Search Party is a show that manages to always push itself forward in new and innovative ways.
Never staying in one place for too long, the show makes sure the characters at the center of its storytelling are always positioned against new obstacles.
But Search Party Season 4 felt different because, to move forward once more, most of the main characters first needed to come full circle from where they first began.
It was a journey that reminded us why Search Party is so good because it knows how to push its characters in directions that they don't even know they need to go to.
With Search Party Season 5 returning on HBO Max, the possibilities are endless when it comes to where things go from here.
When we last saw everyone, Dory spent the final episode of Search Party Season 4 daydreaming about all the different versions of herself and the legacy that she would have left behind.
What looked like the end for the show's lead was actually her reflecting as she almost died in a burning house. , coming back to reality had Dory declaring that she saw everything, so now it is all about where she goes from here.
How does Dory's almost dying change her outlook on her life going forward? And how do her friends come back from their stark realizations about their lives as well?
Luckily Search Party Season 4 created the groundwork that allows for Dory, Drew, Portia, and Elliot to push forward from here. Or burn it all down again in the search for a new adventure.
Allowing Dory (And Her Friends) To Face Her Past
The finale for Search Party Season 4 attempted an interesting conclusion when it focused on a funeral for Dory. Search Party thrived off the ambiguous concept of whether or not Dory was actually dead.
It did feel like the end when Dory watched her funeral, and that transitioned into her friends getting closure for her seemingly dying in the fire. All in all, it felt like a sign-off for Dory's story, only for it all to be a smoke-infused dream.
But the experience that the audience went through wasn't just for our benefit, with Dory going through that entire experience and remembering what came from that for her.
While the previous seasons of Search Party felt like they were always building forward, the fourth time around saved time to reflect.
But instead of Chip's forced mind control over Dory that tried to change her memories and her past, this was Dory coming face to face with everything that leads her to where she was now. It wasn't easy, but it was Dory embracing every version of herself.
While before Dory always tried to hide from who she really was, in Search Party Season 1, she hid from the person inside her who was lost. In Search Party Season 2, she tried to hide from the murder she committed. In Search Party Season 3, Dory was pretending her actions didn't happen at all.
In Search Party Season 4, she had nothing but time to realize who she was, and that's every variation of Dory that got her into Chip's aunt/mom's basement.
Once her friends rescued her, she was still back to where it all started, asking herself what the meaning of life was when she couldn't even exist as she was.
Dory was stuck, just like when Search Party started, and the only meaning she found was in the butterfly dreams that promised something that she wasn't getting during the day.
In a way, Search Party brought Dory back full circle, but with the possible self-reflection that leaves room for her to make different choices from here.
She might not; it would make more sense to fall back into old patterns, but there is still the possibility that all of this lets Dory start all over with the promise of better results at the end.
As for her friends, they all retreated when the season first started.
Drew ran to an amusement park, finding safety in the fictional promise of a happily ever after.
Portia attempted to slip back into the acting scene, not realizing how much her past would shape her present.
And Elliott was chasing success that once again had him hollow and unsatisfied.
They may have judged Dory for getting them into the Chantal mess, to begin with, but pretty quickly, they were all coming together to go search for a missing person once again.
Drew took them on this search party this time, even though he was the most resistant when Dory wanted to find Chantal in the premiere season.
Because the truth was, no matter how much they wanted to blame Dory for the situations they found themselves in, at the end of the day, it was a choice many of them would end up making again on their own.
So Search Party Season 4 brought this group right back into the familiar, but again the plot forced each of them to face what they were trying to run from.
This means heading into Search Party Season 5, the trio might be the same in many ways, but they also can't walk back the realizations they had on their way to save Dory.
They are all also struggling to find meaning in their everyday lives, and they can't run from that anymore.
It would be interesting to see what that means for each of them, with Dory a few steps ahead of them with that realization.
All in all, everyone in this friend group is back where they started but with a self-aware shift that could either help or harm them moving forward.
The best part is that no matter what, it will be worth waiting to see where Drew, Porta, Dory, and Elliott will go from here.
Bringing Back All The Parallels
There was something almost ironic when Chantal was in the same frame as a missing Dory poster, only for her to disregard it for another advertisement completely.
It wasn't shocking since Chantal was always selfish and focused on herself, but it was a wonderful contrast created to bring us all the way back to the pilot.
Search Party was kickstarted by Dory not being able to walk by a poster about Chantal going missing, and yet after everything, Chantal couldn't find it possible to look past herself to notice the girl that found her.
It a painfully hilarious full-circle moment.
This was one of many throwbacks, to a time when things were simpler, as a reminder of how some things can come right back to where they started in an eerie way.
Most of Search Party Season 4 hinted at a moment when Dory was just kidnapped and trying to get out. Chip hints that she could get out of the duffle he put her in, but it isn't clear what happened until much later in the season.
In a shocking twist, it is revealed that Dory actually managed to escape the trunk of the car that she was stuck in.
She was able to run away and could have even escaped all the torture waiting for her in her future. But she stopped herself and walked back to that trunk without a second thought.
A mixture of knowing no one cared about her at this point and a possible interest in getting herself involved in a new adventure has Dory willingly choosing to get kidnapped.
It is messy and yet so reminiscent of Chantal's disappearance.
Search Party Season 1 had Dory stopping at nothing to track down where Chantal was and who kidnapped her, only to find out that she was running from herself.
It wasn't an actual kidnapping, and soon Dory would end up in the same position.
Chip may have taken her, but Dory went back because she was running from herself as well.
A remarkable approach to putting characters in each other's shoes was also a way to bring it all back around. It all started with a disappearance, and it ended with one too.
Exploring what already was means moving forward opens so many more storytelling doors.
Staying True To Its Essence
Every season Search Party takes on new inspiration and, from there, a new shift in tone.
Search Party Season 1 was a Nancy Drew-inspired vibe, and that led to a Hitchcock-like follow-up season. Season 3 seamlessly slipped into a courtroom drama that set all the puzzle pieces for a Season 4 abduction storyline.
Along the way, the show always stuck to its sharp wit and engaging storytelling. You don't notice where you are really headed every season, but Search Party manages to guide you without realizing how quickly everything is coming together.
That aided Search Party Season 4 because no matter how much things can change, it is all about those moments that remind the audience that nothing from the past is forgotten.
Details like Julian returning after leaving town or Marc reappearing to save the day are subtle nods at the pieces that always make the show work.
So coming full circle before Search Party Season 5 included bringing back people and hints of what made Search Party so familiar and fun in the first place.
The show has so much further to go by, not forgetting where it came from that only adds a successful twist to each new episode.
What did you think of the recent season of Search Party? Where do you see things going for Dory from here?
Where do you want to see her friends end up? Which season of Search Party is your favorite so far? What do you like the most? What would you like to see less of?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!
Yana Grebenyuk was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She retired in April 2021.