A lot has changed for the core group of characters at the center of this piece of millennial pop culture, and Season 5 makes way for some of their weirdest experiences yet. In a show that has included murder, sensational courtroom proceedings, and a season-long hostage situation, the fact that the final chapter could outdo all of it should be reason enough to tune in.
What started out as Dory’s (Alia Shawkat) search for a former acquaintance — Chantal Witherbottom (Clare McNulty) — has now led to her belief that she’s attained full enlightenment. This quickly turns into something Dory needs to share with the world around her in order to save them.
“Dory has undergone a near-death experience and on the other side of that, she’s enlightened and has a whole new outlook on life and death and the universe, and it all being one,” notes co-creator Sarah-Violet Bliss. Dory “has a mission to save the world from the pain of the ego,” she adds.
As star Shawkat puts it, Dory “feels like her whole life led to this moment.” Despite all of the awful things she’s done and gotten away with since the show premiered in 2016, “she’s learned how to forgive herself,” Shawkat tells TV Insider.
But have her friends found a way to forgive her? After being saved from a burning house in the Season 4 finale, Dory begins her Season 5 journey in the hospital where Portia (Meredith Hagner), Elliott (John Early), and Drew (John Reynolds) decide its best if they commit her to the psych ward.
Eager to push themselves as far away from the woman who blew up all of their lives, the remaining trio picks up the scraps of their remaining lives as Portia and Drew find themselves drawn to one another out of necessity. “Portia and Drew getting together romantically is a part of a larger storyline,” teases co-creator Charles Rogers. He notes that the plotline is more “about the characters all dying on some level like Dory literally did.”
“They decide to converge their sadness and become a relationship in a very unhealthy way,” Reynolds elaborates. “So they reluctantly start to hook up and they just pretend that it’s good.” Despite the dismal outlook, Hagner promises that there’s still hope, however strange it may be for the show’s colorful characters.
“There’s optimism throughout the season, however, disillusioned and disturbing it is,” Hagner shares. The actress who plays a washed-up actress in the series also notes that Portia is doing her best to numb the pain of the past by “trauma bonding” with Drew.
Meanwhile, Elliott pursues life with on-again-off-again love Marc (Jeffery Self) with whom he decides to explore parenthood. “Mark and Elliott get back together for all the wrong reasons,” Rogers says, “but this time around, they’re able to articulate the toxic dynamic they have in a way that makes them feel like it’s actually manageable.”
As with almost anything involving Elliott and Marc, their plight to become fashionable dads has everything to do with appearances. “It’s completely about accumulating status and power,” Early acknowledges. “Elliot’s very much adopting for the kind of aesthetic appeal of that.” When he and Marc visit a bougie adoption center where clients can carefully craft their spawn, the men return home with Aspen (Kayden Koshelev), a seriously alarming robot-like boy.
When it comes to Chantal, she’s still part of the mix, but in a slightly different capacity than last season when she received her own bottle episode. “her storyline will intersect,” teases Bliss, “but has its own arc to it that is [mostly] her own world.”
Dory’s story leads to Tunnel Quinn (guest star Jeff Goldblum) who aids in her effort to spread enlightenment across the globe. “Tunnel Quinn is a very Elon Musk type of character. He is money, he is power, he is influence. So it’s like when enlightenment meets influence, is it still sacred?”
Eventually, Dory ropes her cohorts back into the fold, particularly when she strikes up a partnership with Tunnel. “We are actively involved in it, and all complicit in our own ways,” Reynolds teases of Drew and the rest of the gang’s role in Dory’s working relationship with Tunnel.
As for saying goodbye to the series, Shawkat hopes viewers like it, revealing, “it’s a really crazy turn at the end, but I think it still rings true to the very beginning of what the show’s about. It really hearkens back to that very first scene of me looking at the missing person poster.”
Don’t miss it for yourself, stream all 10 of Season 5’s episodes on HBO Max.
Search Party, Season 5, Streaming now, HBO Max