Search Party: “Paralysis” / “Suspicion” Season 2 Episodes 3 and 4 Review

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Search Party draws us deep into everyone’s senses of guilt and paranoia in another winning pair of episodes.

One of the most delightful aspects of this show’s first season was its Nancy Drew-esque manifestation of clues in everyday objects. Items like a necklace and a crumpled up check suddenly become compelling devices that propel the plot forward. It was always exciting to see what the next piece of the puzzle would be.

Season 2’s tonal shift doesn’t really allow for this, as we’re now dealing with a cover-up thriller instead of a mystery. Still, this isn’t cause for concern. With both “Paralysis” and “Suspicion,” Search Party‘s writing team assures us that they’re more than up to the task of finding new ways to keep us on our toes. Examining how Dory & Co. deal with keeping this very big secret can be just as exciting as finding new clues, if not more so.

“Paralysis” plays out like an exercise in mounting dread. The gang attempts to return to normal, but of course none of them have the faintest idea what that is anymore. Dory is the most upfront about being wracked with guilt over what happened. In the episode’s terrific opening sequence, she hallucinates a man’s marionette show in the park as Keith standing over right before Drew knocks his head in.

Dory’s inability to re-adjust to her old life stems from the fact that it’s been blown up by everything that’s happened since she started searching for Chantal. Drew has completely disconnected from her, and even starts hooking up with Chantal as part of his spite. She has no apartment to go to except for that of her pill-addicted former boss Gail (Christine Taylor, once again wonderful) who can’t re-hire her because of her own financial troubles. So, with no boyfriend, no apartment, and no job, she’s left alone to sit with her anxiety-inducing thoughts.

Dory and Drew have the most to be anxious about, as they’re the ones who were actually a part of the murder. While Dory continues to have internal freak-outs (and one external fainting spell in the park), Drew channels his stress into his aforementioned hookup with Chantal and deciding to literally run away from his problems by applying for a new position at his company in Shanghai.

Even more interesting is how Elliott and Portia start to crumble under the pressure. Yes, they were both more or less accessories to the crime and not as closely involved, but this doesn’t stop them from reacting to the stress of it all. Elliot is the first to succumb to the pressure, as a meeting with his publishing team takes a turn when a clump of his hair falls out. Though he hilariously tries to make a self-deprecating joke about it—“that moment when your hair falls out!”—it’s immediately clear that he’s not handling the aftermath as well as he claims to be.

Portia, on the other hand, seems to be doing relatively ok, but a new role she’s up for about a series of Charles Manson murders will likely complicate things a great deal. What’s so engaging about both hers and Elliott’s plotlines is that it leaves the question of who is going to crack first hanging in suspense. From the outset, it seems like Dory would be the one to break seeing as how much guilt she has weighing on her shoulders. Yet, with Elliott and Portia barely keeping it together—and with the fate of both of their careers on the line—it’s really anyone’s guess.

“Suspicion” is certainly more plot-heavy than its predecessor, but it continues with the season’s general feeling of trepidation. Elliott’s hair loss is now coupled with a full body rash and another lie to his boyfriend Mark (the charming Jeffery Self), this time about conversion therapy instead of cancer. It’s clear that he’s been rendered a complete mess, which isn’t too great considering he has chapters of his book due to his editor. There’s only so much time that another lie about getting his laptop stolen will buy him.

Portia’s audition for the Manson murders play goes well, except that the director (an aptly cast Jay Duplass) forces her to call a former colleague and tell her exactly what she thinks of her. This unnerving exercise is a huge red flag for what this project will likely entail. Though Meredith Hagner is excellent at giving Portia these great fake smiles of confidence, it’s clear that she might not want to be in this type of environment right now.

Drew arguably has the most to lose out of everyone if the truth comes out, since he’s the one who actually struck Keith in the head. “Suspicion” continues his quest to get the job in Shanghai, despite being up against another candidate who speaks fluent Mandarin. Unlike everyone else, however, Drew works well under pressure. At a work party, he smoothly starts to pit the candidate and his boss against each other. Fleeing the country is not going to solve any of his problems, but I’m very intrigued as to where this narrative is headed.

Then there’s Dory, who ended “Paralysis” by giving a full confession to Gail before she fell asleep. It didn’t really count, since Gail was high on sleeping pills and likely won’t remember. In “Suspicion,” Dory makes some questionable choices that could really put her in jeopardy. After being tracked down by Keith’s ex-wife (Scrubs‘ Judy Reyes), she makes the unfortunate decision to go to Keith’s apartment and send a fake email from his account letting his ex know that he’s away for work. Now her fingerprints are all over his laptop and there’s a forged email that can be used against her.

It’s very likely that Dory immediately realizes the gravity of what she’s done, because her guilt soon manifests itself as a bloodied Keith asking her to die with him. Alia Shawkat does some wonderful work here, playing horrified and overwhelmed with a heart-pounding amount of distress. Dory is spiraling out of control, and her attempts to fix everything are only making them worse.

“Suspicion” also sees the return of Julian, who outed Elliott as a liar last season with a scathing article. Julian is portrayed as the antithesis of the gang’s aimless, vapid, and catty group of characters, having a legitimate journalistic career and wanting to cut through everyone’s bullshit.

Still, there’s something about him that doesn’t sit right with me. Maybe it’s his general sense of self-importance. Or maybe it’s the fact that he used the same line on both Dory and Chantal about writing an article about them being an excuse to hang out. Julian may be out to expose the truth, but I have a feeling he has some truths of his own that he’s hiding.

None of this is gleaned by Chantal, who happily lets him interview her and is overflowing with details about her disappearance. Nothing good can come from any part of her story being publicized, even if it’s her fake version of events. Unfortunately, everyone else is so consumed with their own trauma, that they don’t even have time to ensure Chantal keeps a low profile.

“Suspicion” is the stronger of the two episodes, if only because it propels the plot forward with interesting new dilemmas that each character will have to face. Search Party might not have a straightforward mystery to keep it going anymore, but it doesn’t really need one. Watching this group of people attempt to manage a crisis is highly entertaining. Who needs a whodunit when you have a “how are they going to survive it?” “Paralysis” Grade: B+ / “Suspicion” Grade: A-

 

Some Other Notes:

  • The last scene in “Suspicion” confirmed that the weird face on the tree near where they buried the body was important, as it’s some weirdo’s homemade girlfriend. More troubling is that he discovers Keith’s hand sticking out of the ground while he’s pleasuring himself to her. They really did a shitty job burying him.
  • Drew also buries the trophy that he killed Keith with, which seems like a really dumb idea. Won’t the police immediately question where it is?
  • The entire sequence of Elliott saying he’s finished his first draft of the book but that he got mugged and now doesn’t have it is amazing.

 

By Mike Papirmeister

 

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