Mitch Hurwitz, you were wrong.
A few days before Arrested Development's fourth season premiered on Netflix, the showrunner said that fans shouldn't binge-watch all 15 episodes in one go. Since I'm such a rebel (and one with zero patience), I did so anyways, and Mitch should be grateful. Because honestly, I don't know how much I would have liked the new season if I had watched it at a "normal" pace.
Going into the season, I was a little hesitant regarding the new format, and this soon became fear and disappointment as the first few episodes dragged on (and yes, I mean dragged). After watching the Michael-centric premiere, a concerned friend called me: "Michael has always been a putz, but never a schmuck!" I comforted him to the best of my abilities, but I knew he was right. Without the rest of the Bluths to make his superiority complex relatably amusing, Michael (Jason Bateman) did become a pathetic schmuck, clinging to his youth and the only family he had left, his son. It was a heartbreaking and tragic start to a show that has defined comedy for me since 2003.
But even when the focus shifted off Michael to his father, I realized how happy I was George Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor) spent more of his time in jail or in hiding. Watching George run scams in Mexico as Father B was amusing at times, but boring, and I found myself dreading any more time spent at the Mexican sweat lodge.
I hurts me to write this. It honestly does. I wanted to love Season 4 as much as I loved the first three, but I'd be lying to myself (and to you) if I ignored its weaknesses. I fell in love with Arrested Development for its density, intricacy and the dysfunctional Bluth family as a whole. But unfortunately, these aspects were absent for the first half of Season 4, exposing the fact that maybe these characters aren't as likable as we want them to be.
And then Episode 7 started.
Maybe it was the fact that it was a Gob (Will Arnett) episode or maybe it was simply because all the story lines finally began coming together, but the Christian magician restored my faith in Season 4. After a "marry me" gone bad, Gob found himself engaged to Her (also known as Blank or Mouth), but instead of going through with the wedding, he ended up trapped in a storage locker thanks to a little sabotage by Tony Wonder (now the star of "I'm Here, I'm Queer... And Now I'm Over Here!" magic show). Gob then became the Turtle in Mark Cherry's entourage (no, not that Marc Cherry), only to have his bees attack the entire gang after a night out at And Jeremy Piven, Balboa County's hottest club.
I think they made a huge mistake keeping Gob from us that long, but I'm happy everyone was right all along: it really does get better! After Episode 7, Arrested hit its stride, leading up to a final fantastic four episodes (Sue Storm and The Thing included). While I still think they overdid it on Ron Howard (as a narrator, character and source of referential winks), I'm generally happy with how Season 4 turned out. Though it started out shaky, it definitely ended solid as Iraq. I even believe that if I went back and re-watched Episodes 1-6 — now knowing how it ends — I'd find a whole new appreciation and enjoyment in them.
However, the finale did leave far too many balls in the air for my tastes, but (thankfully?) none that left me on the edge of my seat, since who knows when we'll get the follow-up feature film? But at least I still want more. And that's a good sign.
What did you think of Arrested's new season? What were your expectations?