In interviews about Search Party season two, the writers and actors often mention Hitchcock as a reference point. There’s definitely something to this comparison — the stylish costumes, the fragmented mirrors, Dory’s Vertigo-esque hallucinations — but there’s a crucial difference, too: Hitchcock’s protagonists were not the murderers, so you always want them to triumph. I enjoyed a lot about this second season, but part of the magic dimmed once I realized I didn’t care whether or not Dory evaded the law. She is pathetic (as Portia points out in the season finale), she is selfish, and unlike a criminal mastermind like Walter White, Dory is bad at being bad, whatever she may think to the contrary.
Even so, these final two episodes offer a satisfying reckoning. April is the nemesis that Dory deserves: She’s just as psychotic and amoral as Dory, but with two crucial differences. She doesn’t think of herself as a good person, and she’s not a privileged hipster. She’s the only character we’ve met who grew up poor, and Dory and her friends are the people she’s spent her whole life hating and envying. “Frenzy,” the ninth episode, begins with April’s opening demand made at a diner. While she shovels her way through a spread of pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, and strawberries, the other four eat nothing. She has recorded one of Dory and Drew’s screaming fights on her vintage Talkgirl recorder, and she wants $60,000 in exchange for the tape. When Portia whimpers, “Why are you doing this to us?” April sneers back, “Because I don’t like how you guys carry yourselves.” Then she takes a contemplative bite of pancake and bacon, adding, with a shrug of her shoulders and a roll of her eyes, “And I don’t think you should kill people.” Fair enough.
Under an elevated train track where they won’t be overheard by anyone, the gang attempts to come up with a payment plan. Obviously none of them earn that kind of money. Portia’s mom is out, thanks to Elijah’s work. Despite Elliott’s assertion to his publishing team a few episodes back that he didn’t need to work, he doesn’t have access to that much cash, and his rich grandmother is stubbornly holding onto life. (“We keep waiting for her to die and she won’t die!”) Dory was too focused on being a “good person” to accept the reward money from Chantal’s family when she had the chance. Drew is the one who finally dredges up a plan: They’ll wait for April to leave her apartment, then two of them will break in and find the tape, while the other two follow her.
The foursome repairs to a pet shop across the street from April’s apartment where they snuggle with a litter of kittens while waiting for April to show up. (Even in the midst of a stakeout, Portia is not so distressed that she can’t ask for a selfie with a marmalade kitten that’s “obsessed” with her.) Before long April appears, and eliciting a chorus of meows, the gang splits up to work on their respective tasks.
Dory and Drew break into April’s apartment and discover that she is much crazier than they thought. She’s a hoarder, for one thing, and her filthy apartment is filled to the brim with mountains of junk: box fans, industrial piping, cat food, lava lamps, towering stacks of cassette tapes, bondage gear, and tasers. “She’s mentally ill,” exclaims Drew, as if he didn’t already have all the information he needed to make this judgement long ago.
While Dory and Drew attempt to sort through April’s junk in search of the fuchsia Talkgirl recorder, two stakeouts unfold. Portia and Elliott are tracking a curiously cheerful April on a nonsensical shopping spree, and Detective Joy, following a tip, is trailing a fat man named Frankie. (“Damn that’s a big boy,” she observes.) Both missions end in disaster. Fat Frankie, of course, is a figment of Dory’s imagination and Joy has no reason to believe that the guy has anything to do with Keith Powell; meanwhile, the girl that Portia and Elliott are following turns out to be April’s identical twin, June.
Both of these sequences felt slightly cheap to me. Dory and Drew lived upstairs from April for (presumably) quite a while. Did they really never realize that there were two people living in the apartment below them who have completely different personalities? (“People always used to say, ‘June, you’re the happy one, and April, you’re the wrathful vindictive evil one,’” June explains to Portia and Elliott.) As for Joy, I’m not sure why she decides to give up on her conviction that the “hipster kids did it” to wander down this dead end, but now we know why Search Party made such a point of showing how easily Joy startles. When Frankie spots a snooping Joy and says, “Excuse me,” she spins around and shoots him in the heart.
Elliott tries to warn Dory and Drew that they’ve been following the wrong girl (“This is a twin-based emergency!”), but it’s too late — a guy outside of a bodega just spilled his drink all over April and now she’s back home to change her shirt. When she catches Dory and Drew trying to crawl out her bathroom window, she ups her blackmail price to $100,000, or she’s calling the cops. “I’ve got nothing to lose!” she screams, smashing down a tower of old cassette tapes to prove her point.
In my favorite scene of the episode, Elliott and Portia retire to their apartment to drink red wine and talk theology. Portia begins with a rhetorical question: “Can I say something messed up? I truly think Dory is going to hell.” At first, Elliott disagrees: He doesn’t believe in hell, and in the off chance that it does exist, he thinks they’re all headed there. Portia presses back: God is fair, she insists. “He clocked that we were tricked.” Elliott concedes this point, with one addendum: “Drew’s going to hell too,” he says. “For being the straight white man who dealt the final blow.” Cheers to that, Elliott.
Speaking of, Dory and Drew are finally having the make-up sex they’ve been moving toward all season. Remember that terrible hookup they had in the season-one premiere? Turns out that the fear of going to prison forever does wonderful things for the libido.
The next morning, as the finale episode “Psychosis” begins, the foursome gathers for one final brunch. Gone are the days when Portia and Elliott just want to get back to their regular life. Now they want to know if Dory has a plan. Dory proposes that they blackmail April, and Elliott rightly points out that there’s nothing they could get on April that would trump murder. In a twisted bit of millennial speak, Dory asks Elliott not to be so judgmental and he, dripping sarcasm, apologizes for not creating a “safe space.” When it comes out that Dory’s only other idea is just a vague proposal to “accumulate money,” Portia’s veneer of sweetness is finally stripped completely away. “I lay awake at night,” she tells Dory coldly, “thinking about how our lives are going to be taken away from us because Dory wanted to feel special” — a pretty apt description of the entire show. Dory protests that they still need to “figure this out together,” but the other three are finished with her. One by one, they exit the scene. Then the waiter approaches. “Will you be paying for all your friends?” he asks. It’s a little on the nose, but yes, by the time the credits roll, she will.
Over at the police station, Joy is forced to cover up for her murder of Fat Frankie by claiming that he confessed to Keith’s murder in the moment before she shot him. This narrative is disrupted by the appearance of Chantal, sobbing in one of the interrogation rooms. Inevitably, it all comes pouring out — she wasn’t in a dirty old motel in New Hampshire at all, she was actually hiding out in a mansion in Canada — but it’s too late for Joy to back down on her story. While Joy shouts out her rage, Chantal begs her to keep the truth a secret. If her parents find out, she’ll have to return the $250,000 of reward money that her parents gave her because they felt sorry. But she’s already spent it … on a sailboat rental.
Meanwhile, Portia, Elliott, and Drew are all wrapping up their unfinished business. Drew is fired after one last desperate attempt to sabotage Alan by writing, “I had sex with your wife” on his farewell cupcakes. Portia and Elijah finally sleep together, but Elijah refuses to kiss her on the mouth. And in a grocery store, Elliott tracks down Mark (who is shopping for dinner supplies with his boyfriend, Luke) and proposes to him. “I want us to be in love forever even if one of us goes to jail or something,” he says, before dropping down to one knee. To Luke’s disgust, clueless Mark says a tearful yes, then asks one of the cheering bystanders to snap a photo of their blissful reunion.
Dory, for her part, has finally come up with a way to get the money to April: She steals Julian’s phone with the picture of Mary’s ass. Mary is about to win her election, and once she’s a senator, tabloids will pay good money for a picture like that. April demands Dory meet her on the Staten Island Ferry for the exchange, and it’s on the deserted deck, under the full moon, where they have their final reckoning. Dory has never looked more beautiful than she does in that vampy red and black dress, her hair pinned up, her lipstick on point. When April is disgusted that Dory is willing to destroy two more lives — both Mary and Julian’s — just to avoid taking responsibility for what she’s done, Dory counters that she’s only doing all this to protect her friends. April sees right through her: Just like Dory, her friends are wastes of space. “Your friends are pointless, entitled, empty idiots,” she says, in what feels like a judgement not only of the gang, but of hipster, millennial culture at large. Still, April accepts the phone and promises Dory that she’ll never let her forget what she did. “I’m going to sit behind you in whatever bullshit movie you watch,” she said. “I’m going to marry someone in your family, no matter how disgusting they are.”
Dory hesitates just a moment, quivering with fear, then she reaches a decision and calm descends. Rushing forward, she shoves April over the railing of the ferry and watches her disappear into the waves below. Then she makes her way to Mary’s victory party, and it’s there, standing on stage, listening to Mary wax poetic about the wonderful values of “young people” today (they use the word “woke,” for example) that the cops show up to arrest Dory. Turns out someone called in an anonymous tip. Whoever it was, good work. I’ve read that the Search Party writers have already planned a third season — I wouldn’t mind if Dory spends it in jail.