Search Party found relief in fandom’s doomsday cult

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In Search partyThe latest season, the comic-detective-mystery-turned-Hitchcockian-stress-dream-turned-courtroom-procedural-psychological thriller reaches its ultimate form with a tale of cults, fandom and the power of parasocial relationships.

Search partyThe fifth season works well enough on its own. But to understand the significance of the show that takes its cast of unhinged narcissists on journeys of spiritual enlightenment and how that turns them all into the horsemen of the apocalypse, you really need to recall a few key points from earlier in the series.

This post contains major spoilers for Search Party season five, and you should probably check it out before reading on.

Search party became deeply existential in the season four finale when Dory Sief (Alia Shawkat) appeared to die in a fire, only to return as something close to, but not quite a ghost, to attend her own memorial service where her friends Drew (John Reynolds), Portia (Meredith Hagner), and Elliott (John Early) all used their speeches to talk about themselves. Season five packs like a very-much-empathize Dory comes to the back of an ambulance, freshly pulled from a burning building and riding at the height of the near-death experience she’s just had, leaving her only imagine go to her own funeral.

Four versions of Dory representing the four previous seasons of Search Party.

The four examples of Dory that show up in her dream funeral.
HBO Max

Between Dory’s historically questionable grasp of reality and the fact that she was technically dead for 37 seconds, it’s hard to tell what to make of her dream funeral and how it ended with four different versions of herself merging together to become someone new. It’s even harder for Drew, Portia, and Elliott to understand the new Dory’s manic, lavish talk about seeing them all at her service and how she’s been given a second chance at life to change the world.

While Dory insists she is only full of love and light, her friends know from personal experience how easy it is to get caught up in the orbit of her madness and cause harm in the process. That’s partly why it’s easy for them to agree that she’s being admitted to a psychiatric ward. Instead of directly in an obvious One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest parody, Search party goes the more subtle way, using Dory’s brief sojourn in the mental institution to predict many of this season’s weirder twists, such as her being a Legion-like guru figure with a small but steadily growing cult-like following of fans.

Dory’s mental powers are far from David Haller’s, and Search party flirts initially only with the idea of ​​the metaphysical. But her hospital stay unlocks something in Dory that enhances her uncanny ability to channel other people’s emotions – a strength that turns out to be more than just Search party laughing at the rise of self-identified empaths. It’s easy for Dory to get nurses and doctors to reveal all sorts of information that they know they shouldn’t share with patients, because they don’t see her as just any patient; she is Dory Sief, their friend with a talent for listening to people.

Dory is their “friend” to some extent, but she’s also a skilled manipulator who wants to tell people exactly what they need to hear in order to get what she wants from them. Whether Dory understands that about herself is one of the more interesting mysteries Search party digs into this season after escaping the hospital and begins broadcasting erratic live streams of awareness to her sizable media following.

Dory hides in the woods while livestreaming to her social media followers.

Dory is livestreaming from the woods to her followers.
HBO Max

Anyone who watches Dory’s live-streamed chatter about the enlightenment she wants to share with the world knows her past as a suspected murderer. Few of them, however, care how tempting her promise of spiritual fulfillment sounds compared to the monotony of their daily lives. Portia, Drew and Elliott experience this firsthand when Dory just… shows up, unconcerned about the authorities looking for her, but very determined to hang out in New York City with the four of them and roam as a group for the sake of old times.

The more people spend time around Dory, the harder it becomes for them to deny that there is something different about her. It’s enough to convince Dory’s friends that they all need to welcome her back into their circle, but it’s also what puts her on the radar of billionaire Tunnel Quinn (Jeff Goldblum), an amalgam of any tech bro-villain you think of. past decade with an extra helping of Musk-y nonsense mixed in for good measure. In Tunnel’s eyes, Dory’s dream is to bottle the “enlightenment” she believes is a viable money-making opportunity, and Dory sees their partnership and the creation of their new company, LYTE, as another step toward of her true purpose.

This is not the first time Search party‘s has framed Dory as his villain or mocking Silicon Valley types like Tunnel, but by making them two allies, the show introduces a level of absurdity bordering on science fiction before deciding to go all-in on the genre. . It’s the combined reality-warping power of Dory and Tunnel’s respective fandoms that allows them to move forward with a plan to develop lighting pills without ever considering how anyone could even begin to get that feeling into it. to synthesize a drug. That warping force also makes marketing the miracle cure with the help of a cult made up of color-coded influencers sound like a good idea to Dory and everyone around her, except for Drew, who rightly points out that the entire enterprise feels like a disaster in the making.

stupid as Search party‘s foray into the genre feels like this season, though his jokes about LYTE’s ambassadors play out sobering reminders of the existence and danger of real-life cults like NXIVM, which can seem laughable and ridiculous to the people who aren’t in it. being locked up by them. Search party acknowledges how the plan to turn relief through near-death experiences into pills makes no sense, but the show uses that obvious fact as a way to remind you how derailed it’s gone and perhaps as a way to get into to work a handful of understated jokes about the OA and Elizabeth Holmes’ rise to shame.

The five LYTEs gather in their new color-coded outfits as they post on their respective social media feeds.

From left to right: Larry Owens as Blue LYTE, Greta Titelman as Red LYTE, Joe Castle Baker as Orange LYTE, Grace Kuhlenschmidt as Violet LYTE, Angela Trimbur as Green LYTE and Michelle Badillo as Yellow LYTE.
HBO

Just as Theranos engineers were unable to produce the miraculous machines promised to the company’s investors, LYTE’s scientists, led by Dr. Benny Balthazar (Aparna Nancherla), can’t figure out how to make a pill that temporarily kills a person before breathing new life into them and leaving their third eye wide open. However, because Tunnel is involved in the venture, and because Dory has become the face of a bona fide movement backed by Tunnel’s money, LYTE cannot afford to fail in the public eye or else everyone involved will face the economic and social backlash. .

Where Dory is grounded in her lighting at the start of this season, that’s all starting to crumble Search party‘s final episodes, as it becomes undeniably clear how she’s surrounded herself with delusional “yes” people who will basically do anything she asks of them, no matter the cost. Dory’s realization that she’s gotten trapped in another toxic bubble she created herself is one of… Search partyThe most hair-raising narrative beats in their own right, but what’s even more disturbing is Dory’s decision to just stick with it.

through everything Search partyIn the final season of Dory, Dory has some disturbing visions of the future that, despite it being a messiah deal, she consciously doesn’t want to share with anyone. The first time Dory sees her five LYTEs all bleeding from their eyes at a big performance, she’s not sure what to make of the vision, and Search party intentionally leaves it open to different interpretations. However, the meaning becomes much clearer once Dory, her friends and the LYTEs barricade themselves in LYTE HQ and make the impossible happen.

In response to Tunnel admitting that he doesn’t really believe in LYTE’s mission, Dory and the LYTEs manage to make (by hand) a batch of enlightenment pills that meet all the crap specs they came up with. Since Dory says everything will be fine, it doesn’t matter to either of them that by the time they get their hands on the pills, Dr. Balthazar is dead, multiple hostages have been taken and the police have surrounded the LYTE building. .

Portia is identified as an infected person by a soldier as the zombie apocalypse erupts.

Portia is dragged out of a safe zone by a soldier
HBO Max

Since Dory says they’ll be fine, it doesn’t matter that they don’t even have time to try the pills before they can run into the woods. Since Dory herself attained a higher state of consciousness by dying, her friends and disciples feel no fear as they risk their lives ingesting the pills and their unknown contents. And it’s because Elliott got some of the pills mixed up with jellybeans that only some of them end up being transformed into literal flesh-eating zombies. Search party sticks to the classic zombie rules though, and it’s not long before there’s an outbreak of bloodthirsty ghouls who get whatever LYTE’s “enlightenment” through bites.

Search party‘s zombie turn plays like a good last minute joke about Hollywood’s exhausting obsession with the undead, but it’s also the show’s way of reiterating what kind of person Dory is – someone so desperate for human connection that she would destroy herself and, paradoxically, everyone around her for it.

That truth is crystallized in the bookending with two scenes Search party“Revelation,” the series finale, which begins with handing out relief pills to a crowd of fans before she knows what the pills do, and concludes with a photo of her days later, standing in front of a wall full of missing posters of suspected dead people . Search party leaves open to interpretation how responsible Dory feels for causing the zombie apocalypse and whether she really feels remorse. What is surprisingly undeniable, however, is how satisfying a conclusion is to the greater journey Search partyis busy all the time.

All five seasons of Search party streaming now on HBO Max.

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