Ah, finally some fresh material from Old Thing.
Last time on Arrested Development, I complained about how we've been seeing the same jokes from the same four perspectives for more than half the season, creating a sense of point-of-view fatigue. That seems to be the way Mitch Hurwitz is "revolutionizing" comedy: by finding ways to make really funny things feel tired from overexposure.
I kid, of course. Not about the fatigue, but about overused jokes being Hurwitz's contribution to comedy with this season of Arrested Development. I want to make sure we're clear that I like this season of AD so far, that I've spent far more time laughing than I've spent sleepily waiting for untrimmed scenes to struggle across my screen. But I needed a break from Michael's downward spiral and George Sr.'s wayward wandering.
That "Queen B." started with broad strokes of racial stereotypes was par for the course, since the episode dealt with Lucille's perspective. But what was interesting was the attempt to make her appear more vulnerable, much like how the show tried to flesh out Tobias and G.O.B. in their episodes. The part where Lucille was about to spill on the last time she cried may have been a gag, but it foreshadowed the later bit where Tobias tried to cast her as Invisible Girl and Lucille actually showed some motivation for her character's tendency to manipulate people, how she—to use Buster's words—"gets off on being withholding."
At the risk of sounding like a broken record when it comes to the character development in Season 4, this episode's focus on the subtleties of Lucille that've been brushed aside in the past was one of my favorite things about it. Sure, it was funny to watch her douse her would-be attacker with tea to cook a "sharpened noodle," and I appreciated that the world's creepiest wink come into play so often. But I honestly liked her realization that she is tired of being a villain.
Nothing has made her into more of a villain more than the final episode of Season 3 and the entirety of this season. We spent so long believing that George, Sr. was the mastermind behind the family's demise, only to learn that his manipulative, conniving wife had been pulling the strings all along. I enjoyed seeing a vulnerable side to Lucille as her life spiraled out of control, through prison, rehab, and the (supposed) end of her marriage. Again, a lot of it was couched in a gag as the person who helped her arrive at her big epiphany was talking about something else entirely, but that's only fair for a life-changing truth that has to happen in a fast-paced sitcom.
These are all obviously very selfish people, which is why they're brought to the brink in the first place, but it's nice to see that this isn't just a morality tale about what happens to people when they're self-centered. The Fates aren't just taking revenge on the people with incurable harmartiae. We see these people sink to rock bottom, something that's important for the series as a whole. Interestingly enough, as I complain about repetitive episodes, establishing these characters as drowning is necessary for future plans not feel repetitive. They'll have a better well to work from now that they aren't static characters.
"Queen B." was more of the same for Season 4, but at the very least, we got to see things from a new perspective. Looking ahead, I see that we'll get a lot more diversity moving forward, and that just makes me so happy as we enter the final stretch of episodes.
OTHER THINGS HIDING UNDER MAMA'S PORCH
– Apparently a documentary inside of a documentary means the hand-held cameras are even more wobbly.
– The passive-aggressive barbs shared between the two Lucilles has always been one of my favorite aspects of Arrested Development. Two rivals (more so now than ever) who know each other's business purely to touch the sensitive areas and systematically tear each other down. "No more answers!" is the equivalent of "You can't fire me! I quit!"
– The jab at the "Keystone Kops" line was kind a punch to my gut. I use that reference a lot. Maybe it's time to hang it up in the rafters. But what else could I use to signify "a bunch of fools who are supposed to be respected but constantly fall flat on their faces while just doing their jobs and, somehow, come out with victories by sheer dumb luck"? "The feds on The Following" doesn't roll off the tongue as easily.
– "Right now I'm staring at 100 years in the face." My vote for best line of the episode.
– Somehow it's creepier when Lucille breathes smokes into Buster's mouth than it was when the chain of women did it for Triad Gang. Also: heh heh "Olive Garden."
– "Bad things happen when brothers collude." Speaking of tired references, the Menendez brothers popping up with two examples of colluding brothers (the Richters, and those enjoying the Suite Life), after all these years, was pretty exhausted. Perhaps it was a way to link the Lucilles with their out-of-date references? I mean, Steamboat Willy isn't exactly on the tips of the tongues of the youth.
– The rash of favors in this season is a great gag. I like that this episode picked up with where we left off last time with George's favor, and that we didn't have a big review of the whole scenario between George and Michael. This show is at its best when it doesn't treat the audience like idiots, and this season has seen its fair share of overexplaining.
– There are few things I love more about this show than Lucille's reaction to Gene Parmesan's appearance.
– This episode needed more John Slattery.