When we met Drew’s parents earlier this season, I wondered why Dory’s parents didn’t rush to be by her side. Maybe it meant they knew something dark about Dory’s past or they know how evil she can be. Maybe her parents are the people who turned her into this monster? We know Dory has always been on the search for something more, but why? What’s so horrible about the life she was given that she needs to create so much drama around her? Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers’ script puts forth one clear answer: entitlement. Dory is just an entitled little brat with pretty cool parents.
Her parents are nice, normal people who find her secrecy abusive. It hurt when her father said that. They want to know her, but they don’t because she’s never given them a chance. She finds their Albuquerque lifestyle sad and has no respect for the sacrifices they made as Iraqi immigrants. The interview with Dory’s parents is supposed to humanize her before the trial, but within the world of the show, finally meeting Dory’s parents destroys her last shred of humanity. Her parents aren’t the source of some sad sob story; all she learned from them was how to fake it for the camera. Even though her own mother doesn’t defend her when people accuse Dory of murder, they hold hands and get through the interview together.
Drew is the only relationship Dory has tried to maintain, but even he seems to be triggering her jealousy. While Cassidy suggests it’s sexism that men get pasta and Dory has to fix her public image, Drew hasn’t been baiting the press like Dory. Dory opens the episode casually singing songs about their murder trial. Dory didn’t lay low. Drew flew to Chicago and took care of the thing that could hurt his public image. Dory wants Drew to be thankful for what she’s doing, but Drew knows the truth: his case would have a better chance without her. As Dory watches Drew devour that pasta, she realizes this and for the first time, it looks like she resents Drew.
Dory also knows that once the truth about April comes out, she’s done for good. I held out hope that April was alive, but Julian confirmed his phone got turned off in the Hudson River. That suggests April is still down there with it. If Mary Ferguson is willing to pay Julian off with $750,000 in unmarked bills, she’s probably willing to send someone after that phone. I’m glad Julian takes the payout and leaves. I was worried he’d get wrapped up in Dory’s mess and the search for his phone, but he’s dealt with this gang before and knows better. It’s a great way to utilize his character without revisiting the conflicts he and Dory had in season two. Brandon Micheal Hall is great, but it’s also hilarious that Julian stays away from this white nonsense, signs an NDA, and leaves town.
Also, we’re already halfway through the season and we haven’t even gotten to the trial yet! Perhaps it’s Search Party’s new binge format, but the pacing has felt slightly off through these first five episodes. Elliott and Marc have had excellent beats with Elliott’s parents and their wedding planners, but Portia’s slide into Christianity and her split from the group feels rushed. Yes, Portia has a dependent personality, but what is it about this specific congregation that pulled her in after a single day spent looking for a phone charger? At this point, I have to believe it’s just because Mitra Jouhari and Joel Kim Booster are members. Although, to be fair, that is a very convincing argument.
Jouhari and Booster play childish, innocent Christian college students. They’re amusingly impervious to Portia’s bragging, fame, or suggestions that they have sex with a giraffe. What matters is that they protect her when a reporter bothers her and shuffle her off as though she’s a celebrity. I like that Jouhari’s character says Portia is “the one with the bad friends,” since that’s a great summary of how she got into this situation. They don’t judge her, they’re just happy she’s on the right path now. I don’t entirely trust this congregation yet, but I hope Portia has finally found good friends.
I’d love to see Portia’s story get the same attention as Elliott’s wedding, because Bliss and Rogers shine in those world-building plots. Patrick and Ashley are thrilled to plan the wedding of the star witness in a distinguished murder trial and, of course, the theme is “attention.” Nearly every episode this season, I’ve gone, “Wow, this is the best thing John Early has ever done.” And then there’s his “Fuck you” conversation with Patrick and Ashley and the way he calms Marc with grenadine. Early has been leading the pack this season.
When the cast is given the time to dig into these stories, there are so many great moments. Still, “Public Appeal” feels bloated. It may have been better served with a focus on the parallel between Dory and her family and Portia and her lack of family. That being said, the show still has to cover a stalker, a trial, a missing woman, a wedding, and whatever Chantal is doing, so there is a lot happening, but things haven’t felt this hurried in past seasons. Hopefully Drew and Dory’s court case gives Search Party an opportunity to slow things down. Michaela Watkins’ Polly was made to take her time tearing Dory apart.
• Shalita Grant is so good as Cassidy Diamond. I could watch an entire episode of her pivoting. They’ve paired Dory with someone so likeable you have to root for her to win. That’s smart.
• Marc explains that Drew and Dory aren’t murderers, everyone is just jealous. I really wonder what Elliott is telling Marc to explain all the evidence and DNA.
• The ukulele thing was almost too twee and on the nose. We get it, they’re annoying millennial hipsters.
• I also want to bake Drew pasta and I appreciate someone with the presence of a house cat. I know Drew isn’t entirely innocent, but he’s still not as bad as Dory. I think Dory knows if she gives Drew space to be sad, he’ll turn on her.
• I wonder if Dory’s parents will stay for the trial. I hope so. They push her to the edge in a way that forces her true self to come out. Alia Shawkat does some stunning work pivoting from cold, callous daughter to crying on her mother’s shoulder.
• Dory forgiving Keith’s family was truly wicked. It was hard enough watching Dory meet Keith’s daughter last season, but her behavior is just eerie now.