Someone Please Explain “Search Party” to Me
It’s a millennial mess and I can’t look away.
The final season of Search Party was recently released, and when the credits for the last episode of the last season splashed across the screen, all I could think was … what the hell was that?
There were clever moments and laugh-out-loud moments. There were moments where I cringed and moments where I closed my eyes. There were moments where I thought, I can’t keep watching this. And then I’d hit “Next Episode.”
(At this point I should say to you, one of my dear 27 subscribers — sponsor me, brands! — that there will be spoilers ahead.)
What started in the first season as a skewering satire on selfish millennials – a bunch of Brooklynites decide to find their missing friend from NYU (which, perfect), only to discover she’s been hiding in a house as a mental health getaway – becomes a murder story.
Which then, in season two, becomes a manic cat and mouse game in trying to cover it up.
Which becomes season three, a courtroom drama and critique on the media, a la Gone Girl.
Which becomes season four, an unhinged hostage scenario, a la Misery.
Which brings us to season five, a rapid blend of cults, lesbian sex, social media and influencer culture, obsessive personalities, Big Tech and late-stage capitalism. Oh, and zombies. Lots of zombies.
By the time the zombies showed up (I can’t believe I’m writing this), I wasn’t turned off by the jump-the-shark of it all, but relieved. A release valve was pushed. Like, oh, ok, yes. They get that this is insane.
Which, of course it is. Our lives are unhinged right now. There’s no clear narrative arc to our days anymore, so of course there wasn’t a clear thread through the Search Party story line, either.
Moving from one story to the next before finishing its complete thought is one of Search Party’s greatest millennial statements. Much like me reading East of Eden, or picking up the apartment, or writing these newsletters — meta! – I’ll start a project and leave it unfinished. (Brad legit just pointed out the piles I rearranged and then left in the living room as I review this final edit.) It’s a critique often thrown toward millennials – we can’t commit.
Of course, this critique isn’t new. (I don’t think the Greatest Generation was praising the commitments of hippie Boomers.) What is new is the level of dis-commitment with our generation: fewer of us get married, we jump jobs more than any adults before, we switch between apps as fast as our thumbs will move.
We don’t owe anything to anyone except ourselves, we say. And Search Party therefore owed us nothing. We were the audience, sure, but maybe it wasn’t for us. Search Party lives in a world of distraction and me-statements so powerful, it doesn’t commit to its own work and leaves ends loose. Until, finally, it doesn’t.
If anything was satisfying about the end of Search Party, it’s that it was an ending at all. The final shot, of Dory in front of a wall of MISSING posters after the apocalypse, was a perfect throwback to the opening scenes of the Chantal MISSING poster that started this whole insane adventure. But it also brings to mind the days after September 11, which will push on the bruises of any American millennial’s heart. It’s an image that marks empty skylines and airport security measures and a nation always at war — moments that defined our youth. Indeed, September 11 is known as the dividing point between us and Gen Z; whether you remember the day or not, puts you in a generational category.
Millennials used to be the optimistic generation, coming up after the reality bites of Gen X. We can save the world and make it better with Leaning In and Girlbosses and Hope brought to you by Obama™. We hustle! The world is flat and the Internet will connect us all. There’s a pretty Instagram filter for every need. All of that came crashing down between the meltdown of 2008, where capitalism failed us, and the election of 2016, where the saviors of tech failed everything.
In the beginning, Dory wanted adventure and purpose; in the final episode, she’s caused the end of the world. And yet, all she can do is have a petty fight about it with Chantal (who, oddly, I love watching?), going back and forth about who gets credit for ending humanity. “It was me,” they both say, hiding in an underground bunker and eating KIND bars for dinner.
We’ve spent the last five years of adulthood questioning democracy and fighting with our families and navigating Covid. (The final scenes of Search Party felt oddly familiar, with lines like much of the population will die and people don’t care, and survivors walking around empty streets, scanning IDs for verification as human beings.)
All of a sudden, everything feels a lot less pretty on our feeds; the authenticity we were sold is not as authentic as it seemed. It was those damn filters.
Now, perhaps, it’s the millennials who feel as though reality bites. We want things to be better, sure, yet all we can do is stare at ourselves and fight about who is making the situation worse.
Gen X-ers R.E.M. sang that it was the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.
If the millennials’ world is ending, at least we’re laughing about it.