revealed that she actually did make it out of Chip’s car in the first place when she was kidnapped, but decided to go back.
What’s at play here is I believe self-loathing, and in Dory’s case I think also a genuine feeling that she deserved what was coming for her actions. Millennial self-loathing is an interesting thing to begin to unpack, because millennials have internalized the negative values they have been told about their generation, and I believe also taken that to heart themselves.
I mean, I remember a few years ago sitting across from a man in his seventies who told me that everyone my age expects to leave college and become vice-president. It’s just weird to think that that is a person’s takeaway of my generation because the reality is we facedown a series of dead-end internships out of college, most of which are not even paid (at least none of mine were).
Has Dory cast herself aside now as unworthy of saving and incapable of changing? Has her encounter with her dark side and demons made her think that is all she will ever be?
And for Drew, does he really think he is unworthy of selfless love after Dory? In Episode 9, he realizes he’s still in love with Dory, and how unhealthy that truly is. Has he internalized his value as only being worthy of a love where he is cast aside? Or is this also a commentary on how romcoms perpetuate a harmful ideal of the perfect love story?
In Elliott’s case, does he think that he needs to denounce most parts of himself in order to fit in or become “successful?” Does he think that there are no other possible avenues, or does he harbour such internalized homophobia and hatred for himself that this also becomes something of an outlet?
Sadly, I don’t think Portia is given much complexity in her plot-line here, but I guess you could argue she self-sabotages her way into getting recast in a way that makes her get fired instead of being the one to quit when she knew she took a job that was inherently unhealthy for her.
“Are You Gonna Clap?”
The ending is a somewhat cathartic ending in which we attend Dory’s funeral. Particularly relevant is Elliott’s speech in which he says: “We have to stop shaming darkness because when we do so we stop understanding human nature.”
There’s something quite profound in that, and in how we look at TV and the world. We need to not look away from the ugly in people, as it does make us human in the same way that being good does.
I think what he says here really made me think about the ending in which we see that Dory actually lives. I kind of asked myself if she deserved to live after everything she had done, but I ultimately settled upon yes. There’s something revolutionary and refreshing in this somewhat cliche “it was all a dream” ending because life will go on for her.
She may not have any friends or Drew anymore and that may be punishment for what she has done, but I think in the moments that she thought were her last, she realized she loved that and she felt genuine remorse. And I think there’s something uplifting in someone being rehabilitated here. There’s also something revolutionary in a millennial living instead of dying young. She still has some limited options for redemption, and there’s something beautiful in that.
Certainly, I can think of a few ways to keep this going, but the way in which they lined up all the past Dory’s from season finales at the end really made me think this was the end. That and all the Season 1 callbacks in the last two episodes. If this is the Search Party ending I’m happy. I’m not exactly knocked off the floor, but I think there’s something quietly uplifting in having a character (even as dark as Dory) be still worthy of life and living in this beautiful, upsetting world.