Season three of Search Party has had pacing issues, but episode eight quickly introduces a bumbling valet (played by Sabrina Jalees, the episode’s writer), the identity of Dory’s stalker, and Marc’s conscience to move things along. There are moments in “A Dangerous Union” that are almost too convenient. As soon as Patrick and Ashley tell the valet to drive faster, you immediately wonder who she’s going to run over. Thankfully, the payoff is so well done, it works. Marc and Elliott’s wedding was obviously going to be one of the season’s high points, but it’s incredible how much Jalees’ script accomplishes in terms of redeeming Dory and bringing Search Party’s central friend group back together.
Let’s not get into Dory yet. This is Marc and Elliott’s big day and we’ve waited a long time for this moment. There are so many great callbacks throughout the wedding, like Jordan Firstman’s Luke, Marc’s season two boyfriend who briefly begged Marc not to take Elliott back. Luke watches in glee as his dream comes true: Marc leaves Elliott at the altar. It’s not exactly shocking. After everything Elliott put Marc through, it was clear they wouldn’t get their happy ending. It’s more interesting how Search Party goes about quietly diffusing their relationship.
Marc’s parents are introduced and they’re so wonderfully sincere and nice. Their names are Mercy and Ghost. “My name is unusual too,” remarks Mercy, a one-liner that offers incredible insight into her character. She’s clearly used to offering her partner this kind of support. It’s a brief look at the kind of people who raised Marc. And then you remember Elliott hired non-union actors to play his own parents and it’s hard to want such wonderful people to have anything to do with him. It would be easy to use any of Elliott’s past mistakes, or a new, more manipulative event to break the wedding up, but Jalees doesn’t do that.
Instead, an intimate conversation between Drew and Marc lets us see Marc’s take on their dynamic. It’s a great choice. Like Dory, we’ve seen enough of Elliott to understand who he is and what he’s done. A part of Marc likes being isolated by Elliott’s lies. He’s addicted to the way it forces them to be dependent on each other. If anyone can understand that, it’s Drew, who’s also no longer feeding into his partner’s fantasy. Even though Marc doesn’t specifically mention the murder, the hug the two share feels like enough of an acknowledgement of Drew’s situation. Only Drew sees Marc’s final warning to the gang: “If there is no abuse there is no us.”
It certainly takes a lot of abuse to get Portia, Dory, Elliott, and Drew back together. The photo shoot that opens the episode represents how at odds they all are with each other. Drew is all by himself. Dory is being a jerk to Portia and demanding an apology. Elliott is living an illusion. It almost feels good to see their sleepover at the end. After what they’ve been through, how can they abandon each other? Dory dutifully combs Portia’s hair while Portia admits she’s tired of her Christian friends who don’t understand sarcasm. Elliott embarrassed himself and his Bagel Bites and Ben & Jerry’s sponsors; he feels totally unloveable.
But it’s still Dory’s fault Portia was almost eaten by rats. Dory has put all of her friends in dangerous positions, and no security guard can protect them from the consequences. Whether that’s a life-threatening stalker or more deception, Dory never operates from a place of real sympathy in “A Dangerous Union.” Sure, Dory apologizes to Portia, but then she gets right back to manipulating her. Is Dory really sorry or does she want Portia to take back her testimony? “She is a whiz at thinking on her feet. She’ll do anything to deceive those around her, including herself” warned Dory’s doll. Drew agreed it’s an accurate profile. Portia and Elliott have been put in positions that have made them momentarily forget that.
The episode is directed by Sleater-Kinney/Portlandia’s Carrie Brownstein, who takes delight in torturing Search Party’s millennial cast. Dory is essentially a Portlandia character as she signs autographs and laments that her entire life is an inconvenience. Elliott standing alone at the altar as Portia continues to sing Boyz II Men is another wonderful touch. I also loved the shot of the crying “Younger Elliott” wandering alone past the crying Older Elliott, like his parents just abandoned him there. The misdirection with the bathroom and poisoned pudding cups felt as forced as Jalees’ valet, but even that works when the empty pudding cups save Portia’s life.
Cole Escola is revealed as Dory’s twink stalker. After building up momentum over Dory’s stalker over a multi-episode arc this season, it doesn’t seem worth it to have his character so neatly taken care of in “A Dangerous Union.” He’s been the only actual physical manifestation of the consequences Dory deserves and he’s effectively put to an end here. The doll he made confirmed he’s one of the few people who sees the real Dory, but he doesn’t even get a chance to confront her before he’s hit by a car. When the hospital calls Drew to confirm that the stalker is dead, it just feels like a convenient end to something that was meant to be more. Escola is of course wonderfully terrifying. Maybe I just don’t want this to be the last we see of him.
It also looks like Dory may face more consequences sooner than she thought. June is still looking for her sister and finds April’s diary. We don’t know exactly what she reads, but it could mention a certain meet-up on a ferry boat or Dory and Drew’s taped confession. Dory and Drew may have their friends back, but they’re still on a sinking ship.
• Why isn’t Chelsea Peretti’s Paula at the wedding? I was hoping Elliott would invite his lawyer.
• Portia can’t help but pose because she knows the pictures will look good. She doesn’t lose focus even when Dory tries to shame her into apologizing.
• Chantal made it to the wedding! She’s still looking for investors and I’m sure this William Badpastor guy is not acting in good faith. I’m still not sure if Chantal’s story will line up with the rest of the cast. So far it’s not a particularly interesting plot on its own.
• I feel like it would take a long time to squeeze all of that honey into a bucket.
• I’ll hand it to Dory and Elliott, they put more energy into finding Portia in that short amount of time than they ever did looking for Chantal.