Shows about millennials are a dime a dozen, but only Search Party throws a murder into the mix. Last year, TBS was home to the most surprising and unexpected series on television: a humorous look at the culture of 20-somethings that slowly morphed into a compelling mystery. But, in its two-part season premiere, the comedy-mystery evolved further, as it walked the tightrope between “psychological thriller” and “biting satire.”
Season one followed the aimless Dory (Alia Shawkat), who became obsessed with the disappearance of a former classmate, Chantal (Clare McNulty). The season ended on a dark note: Dory and her friends killed the man they suspected of kidnapping their acquaintance, only to find out mere seconds later that Chantal wasn’t in danger at all, but merely wanted to “get off the grid.”
In season two, we follow the group of friends as they deal with the fallout from their violent actions, as well as their often-hilarious attempts to cover-up the crime without Chantal (or the police) figuring out what they’ve done. But, of course, it’s not all jokes: Dory is clearly unhinged by what’s unfolded around her, and it’s only a matter of time before a member of the group explodes and confesses to everything.
The best thing about Search Party is the way it makes its unlikable characters, on some level, relatable. Last year, that task was somewhat easy: any millennial viewer could connect with Dory and her friends as they wondered what their place in the world was, and looked for those answer in the most unlikely of places. And while these characters are, obviously, flawed individuals, the show still zeroes in on universal feelings felt by 20-somethings, namely the sheer terror of finding yourself in a situation out of your control.
The quartet at the center of Search Party are complicated, multi-faceted individuals who turn clichéd caricatures (i.e. the dumb blonde and the sassy gay friend) on their heads and feel like real human beings, even as they fight about the proper way to bury a body.
This season’s first two episodes, “Murder!” and “Conspiracy,” also maintain Search Party’s tradition of finding the humor in the most absurd aspects of millennial culture. Hilarious sequences involve everything from Tumblr poetry to navigating the politics of hookups at parties, with the humor never detracting from the seriousness of the story’s more dramatic moments. Even better, these scenes don’t belittle or cruelly mock the generation that they’re depicting. While the characters and their outrageous behavior could make for easy targets, the show seems more concerned with laughing with, not at, them. There are no cheap shots here.
Unfortunately, Search Party’s biggest problem has also returned for another season: the show is just too short. A half hour runtime is fine in theory, but the writers tend to hyper-focus their attention on one particular aspect of the story, to the point where other subplots feel shortchanged. This leads to some awkwardly paced moments, and scenes that tiptoe on for a bit too long. These moments are a bit more rare than they were last year – at least so far – but at least one scene in each episode could have been trimmed by a few minutes. Hopefully this won’t be a problem in the coming weeks, especially as other characters get re-introduced for the new season.
What makes Search Party works is that it combines elements from successful shows and creates something totally new out of it. Last season felt something like Girls crossed with True Detective, which made for a compelling ten episodes but raised questions about how long the series could possibly continue. But, if the season two premiere is any indication, they’ve found new inspiration: this is a millenial’s take on Hitchcock, which should make for a unique season of television.
Overall rating: 8 out of 10
Search Party airs Sunday nights on TBS.