The new season of “Arrested Development” is confusing, hands down. The “Netflix semi-original series” brought everyone’s favorite dysfunctional family back together for one more season after Fox cancelled the cult classic in 2006 due to low ratings. Complete with the requisite inside jokes, flashbacks, scheming and catch phrases that initially made the show so great, fans will find season 4 an enjoyable extension of the first three, if one that requires extensive re-watching and deciphering.
Personally, my favorite part about “Arrested Development” was always the crazy interactions between the Bluth family members, and that is largely missing from this season as each episode is structured around an individual character. While some of these episodes are successful (GOB attempts a new “illusion” to escape from accidental commitment after joking to Egg, “Marry me!”), others are not (anyone else have trouble keeping George Sr. and Oscar apart as they took turns conning businessmen in a sweat lodge?). Wisely, the show did not attempt to gloss over the seven years between seasons, but instead took in current events like the housing crisis and conservative politician Herbert Love (loosely modeled after Tea Party activist Herman Cain). College-age George Michael, now the developer of privacy software, is as self-effacing as ever, and his resemblance to “The Social Network” actor Jesse Eisenberg was subtly hinted at as “Faceblock” begins to gain attention due to his film executive cousin, Maeby (whose role as his romantic interest really should’ve gotten more closure in this season).
The new season also features a large cast of cameos, which is to be expected from a release so long in coming. Kristen Wiig is a fantastic young Lucille, Seth Rogen’s George Sr. somewhat less so; the cast of “Workaholics” makes an appearance at the airport, as does the cast of “Outsourced” during Lindsay’s, Tobias’s and Maeby’s simultaneous jaunts to India for some self-reflection. Then of course, there’s the ensemble cast of minor characters including bi-curious magician Tony Wonder, Kitty the neurotic secretary (we haven’t quite said goodbye to these), as well as Gene Parmesan, Anne Veal (sorry, Plant) and Barry Zuckerkorn (he’s very good) among others. New faces include Lindsay’s activist love interest Marky Bark, his ex-lover and star of Tobias’s “Fantastic Four” musical, DeBrie, and actress Rebel Alley (Isla Fischer), who is unwittingly dating both Bluth father and son. While it is certainly impressive that so many of the original cast decided to come back for its resurrection, the new cast leaves somewhat to be desired, often coming off as filler for screen time that the Bluths could not take up.
Before you blue yourself, there’s still hope; moments of pure “Arrested Development” magic still shine through season 4. Among these are the pack-first/no-talking-after housing scenario in which Michael is ousted from his son’s dorm room, GOB’s roofie circle of shame, and Michael and George Michael’s escalating exchange of voicemails as they each attempt to pursue the same woman. The season is packed with running jokes, much like the first three — just don’t blink or you’ll miss them.
From maritime law, to a Bluth family movie, to a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, season 4 is full of typical Bluth hijinks, but it’s missing that Bluth heart. Instead, Maeby pimps out her own mother, George Sr. and Lucille refuse to tip African Americans, Lucille Austero may or may not have been murdered and several characters become convicted sex offenders. When did “Arrested Development” become so subversive? What happened to the family that repeatedly manipulates each other while constantly asking for favors but nevertheless comes together in the end? What have we always said is the most important thing? Evidently, it’s no longer family.
Contact Mohana Kute at [email protected].