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Search Party is is a dark comedy (and more) series created by Sarah-Violet Bliss, Charles Rogers, and Michael Showalter.

When directionless millennial Dory Sief (Alia Shawkat) learns a girl she vaguely knew in college named Chantal (Claire McNulty) has gone missing, she enlists her boyfriend Drew (John Reynolds) and their friends, hipster Elliott (John Early) and wannabe actress Portia (Meredith Hagner), to help find her. The group's investigation leads them in many weird directions, and what began as an amateur missing persons case eventually devolves into something else entirely. In addition to the main cast, additional recurring and guest roles are filled with the likes of Rosie Perez, Ron Livingston, Parker Posey, Griffin Newman, Louie Anderson, and Wallace Shawn, just to name a few.

The series regularly defies genre, always remaining firmly in dark comedy territory but with added elements of noir, psychological thriller, and legal drama depending on the season. As such, it's difficult to discuss the series beyond season one without spoiling later developments that alter the status quo significantly. You Have Been Warned!

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Search Party premiered on TBS in 2016 and ran for two seasons there. Though never hitting big ratings, it was consistently acclaimed and fostered a cult following its unique blend of off-the-wall humor and heart-pounding drama. The series eventually moved to HBO Max starting with season three, following a longer-than-usual series hiatus of three years.


Search Party contains examples of:

  • A Day in the Limelight: The season 4 episode "The Imposter" is told entirely from Chantal's perspective, with Dory and Elliott only making a single short appearance each.
  • Adaptation Decay: In-universe. The biopic adaptation of Dory's trial in season 4 is filled to the brim with this; portraying Dory as a deranged animal-killing psychopath, Chantal as a beautiful model, and Elliott as a one-dimensional Gay Best Friend while also having Portia be played by a much older actress and Drew by a black man. When Portia attempts to avert this by trying to play Dory as close to the real thing as possible, she's taken off the movie.
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  • Advertised Extra: Julian often appears in promotional images alongside the main four, and is billed as a series lead. Despite this, he's an Absentee Actor in several episodes and, so far, is completely disconnected from the main plot. He's significant more as a Foil to the main group than he is for any actual story involvement.
  • Adult Child:
    • Chantal is revealed to be so emotionally stunted that even Portia openly calls her actions childish. Season 4 has her writing get mistaken for that of a 10-year-old when it is read without knowledge of its author.
    • Attorney Cassidy Diamond still lives with her parents, has them book her first case for her, and practices her courtroom statements in front of stuffed animals.
  • Affably Evil: Dory's Loony Fan Chip channels Annie Wilkes through his ability to rapidly vacillate between being friendly and folksy and psychotic and dangerous. He also has no problem with drugging, kidnapping, and attempting to murder people to achieve his goals.
  • All for Nothing:
    • With Chantal's benign reason for disappearing, the entire first season becomes this.
    • Detective Hartman attempts to cover up accidentally shooting Fat Frankie by shooting herself in the shoulder to make it look like self-defense and framing him for Keith's death in a false police report she files. It turns out that Fat Frankie was an FBI informant wearing a wire and his wire recorded the actual circumstances of Joy killing him.
  • Ambiguously Absent Parent:
    • The only mention of Dory's parents throughout the first two seasons is when she tells Senator Ferguson that they're Iraqi immigrants to explain her ethnic background. Outside of that, she doesn't seem to even think of them, and goes exclusively to either her friends or Gail for support regardless of the situation. We finally meet them in season 3, where it is confirmed that Dory essentially cut all contact with them after leaving home for college out of defiance of their humdrum lifestyle. When she's forced to reconnect with them for the sake of improving her public image during her trial, she shows no interest in them beyond how they can benefit her and they admit to knowing so little about her that they don't doubt that she could be capable of murder.
    • While we get a few more consistent references to Elliot's parents across the series, where they're implied to be enabling liberal socialites, we don't actually meet them until season 3 and it is similarly implied that he isn't in contact with them. After initially making them out to be exactly how he had set them up to be, Elliott is later exposed in court as having completely falsified his entire identity, with his alleged parents being outed as actors he hired to play the part. We then meet his actual parents, who are cartoonishly stereotypical rednecks that he wants nothing to do with.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Dory is curly-haired and has a somewhat dark complexion, along with a non-European sounding surname. In season 2, this ethnic ambiguity earns her a job working on Senator Mary Ferguson's campaign team as a diversity hire, where she confirms that her parents are Iraqi immigrants.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Dory hallucinates the dead (or the presumed dead) speaking to her as an externalization of her own guilt, has daydreams so vivid that she mistakes them for reality, and, come season 3, is able to seamlessly convince herself that she isn't guilty of any of the crimes she has committed.
  • And Starring: Rosie Perez as Lorraine, even though she's a Guest Star.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Played With. Keith is a sleazy divorcee who shows more than a few signs of being a psychotically-possessive sexual predator, but is killed by Dory and Drew before he is able to actually do anything that could allow them to qualify his death as being out of self defense, despite them only attacking him out of fear of him attacking them.
    • An obnoxious MRA who makes a video insisting on Dory's guilt in the murder case due to finding her ugly and assuming her to be a liberal gets several shards of glass pierced through his hand courtesy of Dory's stalker.
    • The psychopathic conservative news pundit Charlie Reeny is thrown into a coma after getting brained by a stray book dropped by Chantal, and spends the remainder of her life dying slowly and painfully in the hospital.
  • Audience Surrogate: Deconstructed with Dory. She's introduced with essentially no discernible character traits beyond being a young person Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life, which makes her very easy for the viewer to project themselves onto. As the series progresses, though, it becomes clear that Dory's complete lack of any kind of sense of self is actually a sign of something much more unbalanced within her, as she repeatedly ruins the lives of numerous others for the sake of her own sense of fulfillment, growing increasingly less guilty about her actions each time. By season 3, it's hard to describe her as anything other than a callous, calculating borderline sociopath. When she is put on trial for her crimes in the same season, her surface level image as an attractive, blank slate young person manages to win her enormous support from the American public and eventually get acquitted for her crimes, entirely because they perceive her to be "just like" them. It also earns her an extremely unhinged stalker who becomes obsessed with her because she's allegedly "just like" him.
  • Back for the Finale: Several long-absent characters return in the season 4 finale, including Julian, Gail, Dory's parents, Portia's mom, and the psychic cultist Dory briefly interacted with in season 1.
  • Bad Job, Worse Uniform: Played with and subverted with Drew's job as a costumed character at an amusement park in season 4. He has to wear a Goofy Suit that he sweats like a pig in and gets payed half as much as every other employee due to being part of a criminal rehabilitation program, but considers all of it to be worth it because of how it allows him to bring smiles to children's faces. It's also all but stated that he's so dead set on running from his past at that point that he's willing to put up with anything.
  • Bad Liar:
    • Drew's voice gets high-pitched and he refuses to make eye contact whenever he is being dishonest. That his lies also tend to be flimsy and created on the fly doesn't help much, either.
    • Played with by Dory. While her lies are generally about as poorly-constructed as Drew's are, her sheer willingness to commit to them makes her deceptively unflappable when questioned.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • Season 3 opens with a recording of a disheveled Dory in an unknown location being forced to perform a video confessional, but cuts away before the audience gets to hear all of it. As the rest of the season revolves around her literally getting away with murder, it's natural to assume that the confession is related to her guilt in the crime. It's only in the first episode of season 4 that we learn the "confession" was simply proclaiming that Chip was her best friend and had nothing to do with the case.
    • Chantal sees a missing person poster for Dory during her Day in the Limelight episode in season 4, recreating the series' opening scene and stares intently at it for several seconds, seemingly setting her up to go on a similar journey to find Dory as Dory did to find her. Instead, she rips the poster out of the way and reveals that she was actually looking at the poster beneath it, which was a call looking to find the author of the book she wrote.
  • Bait the Dog:
    • Keith is introduced as a cool, competent private investigator who takes Dory under his wing and shows legitimate interest in her search for Chantal. He's gradually revealed to have been lying about being hired by Chantal's parents as a way of getting close to Dory and shows strong signs of being an unstable sexual predator.
    • Mary Ferguson is presented as being a benevolent and progressive Reasonable Authority Figure when she first appears, but reveals herself to be little more than a power hungry opportunist who takes advantage of her position to sexually harass an employee.
    • During her overnight stay in prison, Dory encounters a fellow inmate who politely offers her the seat next to her and displays a certain level of civility and intelligence through her enjoyment and understanding of the movie Ladybird. When Dory attempts small talk, the woman immediately explodes at her for casually using the word "insane" and ends up throwing her chair through the TV the movie was playing on and getting dragged off by the cops while vowing to kill Dory in her sleep.
  • Bald Woman: Dory's head is shaved by Chip after he kidnaps her so that he can use her hair to make a doll in her likeness as accurate as possible.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted in season 4, where Dory has her head shaved and endures numerous painful injuries with visible results while imprison by Chip; gaining a swollen eye, a gash on the side of her head, and too many bruises to count.
  • Believing Their Own Lies: In the final episode of season 3, Drew confronts Dory over her behavior throughout their trial and pleads her to admit in confidence that they killed Keith. Dory responds with a completely sincere declaration that she has no idea what he's talking about.
  • Beneath the Mask: Elliott maintains his usual narcissistic confidence even after Keith's murder, and seemingly handles it all with much less guilt than his friends do. As the second season continues, though, we see his subconscious guilt steadily consume him as he mutters Keith's name incessantly in his sleep, breaks out in a full body rash and starts losing his hair from stress, and finally has a full psychotic episode that pushes his publicist into sending him to a mental institution. During his first day in the institution, he admits that he felt the need to maintain a veneer of ambivalence about the murder in order to seem strong for his friends, and later has a sudden sobbing breakdown where he admits how horrible he feels about not only his involvement in the murder but also all the numerous other times he's lied throughout his life. Admitting this cheers him up enough to allow him to promptly put his mask back on and return to his usual selfish and unflappable self.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing:
    • Drew is generally polite, passive, and conflict avoidant, but is also very petty and vindictive. Perhaps best shown when he "confronts" Julian over spending time with his girlfriend, where he tries to frame the interaction as a friendly one (even buying Julian a milkshake and pretending that he was given two by mistake to seem less obvious), refuses to own up to the actual reason why he wanted to meet up when Julian calls him out on it, and throws the aforementioned milkshake at Julian in frustration after he walks away. Rather than confront Dory directly about how unhappy he is with her fixation on "solving" Chantal's disappearance, he fakes having their apartment get ransacked as an attempt to scare her off from looking into things any further. This ends up backfiring fantastically, and only ends up making the situation much worse for both of them.
    • Senator Mary Ferguson is presented as a compassionate liberal icon who Julian admires, but quickly reveals herself to be corrupt, craven, and abusive toward her campaign workers, with much of her progressiveness merely being performative lip service to win votes. Most notably, she starts sexually harassing Julian, and her harassment has a distinctly racist undercurrent.
  • Black Comedy Harassment: In the second season, Julian is sexually harassed in a racist manner by Mary Ferguson, the state Senate candidate he is working for. It's Double Standard Female On Male, and he cannot get any help from Dory, who shops the evidence to pay off her blackmailer.
  • Black Mail: Drew and Portia blackmail a sleazy businessman whom the group had met at a vigil for Chantal in order to get $5,000, so that Dory can pay someone who knows where Chantal is located.
  • Blackmail Backfire: April gets pushed off a ferry and probably killed for blackmailing the group, but more for telling Dory she intended to torment them all about the murder forever.
  • Blonde Republican Sex Kitten: Season 3 has Elliott do an interview with the young, blonde and attractive conservative media hostess Charlie Reeny, who's a pretty obvious riff on Tomi Lahren, down to the Gender-Blender Name and excessive eyeliner.
  • Book-Ends:
    • Season 1 opens and closes with a close-up shot of a frazzled-looking Dory.
    • Season 3 opens and closes with a recording of an imprisoned Dory performing a video confessional; the season opens with the beginning of the confession and closes with her ending it. The confession itself is not heard until the first episode of season 4.
  • Broken Bird: After the guilt of having taken a person's life and then lying about it eats away at him throughout season 2, Drew seemingly crosses the Despair Event Horizon after realizing that Dory not only intends to continue to avoid facing reckoning for their actions (to the point of killing another person so that she couldn't expose them) but has also seemingly completely deluded herself about their actual involvement with Keith's death. He spends almost all of the final episode of season 3 quietly despondent, aware that he has no means of getting through to her or absolving himself of his sins.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Chip's aunt Lylah is eventually revealed to be his biological mother, and appears to still carry amorous feelings for his father (her younger brother).
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer:
    • Portia isn't much for brains, but shows a good few times that she actually does have some acting chops.
    • Both Cassidy Diamond and Polly Danzinger are ridiculously eccentric individuals, but they each prove to be cunning lawyers when they do battle in court. While he doesn't have as many moments that decisively prove his competence, the doddering Bob Lunch is shown to be able to pull his weight in court as well when he manages to cast doubt on what otherwise seemed to be decisive evidence against his clients.
  • Call-Back: The first scene of the series is Dory staring at Chantal's missing persons poster. In season 4, Chantal becomes transfixed by Dory's own missing persons poster.
  • Camp Gay: Elliott, his boyfriend Marc, and just about every other gay character depicted is flamboyant and effeminate.
  • Canada, Eh?: The search eventually takes the gang to Montréal.
  • Cassandra Truth: Julian doubts Chantal's story of her disappearance when he interviews her. He is technically in the right for doubting her story since the real reason behind her "disappearance" is rather mundane. However, since Chantal's side of her fictitious story involves an abusive relationship, Julian faces backlash (particularly from women) for his accusations.
  • Central Theme: Every season in some way discusses the imperceptibility of the self and the fear and anxiety that lack of certainty creates within a person.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: While the series never loses its absurdist satirical tone even slightly (quite the opposite, in fact), each season grows increasingly more intense in its subject matter and the protagonists more morally grey.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The decorative black obelisk that Drew used to kill Keith, and that Chantal finds while snooping through Drew's apartment.
    • Also the taser that Drew obtains from April, ostensibly to protect himself and Dory from someone who had broken into their apartment. (Turns out, Drew had staged the break-in as a way to deter Dory from continuing her obsessive investigation into Chantal's disappearance). Dory uses the taser to defend herself from Keith when he surprises her at the house in Montréal.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Agnes Cho is encountered by the group during Chantal's wake in early season 1, and ends up being the person who gives them Chantal's location near the end of the season.
  • Chick Magnet: While Drew's relationship with Dory is clearly waning at the start of the series, Chantal has nursed a crush on him since college, April shows pretty transparent interest in him, and he gains a rather tremendous amount of female groupies after he's put on trial in season 3.
  • Chronic Evidence Retention Syndrome: Drew suffers a bit of this when he steals the black decorative obelisk—which he used to kill Keith—from the house in Montréal.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: In the Pilot, Dory screams at Drew repeatedly to "Shut the fuck up." Later on, April gives him a "Reason You Suck" Speech that is even more vulgar.
  • Comically Serious: No matter how absurd the situation, Dory will always behave as though she were in a straight noir thriller rather than a comedic satirical one.
  • Consummate Liar:
    • Elliott is a compulsive liar who effortlessly spins tall tales with a completely straight face for his own benefit. Late into season 1, we learn that his entire inspirational backstory of surviving cancer is completely fabricated, while in season 3 we learn that his entire identity, right down to his name, is false.
    • Dory also steadily slips into this territory as she's forced to lie to cover her own tracks. While her lies are much clumsier than Elliot's, she is gradually able to delude herself into believing them enough that they end up becoming nearly unbreakable.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot:
    • Chantal ran away from home for her own petty reasons; if Dory hadn't read into the situation as much as she did (which she was regularly warned against doing throughout the first season), then she and her friends wouldn't have ended up as murderers.
    • It's revealed in season 3 that Keith placed a tracking device on Dory's phone that allowed him to trace her to Canada. This alone likely would have been enough evidence to allow Dory and Drew to get away with a self defense charge for killing him. Since they didn't know about it at the time, though, they instead chose to bury his body and go out of their way to cover up his death, making both their crimes and their potential punishment significantly more severe.
  • Crapsack World: Almost every character, including the four leads, is some combination of a deluded idiot and a cartoonish asshole, and things like corruption, exploitation, and manipulation run rampant.
  • Crazy Homeless People: Lorraine is introduced as a fellow investigator and the only person other than Dory who believes that Chantal's disappearance is a sign of something much bigger going on. By the end of her debut, she reveals herself as a schizophrenic who simply latched onto what Dory was saying about Chantal after overhearing her at a police station.
  • Creepy Doll: Dory receives one in her likeness from her stalker in season 3, complete with hair made from stolen pieces of her own and voice clips taken from stray recordings of her. Chip, the aforementioned stalker, makes five more based off of Drew, Portia, Elliot, Keith, and April in season 4 as part of a twisted object therapy session he puts Dory through.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Portia is a bubbly ditz and Drew a passive wimp, yet both end up successfully blackmailing a seedy businessman into writing a check for the $5,000 they need as a bribe to find out Chantal's location. Drew is even the one who comes up with the plan in the first place.
  • Cult: The pregnancy-obsessed cult that operates out of a fancy art and jewelry store in Brooklyn is initially believed to be connected to Chantal’s disappearance.
  • Dawson Casting: Invoked. The film adaptation of Dory's murder case casts a middle-aged actress to play Portia. Portia is understandably displeased when she learns this, while the actress unsuccessfully attempts to claim that they're close together in age. Out of universe, the actress is played by Busy Philipps, who is only eight years older than Portia's actress Meredith Hagner, making it ironically more of a case of Playing Gertrude.
  • Demoted to Extra: Both Julian and Detective Hartman only appear a few times in season 3 and have no plot importance, despite being key supporting characters in the previous two seasons.
  • Denser and Wackier: An unusual case of this happening alongside Cerebus Syndrome. While the characters are already fairly broad caricatures to begin with, the new characters get progressively more over the top and outlandish with each passing season.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: Dory's primary motivation for finding Chantal is that she's reached an impasse in her life and convinces herself that Chantal's disappearance is some sort of Call to Adventure to her own greater destiny.
  • Disguised in Drag: Chip disguises as an elderly aunt whenever he goes outside of her house (which he is using as a prison for Dory while she is away) to remain beneath suspicion.
  • Downer Ending:
    • Everything Dory and the rest of the group did to find Chantal was absolutely pointless and now Keith is dead for no reason at all. The first season ends with Dory looking shell-shocked into the camera.
    • The second season ends with Dory killing April by pushing her off of a ferry, and later getting arrested at an event for being connected to the murder of Keith.
    • Dory escapes justice for Keith's death in the third season, only to be captured by her obsessed fan and chained up.
  • Driven to Suicide: Lorraine is revealed to have been hit by a subway train and killed near the end of season one. While her former coworkers speculate on whether it was a suicide or not, the season finale confirms that it was, though it's left unclear whether there was any external cause for it other than her own mental instability.
  • Dude Magnet: If Portia interacts with a minor male character, chances are that they'll start creeping on her.
  • Dumb Blonde: Portia is blonde, vapid, and gullible. Played With in that she's actually shown to be quite insightful fairly often, much more so than any of her friends; her gullibility is more the result of having low self-esteem and allowing others to control her than any actual lack of intelligence.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: Portia is clearly the dimmest of the main four, but her summation of Dory's character while on the witness stand in season 3 (where she declares her to be resentful of her own total lack of a sense of self) couldn't be more accurate.
  • Extreme Doormat:
    • Drew is absurdly non-confrontational, and often allows bad situations to escalate even further by being too passive to confront others about them directly.
    • It becomes clear over time that Portia is less stupid than she generally comes off as and is instead someone with low self-esteem who is very susceptible to being controlled by others due to being so starved for affection.
    • Elliott's on/off boyfriend Marc somehow manages to be even worse than Drew; putting up with Elliott constantly lying to and outright bullying him to absurd levels, and inevitably taking him back on the occasions when he attempts to leave him. It reaches a point where he ends up concluding that he actively craves abuse, and can't be in a relationship if there is none. Amusingly, he and Drew have a brief bonding moment in season 3 where they realize their similarities.
  • Fake Memories: Chip brainwashes Dory into believing that her friends are responsible for killing Keith and pinned the blame on her when she confesses to have murdered him in season 4. When she asks about April, he convinces her that April is still alive.
  • Fan Disservice:
    • Elliott strips down to his skivvies... only to reveal that he is covered head to toe in an unsightly stress rash.
    • Julian receives photos of the middle-aged Ferguson in revealing lingerie.
    • Dory getting a Shower Scene with her head shaved and her body covered in bruises, after shitting herself.
  • Fanservice: An early episode of season 3 features the main four going skinny dipping to discuss their alibi, because Portia and Elliott believed that doing so would force Dory and Drew to reveal any wires the police may have attached to them.
  • Foil: Dory's defense attorney in season 3, Cassidy Diamond, and the prosecutor of her trial, Polly Danzinger, serve as this to each other. Both of them are driven career women who view the case as an opportunity to earn fame for themselves, but while Cassidy is a stereotypical millennial barely any older than Dory who leans hard on her glamorous "girl boss" image to compensate for her youth and inexperience and interacts with Dory closer to how a manager would interact with a celebrity, Polly is a pushy Gen Xer who looks down on millennials, developed her career during a time when, in Cassidy's words, you had to act like a man to get by, and is such a severe Workaholic that she considers someone simply wishing her a happy birthday to be a distraction. At their cores they're both women putting on airs to get by in a patriarchal business, but the generational gap between them has caused them to develop into near total opposites.
  • Follow That Car: Parodied in season 4 when Chip's aunt Lylah attempts to tail Drew, Portia, Elliott under the mistaken belief that Portia (who is wearing a curly-haired wig) is Dory... only for the three of them to then attempt to also tail her under the mistaken belief that she is the person responsible for kidnapping Dory due to Chip being disguised as her. What ensues is a surreal sequence in which a car chase occurs where both parties are attempting to follow the other.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • While watching Portia's play late in season 2, Dory hallucinates herself wearing a red dress and being chased by April and Detective Hartman (two people who threaten to expose her crimes) before plummeting into the Hudson river. In the season 2 finale, she ends up pushing April off a ledge into the Hudson river in a desperate bid to stop her from saying anything to anyone, and does so while wearing the same dress she was in her hallucination.
    • If you listen closely to the voice telling Drew that Dory's Loony Fan died in the hospital late into season 3, you can hear that it is actually the loony fan himself putting on a woman's voice, setting up the reveal that he's Not Quite Dead. Viewers with less acute hearing can still figure out the twist using simple logic, as it's highly improbable that the hospital would contact someone outside of the deceased's family to report their death. Elliott actually pieces the latter clue together himself in season 4, which ends up being the decisive evidence needed to make the group realize that Dory had been kidnapped.
    • Chip tells several stories of his childhood that suggest he was raised primarily by his aunt Lylah. We eventually learn that Chip is the product of incest and that his aunt Lylah is also his biological mother.
  • Four-Philosophy Ensemble:
    • The muted and unpredictable Dory is the Apathetic.
    • The straight-laced and unobtrusive Drew is the Realist.
    • The ditzy and trusting Portia is the Optimist.
    • The pragmatic and wily Elliott is the Cynic.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble:
    • The brooding and directionless Dory is Melancholic.
    • The submissive and put-upon Drew is Phlegmatic.
    • The bubbly and impressionable Portia is Sanguine.
    • The outgoing and bossy Elliott is Choleric.
  • Fox News Liberal: Elliott is offered a position as one of these at the end of season 3, which he gleefully accepts without any kind of moral dilemma. At the beginning of season 4, he's asked by his producer to relinquish all of his liberal beliefs on air to become a full-fledged conservative pundit, and once again accepts without making any more than a token effort to complain about having to sell out everything he ostensibly stands for.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Chantal went to college with the main four, but Elliott describes her as "the worst", Dory can only vaguely recall interacting with her, and Drew completely forgot she even existed. Sure enough, she reveals herself to be ludicrously unbearable in just about every conceivable way once they finally reunite with her.
  • Friendship Moment:
    • A rather dark example. Rather than rat Dory and Drew out to the police to save himself after discovering them with Keith's dead body, Elliott remains calm, tells them not to confess anything to anyone, and helps them move the body. That this is the closest he comes to having a Pet the Dog moment says a lot about his character.
    • Late into season 3 the group momentarily forgets all of the mounting tension between them in order to save Portia from Dory's stalker. It's more or less the only point in the season where Dory doesn't act like an outright villain.
  • Gay Best Friend: Played with a bit by Elliott. Sure he's Camp Gay, Portia's roommate, and a member of the main group, but he's otherwise a manipulative asshole who always puts himself before his "friends". Adaptation Decay causes him to be portrayed as a much more conventional and generic one in the biopic about Dory.
  • Gender-Equal Ensemble:
    • The main four consists of two girls (Dory and Portia) and two guys (Drew and Elliot). The two other most prominent characters who act as pseudo-members of their social circle, Julian and Chantal, also keep the gender ratio balanced.
    • Dory and Drew's respective defense attorneys in season 3, Cassidy Diamond and Bob Lunch, are also of opposite genders, once again maintaining the balance.
  • Genre Shift: The series is consistently a Girls-style dramedy about twenty-something hipsters in New York, but has an undercurrent of a noir thriller as Dory unravels the mystery of Chantal's disappearance. By season 2, while still arguably in the style of a noir, the series becomes about the leads trying to cover up the crime they committed rather than solving one.
  • Hate Sink:
    • Chantal is designed to be as insufferable as possible; she's shrill, childish, selfish, needy, mean-spirited, overly-dramatic, stupid, and boring on top of all that. That she's so fundamentally horrible serves to make the fact that Dory ends up destroying the lives of herself and her three friends, as well as killing a man, all for the sake of "rescuing" her (when in reality she was never in any danger) all the more depressing and poignant.
    • Chantal's status as such gets Lampshaded in season 3 when the jury that she is screened as a potential witness for Dory's trial in front of end up finding her so naturally unbearable that they insist on her being guilty despite her not being on trial.
  • Hero Antagonist:
    • Detective Joy Hartman is arguably the main obstacle in the protagonists' paths throughout season 2, but she's simply an officer of the law doing her job by attempting to find the people responsible for murdering Keith Powell and never displays any kind of unsavory traits.
    • Subverted with Prosecutor Polly Danzinger; the primary antagonist of season 3. While she's only doing her job in trying to bring Dory and Drew to justice for killing Keith, she's such an uptight and arrogant Jerkass about it that it's near impossible to take her side.
  • Heroic BSoD: Dory has a panic attack when she realizes her search for Chantal was ultimately pointless. She has recurring panic attacks – complete with dizzy spells, shortness of breath, and hallucinations – after killing Keith.
  • Hidden Depths: Elliott normally comes across as a vapid Jerkass who couldn't care less about others... and he is, but his actions at the end of season 1 and his plotline throughout season 2 also reveal that he in part feels obligated to remain so even in the face of Keith's murder in order to seem strong and dependable for his panicking friends.
  • Hipster: Dory, Drew, Elliott, and Portia are caricatures of Brooklyn hipsters. Detective Joy even lampshades this in the second season.
  • How We Got Here: Season 3 begins with an imprisoned Dory performing a video confessional in an unknown location, but cuts away before the audience gets to hear it. The rest of the season shows the events that led to her abduction, with it returning to the confessional at the very end.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Dory is a foot shorter than her boyfriend Drew.
  • Inbred and Evil: Near the end of season 4, it is revealed that Chip's aunt Lylah is also his biological mother.
  • It's All About Me: Multiple characters on the show, but none more so than Elliott. At least, until the group actually finds Chantal.
  • Jacob Marley Apparel: Dory's hallucination of April in season 3 is wearing the outfit she had on when Dory pushed her into the Hudson, but is also perpetually soaking wet, deathly pale, and corpse-like.
  • Jerkass: Though the main cast has a lot of negative qualities, Elliott is probably the worst out of all of them by a wide margin.
    • April, Dory and Drew's neighbor, is openly hostile to literally everyone she meets.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • Elliot's description of Chantal being "the worst" and "bringing nothing to the table" is proven to be completely accurate by the time she actually appears.
    • Julian's assessment that Dory is simply latching onto Chantal's disappearance as a means of overlooking her own desperation, while harsh, is right on the money.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Julian. He's smart, mature, and, while often quite blunt and tactless around others, very forgiving – hell, he tutors high school kids in his spare time. He even drops off a gift for Elliott after publishing an article about how Elliott has spent his life lying about having cancer as a child.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Elliott, constantly. Halfway through season one it's revealed he lied about being a cancer survivor and had based much of his public brand on it, and it ruins his life for maybe one episode.
    • Subverted with Dory at the end of season 3. She gets acquitted for murdering Keith, but is kidnapped by Chip and forced to experience a living Hell while being imprisoned by him for several months. During that time, the full weight of her actions catches up to her and she crosses the Despair Event Horizon.
    • Chip gets essentially no comeuppance for kidnapping, torturing, and brainwashing Dory, attempting to murder Portia, or successfully murdering Paula Jo due to his family covering it all up to ensure it won't get traced back to them. With that said, he's also forced to accept that Dory isn't his soulmate as well as learn that he's inbred, so he doesn't leave the series completely unscathed.
  • Knight of Cerebus: While still frequently used for comedy, Chip the twink is always portrayed as an unhinged and legitimately terrifying figure. Whenever he appears expect him to attempt to either kill, kidnap, or otherwise emotionally torment Dory or someone close to her; often successfully.
  • Lady in Red: Dory begins wearing striking red-colored outfits as she continues to commit crimes and gain more and more blood on her hands.
  • Laughably Evil: Dory's stalker Chip is genuinely sinister as well as quite possibly the most deranged character to ever appear in the series, but there's an undeniable humor to him all the same. No matter how terrifying he is, it's impossible not to find a young twink parading around a house made entirely out of felt dressed as an elderly woman while singing along to "Groove Is In The Heart" over and over again at least a little bit funny.
  • Leitmotif: Chip's favorite song (and the only one he seems to ever listen to) is "Groove Is In The Heart" by Deee-Lite. The sound of it playing quickly becomes an immediate indicator of his presence.
  • Loony Fan: Dory acquires one after her trial gains national attention in season 3. He at first attempts to murder Portia for testifying against Dory in court and then kidnaps Dory after she is acquitted at the end of the season. Season 4 gives him a name, Chip, and reveals that he created a felt replica of Dory's apartment in the basement of his aunt's house to keep Dory imprisoned in forever to "protect" her from the outside world.
  • Meaningful Echo: Dory hearing Chantal say "Honestly? Myself." on television causes her to remember when she used those exact words to explain why she went missing at the end of the first season, along with all of the events the happened before and after it.
  • Meaningful Name: Chip's full name is "Chip Wreck", which is one letter off from "Ship Wreck". Not only is his mind a metaphorical ship wreck, but he's responsible for stranding Dory away from society by locking her in his basement.
  • Minnesota Nice: Drew is an archetypal non-confrontational midwesterner. He's so conflict avoidant that the majority of his conversations consist of nothing but blindly agreeing with whatever the other person says until they leave him alone.
  • Mistaken for Evidence: A lot of the "evidence" Dory gathers during the first season turns out to be completely mundane or unrelated to Chantal's disappearance.
  • Mock Millionaire: Elliott is outed as a hayseed who lied his way into the life of a wealthy hipster socialite in season 3.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Everyone in the gang suffers a bit of this after Dory and Drew kill Keith and they help to conceal his murder.
    • Dory undergoes this again in season 4, where she confesses to killing both Keith and April as a means of breaking Chip, only to end up also breaking herself after finally having to come clean about the crimes she committed and got acquitted for. It is heavily implied that Chip's ability to brainwash her into believing a series of false memories about both murders is due in part to Dory's own desire to escape the guilt of her past.
  • Mysterious Stranger: Dory is followed by a Mysterious Stranger during the first part of Season One. Later, it's revealed that this man is Keith, a supposed "private investigator" hired by Chantal's family in order to find her.
  • Narcissist: Elliott is self-diagnosed as such, and with good reason. Many other characters, not least of all the other three, also show signs of this; prioritizing their own comfort above the wants and needs of the people around them.
  • Never Found the Body: April is pushed several stories into the Hudson river in the season 2 finale, and while Dory presumes her to be dead throughout season 3, the audience is never given any definitive proof on the matter. While Dory hallucinates April's drowned corpse appearing to taunt her several times across the season, it should be noted that she did something similar when she feared that Chantal may have been killed in season 1, despite her eventually turning out to be fine.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Conservative news icon Charlie Reeny is a clear parody of Fox News' Tomi Lahren, right down to the Gender-Blender Name.
  • No Name Given: Dory's stalker is referred to as "Obsessed Fan" in the credits of season 3, and as "The Twink" on the few occasions when he's referenced by other characters. His name is revealed as Charles "Chip" Wreck the following season.
  • Not Quite Dead: Chip seemingly dies after being hit by a car, but returns in the season 3 finale to kidnap Dory.
  • Not So Above It All: Julian presents himself as a mature Only Sane Man who is above all the frivolous he said she said the main group constantly engages in and instead directs his passions toward pursuing the truth as a journalist. Though this is true of him to an extent, the only two journalistic articles we see him produce are hit pieces on his ostensible friends. While he is justified for doing so (as both articles consist of exposing a person for lying about a serious issue to gain sympathy and profit from it), there's still a clear irony to it.
  • Only Sane Man: Julian is the only character who shows even a modicum of sensibility and, while a bit of a dick, one of the few to never do anything particularly morally repugnant.
  • Pet the Dog: Season 3 reveals that April intended to use the money she attempted to blackmail off of Dory's friend group to pay for a heart operation for her twin sister. Of course, we only learn this after she has been presumably killed by Dory, so it serves as little more than an additional gut punch.
  • Polar Opposite Twins: April and June. April is moody and distrustful, while June is peppy and personable. Both are equal parts completely insane, though.
  • Potty Failure: Dory shits herself in her sleep after being fed the same frozen meal for months straight while imprisoned by Chip in season 4. It forces him to lend her his shower to clean herself off, opening an opportunity for her to escape through his bathroom window.
  • Preppy Name: "Portia Davenport" is about as much of a "rich girl" name as you can get, and is a clear indicator of the privilege the character comes from. While less classically preppy, "Elliott Goss" carries a similar amount of pretentiousness. Season 3 reveals that Elliott's name is an alias and that he is in fact a Mock Millionaire named Eldad Tupp, suggesting that he was deliberately attempting to invoke this trope with his fake identity.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Played with to Hell and back in season 3. The viewer knows that Dory and Drew are guilty of the crimes they're being accused of, and Dory's behavior throughout the trial becomes increasingly harder to describe as anything other than villainous, and yet the prosecutor is very effectively framed as an unlikable Jerkass; enough that you instinctively see her as the villain despite her being entirely in the right for wanting to put them away. When it comes time for the end of the trial, Dory's closing statement to the jury manages to be so emotional, and so genuine-seeming, that it becomes easy to forget that she is lying through her teeth throughout all of it and suddenly find yourself rooting for her all over again. Once the jury declares them not guilty, though, we're treated to a rapid series of flashbacks depicting every single instance of Dory and Drew committing the crimes they just got acquitted of, sharply snapping back to reality to remind the viewer that the protagonists are murderers.
  • Protagonist Journey to Villain: As the series progresses, we see Dory evolve from a directionless twenty-something to someone so detached from her own conscience that she is able to kill two people and successfully lie about her innocence in their murders in court. Scarily, she seems much more comfortable and confident with herself throughout season 3 than she ever did in season 1, implying that this was within her all along.
  • Put on a Bus: Julian in season 3, as he is paid handsomely by Mary Ferguson to leave the country.
  • Race Lift: In the film adaptation of Dory's murder case, the blonde-haired, blue-eyed Portia plays the Iraqi-American Dory while a black man plays Drew.
  • Real After All: Fat Frankie; a completely arbitrary name that Dory makes up on the spot to cover for Keith's whereabouts to his ex-wife in season 2 that turns out to belong to a real criminal (several, in fact). Of course, none of these Fat Frankies have anything to do with Keith's murder, but their existence alone ends up forcing Detective Hartman to stop her investigation into Dory altogether after she accidentally kills one.
  • Reality Ensues: Drew spends a significant chunk of season 2 attempting to convince his rival for a job overseas that his wife is cheating on him with their boss to sabotage his chances of getting it. When the rival confronts his boss over it, they realize that Drew was trying to pit them against each other and promptly have him fired.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: April delivers one to Dory about how awful and entitled she and her friends are. It seemingly costs her her life as she is thrown off of a moving ferry by Dory.
  • Red Herring:
    • Everything about Chantal’s disappearance turns out to have a relatively benign explanation: Chantal was having an affair with a married man, and left the city to cool her nerves.
    • In particular, the sleazy businessman that hits on Portia at Chantal's wake is suggested to have been having an affair with Chantal that is in some way connected to her disappearance. As it turns out, Chantal was having an affair with a married man, but it was a completely different guy that the group never met.
    • Joy Hartman's murder of Fat Frankie is set up to be a major plot point at the end of season 2, with her being forced to lie about Dory's innocence in court to protect herself. Her very first appearance in season 3 has Prosecutor Danzinger reveal that Fat Frankie was an FBI informant and that she has full confidence that he had no connection with the case. Hartman is promptly fired from the police and never seen again.
    • Fat Frankie himself is an in-universe example; a random name Dory threw out to redirect Keith's ex-wife's suspicion away from herself that ends up upending Detective Hartman's investigation into the murder when an actual man with mob connections named Fat Frankie turns out to be Real After All.
  • Rewatch Bonus: Throughout season 1, we're treated to occasional glimpses of a distressed Chantal in an unknown location, seemingly confirming Dory's suspicion that something greater is behind her disappearance. On a rewatch, these scenes are recontextualized to simply be of Chantal being her usual extremely whiny and unpleasable self while hiding out in her friend's aunt's large, well-furnished summer house.
  • Rich Idiot With No Day Job: Played with. Dory's employer at the beginning of the series Gail is introduced as such, being the estranged wife of a morally dubious businessman who doesn't work and pays Dory to do odd jobs and serve as someone for her to talk to. From what we see of her though, while perhaps a bit spacey, she's a genuinely kind and thoughtful person who cares about Dory as a mother would. Dory exploits this kindness several times, never once suggesting that she sees Gail as anything beyond her "crazy boss".
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: A Straw Misogynist in season 3 correctly guesses that Dory is guilty of murdering Keith simply because he finds her ugly and thinks that she looks like a liberal.
  • Runaway Groom: Marc flees the scene on the day of his and Elliot's wedding after realizing that the only thing maintaining the relationship is abuse.
  • Sanity Slippage: While Dory is shown to be prone to having hallucinations as early as season 1, they start to become far more frequent and vivid in season 2 in the wake of covering up Keith's death. In the same season, Elliott has an outright mental breakdown for similar reasons.
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: Drew's first instinct whenever things get ugly is to try and flee the country. He tries to leave Canada for New York when he finds out that Dory cheated on him with Keith at the end of season 1, spends most of season 2 trying to get a job transfer to Shanghai to avoid facing the consequences of Keith's murder. In the first episode of season 3, he tries to head for Shanghai again after finding out that someone ratted the main four out to the police.
  • Series Fauxnale: Season 4's finale plays out like a Stock Series Finale, commemorating all 4 seasons of the show, bringing characters like Julian and Gail and Dory's parents Back for the Finale, and providing closure on several character arcs. In the final seconds of the episode, after cutting to black on a Book-Ends shot of the season 1 opening in the afterlife, a very brief scene plays revealing Dory survived the fire and the finale was a near death experience.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: All of Dory's detective work throughout season 1 is rendered moot when Chantal is found to have never been in any danger whatsoever.
  • Similar Squad: Portia befriends a group of young people that superficially resemble her three friends (an Ambiguously Brown girl, a Camp Gay guy, and a quiet white guy) after she becomes a born again Christian in season 3. The similarities stop there, however, and Portia quickly becomes bored spending time with them.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The upbeat, Word Salad Lyric-filled "Groove Is In The Heart" is the Leitmotif of Chip, Dory's dangerously unstable stalker.
  • Souvenir Land: In Season 4, Drew works at a Disneyesque theme park.
  • Stalker Without a Crush: Dory's Loony Fan Chip is a swishy twink who is nonetheless violently possessive of her.
  • Straw Misogynist: We're briefly introduced to a young vlogger midway through season 3 who insists that Dory must be guilty of murder due to finding her ugly and believing that she "looks like a liberal"; naturally, he's grossly overweight and has an obnoxiously high-pitched and crackly voice. He gets his comeuppance at the end of the episode courtesy of Dory's stalker tricking him into getting shards of glass lodged in his hand, and we hear him pathetically crying out for his mother over the credits.
  • Stress Vomit:
    • Gavin during Dory and Drew's interrogation over Chantal.
    • Dory after she realizes absolutely everything was pointless since Chantal was okay all along.
    • Drew while on trial for killing Keith.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: Dory undergoes a variant of this after she fails her attempt at escaping Chip and crosses the Despair Event Horizon, becoming almost sedately calm and much more cooperative toward him. While it's primarily the result of Chip brainwashing her by implanting False Memories into her head, it's also implied to be in part due to her subconscious desire to escape the guilt she feels over her past crimes by spending the rest of her life in seclusion with him.
  • Surprisingly Happy Ending: The honest and well-intentioned Julian receives $750,000 to keep quiet about the scandalous photos he received from Senator-elect Ferguson, even though he had no intention of leaking them and was being honest about losing his phone, allowing him to travel to Brazil.
  • Theme Naming: Each season follows its own episode-naming conventions, which generally tie in to the overall themes of the season in some way:
    • Every episode of the first season is titled like a Nancy Drew novel, such as "The Mysterious Disappearance of the Girl No One Knew" and "The Night of One Hundred Candles".
    • Every episode of the second season has a One-Word Title, with the premiere being called "Murder!" and each of the following episodes being named after a word associated with the fallout of committing murder ("Paralysis", "Paranoia", "Denial", etc).
    • Every episode of season 3 has a title referencing legal terms, like "The Rookie Lawyer", "Rogue Witness", and "Irrefutable Evidence".
  • Theme Twin Naming: April is eventually revealed to have a twin sister named June.
  • Then Let Me Be Evil: Dory's more heinous behavior in season 3 is heavily implied to be the product of her choosing to embrace the media's skewed portrayal of her as a deplorable murderer simply because it allows her to have an identity. When the full weight of her actions hits her in season 4, she immediately experiences a My God, What Have I Done? moment.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: The audience is treated to Dory's numerous panicked hallucinations throughout the series.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone:
    • After all the suffering he has to endure in season 2, Julian is able to vacation in Brazil with nearly a million dollars and remain completely disconnected from the events of the main plot in season 3.
    • Similarly, Elliot's boyfriend Marc is finally able to recognize himself as the victim of an abusive relationship on the day of his wedding, and seemingly breaks things off with Elliott for good.
  • Token Good Teammate: Portia is stupid and vapid, but is the only one of the main four who seems to lack any kind of underlying mean streak. She's also the only one who wasn't present for Keith's murder and only becomes complicit in it because she's upset that her friends are keeping a dark secret from her.
  • Token Minority: An in-universe example. Both Dory and Julian are hired on to be a part of Mary Ferguson's campaign team to increase its ethnic diversity.
  • Turn to Religion: Portia becomes a born again Christian after her friends turn against her for agreeing to testify against them in court. It lasts just long enough for her to record a Christian rock song before she abandons religion rather nonchalantly after narrowly avoiding getting killed at Elliott's wedding.
  • Twist Ending: For the first season: Chantal had not been abducted or killed. Turns out, she was sleeping with a married guy, who broke up with her, so she went to Canada to stay in a friend's summer house to escape her problems.
    • Also jokingly referenced by Chantal in the second season, when she tells Drew she wants "that twist ending" while the two are having sex on Drew's couch.
  • The Unreveal: Elliott ventures out from New York to his childhood home deep in the swamps of Tennessee late into season 3 to confront his parents about the origins of his compulsive lying. His mom reveals that his lying was in fact triggered by a traumatic event in his past that she had been keeping from him his entire life, but Elliott walks off in disinterest just as she's about to tell him after he receives a call offering him the position of co-host on a daytime talk show.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Chantal running off to Canada without telling anyone was just intended to be a way for her to decompress and "find herself", but, as the catalyst to the entire series inadvertently leads to the deaths of several people and the destruction of the lives of many more.
  • Villain Protagonist: From the season 1 finale onward, Dory, Drew, and Elliott are all complicit in murder, with Portia soon joining them in the season 2 premiere. While they're all sympathetic to varying degrees (even Elliott), and Keith, the victim, was rather transparently a scumbag, the remainder of the series is about them literally attempting to get away with murder and becoming increasingly harder to root for in the process.
  • Walking Spoiler: Chantal's entire character essentially spoils the season 1 finale's reveal that she isn't in any actual danger and Dory's search for her is All for Nothing. Similarly, all three of the attorney characters in season 3 spoil the fact that the main characters are put on trial for committing a crime.
  • "Well Done, Daughter!" Girl: Portia's mother is rather distant, and acts unsupportive and belittling about her acting career; all of which clearly bothers her. This gets exploited in season 2, where Elijah convinces her to cut off all ties with her mom as a means of seizing control over her life under the guise of trying to help her remove herself from a toxic relationship. In the season 4 finale, Portia's mom admits that she acted aloof toward her because she felt envious of her bright and magnetic personality, which in turn caused her to feel guilty about thinking such things about her own daughter and begin avoiding her. The two seem to start on the path toward making amends with each other after she reveals this, though it's unclear whether this actually happened due to the episode turning out to be All Just a Dream.
  • Workaholic: Polly Danzinger takes this trope to its logical extreme. She casually expresses her relief at the weekend being over in the same way that a normal person would about it starting, and takes the time to chew out her colleagues for getting her a cake on her birthday due to her disgust at being rewarded for anything other than what she has earned through her own merits.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: A central aspect of the series is that Dory tries to filter her life through the lens of a genre narrative in order to find meaning where there isn't any. While this is most clearly seen in the first season, where her attempts at being an Amateur Sleuth end in her killing a person while trying to solve a mystery that didn't exist to begin with, it continues to be present even after the series undergoes a Genre Shift between seasons. It causes her to become outright villainous in season 3 when she decides to embrace the media's own false narrative about her being a calculating Femme Fatale.
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