It was painful to get here. After watched 14 episodes of this show and reacquainting myself with something I'd missed so much over the past seven years, having to approach the final episode was difficult. I didn't want it to end. The new Arrested Development might not have been exactly the same as the old Arrested Development, but at the very least, it was an opportunity to unearth without abandon a slumbering fandom. If nothing else, the rehashing of the jokes from Seasons 1 through 3 in order to create new stories for the Bluth clan was a structured way for all of us to universally do the things we do when hanging out with fellow fans: run lines at each other and speculate over the future of these lovable weirdos.
Okay, maybe we didn't go as far as to speculate over the futures of fictional characters (that might've been weird), but we did finally get something we'd been asking for for years, and to stare at the end, there's a void there. No matter what you think of this fourth season, any fan of the show does not want to see that follows it. When will we have the opportunity to see another new episode of Arrested Development?
But before we start prognosticating about the future and what the industry is not necessarily confirming, let's talk about what "Blockheads" was. It was George Michael's second episode, though much of it also focused on Michael, which is fitting since Michael is the center of the series. Starting the season with Michael and ending it with George Michael created a sense of symmetry for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that the open narration remains the same for both of them ("the one son"), even if the relationships in the credits themselves change. While things happened for everyone this season to drop them them to rock bottom or further, the two most dynamic changes involved these two characters, specifically Michael falling from his high horse and George Michael asserting himself as a man.
The first scene of the series saw the two of them discussing what comes first: Family. Of the things that you eat, it's breakfast. But everywhere else it's family. By telling the season finale from George Michael's perspective, the show gave us a glimpse of just how far Michael has strayed from his principles. Sure, he was about nail Lucille 2, but that's trespassed territory for the Bluth brothers. The one thing Michael would surely never sacrifice willingly is the connection he has with his son (even if it's only a perceived connection, because as we discussed after "It Gets Better," Michael is sometimes the worst thing that ever happened to George Michael).
So in those final moments before cutting to credits, we had the entire theme of the series bundled into a single, admittedly weak punch. I mean, a slap from Lucille 2 knocked Michael to the ground and a full-on punch to the face from his son barely even phased him. This was the low point for Michael—a meteoric fall, complete with burns and being smashed into the ground, that left him on the doorstep of his son's girlfriend, who he was also sleeping with. There was no way to shift the blame. He can blame Lucille 2 or the housing market collapse for his debt. He could blame his father for a terrible childhood and his mother for the family's disastrous state of affairs. He can spread the blame for those things to anyone else, but standing in front of his own son and basically challenging him for Rebel's hand was all on him. And while the punch might not have been mighty in force, it certainly was a statement.
George Michael isn't without sin (he took to to lying pretty quickly and is on the brink of scamming a lot of people), but he does seem to be the only person who's upheld the majority of his principles and tried to stay true to himself. At the very least, he didn't see a picture of his dad dating his girlfriend and think that it was still, in any way, okay to see her. It was one of the few times in the entire series that Michael didn't have—or wasn't willing to take—the moral high ground. George Michael was unequivocally better off, ethically, than his father.
The inviolable principle of "family first" was the biggest sacrifice here. We didn't have a true idea of just how deeply disturbed the Bluth family was following Season 3 until that moment when George Michael could be pitted against Michael. The two have been inseparable throughout the series, maybe even to a detrimental level, and the crash of these principles illustrated how much that's changed. Everything that happened to anyone else in Season 4 was comedic fodder built to service this single moment.
Though the season itself may have been a letdown in some places, ultimately, every episode contributed to a satisfying whole. There was humor even in the slow parts, and we got to commune with this family again—the basics of what we asked for when we pined for a new season of this show. It even rose above the Netflix model for binge-watching by providing different ways for the audience to interact with the show.
When I say "interact," I don't necessarily mean disassembling it and putting it in chronological order, though that's certainly one example. I tend to agree with Damon Lindelof that a certain effect was meant to be achieved by Mitch Hurwitz's decision to put the scenes in a different order, creating a different sensation than what we might've felt had we watched something more linear.
As it stands, it has rewatch value. Even though you got the whole thing at once, the series is so dense, there's no way to catch everything the first time through, and there are things you now know to look for that you couldn't have put together until you watched the whole thing. So you can't really get the full effect of the series until the second or even the third time through. And then, you might not even pull everything together until you watch the series again to find the jokes hidden among the more popular lines. Arrested Development has always been a show filled with artifacts to be unearthed and Season 4 just introduced more of them, ones that don't reveal themselves willingly even when you're watching the episodes in consecutive order.
So after you've watched the entire series a couple more times, checked out the chronological version, picked out all the little jokes and nods, helped update the Arrested Development wiki, maybe speculated with other fans about what the future holds for each character or even peeked around the dark corners of the internet looking for incesty slash-fiction (beyond what the actual show provides), where do we go from here? Now that this season is consumed, we can look at tentative and unofficial claims that Netlfix is open to considering another season of the show, knowing full well that Hurwitz wants to do more, including but maybe not limited to a movie.
But nothing is concrete. All that we know for sure is that we actually got an additional season of Arrested Development that we didn't think was even possible when the show first got canceled. Season 4 wasn't flawless, but it was clever and funny and heartfelt, just like the original three seasons, and it still tried to push the boundaries of a common sitcom. Make sure to take some time to bask in the glow of our amazing era of television; fans of a critical darling but ratings duck were able to get a new-content infusion because of technology that wasn't around to save other, similarly plighted shows. So many series we liked in the past never had the opportunity Arrested Development had (talk to the Firefly fans). It was not wasted.
– George Michael has that streak of lying in him and he's possibly more skilled at it than anyone else in the family (maybe Maeby is better). It's weird to have listened to George Michael stutter his way through childhood, only to see him blossom as the lyingest liar who ever lied.
– Yeah, so father and son got to the round bases with the same girl in the same photo booth. That's kind of gross, you guys.
– The opening credits changed with each episode, most obviously with the narration and designations of which family member would be the focal character of the ensuing half-hour, but there was also an added audio flourish in the opening theme, one that was specific to the character in question. It was more noticeable in each person's second episode (at least with those who got a second episode), and my favorite was Maeby's vocal addition. The opening of "Blockheads" had all the sounds put together. Might've been obvious, but it's a little thing I enjoyed througout the season.
– It's easy to see George Michael in Michael and vice versa, but the little moment after George Michael called to make plans with his father and Michael blew him off, the synchronized look off into the distance followed by a look down, was a clever, concise intro to the major theme of the episode being the sameness of each person despite the discord in their personal lives.
– Every time the show mentioned George Michael's uncanny ability to keep track of the passage of time, I'm reminded of the trouble that people have with the passage of time in movies like Beau Travail and Il deserto dei tartari. Existential boredom. But maybe that's my elitism trying to rear its head in an accessible comedy.
– Sometimes I think twins can be creepy. Not always, but sometimes. Does that make me a twincist?
– That the party George Michael was throwing in his first episode turned out to be a celebration by molesters happy to see a "person of age" who looked like a boy was great. The fact that George Michael wasn't hip to it at all or even suspicious of how nice the neighbors were was just as great, and fed into that blissful idealism/innocence George Michael somehow maintained while growing up.
– "I need to get my shit together." George Michael said that while talking to Maeby, a woman completing her fifth (sixth? seventh?) year as a high school senior, working a fake job at a fake company with no actual product, and pimping out her mom for rent money. Relative to Maeby, GM doesn't have any shit to get together. It's already organized in comparatively neat piles.
– Can "easily breezily" catch on? What about "put it in a Bluth?"
– "They don't come in anything less than a horde." So the blowback at Cinco had nothing to do with the Mexicans, despite the "put up this wall" sentiment that grew out of it. Who would expect the Mongols to appear? And what an unexpected amount history G.O.B. knows! (Though with G.O.B., any amount of history is an expected amount of history.)
– I bet that's not the first time someone has confused a threat by hacker political activists with sex with a beautiful redhead. Especially unfortunate, because most members of Anonymous are probably pimple-faced teens who haven't had their idealism or virginity ripped from them yet. Hi, Anonymous. Please don't screw me.
What did you think of Season 4 overall? Do you think Netflix will ultimately sign on for another round of AD?
AIRED ON 5/26/2013
Season 4 : Episode 15