Search Party kicked off its second season digging a grave and giving new life to the old murder-mystery format. Dory’s (Alia Shawkat) group of friends, once united by bottomless mimosas and the search for Chantal, is now completely fractured. The consequences of Keith’s murder and their cover-up became unavoidable, unlike so many other aspects of their lives. But even though Elliott (John Early) snapped at the halfway point, it was Dory who was the most desperate. By season’s end, she’s gone from directionless naif to femme fatale, and not just in her choice of ensemble.
After spending the season evading discovery, Dory, Drew (John Reynolds), Portia (Meredith Hagner), and Elliott (John Early) learn that a neighbor, April (Phoebe Tyers), overheard all of their freak-outs and knows their terrible secret. April attempts to blackmail the friends, which drives Dory to commit murder—this time, intentionally. The season wraps on a much less ambiguous note than the first, but there are still plenty of questions: Who tipped off the police? And is April really dead?
The A.V. Club spoke briefly with co-creators Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers, who, along with Michael Showalter, engineered Dory’s downward spiral. They talked character doubles and flaws, and also debunked some theories (including our own).
The A.V. Club: What is going through Dory’s head as she pushes April off the ferry? Assuming that did happen—it seems concrete, but we’ve seen Dory hallucinate or project before.
Charles Rogers: I think what’s going through Dory’s head is very different—what was important to us in designing this murder at the end of this season is that it feel very different from the way the first season ended with her killing Keith with Drew. Dory feels a few things; I think she feels like April is really the voice of her conscience and she does not—the judgment that April casts on her is not the way that Dory wants to see herself. Dory definitely has thoughts of herself as a victim and a hero, and April is really like a voice of reason that Dory’s point of view cannot accommodate.
She’s also a threat forever, she does threaten to never leave her life, and so it was important that this impulse that [Dory] has not be a purely murderous moment, that it really is an insurance on her part that she can continue to sustain her life, and that April is somebody who might not actually ever leave her life. We just wanted it to be thrilling, but also complicated and multifaceted.
Sarah-Violet Bliss: And also to save her friends, who are all implicated.
AVC: It’s clear how much this season was inspired by Hitchcock in the storytelling and costume design. There’s also his concept of the “double.” You just said April is Dory’s conscience, but has she also been this distorted or possibly more accurate reflection of Dory as well?
Rogers: April is definitely a mirror to Dory and her friends’ entitlement and privilege. April implies that she’s had a horrible childhood and life, and that what she resents about Dory and the friends [Drew, Elliott, and Portia] is that they’ve always had everything they’ve ever wanted, so she is a mirror to Dory, but a Dory that had a different past. I think really it’s about illuminating the hypocrisies in all of the characters, April involved, and just the show is always trying to redefine the gray area ethically that we all live in.
Bliss: Dory and her friends could have had the easiest life ever, and something in them screwed it up, and April’s just really resentful of how Dory and her friends mistreat what they’ve been given.
AVC: Will we ever find out what made Detective Hartman so jumpy? She startles herself by closing her car door when we first meet her, and gets worse from there.
Rogers: I have a feeling that if you asked her about it, she would be like, “Something really traumatic happened to me once,” then you find out that it was just when she was a child a door slammed loudly, and she thinks of that as the thing that made her so scared of doors, but she’s just weak. It’s a thing she needs to get over obviously.
Bliss: Her fatal flaw.
Rogers: Yeah, it’s her fatal flaw.
AVC: When I spoke to Michael Showalter and John Early before, they said Elliott’s wardrobes would tell a story, but as I watched the second season, I noticed flowers on everyone’s clothes. Was that like a Manson Family “flower child” reference?
Bliss: It’s funny, I remember being like, “Wow, this episode has a lot of flowers in it.” Maybe subconsciously that meant something, but—
Rogers: [Laughs.] Flowers were just very in. There’s a few things like that though. There’s also ships all throughout season one and two, mostly because that was a conversation we had about Drew, that Drew likes nautical things, and that became a culminating symbol of this season. Sometimes things just end up happening and then you act like they’re very meaningful.
AVC: I guess some of us get carried away, trying to be armchair detectives. Aside from my flower idea, have you guys heard any bizarre theories about what’s happening to Dory and the gang?
Bliss: It’s not bizarre, but Alia [Shawkat]’s mom when watching season two thought that Crystal’s mob connections were a much bigger part of who sent the flowers. She was like, “I know who sent the flowers—the mob. And Crystal’s family is terrorizing them.”
Rogers: That’s a good idea.
Bliss: I know.
AVC: How did you approach the character arcs this season, with Elliott becoming much more honest, Drew more devious, and Portia pushing people who underestimated her out of her life?
Bliss: We talked about them a lot, and basically wanted to see, explore how each character would respond to dealing with guilt and trying to take control of their lives.
Rogers: I think we also really wanted to not rest just on the portraits of the characters that we created in the first season, and feel like that was enough for viewers. We really wanted to learn more about the characters in writing them. So I think all the things that we set up in the first season about them we wanted to deepen, and just see how far we could push certain aspects of them. It was a chance for us to learn more about them too.
AVC: It’s something that the show has done very well, because in the first season they all felt like elements of the same person, and by the second, they all feel like fully realized characters. They’re obviously very flawed, but you actually do grow to care about them.
Bliss: Yeah, we love them.
AVC: What was the most challenging thing about putting together the second season?
Bliss: I would say that making the characters active, because when we were talking about, “What would you actually do if you had murdered someone?” It was just like, “Well, you’d just go and never talk about it again, and hide, and live the rest of your life.” But we had to create things, reasons for the characters to make bad choices, and be actively engaging in their lives, to cover up.
Rogers: Yeah, and the way the first season ends too, and that we pulled the rug out from under the show with revealing that nothing had happened to Chantal, it was all Dory’s projection, that was such a big thing, so it was very hard to follow up. I guess finding the logic of how to proceed, because it felt a little bit like, “Oh, we’ve admitted that we live in a world where anything crazy that happens is Dory’s projections,” but then we really want to create these things that just happen, so it was a big—it was hard to keep going after a twist ending like that.
AVC: Season three hasn’t been green-lit yet, but are there any ideas you’ve started batting around?
Rogers: I would say we’re very under wraps about where the story’s going, but I’ve always really liked the idea that things just keep spiraling more and more outside of Dory’s control, and that this show can really reach, as long as it’s still grounded in impossible, the show can keep expanding. The consequences can just keep expanding and expanding, and you can always look back at Dory’s moment with that flyer in the pilot, and realize that it was the smallest little spark that created the craziest wildfire.