Massive spoilers contained within!
In late 2016, an unexpected contender for TV show of the year came in the form of TBS’ original mystery sitcom Search Party. In it, Arrested Development‘s Alia Shawkat stars as Dory, who while drifting through her early twenties becomes obsessed with finding a missing acquaintance from college and drags a trio of objectionable friends along for the ride. Mixing noir elements with Girls-style mockery of NYC millennials, it was packed with as many twists as it was with laughs – creating what the New Yorker declared a new genre: the “noir sitcom”.
Season 2 has just arrived in one binge-able go on All4, and with its precise dismantling of self-entitled hipsters it’s even funnier and darker than the first. But it ends with just as much of a question mark as the first season – for those of us who’ve finished, here are the questions that still need answering. Spoilers follow.
1. Could Dory’s friends go down too?
At the very end of season 2, Dory is arrested by the NYPD, who are acting on an anonymous tip that she was involved in Keith’s murder. We don’t know if the others have been reported too, but the answer to that question will have a huge bearing on the way season 3 plays out: will it end up being a hilarious courtroom drama, or will they get off the hook somehow?
2. What is Elijah doing to Portia?
Portia’s weird-ass director (played to perfection by Transparent‘s Jay Duplass) has been systematically removing anyone who supports her from her life. He forced her to tell the unvarnished truth to an acquaintance she didn’t really like. He forced her to cut out her mother. And now with an uncharacteristic bitterness, she’s abandoned her friend Dory. Is this some kind of cult? Why does Elijah want Portia to need him and only him? And what will he do once she does?
3. How will April’s twin react to her death?
April’s twin, June, is her happy-go-lucky opposite. Both of them seem pretty fey – April has no idea about anything vaguely current, even how to make copies of a cassette tape – so will June even notice that her sister is gone? And if she does, how much does she know about April’s scheme to blackmail Dory and co. for $100,000, or their involvement in Keith’s murder?
4. Will the Senator go down for her association with Dory?
If there’s a third season, it’s likely the newly elected Senator Mary Ferguson will encounter some tough questions about having a accused murderer on the staff of her campaign.
5. Will April’s death incriminate Julian, whose phone she had?
Instead of $100,000, Dory gave April Julian’s phone. This was more valuable than $100k, Dory said, because it contained sexually explicit messages sent by Mary Ferguson that April could sell to the press.
When the police eventually find April’s body, they’ll find the phone with it – so does that mean they’ll come looking for Julian? And does it mean the messages Senator Ferguson sent to Julian will be brought to light too?
6. Did April give Dory the right tape?
On the ferry, April gave Dory a tape, but Dory had no real way of knowing whether it was the right one, or if it was the only copy – she just believed April had kept her word. Dory killed April anyway, but whether or not it’s the right tape is important to season 3: if Dory was given the right tape, the police might get their hands on it when they arrest her (unless Dory had got rid of it first). If the tape is still out there, on the other hand, then incontrovertible evidence of Dory’s role in Keith’s murder is still out there too.
7. How will these details come back to haunt Dory?
In season 2, the gang made several mistakes by failing to cover their tracks in Montreal:
- They went to a shop near the house to buy shovels and a suitcase, meaning they’re all over that store’s CCTV. If the footage hasn’t been overwritten, they’re on camera – and even if they aren’t, they may have been stupid enough to pay with a traceable card.
- They lied that they had found Chantal in North Carolina, but there’s proof that Portia went to Canada because she took a selfie with the border guard.
- On the train in Montreal, several witnesses saw Dory try to dispose of a phone on a train seat.
- Dory and Drew broke into April’s apartment via the fire escape – meaning if the police discover April’s death and go to her apartment, they’ll see that the break-in had to have been committed by someone within the apartment building – and they could link it to Dory.
8. Who tipped off the police about Dory?
The biggest question posed by season 2 is that of who tipped off the police about Dory. The season closes with Shawkat’s character being arrested by the NYPD at the victory celebration of her boss, the newly elected Senator Mary Ferguson. In the final moments of the season they explain they received an anonymous tipoff about her involvement in Keith’s murder – but who was it from? Here are the contenders.
April had a cassette tape that proved Dory and Drew had a role in Keith’s murder. After making a deal for what she thought was the correct tape, Dory decided to get rid of the gang’s tormentor by pushing her off the Staten Island ferry, after which she went straight to Senator Ferguson’s celebration. But it’s possible that April had left the anonymous tip with the police just prior to Dory’s arrival on the ferry, and then gave her a decoy tape to satisfy her. In this way April’s warning to Dory – “If your conscience doesn’t haunt you, I will forever” – could be a lot more ominous than it initially sounded.
April’s improbably cheery twin sister must be wondering where she is. In fact, April could conceivably have told June to contact the police with the information if anything happened to her.
In episode 10, Portia’s director said “I would die before I betray you”, asking her to tell him what was troubling her. As that final scene with the pair ends, he says: “Tell me”. What with Elijah’s obsession with the truth, perhaps at some point off-screen, Portia did in fact tell him what had happened to Keith – and he might have convinced her to tell the police about it too.
In the final moments of episode 3, Dory tells her drugged-up former boss Gail – the rich lady whose assistant she was – that she killed a man. Given her state at the time, it’s likely Gail doesn’t remember this moment, but fans on Reddit have suggested it was her.
The funniest compulsive liar on TV gave up on Dory at the start of episode 10. Given his involvement in the cover-up, it’s unlikely it was Elliot who made the call to the police – but then again, he could have cut a deal, as he wasn’t directly involved in the murder itself.
There’s no reason Keith’s murderer himself would give Dory up, because that would implicate him too – but in this list of people who knew Dory was involved in Keith’s death, we shouldn’t exclude anyone. Bigger twists have happened in Search Party.
The answer that’s most plausibly within the spirit of Search Party is that Dory left the anonymous tip herself. This is partially down to a telling line of dialogue from the start of episode 10. When Drew, Elliot and Portia abandon her at brunch, the waiter asks Dory: “Will you be paying for all of your friends?” This could be foreshadowing that Dory is trying to take the fall for Keith’s murder – something that’s entirely within the scope of her character as someone who seems to be seeking fulfilment of any kind, even if that entails ‘nobly’ taking the fall for a pointless crime.
To make sense of this theory, you have to think about why she met April on the Staten Island ferry in the first place: it was to absolve all of her friends of guilt. She wanted to get the tape so she could destroy any evidence that they were involved, and then she wanted to give herself up so the police wouldn’t go chasing down the others. But it’s likely that things are going to get far more complicated than that.
9. Where could a third season go?
Could Dory be released by the NYPD in season 3? Definitely: the finale is probably a bait and switch, and here’s why.
Firstly: the police have technically already closed the case. Detective Joy Hartman signed a form in episode 10 saying that ‘Fat Franky’ had admitted to the murder of Keith Powell before he shot her. She said that this was why she had shot and killed him – though of course, this wasn’t actually what happened. She knows she killed an innocent man, and reluctant as she was to sign her false statement – knowing that Keith was killed by Dory and her friends – she had to lie about her ordeal in order to keep her career.
If we’re right that Dory left the anonymous tip herself, it’s likely that season 3 will see her go in for questioning only to be let go – and then we’ll be left with the remaining plot strands, as Redditors have noted. There’s the fact that Elijah knows about the group’s crime; the fact that Elliot proposed to his boyfriend; Dory’s murder of April; Drew’s new unemployment; and Julian’s phone being found on April’s body – as well as all the incriminating loose ends we mentioned above.
But there’s already a (vague) plan for season 3, says executive producer Michael Showalter (who also plays Drew’s boss). He told The New York Times, “We’ve always had a “1-2-3” idea of what’s gonna happen. In Season 1, they murder somebody, and in Season 2 they’re trying to cover that murder up. Then there’s a thing that we’ve always talked about doing in Season 3, which I can’t tell you.”
Fingers crossed the series will be renewed for a third season, then.