Every season of HBO Max Research group is full of unexpected twists – the Season 1 finale is an all-time great twist, but Season 3’s pivot to legal drama and Season 4 Misery-esque plot was impossible to predict, given the show’s relatively simple premise. Somehow, the straightforward comedy-thriller about Dory Sief (Alia Shawkat) and her friends’ search for their missing college friend Chantal (Clare McNulty) has become a vehicle for all manner of television.
In its fifth and final season, all 10 episodes of which premiered on the streaming service in January, Research group comes out with a hell of a bang – one that’s hard to believe until you see it for yourself.
[Ed. note: Major spoilers for the final season of Search Party follow.]
The most of Research group season 5 is about a cult. Dory Sief, who died for 37 seconds in the previous season’s finale, came to believe that she had discovered true enlightenment. By sharing her ideas on social media, she gains a passionate following and recruits other influencers to her cause. Eventually, with the help of tech mogul Tunnel Quinn, Dory sets a goal for her cult: to create a pill that will give everyone who takes it the same enlightenment as her. Unfortunately, this pill is what triggers the honest-to-goodness zombie apocalypse.
There is no turning back either: the world as we know it in Research group really ends, albeit comically. And the show’s final moments are of its cast living life in post-apocalyptic Brooklyn. So naturally, we wanted to talk to showrunners Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers about how Research group end the world.
So let’s get to it right now: when did you know you were having a zombie apocalypse?
Sarah-Violet Bliss: In Season 4, when we were thinking about potentially doing a Season 5, we thought about what it would be like for Dory to be on the other end of a near-death experience, and we thought about how she would then move on to more destruction. .
This was before COVID became COVID – we originally had the idea that she ended up creating something that became a virus. And then COVID came along, and we were like, ‘Well, that’s a bit too much on the nose.’ But we still liked the idea of her trying to do something good becoming something bad. Like that’s his MO That was when [the zombies] came. It wasn’t from day one that we knew we were going to end up with a zombie apocalypse. But here we are!
Cults are another big priority this season. Do you think cults are about to return?
Charles Rogers: Well, in pop culture, I think we may be at the end of that comeback. There was a part of me that was a little nervous, that maybe we overdid the cults back then. Research group came out of. But the principles behind the cults – I feel like the cults have had a huge resurgence in a more metaphorical way, where the country is divided into all these extreme ideologies, and everyone is indoctrinated into some point of view. So if anything, I think cults reincarnate at a higher governmental level, globally.
SVB: I think there’s something general about the tribe you belong to, it has an element of worship whether it’s organized or not. It’s just constantly there. And you know, if you say something that your tribe doesn’t agree with, it might be awkward for you. So in that sense it doesn’t necessarily sound like what we think of as cults, but I think it’s still kind of there.
What makes you think we’re at the end of our sectarian obsession?
CR: There is a balance to be drawn from the spirit of the times without having the impression of treading too much on the territory. It takes about a year for a show to come out by the time you write it, you know, so there’s always a sensitivity to not wanting to seem disconnected, or like you’re at the end of something .
And even with season 1, and true crime, and the idea of Serial we were talking about it, I was a little nervous that it wasn’t trending by the time the first season of the show came out. But at the end of the day, I think as long as you give it a spin, you can make it feel fresh. So in writing this season, it felt important that the twist was that the cult was influencers. You haven’t seen that, you know? This is the way to modernize and keep it fresh. There are always ways to make sure you’re not behind the beat, you know?
Was it always the goal to play with a different genre each season in Research group?
SVR: It started when we were writing Season 2. When we were trying to figure out what Season 2 was going to be, what kind of freed us up was realizing, “Oh, it’s a different genre this season. It’s always exciting, but it’s not a mystery. It’s you know, getting away with murder. And in doing that, we realized that’s kind of what the show was. In Season 3, we implemented it with crime drama, then court drama, and then we move on.
Many readings of the show revolve around the idea that it is a generational search for meaning. Do you think the millennial quest for meaning is particularly difficult? Do Research group talk about that?
CR: Yes, I was thinking about it after reading different reviews and hearing so many different points of view. I wondered if there was something generational about the search for meaning, and I don’t think there is in itself. I think this is an old and universal human question. But I think what each generation has that separates them from the others is a different kind of denial.
Like, we like to say that our parents, or baby boomers, don’t have a vocabulary to express their feelings or talk about emotions or psychology, you know? But that does not mean that they necessarily had less to do with meaning. We all live the same humanity. What Millennials and Generation Z have is the ability to identify everything they ask for, miss and seek. But no one has more answers than any other generation. So there’s a little cyclical loop that I think worked its way into the DNA of Research group.
Research group is now available to stream in its entirety on HBO Max.