"It’s nearly impossible to take stock of Search Party’s fifth and final season, which lands on HBO Max this week, without revisiting its entire, wild, genre-switching, network-hopping run," says Jessica Toomer. "The show launched as an interrogation of millennial anxieties, set in the nebulous of hipster culture at the time (Brooklyn) and filled with sly, biting commentary on the self-entitlement and, simultaneously, the very real dread inherited by a generation raised in the post-Y2K internet boom. They brunched, they stalked their frenemies on social media platforms, and they found a misguided sense of purpose in hunting down a familiar face that wound up on a missing person’s poster. They fed each other’s narcissism and delusions of grandeur, but they also filled voids in each other’s lives – ones left by absentee and overbearing parents, needy boyfriends, and unfulfilling career paths. All of that still rings true for the show’s final hurrah – a trippy Magical Mystery Tour of cults, tech gods, influencer culture, and an apocalyptic event or two. For any other show, this amalgam of competing story threads would probably prove too much to handle. But Search Party’s final magic trick is to take a term we normally reserve for shows that completely lose the plot by their last season and transform it into a kind of weirdly aspirational goalpost for the next-gen of dark comedy on TV. In other words, Search Party’s final run purposefully 'jumps the shark' and, honestly, we couldn’t think of a better way for it to end."
Search Party's final season is bananas: "The Season 4 finale of Search Party was arguably—and I've argued it before—a perfect way to end the series. Dory (Alia Shawkat), the millennial sleuth turned murderer, had been kidnapped and was presumed dead thanks to a blaze orchestrated by her captor (Cole Escola) and his overbearing mother (Susan Sarandon)," says Esther Zuckerman. "Dory's friends gather for a funeral, which is attended by her fractured spirit: All the different versions of Dory we've met over the course of the series show up. It's funny and bizarrely moving. But then in the last moments of the episode, Dory, on a stretcher, gasps to life. So what do showrunners Charles Rogers and Sarah-Violet Bliss do with that blank slate? They blow it all up. The fifth and final season of Search Party is, frankly, bananas. It takes a ridiculous, ballsy, massive swerve, keeping the same familiar characters but plunging them into a quasi-alt-universe version of the Brooklyn they had previously inhabited. What once started as a comment on the kind of self-obsessed gentrifiers you'd spot at brunch in Greenpoint has evolved into an unnerving dystopia, rooted in the real world but disconnected from it."
Search Party’s final bow feels different than the previous four seasons because it wants to believe: Co-creators Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers' final season "makes the theme of belief more dogmatic than it has ever been," says Zosha Millman. "Picking up where viewers left off, season 5 opens as Dory comes to after being dead for 37 seconds. Her near-death experience leaves her lighter and happier, and she sets out to find a way to help everyone feel this way. She is nakedly hopeful and idealistic, convinced that through her lessons other people can grow the way she has. So, of course it looks kind of like a cult. Each season of Search Party has focused itself around a different genre, with Rogers and Bliss pulling from different cultural touchstones. In prepping season 5, they devoured cult documentaries, and “borrowed” from people like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Elizabeth Holmes, Marianne Williamson, and Eckhart Tolay (along with a few other influences that would spoil the end of the show). But none of those examples get on the show without getting their own tinge of eccentricity."
"What is a millennial?" is a question at the center of Search Party: "What is a millennial? A representative unit of a uniquely beleaguered and interconnected generation whose growth from child to adult coincided with the catastrophic deterioration of the environment, systems of government and finance, the nature of truth, etc.?" says Paul McAdory. "One among a coddled cabal of whiners and manipulators whose laziness is outdone only by their ability to instrumentalize their self-delusion and supposed dispossession for personal gain? A largely unstable category, only meaningful when backed by data and broken down according to subcategories, such as race, class, gender, and so on? Simply a person born between, roughly, the years 1981 and 1996? Maybe an overloaded word one wishes never to hear again? Merely a state of mind? As with most questions, the answer depends on whom you ask — and who’s asking. It’s also one that HBO Max’s Search Party, whose final season will debut in full on January 7, has been posing and reposing throughout its run."
Alia Shawkat and Search Party creators Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers discuss the final season: “I think the show ends in the same way that it always operated, which is to say that things are really complicated and it’s never about morality and it’s never about punishment or reward based on how you conduct life,” says Rogers. “It’s just about how complicated things are.” Bliss adds: "We all were sort of ready to move on. It really feels right that this is the last season and the story feels that it’s complete now." As for Shawkat, she says: "We thought (the Season 4 finale) was way too gloomy a note to end on, especially with the gang not being back together. It just didn’t feel like the end. (Bliss and Rogers) talked about what the fifth season would be and the kind of arc, it just kind of made sense that this was the way to get out while the party’s still going, creatively. To wrap up this world while destroying it at the same time."
Rogers and Bliss say Shawkat brought credibility and cachet to Search Party: “Alia outperformed our expectations,” says Bliss. “The comedy was on the page, but when I had imagined the character, she was a little bit less self-possessed. What Alia brought was intelligence and maturity — she made her grounded and real.” Meanwhile, Shawkat thinks Search Party had trouble catching on in 2016 because it felt crowded out by a glut of other post-Girls comedies that also poked fun at the habits of New York hipsters. “I was like, but nobody knows about Search Party," she says. Dating back to her time on Arrested Development, she said it has been difficult to shake off an underdog mentality about her work: “I always feel like I’m on shows that aren’t appreciated till they’re already off the air. I’ve always had that chip on my shoulder.”
Shawkat enjoys each season being very different: "As involved as I am, the writers have their own crazy imagination," she says. "I just try to make sense of it, and sell it as much as possible. I think every season we didn’t know–even after the first, we thought 'Maybe that’s it.' I love how each season is different. It’s not just another girl goes missing and I have to find her. It’s different genres and different characters. Dory especially changes so much every time. It’s been a really graceful process when we do get another season, we think 'Okay, here’s our shot, let’s have fun with it.' As you’ll see this season, we really destroy the world. You’ll see how we do it exactly. This time we knew there is no coming back."
Read an oral history of Search Party: "Search Party, to quote star John Early, is the little show that could," says Chancellor Agard in introducing an oral history of the HBO Max series. "What started out as a low-budget satirical TBS comedy starring Alia Shawkat, John Reynolds, Meredith Hagner, and Early as a group of self-involved Brooklyn millennials searching for their missing college acquaintance and, more importantly, purpose in its acclaimed first season, has evolved into a hit HBO Max series that seamlessly moves between genres (from Nancy Drew to Hitchcock and courtroom drama) without losing its unique and stinging point of view. As murders were committed, court cases were tried, and brunch was consumed, the show critically explored what it means to grow up by taking the consequences of each characters' arrested development to the absurd yet somehow meaningful and logical places."