The first 30 seconds of season 2 of Search Party are an absolute masterpiece. Visually, we have a blank (ish) canvas; our protagonist’s face is looking directly at the camera (it’s soon revealed she’s actually looking into a mirror) with nothing else in the shot, save for a splotch of blood on her forehead. She’s facing what’s just happened (haha, get it?). The room feels so sterile.Without audio, this scene is particularly puzzling, especially for a first-time viewer. When you layer in the audio however, you can make the connection that our protagonist Dory has just gone through a very traumatic event. Snippets of recent happenings flash on the screen for a couple of seconds but disappear too quickly to get a sure sense of what is going on.
This inaugural scene sets the tone for the whole season: anxiety and mystery and trauma (oh my!). The camera work is shaky, implying a sense of urgency. The colors are muted (ironically, the only non neutral in the scene is the blood red sweater Elliot is wearing). The camera moves even with the actors, following Dory and Elliot upwards as he pulls her off the ground by her shoulders. There’s a strange intimacy hidden here, revealed deeply through all of these choices. That feeling, however, is immediately lost when Elliot comments about Chantal’s invitation to dinner. Our characters are still in the real world, even though this opening sequence is so dream-like. When I say dream-like, though, I really mean nightmarish. The scene is almost shot like a reality TV show. The camera focuses on the character’s face for much too long, almost uncomfortably close. A viewer could count all of Alia Shawkat’s freckles.
There’s another really beautiful scene in the episode where Drew is playing a melancholy keyboard tune. The room he’s in is blood orange, carpet included. The scene is lit very scarcely, but at the same time there is enough light for our characters to be bathed in a red hue. This scene is quite brilliantly shot, really, since it’s where Elliot, Drew, and Dory decide they are not going to report Keith’s murder to the police. It’s almost as if the redness is making their secret more evil.
One stylistic choice that stood out to me in this episode was the scene where they buried Keith. Remember that Search Party is, overall, a pretty dark show (pun intended). The lack of proper lighting actually bothered me as I’d have to constantly increase my laptop brightness to accommodate while watching. Thus, it’s interesting that in the darkest plot moment of the show, they choose to convey the characters outside. So picture this: four millennials, one freshly down from a coke high, burying a dead man (in a hot pink zebra stripe suitcase) in broad daylight.
Search Party is a very serious show, I promise.