The Ninjabot

Arrested Development Season 4 Review: Part Three

Posted on June 7, 2013 at 7:00 am by Nathan Tolle

arrested development season 4

I have now finished watching the fourth season of Arrested Development and am ready to present my reactions to the final seven episodes. If you missed my previous reviews, you can read about episodes 1-4 here and episodes 5-8 here.

Episode 9: Smashed

Rating: B

I was very happy to see Tobias back and not in a prison cell like his previous episode hinted, but the universe still hasn’t stopped putting up walls between the poor schmuck and his dreams on a daily basis. He accepts an offer from Lucille 2 to become the therapist at the rehab clinic her family owns, and there he sees several familiar faces: Mark Cherry, his mother-in-law, the shy hoarder Emmett Richter, and most importantly, Debrie, who he wasn’t sure he’d ever see again.

Argyle Austero, the clinic director and Lucille’s brother, is quite troubled by the fact that Tobias had a relationship with Debrie and wants him to leave, but then Tobias really bonds with him over their mutual love of musical theater. Tobias is afraid that he’ll lose his new job and won’t be able to see Debrie anymore, so he pitches an idea for a musical that the clinic patients could perform together. Tobias asks the recovering Debrie to reprise her famous Fantastic Four role and even though she’s a nervous wreck who’s clearly in no condition to perform, he’s determined to make the musical work.

He returns to the model home and finds Gob daydreaming on the couch. Surprisingly, Gob is thrilled to see him and adorably calls him “old friend.” Even though they are both dating celebrities, life isn’t all great because Gob is broke and Tobias is a registered sex offender. Tobias fails to acquire the rights to Fantastic Four and the increasingly panicky Debrie overdoses on pills moments before the performance, but he insists that the show must go on.

This episode has a lot of hilarious material as well as a couple unexpectedly sad moments, like when Debrie tells Tobias to let her die. David Cross gets to demonstrate a lot more range than usual for this character, showing off great physical comedy with a chair, some gentle sobs, unexpected rage, and a touch of evil, maniacal laughter. The character of Argyle, played by professional dancing legend and Broadway star Tommy Tune, is a delightful addition as Tobias’ friendly new BFF and also a flamboyant, villainous Mr. F who threatens to tap dance all over Michael’s face if he doesn’t pay back the money he owes his sister. I have enjoyed 7 of the 9 episodes I’ve seen, so I’m starting to wonder if Season 4 is going to be something I’ll have to enthusiastically defend for years to come; just about everybody I’ve talked to has been disappointed so far and it’s starting to annoy me!

Funniest moment: This is a no-brainer: “You are ruining my life, Ron Howard!”

Episode 10: Queen B

Rating: C-

Lucille’s episode gets off to a strange but pleasing start as we see a commercial for the hit new reality show Real Asian Prison Housewives of the Orange County White Collar Prison System, just the kind of idiotic reality show that millions of Americans choose to watch instead of smart, creative programs like Arrested Development. Lucille has been found guilty of stealing the Queen Mary and was sentenced to 3-5 years in a ritzy country club prison, which is like a vacation where you’re always in danger of being stabbed by noodles. Prison life hasn’t put a damper on her conniving, manipulative ways, nor her self congratulations for coming up with clever puns. She gets transferred to the rehab clinic where Tobias works and is cast as the main villain in his Fantastic Four musical. On Cinco de Cuatro, she finds out that the suddenly reinvigorated George has actually been Oscar this whole time, and that he’s also had relations with Lucille 2. Despite her confessions that she’s sick of always being the villain, she decides that it’s time to make her old nemesis disappear.

There were long stretches of this episode where I didn’t even crack a smile. So much information and plot development is revealed without any breathing room, making it as confusing and dizzying as looking through binoculars in a car. The always-lovable Martin Mull came back as Gene Parmesan but tragically he wasn’t give much to do; I guess all of the goofy costumes on hand were already being used for the musical. Also disappointing was the use of dated, done-to-death jokes like Ryan Seacrest’s sexuality and Asians struggling with words that start with “L,” and the amount of time wasted on that disgusting smoke relay bit. One of the few bright spots for this episode was Buster, who has learned the art of bribery after realizing his importance of being the star witness in his mother’s trial, which explains that bedazzling jewel-encrusted hook that we saw in a previous episode. Buster seems much more comfortable and confident with his hook this season even if his mother still complains about the hook holes in her toast and the possibility of him ripping the Bible in half when he’s sworn in as the key witness.

Funniest moment: When Lucille discovers that her relatives have already started divvying up all of her belongings with the use of post-it-notes.

Episode 11: A New Attitude

Rating: C+

arrested development newattitude

Gob becomes even more enigmatic and confused in this episode, in which he touches his brother inappropriately, kisses his nephew at a gay club, and takes his complicated relationship with Tony Wonder (played by Ben Stiller) to the next level. Gob and Tony both pretend to be gay to earn each others trust in order to sabotage the other’s career, but they unexpectedly develop mutual feelings, and then with the help of Annhog, things get really weird. This episode answers the questions of how Michael got that shiner, who Rebel Howard’s other man is, and why Gob felt so compelled to force a forget-me-now down Michael’s throat.

When I heard of all the minor characters that would be returning, the only one that didn’t excite me was Tony Wonder because I didn’t find him to be anything special in “Sword of Destiny.” He has a couple good moments here like when he points out how much exposition he and Sally Sitwell are providing and wonders why they keep recapping things they already know, but most of his scenes with Gob were a bit tiresome in their repetition. The first Christian straight-to-gay conversion was an interesting and utterly bizarre gimmick (albeit an extremely far fetched one because how could they possibly not know the other person isn’t Ann?) and I’m curious to know how that will play out.

Funniest scene: I was already enjoying the scene where Gob and Michael crash a kid’s birthday party, but once the song “Balls in the Air” accompanies a fight in the ball pit, it became the episode’s highlight for sure. I also dig the fact that “Getaway” is now Gob’s ringtone.

Episode 12: Senoritis

Rating: B

It’s been several years since George Michael graduated from high school, so it’s a big surprise when the high school senior that he’s arranged to tutor ends up being Maebe, who wonders if her parents are ever going to wonder why she’s still in high school. After she loses her job as a film producer for not having a diploma, fails to understand George Michael’s computer terminology, and receives an Opie Lifetime Achievement Award (a dreaded accolade bestowed on those who are either dead or whose careers are over), her self esteem crumbles and she begins to feel that everybody is passing her by. However, she finds a new sense of purpose when she takes charge of her cousin’s Faceblock software and also pimps out her mother to Herbert Love.

I predicted that Maebe’s episode was going to be the weakest but to my surprise the writing here was stellar and featured some of the most clever throwbacks to previous episodes, such as the revelation of Maebe being that shaman in India—she was traveling there to work on a 4th sequel to the popular Gangie series, titled Eat, Prey, Love, Run. Also, Alia Shawkat has really matured as an actress and she hits all the right notes, even when she simply reacts to seeing a large ostrich. The always-welcome Andy Richter gets to portray two more of his twin brothers here: Donny (as Maebe’s teacher, he prefers to call her an algetard rather than a dummy) and undercover cop Rocky. Another comedic powerhouse, Jeff Garlin, has a couple good moments; it was a special treat to see my 2nd favorite show of the past decade pay homage to my #1 favorite, Curb Your Enthusiasm. We learned that Tobias’ favorite show is called Babies Having Babies, that Barry’s area of expertise pertains to adults lurking on school campuses, that both Lindsey and Maebe borrowed the last name Featherbottom for various schemes, and that George Michael is much better than his dad at choosing fake names on the spot because George Maharis is vastly superior to Jareth Cutestory.

Funniest moment: George Michael apparently has no idea who Lucille 2 is!

Episode 13: It Gets Better

Rating: B-

After a study abroad trip to Spain ignites George Michael’s overt sexuality, he begins his senior year as George Michael 2.0 and plans to go against his father’s wishes and start a relationship with Maebe. He passes the Bluth rite of passage by lying about his Fakeblock software, turning what was to be the 4th woodblock app into an anti-social network that becomes the hottest item on the stock market. He may have lost Maebe to an undercover cop, but he’s now apparently the most popular guy on campus as well as Rebel Howard’s new boyfriend, setting up what will most likely be a season finale climax confrontation with his father.

This George Michael episode starts strong but then gets boggled down in one too many parallels with The Social Network. I loved the use of the stair car on George Michael’s first day of school and the throwbacks to his Star Wars light saber video and the disastrous cornballers, but the second half of the episode fails to deliver any big laughs.

Funniest scene: It’s a rarity in this season to have many Bluth members sharing the same scene so you have to cherish moments like when the family throws George Michael a “going away to college” party but ends up singing “Happy Birthday” to him instead.

Episode 14: Off the Hook

Rating: A

arrested development offthehook

Buster’s long-awaited episode begins with him living with an African American family, fitting in and seemingly happier than we’ve ever seen him. But he had to go through some pretty traumatic ordeals in order to get there. After Lucille was arrested, Buster returned home and struggled with the absence of his mother. Convinced that she’d be returning any moment, he passed the time by laying out her clothes and putting a photo where her head would be. With the help of his sewing machine, he found a way to make mother look more lifelike, and then converses with her in a way that would have made Norman Bates very proud. Lucille gets sentenced to 3-5 years, prompting Buster to move across the hall into Lucille 2’s home, but gets thrown at when he treats her more like a mom than a lover. With nowhere else to go, he reenlists in the Army and is deployed to the mini-mall as a drone pilot, but a juice binge and a chair mishap sends him to the hospital, where he’s given a gigantic prosthetic hand in place of his hook. Sensing a political advantage by helping out a homeless veteran, Herbert Love and his wife agree to take Buster into their home.

I wasn’t sure what to expect since Buster sightings had been rather rare this season, but the writers came up with some wonderfully goofy adventures for him. It was pure joy to see him interact with his mummy and then realize that he’d better stop or else he’ll be committed. To see him dancing on stage with Herbert Love, nursing a juice hangover, and frightening away school bullies with his monster hand reminds us that Buster is a true original, the kind of character that could never exist outside the quirky world of Arrested Development. In addition to more appearances from Gene Parmesan (who gets to try out a fun little accent) and Andy Richter, we also get the unexpected surprise of seeing the lovely Lupe again, and it’s only fitting that Buster would inspect her purse since Lucille wasn’t there to do it herself (although I was kinda hoping Lupe would try to dust buster again). The “little son of a bitch” doctor also returns to enrage Lucille one final time, telling her that Buster’s plane went down over Afghanistan and that aside from giving him a big hand, there’s nothing else they can do.

Funniest moment: I think if a large group of people watched this episode together, they would all come up with a different contender for funniest part. Just because I have yet to mention it, I’ll go with the scene in which a bunch of army officials subjecting Buster to various tests for his new hand prepare for the Cute Test, but eventually realize that it’s not a one-way mirror they had been staring through to observe Buster, but just an ordinary window. “Why wouldn’t he be able to see us?”

Episode 15: Blockheads

Rating: C-

This time it’s George Michael that gets voted out of his dorm room, after he alienates the numerous sets of twins who make up the voting block. He agrees to purchase a Bluth home from Gob in hopes that it will make things right with his father again, but also to impress his girlfriend Rebel. The barely-legal George Michael gets a hero’s welcome from his new neighbors and they shower him with gifts such as Twister. Rebel goes back and forth between Michael and George Michael, ultimately leading up to an intense confrontation between father and son.

Ouch. Regardless of whether you think season 4 was successful or not, I think we will all agree that the season finale was disappointing. I assumed the multiple storylines we’ve been following throughout this season would culminate with this final episode, but all of the intriguing stuff going on with Tobias, Lindsey, George, Oscar, and others was completely ignored, and instead there was a lot of time wasted on a lame bit about sex offenders ogling their new neighbor George Michael. Now it’s more obvious than ever that Mitchell Hurwitz and Ron Howard intend to continue the Bluth saga in either a movie or another season, but I hope they don’t wait too long because some of the key cast members are getting up there in age, and they simply cannot be replaced. Nothing has been confirmed yet, and if for some reason this is the last we ever see of the Bluths, it’s a travesty that they would have Buster arrested for murder, make Gob so unusually boring in his final appearance, and end the episode with George Michael punching his father in the face. It’s probably unfair to compare this episode with the previous season finales because season 4 is a totally different kind of beast, but I can’t help remembering how charmed I was by the bittersweet finale from last season, while this one just left me with a bad taste in my mouth. None of the stories were resolved yet it seemed that every single character was given a depressing farewell.  Much like an ending can make or break a film, the final moments of a season, especially one as anticipated as this, needs to deliver the goods, and this one gave me very little to smile about.

Funniest moment:  the voting out of George Michael

Overall Impressions

Disappointing ending aside,  I am so thankful to Mitchell Hurwitz, Ron Howard, the cast, the crew, Netflix, and everybody else involved for making 2013 such an exciting time to be a fan of Arrested Development. It was a long wait to get to this reunion but I believe it was definitely worth it—it’s hard to fathom the amount of time and energy that was needed to craft these new episodes and interconnect so many unique storylines. I know the reviews have been mixed but as a fan, I just feel very fortunate to have fifteen more episodes of this amazing show to geek over for years to come.

Here is how I would rank all of the season 4 episodes, from best to worst.

1.  Episode 5:  A New Start

2.  Episode 6: Double Crossers

3.  Episode 14: Off the Hook

4.  Episode 8: Red Hairing

5.  Episode 9: Smashed

6.  Episode 4: The B. Team

7.  Episode 1: Flight of the Phoenix

8. Episode 12: Senioritis

9. Episode 3. Indian Takers

10. Episode 13: It Gets Better

11. Episode 7: Colony Collapse

12. Episode 11: A New Attitude

13. Episode 15: Blockheads

14. Episode 10: Queen B

15. Episode 2: Borderline Personalities

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