Search Party, ‘Paralysis’ & ‘Suspicion’: Chantal Brings Trouble & Big Laughs

Adding a new character to a series is always a bit of a gamble. Will they mesh with the existing universe of characters, or prove to be a distraction from the overall narrative? Well, after setting up the storyline for its sophomore season last week, the third and fourth episodes of Search Party introduced a variety of new supporting characters – a challenge they pulled off with aplomb.

Of course, it helps that the best new character isn’t really new at all. Chantal was, in fact, the central focus of Search Party’s first season, but the character had very little screentime overall. Episode three put the former runaway in the spotlight, however, and Clare McNulty proved to be a comedic force of nature as the series’ latest self-centered millennial. In “Paralysis,” Chantal reveals that she developed feelings for Drew (John Reynolds) when he “rescued” her in Montreal, and she attempts to seduce him, completely unaware that he’s both panicking about Keith’s murder and desperately trying to get back at Dory for “ruining [his] life.”

Everything we learned about Chantal in these scenes ­– from the adult braces she just acquired to the fact that microwave s’mores are her post-coitus snack of choice – are absurd enough to be believable, and are shared with viewers in hilarious ways. And, whenever it seems like Chantal is about to stumble onto the cover-up her “friends” are all a part of, McNulty absolutely nails the tightrope walk between being a legitimate threat and a source of comic relief. She’s a wonderful actress and her increased presence in the series is more than welcome.

This week’s episodes also brought a few new characters to the bunch, played by recognizable character actors. Judy Reyes (Scrubs, Jane the Virgin) appears as a mysterious woman looking for Keith, who (quite literally) corners Dory while trying to find out about the missing PI. What initially seems like a one-note part is given layers of nuance thanks to Reyes’ abilities, as she hints at a genuine sense of care and concern for Keith as she fiercely asks questions about his whereabouts. It’ll be interesting to see where her character goes from here. Jay Duplass also shows up as a creepy director who is looking to work with Portia on a play about Charles Manson. While he only appears in one scene this week, it is an incredibly effective moment that perfectly sums up the appeal of Search Party: comedy and psychological distress are regularly merged together.

There were some other great developments in this week’s episodes, including a unique storyline for the typically underused Julian, and some workplace humor that will feel all too relatable for anyone who struggles with fitting in at office social events. The one weak spot was the reappearance of Gail (Christine Taylor), Dory’s overly dependent boss. In a show built on uncomfortable realism, Gail feels like a caricature whose relationship with Dory rings false. No disrespect to Miss Taylor, who does fine with the material she’s given, but the less we see of this character the better.

With its third and fourth installment, Search Party’s second season continues to be one of the oddest, most compelling mysteries on TV, as well as the most humorous send-up of millennials around. Let’s hope they keep making smart writing decisions, and that this great ensemble (including Clare McNulty) are put front and center.

Overall rating: 9 out of 10

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