SPOILER ALERT: This post contains details about the final series of Search Party, including the finale “Revelation.”
Enlightenment isn’t glorious, but gory and gross look in the series finale of HBO Max’s Search Party.
In the final hours of the dark comedy, created by Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers, Dory (Alia Shawkat) brings about the end of the world, after her quest to spread joy and love in the form of a pill backfires.
In true Search Party fashion, Dory’s intentions to do right by others, and selfishly herself, once again evolve into a much more complicated and fatal scenario that puts everyone around her at risk.
“I hate to say it babe, but you did it again,” Dory’s ever-faithful friend, and brief lover, Portia (Meredith Hagner) says. “Except it’s way worse this time.”
After escaping a fun house riddled with Dory’s disciples-turned-zombies, Portia and Elliott (John Early) catch up with Dory and Drew (John Reynolds) who are handing out “enlightenment” to eager consumers and fanatics. Elliott reveals that he switched his friends’ pills the previous day with placebos, preventing them from transforming into the flesh-seeking zombies ransacking the city around them. Fearing for their lives, the gang run away to Elliott and Marc’s (Jeffrey Self) home.
They watch the news, which warns of a fast-spreading “unidentified personality disorder,” until they’re chased out by Marc and Elliott’s zombie-fied adopted son.
At this point, it’s pretty clear that Shawkat was not lying when she previously told Deadline about “[wraping] up this world while destroying it at the same time.” Dory and her friends run out onto the streets of New York where they’re greeted by seemingly endless chaos and bloodshed at every corner.
To make matters worse, Marc reveals that he ate a whole bag of jelly beans he found on the ground – yes, he means those pills. Moments later he starts spitting blood and chasing after Elliott and the group of friends. Before he’s able to maul the lead characters, he’s rammed by a car filled with Dory’s former disciples.
The finale continues with Dory, Drew, Portia and Elliott running towards a bridge, as directed by a background character played by series co-creator Charles Rogers. Upon arriving at the quarantine zone, Dory, Drew and Elliott are in the clear but guards take Portia away claiming that she looks brainless and like a zombie. After all they’ve been through, the trio decides to rescue their friend and they’re reunited, just briefly before they’re surrounded by zombies. When things seem like they’re coming to an end for the inseparable group, a masked savior fends off the zombies with a blowtorch. Chantal (Clare McNulty), who’s been prepped by all the talk of end days and conspiracies by late spouse Liquorice Montague (Kathy Griffin), takes the friends into her underground shelter. There, she and Dory bicker on who really brought on the end of the world, a cheeky reference to season one and the questions surrounding Dory’s initial intentions of finding a then-missing Chantal.
“Now the world is ending because of me,” Dory admits
“No, the world is ending because of me,” Chantal rebuts.
Once settled, the friends reflect on how long the chaos will last and whether what seems to be the end of the world was supposed to play out the way it did. And while it’s easy to expect Jeff Goldblum’s Tunnell Quinn to reveal that the violent craze was just another one of his simulations, the finale moves forward months later to a deserted, post-apocalyptic New York where Dory and Drew tie the knot and Portia and Elliott attend the extremely intimate ceremony.
The gang makes their way back to home but before entering the safe zone, they’re rinsed by sanitizing spray and scan chips that confirm their human status. The friends muse on their next steps and futures, just before coming across a wall plastered with hundreds, if not thousands, of “missing posters.”
In the obvious call back to one of Search Party‘s very first shots, Dory glances at the various notices. However, instead of starting a quest to find any of the missing people, Dory moves on to catch up with her friends, who have been with her through unimaginable hells and back. It’s then that the search concludes.
Providing his insight about Search Party‘s final genre switch is series co-creator, executive producer, writer, director and co-showrunner Charles Rogers. He talks how the beginning of the pandemic inspired the on-screen zombie apocalypse and how the end of the world connects back to the series’ overarching themes of narcissism and altruism. Read a brief Q&A below, which was been edited for length and clarity.
DEADLINE: How did you and Sarah-Violet land on the idea that a zombie apocalypse would tie the whole series together?
ROGERS: We knew we wanted Dory to revive from her near-death experience and become enlightened with great existential purpose in some Marianne Williamson fashion, but once COVID first began spreading at the very beginning of 2020, we started tossing around the idea that Dory and the friends cause some global virus and end up essentially the four horsemen of the apocalypse on some level. We obviously didn’t expect COVID to become what it became, so as we all headed into lockdown, we realized a more genre-honoring parable for this experience – like zombies – would be way more fun to watch.
DEADLINE: Why did you feel a horror spin was the best way to revisit some of the series’ larger themes of growing up and narcissism?
ROGERS: The show’s coming-of-age commentary comes to a head with the friends all ‘becoming adults’ at the same time that they bring about the end of the world, and there’s something meaningful about the idea that the culmination of all of their choices, experiences, and denial would amount to an apocalypse. There’s always been irony in the notion that perhaps in order to self-actualize, you perhaps have to cause harm to others and yourself, and that any act of altruism is maybe always intrinsically chained to narcissism.
It’s not supposed to be a nihilistic take on life necessarily, especially because the show also celebrates what is beautiful and cringey and hilarious about human nature. But there’s something interesting about an anarchistic prompt like that, that can send you spiraling about what the meaning of anything is, and what we are made of on any level.
And maybe spiraling always leads to apocalyptic horror.
DEADLINE: You previously mentioned that the final season’s satire takes on “how it feels like we’ve been at like a fever pitch of dark insanity in this country for a few years.” How does that lend itself into the finale?
ROGERS: When conceiving the mass hysteria you see at the end of the series, we thought more about classic examples of end times, like the film The Day of the Locust or Hieronymous Bosch paintings or the Book of Revelations, than say the capitol riots. There’s a balance to writing the show, where we want to make something that feels both timeless but also pointed about the present moment. So we didn’t want it to feel like a carbon copy of Covid hysteria and protests and political division – something meaningful would have gotten lost in translation if we had tried to replicate our current state of being.
Instead, the season takes a more fantastical approach – the aesthetic has never been more colorful, the contagion starts in the form of jelly beans, and the final scene feels almost like a dream. Hopefully this all gives the season the right distance from reality, where people can step back and reflect on just how much insanity and trauma we have been put through over the last few years.
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