Entertainment

What to Remember Before Watching 'Search Party' Season 3

The self-absorbed Brooklynites are back, but where did things leave off?

alia swawkat, search party season 2
HBO Max

Early on in the third season of Search Party, the neo-noir comedy created by Sarah-Violet Bliss, Charles Rogers, and Michael Showalter that has moved from TBS to HBO Max after a three-year hiatus, protagonists Dory (Alia Shawkat) and Drew (John Reynolds) meet up with their friends Elliot (John Early) and Portia (Meredith Hagner). Dory and Drew reveal to their partners in crime that they're being charged with first degree murder for the death of Keith Powell (Ron Livingston) but that they've decided to plead not guilty.

Their friends, having been involved in the cover-up, including stuffing Keith's body into a suitcase and digging his grave, are justifiably concerned and confused about why the decision not to claim self-defense. "It felt right to me in the moment because this way it's like nothing happened," says Dory. Since the beginning of the series about aimless, privileged millennials playing a game of detective gone very wrong, Dory's been obsessed with finding a direction for herself when there doesn't seem to be one, and now she's convinced herself that her false narrative is the truth. But can she convince a jury?

The show's surprising first season, back in 2016, centered on Dory's search for a missing college acquaintance that derived from boredom and fixation rather than altruism, and ended with the murder. The still fun but muddled second season, in 2017, focused on the cover up. Now in its third season, Dory is set on believing the truths about herself that she still thinks she can control. As this plays out over the course of the trial, it makes for an incredibly hysterical, frenzied ending. (Once you've watched Season 3, read more about the season and where the show might be heading in Season 4, which has already been filmed.) Since it's been a while, here's what to keep in mind as you being watching the new episodes.

Did Dory kill Keith Powell?

In Season 1, Dory's quest to find her missing former acquaintance Chantal Witherbottom led her eventually to teaming up with Keith, who claimed to be the Witherbottom family's private investigator. After the two did some digging, and also started a fling, Dory discovered that Keith wasn't being truthful about being the Witherbottoms' private investigator, and they part ways. Dory and her three friends follow a lead to Montreal, where they finally find Chantal, who, as it turns out, hadn't been in danger at all, but was just scared to return home after causing so much drama by not telling everyone that she was merely going off the grid.

Keith secretly followed Dory and her pals to Canada, but at that point, Dory had convinced herself that Keith was out to get Chantal and might be dangerous. So when Keith showed up and confessed to Dory in an increasingly agitated way that, in actuality, he'd never actually met Chantal or the Witherbottoms, and had only gotten involved after seeing Chantel's missing persons poster and the reward being offered, Dory tazed him out of fear. In response, he pulled her to the ground, climbed on top of her, and started to strangle her. Drew overheard the attack, grabbed a statue off a shelf, and hit Keith over the head with it, killing him instantly.

search party season 2
Mark Schafer/HBO Max

OK, so why do they cover it up?

Dory and Drew, reasonably panicked, were initially set on calling the police and claiming that they killed him in self-defense. But then Elliot happened upon the bloody scene and convinced them otherwise. The chronic liar won't believe Dory's self-defense claim and pointed holes in her defense, like how she tazed him first, and, at the start of Season 2, he ultimately convinced them that they have to cover up the killing. That's when they executed the very flawed plan of going on security cameras at a major store and purchasing all the incriminating tools to bury a body, including a gaudy zebra print suitcase to stuff Keith's body into.

So, Dory and Drew's not guilty plea in Season 3 definitely doesn't reflect what really happened, but it's not like they murdered Keith in cold blood, given that Dory was being attacked and Drew was trying to save his girlfriend. Maybe they wouldn't have been charged if they'd called the police. But when they went ahead and covered it up, the decision made their lives much more complicated and the idea of claiming self-defense became a lot messier.

search party season 2
Jon Pack/HBO Max

Who is April again? And what did Dory do to her?

Throughout Season 2, Dory and Drew had an aggressive, downer of a neighbor April (Phoebe Tyers). Little did they know that April could overhear their conversations about Keith's murder and the cover-up through the wall. Eventually, at the group's sacred brunch place, April confronted Dory, Drew, Elliot, and Portia to tell them that she knows everything and even has a cassette recording of their confession. She threatened to turn the tape over to authorities if the group doesn't give her tens of thousands of dollars. 

Of course the four friends don't have the funds, but Dory had a possible, extremely preposterous solution. Dory decided to steal the phone of her ex-boyfriend Julian (Brandon Micheal Hall) because she knew that it contained incriminating messages sent by the politician (J. Smith Cameron) they were both working for. Dory's deluded plan was to give the phone with April in exhange for the incriminating cassette and in lieu of paying the bribe, with the idea that April could sell the photos to the press. In the Season 2 finale, Dory and April meet on the Staten Island Ferry, and April agreed to go through with it, despite being disappointed with the trade off. But as Dory walks away, April taunted her, saying that she'd always know that Dory's a murderer and won't let her forget it. Dory, who had spent all season burying any trace of her and her friends' role in Keith's murder, snapped and pushed April over the ferry railing and into New York Harbor, presumably to her doom.

So, going into Season 3, Dory has not one but crimes to conceal, with April's probable murder being much more deliberate. And this time, her friends have no idea, because Dory told them that April agreed to the exchange and they seem to believe her. Of course, Dory isn't aware that her pesky neighbor has a twin, the much bubblier June (Claire Tyers), who will probably be concerned about her sister's whereabouts.

Getting rid of the one person who knows your secret so that the secret no longer exists does makes sense as a concept, but as Dory and her friends learn in Season 3, murder and deceit has a way of catching up with you. But, hey, at least she got the tape she was after!

search party season 3
Jon Pack/HBO Max

But didn't Dory get arrested?

Yes. Season 2 ends with Dory getting handcuffed at a political event and put in the back of a police car, where she overhears the officers say an anonymous tip led to the arrest for the murder of Keith Powell. The identity of the tipster is one of the cliffhangers that fuels Season 3, and adds conflict to the relationship of Dory and her three friends. Did one of them turn against the others in order to receive immunity, or did someone simply slip up?

If you paid extremely close attention during the Season 2 finale, you probably can deduce who the culprit is, but we'll let you find out in Season 3.

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Sadie Bell is the entertainment editorial assistant at Thrillist. She's on Twitter at @mssadiebell.