Search Party: “Paranoia” / “Obsession” Season 2 Episodes 5 and 6 Review

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A dark pair of episodes makes it very clear that Dory is in way over her head.

One of the great things about Alia Shawkat’s performance is that she’s still able garner sympathy for Dory, even when she does foolish, selfish, or downright awful things. “Paranoia” proves just how out of touch she is with the severity of her situation, and yet I’m still rooting for ever even when her friends are screaming at her for screwing everything up.

The episode sees the gang go upstate to Chappaqua to accept a key to the city for rescuing Chantal. The whole ceremony is essentially a sham, but it’s one that needs to happen in order for everyone to keep up appearances. Dory is a bundle of nerves, but she somehow manages to make it through her acceptance speech, despite it being slightly awkward.

What’s more important at the ceremony is how she finds out that Drew and Chantal have been hooking up. In a fantastic scene, the realization dawns on everyone after Elliott and Portia share a wordless exchange. Dory is gutted, but no one is more upset than Chantal after Drew promptly breaks things off with her the same day. Clare McNulty is excellent at making Chantal as obnoxious as possible, so the breakup is more funny than tragic. Still, a pissed off Chantal is not something the group needs on their hands right now. The’ve got more than enough to deal with.

The biggest revelation of all, however, comes from Chantal’s friend Agnes when she tells everyone that Keith’s body has been found. They haven’t made an ID yet, but a detective (Marry Me‘s Tymberlee Hill) is on the case and you know it won’t be long before she finds something. Drew also has to admit that he took the murder weapon and buried it, but luckily Agnes brushes it off and just asks him to Venmo her $200.

This leads to “Paranoia’s” explosive final sequence back at Drew’s apartment. The gang is freaking out, but Dory maintains that everything will be fine if they just work together. Truthfully, it seems like she just wants her friends to hang out with her more than anything. When she tells everyone that she’s met Keith’s ex-wife and sent an email from his computer, she isn’t ready for their volatile reaction.

Drew aggressively asserts that this whole thing is her fault and he isn’t totally wrong. None of them would be in this mess if it wasn’t for Dory’s obsession with Chantal’s disappearance in the first place. Yet, it’s difficult not to feel something for her as she desperately tries to get everything back on track. Dory doesn’t know what she’s doing, but she does want to make everything right again. Unfortunately for her, it might not be possible to do that.

“Obsession” is the stronger of the two episodes, mainly because it masterfully builds tension to a very emotional conclusion. The final scene is a bit of a fake out, with Dory thinking about jumping off the roof of a building, but really just screaming out into the void instead. Still, there was a second when I thought the jump was real and it totally made sense. The last few weeks have been an emotional roller coaster, and everyone is on pins and needles. There’s no telling what’s going to set one of them off next.

Elliott’s breakdown has already fully manifested itself. The end of “Paranoia” sees him running through the streets in his underwear shouting about needing fresh ice. In “Obsession,” he goes full-on psycho and covers his windows in tinfoil while writing his manuscript on scraps of paper towels. It’s not long before he’s running through the streets again, this time to his editor’s house who rightly decides he needs to go to rehab. John Early does some of his best work yet in this episode, fearlessly diving in to the mania and letting Elliott really become unhinged.

Portia appears to be the most well-adjusted (if you can call it that) of the group, but trouble is clearly afoot with her new director. Jay Duplass oozes douchiness as he befriends her and makes her dinner. He clearly has ulterior motives, but I’m not so sure they’re purely physical. There’s something particularly unnerving about how quickly he’s able to make Portia feel like he’s her protector. I don’t want to throw out the word “cult,” but there’s a chance that she’s about to get indoctrinated into something.

Then there’s Drew, who in the last episode accused Dory of being a horrible person, but now proves that he might be one as well. His continued manipulation of his co-worker in order to get the Shanghai job is surprisingly calculated, and he doesn’t even seem to feel remorse about doing it. Flowers and an ominous note that says “you murdered someone!” are left at his office, which is disconcerting to say the least. Who else knows about about what they did? Regardless, this is likely to only motivate him further to get the hell out of America as soon as he can.

My main guess as to who wrote the letter would be Julian, who always seems to smugly know more than he lets on. He and Dory are now working together for Mary Ferguson, a senate candidate that they both met in Chappaqua. Mary bluntly states in “Paranoia” that she needs them both in order to diversify her staff. It’s great to see Dory have a job again, but it quickly becomes clear that this isn’t going to re-focus her initiatives. If anything, it’s just another thing for her to screw up. It also doesn’t help that Julian has a New York Mag article coming out about Chantal. Dory is right to be worried that her life might implode.

This brings us to “Obsession’s” terrific final scene which also serves as a mini-homage to Vertigo. Dory gets a call from Elliott’s editor about him being sent to rehab, with the caveat that he left her the personal message “it’s all your fault.” It’s enough to make anyone want to jump. Dory doesn’t, though, because I think a part of her still believes she can fix everything. All last season, she was enthralled with solving the mystery of Chantal’s disappearance. Now she just desperately wants her life to go back to being boring. “Paranoia” Grade: B+ / “Obsession” Grade: A-


Some Other Notes:

  • The scene of Elliott trying to weigh everything in his editor’s apartment was amazing. John Early is really killing it this season.
  • Dory confessing her feelings to a random pervert on the phone was eerie and disturbing. Again, great work from Shawkat.
  • I hope this isn’t the last we get to see of Jeffery Self this season. He’s very enjoyable as Mark and his blissful unawareness is a great contrast to everyone else’s high stress levels.
  • My top 3 guesses for who wrote the note are: Julian, Chantal, and Keith’s ex’s girlfriend.


By Mike Papirmeister

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