Search Party: “Denial” / “Hysteria” Season 2 Episodes 7 and 8 Review

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Search Party brings some of its background players to the forefront as things get dangerous for Dory and her friends.

And Dory & Co. begin to crack under the pressure of keeping their secret, Search Party draws out some minor players in order to keep the momentum of the narrative. In “Denial,” Julian becomes the center of his own mini-scandal at work when his New York Mag piece on Chantal runs and it’s…very incendiary.

Julian has always been skeptical of the group’s behavior and general vapid demeanor, so it makes sense that he’d write an article positing that Chantal is lying about the circumstances of her disappearance. Of course, in a very timely move, his piece doesn’t sit well with his co-workers who all tell him he’s trash for not believing victims of abuse. The cruel twist of fate is that he’s totally right about this one specific instance, but there’s nothing he can say to dig himself out of the hole he’s now in.

“Denial” does good work in drawing out some sympathy for Julian. Even though he’s always been a person in search of the truth, he carries himself with an air of smug superiority that’s hard to really identify with. Elliott may have done a very horrible thing by lying about having cancer last season, but Julian’s exposé on him still came across as a cold and calculating move. A

Now Julian’s in his own hot water as well, and seeing him squirm puts him in the same boat as the rest of the group. Sure, he didn’t murder someone, but now he knows what it’s like to be in a tricky situation. Along with being hated by all of his co-workers he also is on the receiving end of some sexual harassment from Mary Ferguson, which has some very uncomfortable racial undertones. The worst part is that there’s really nothing he can do about it. His piece on Chantal has basically guaranteed he won’t get work anywhere else, and no one’s going to believe his word against hers.

Julian’s increased presence in “Denial” shows just how big and dangerous Dory’s secret is getting. Yes, his article is basically dismissed by everyone, which takes some of the heat off, but people are still talking about it and it’s spreading way beyond Chantal and the main four. Both Julian and Chantal are wildcards at this point, especially since Julian is now backed into a corner. Could exposing the truth about what happened to Chantal be his way out? If so, that’s really bad news for Dory.

Speaking of which, Dory makes the unfortunate decision to go to Keith’s funeral, even after her friends all berated her for talking with his ex-wife for so long anyway. The funeral is luau-themed, which is very weird and very amazing. Dory may have gone to try and keep up appearances, but she ends up only getting weighed down with more guilt as she meets his daughter face-to-face. It’s an unnerving scene to witness and one that could easily send her off the deep-end.

Elsewhere, Elliott makes a speedy recovery at rehab by realizing that he can’t handle the pressure of being looked to as the leader of the group all the time. It’s a very Elliott breakthrough, but it also contains some genuine pathos. Everyone turned to Elliott in the premiere for what to do with the body, and he delivered. The realization that, not only do his friends expect him to know what to do with a body, but that he actually did know what to do with it, is what made him have a nervous breakdown.

Portia also has a breakthrough of sorts, but its one that’s brought on at the behest of Elijah, who’s becoming smarmier by the second. Watching her cut her mother out of her life is disconcerting, but only because it perfectly fits into my theory that Elijah is slowly brainwashing her. Also, her mother kind of digs her own grave by telling her that she has to put up with her behavior no matter what. Bad move for someone who’s being poisoned against her own daughter.

The ending of “Denial” brings everything to a head, as Drew—who spends the entire episode freaking out about the card he received—comes home to find “Murderer” written in red paint on his door. There are a lot of balls in the air right now, but one thing is for sure. Their secret is out and no one is safe.

“Hysteria” quickly reveals who wrote the card and painted Drew’s door, and it echoes some of the brilliance of the season 1 finale. What made that ending so genius is that the twist at the end turned out not to be a twist at all. Dory was so wrapped up in finding Chantal, that she never even stopped to think that Chantal could’ve simply been hiding out on her on volition.

As it turns out Drew’s manic downstairs neighbor April is the one who’s been calling them murderers via cards and red paint. At first, the reveal seems shocking because of April’s minor appearances in the season thus far, but then it makes total sense. Of course Dory and Drew and Portia and Elliott would be so consumed with what to do about Keith that they wouldn’t even think to lower their voices in case someone else heard. New York apartments can have notoriously thin walls, so April overhearing everything is a smartly done non-twist twist.

Now that we’re two episodes away from the finale, “Hysteria” does great work in building tension for the group as things spiral out of their control. April’s reveal couldn’t have come at a worse time—she literally arrives at their door while Drew and Dory are being questioned by Detective Hartman. Tymberlee Hill has played her character as slightly skittish since her introduction, but she still seems rather competent at her job. Her interrogation of Dory is shot with a lot of head-on close ups, which is a fantastic way to show that A) Dory thinks she’s really good at lying and is getting away with it, and B) Detective Hartman fully sees through all of her bullshit.

The one downside to this sequence is Drew, who turns into a jumble of rambling nerves in Hartman’s presence. Yes, its very plausible that even the slickest of us would succumb to the anxiety of being questioned by the police, but this new behavior is such a stark contrast from the Drew in “Obsession.” That character was slick and determined, and this guy can’t even form a proper sentence. This unfortunately leaves everything up to Dory who, as previously mentioned, is not as good of a liar as she thinks she is.

Elliott, meanwhile, returns from rehab with a newfound outlook on life. In a brief, but hilarious scene at his publisher’s office, he announces that he no longer wants to work…ever (must be nice to have that option). Seeing Elliott unravel has been one of the highlights of the season so far, mainly because of John Early’s fantastic performance. I have a feeling that this more composed, zen version of him will be short-lived, especially with April and Detective Hartman hot on everyone’s trail.

Things come to a head at the premiere of Portia’s play, which is just as disturbing and pretentious as you think a play directed by Elijah would be. It’s here, though, that Search Party gets to be its most Hitchcockian yet, with a terrific sequence in which Dory has another hallucination that involves Portia screaming at her and falling into a black abyss. It’s a mesmerizing manifestation of her mounting sense of guilt, especially now that the consequences of her actions are beginning to seem more severe.

“Hysteria” ends with Portia, in a fabulous dress, of course, literally running away from bad news as Dory tells her they need to figure out what to do about April. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like any of them have room to run anymore. The truth is coming out whether they like it or not. “Denial” Grade: B+ / “Hysteria” Grade: B+

 

Some Other Notes:

  • In a show with some hilarious names, both real and fake, “Fat Frankie” is the latest to enter the lexicon. It’s simple, but it works.
  • Elliott’s looks in these pair of episodes are amazing, from his pink velour tracksuit to that knit hat that he wears to his publisher’s office post-rehab.
  • As Dory digs herself into a deeper hole, I have to wonder if she’s going to commit another crime to try and offset the first one. It would be a dark path for the show to go down, but I think the writers could make it work and still find a way to bring in humor.

 

By Mike Papirmeister

 

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