A common refrain during the press push around relaunch of Arrested Development suggested that by the second episode, you'd know "how to watch" the new season, and I think I concur with that idea.
Whereas Michael's episode was laden with easter eggs for the upcoming season, George Sr.'s episode seemed to tell a story more than it set one up. And while there were a few examples of seed-planting (like Gob painfully moaning on the couch while George and Lucille explained/didn't explain their divorce), it was generally a story about George Sr. and his descent into tomfoolery.
By the end of Season 3, we'd been disabused of the notion that George Sr. could mastermind anything beyond getting Kitty to lift her shirt (a notably easy task), as he took all his marching orders from Lucille. In an extension of that, George Sr. is still hapless and still powerless against the matriarch. While he's still able to scheme and scam (like with the Sweat and Squeeze), he's also still kind of a putz.
With Michael's episode providing the setup for so many of the other characters, we also got an indication of the kind of unveilings we'll be able to see going forward, thanks to one of the more mundane setups from "Flight of the Phoenix." George and Lucille announcing they're getting a divorce/not getting a divorce didn't exactly stand out compared to all the George Michael story or even against the ostrich, but the explanation did give us that brief reveal. You wondered why they were getting a divorce (although two older people with money getting a divorce sounds downright quotidian) and finding out there's a sneaky plan behind it, more than meets the eye, is how all these setups are meant to be executed.
So the way to watch the new episodes is basically to keep track of the hooks within each one, those little things that pique your interest by blow by so fast they don't get explained, and wait for the corresponding reveals to open themselves up later on down the road. It's not complicated or even untrodden territory. But it'll be fun to watch all these things unfold as the season progresses amidst so much sharp comedy.
"Borderline Personalities" felt much more in-line with the series we all remember, as the episode was able to break away from constantly setting up new material and comfortably tell its story. Here's hoping we get more of these episodes and fewer ones piled with easter egg distractions.
OTHER THINGS SWEATED AND SQUEEZED
– "I don't want these." George Sr. telling Oscar that he didn't want Oscar's weirdo friends is probably my favorite line of the new season so far.
– Speaking of Oscar's friends, JOHN SLATTERY. He was amazing, as per usual. Also, a guest appearance by Dan Harmon in the tent? I like to think that high-profile showrunners of series that get screwed by the industry all have a weekly poker game or a night at Six Flags together or something so they're old friends. Shawn Ryan should appear in an episode soon.
– Another great guest appearance: Mary Lynn Rajskub as Heartfire. She said nothing and we only saw facial expressions but with her, the method of conveying thoughts was introduced. With so much voiceover in this series (and a really loose mockumentary premise), it would've been ridiculous to put thoughts into the audio track. Instead, pin the graphics to the characters' chests like wordy Shirt Tales. Approved. Rajskub nailed the part, as usual, because she's an underrated treasure.
– Max Winkler as Young Barry Zuckercorn! The root of "a husband and wife cannot be tried for the same crime" and maritime law confusion! The history is unfolding before our eyes!
– The Buster/Lucille scene with the cigarette smoke might be one of the most revolting things the series has done.
– John Beard with Busy Phillips and Natasha Leggero poking fun at Good Day LA felt slightly dated, didn't it?
– Wait, I take back the "I don't want these" comment and replace it with, "Sorry I gave you the old noodle stab."
–Mysteriously, I'm really thirsty now.
What'd you think of "Borderline Personalities"?
Note: We're gonna review each new episode of AD individually, so even if you've already binged and watched all 15 of 'em, keep checking back to discuss them one by one (and please, be mindful of spoilers!).