By all means Search team could have completed its excellent five-season run, most viewers probably would not have foreseen a zombie takeover. But that’s exactly what happened: Dorys (Alia Shawkat)’s unwavering quest to spread enlightenment goes so awry that the side effects make people immortal and evoke a zombie apocalypse. The creative team and cast made Search teams series finals one of the most appropriately bizarre endings of television. AV club spoke with co-stars Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers about the series’ focal point for a farce. The Walking Dead, what it means about the growth of its characters, and Search team‘s legacy as a cult hit.
AV Club: Season four felt like a logical end to the show. So when you knew you would get one more season to end it, what were the themes you wanted to tackle?
Charles Rogers: When we wrote season four, there was initially a moment when we felt it could or should be the end for Dory to die. In hindsight, I’m glad we took that idea as seriously as we did. There was actually weight of that feeling at the end of season four. When we started conceiving five, we liked the idea of the themes of rebirth, enlightenment, and using it as a turning point in the show to see if Dory is on the other side of the journey you’ve seen so far. Ultimately, it’s a test of whether Dory has grown as a person and whether she really is what she now pretends to be. We would not have been able to lean into it if we did not have the seriousness of the previous final.
AVC: There’s so much going on this season, but we need to talk about zombies first. When did you know you wanted to go that route? And what does that mean?
Sarah-Violet Bliss: I do not know if I remember the exact moment we decided it. I know it was consistent with how we’ve had a “Can we go there?” Every season. moment. If we do, it’s always fun, but we have to justify it. Every time we have made big fluctuations, it has worked to our advantage despite the fear behind it. We thought, “Okay, this is last season. Let’s really take what we’ve learned and go as far as we can.” When an idea turns me on, or if it turns me on at all, I hope it turns on others as well, though I have no idea if people will watch the season and say, “Is it great,” or “Is it really not? “
CR: Whether people like the idea of how big we became is one thing. The other thing is, people understand the metaphors and why the show ends the way it does. I hope people find that the finale feels meaningful to them through the lens of all this increased chaos.
SB: When I follow my own compass of it, I do not feel let down by the end, so my hope is that fans do not either.
AVC: Did you consider turning one of the four main ones into a zombie, or were you sure how their journeys would end in the apocalypse?
SB: We did. There were versions where we thought we were going to lose one of them. But we decided to let the sad moment be Marc (Jeffery Self) on his way. It felt good to have the four of them together at the end to reckon with the post-malaise of living in a new zombie world. How they adapt to it all felt more like the show than losing any of them.
Type: Alia Shawkat hinted that she loved the last picture of Dory – when she looks at the posters of the missing persons after her wedding. How did you land on it?
CR: It’s nice to not have the final image, because it’s an image we’ve repeated before. It felt like the right thing to return to in the end, but now with all the baggage, the layers, the consequences of what has happened that led to this moment. There is something special internal about it unlike the previous times we have done it where we know how she feels. Alia has an ability to feel richly enigmatic in a way that is deep. It feels like you’re in her headspace, but you’ll never know her headspace. That was the crux of writing Dory. She is a person who was slipping away from your ability to fully understand. We were able to talk about human behavior and psychology if we kept her at a distance. It’s part of the feeling we want to leave people with.
AVC: In episode nine, Search team essentially becomes its own version of The Walking Dead in the arcade. How did you map out where it would take place and what each character would do?
SB: We knew we needed an enclosed space for the play, which is all from episode nine. We came up with the idea of the arcade by really thinking about what’s the funniest place for them to get caught up in. We wanted to make a certain version of a zombie apocalypse work for us and show it where Drew and Dory are, while it is happening. They have no idea, they sing “Aquarius” while driving, they think they are saving the world. We also knew we would see Williamsburg again with all the millennials to see what it’s like when it’s a zombie city.
AVC: Quinn’s Tunnel [Jeff Goldblum] wealth and fame gave Dory and her friends a lot of value and it’s a way to make fun of technology moguls. But would you do more with how his bow ends? He disappears as if after being forced to resign.
CR: Season three and five are our biggest pointed satire moments. In this, Tunnel borrows from Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and these people who claim to herald a new dawn through technology they control. It felt like the real foil for Dory, who is a person with a big mission but who does not know how she wants it to become a reality. What Tunnel was able to bring was this magical Willy Wonka charm that was grounded and believable. In the writing process, there were times when we really wondered how we could sell the idea that a man out there would like to fund an information pill. You cast one as Jeff Goldblum, and 90 percent of the work is done.
We had the idea for Tunnel Quinn, and we put ideas on who we should cast in the writer’s room. Jeff was probably the first name we threw out. When it came back to the casting process, it felt surreal to hear, “He actually wants to do it.” We had originally thrown a lot of different conclusions that his character could come to, but we also did not want him to be a big villain. We would not put so much emphasis on him to take away from the main characters. We thought about making a button on his character. The last act of season five was also expensive to film, so we still had to compromise.
AVC: Chantal’s last dialogue with Dory, “You’ve always had great delusions,” is apt. Why do their worlds collide as they do during Judgment Day?
CR: First, it was fun to write Chantal because we love writing for Clare McNulty. We found this pattern where so much emphasis is placed on Dory’s bow and so much insignificance is placed on Chantals. They are a cosmic foil for each other, so their stories meet several times. Chantal saves Dory’s life, but we love that they still live their own selfish view of who is responsible for the end of the world.
Type: Every season of Search team has felt like its own structured show, with lots of tonal shifts. What was the approach while deciding how serious you would be in terms of when to comically comment on an issue?
CR: We did not really have any specific rules that we complied with. One approach that seems to have anchored the tone of the show since the beginning is that whatever is extreme, any situation or behavior, we still treat the characters’ emotional reality with real weight. Even on the show’s craziest peak, they all respond in a grounded, emotionally serious way. It may give you different deviations from what you have done in the past.
AVC: What do you hope is the legacy of a show like this? Is that definitely the end, or would you like to do more?
SB: This is definitely the end. That is it. I hope takeaway is that Search team is something [viewers] really enjoyed it. That’s a lot to summarize.
CR: I hope it does not leave people’s collective consciousness. I hope people keep thinking about it. My favorite things have a kind of cult following that stands the test of time. I would be honored if Search team had that kind of legacy.