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Saturday, June 1, 2013

ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT Gets "Off the Hook" (Season 4 Episodes 11-15)

Article first published as ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT Gets "Off the Hook" (Season 4 Episodes 11-15) on TheTVKing.

Netflix has resurrected Arrested Development, seven years after its cancellation on FOX, and now, starting this week, presents fifteen brand new episodes. For ease of review purposes, I am breaking down my coverage into three articles covering five episodes each, and this review is for the final five installments.

I was surprised by the lack of finality at the end of the season. Yes, season four was always talked about as a "first act" for either a film or another season. There is more story to tell, and we will presumably get it. But leaving so many things open-ended, from Lucille 2's (Liza Minnelli) disappearance, to George Michael's (Michael Cera) app, to Rebel (Isla Fisher) being torn between father and son, to Gob's (Will Arnett) relationship with Tony Wonder (Ben Stiller), to Linday's (Portia de Rossi) run for office, is unexpected.

Lucille 2's apparent murder or kidnapping is the most enticing unanswered question. She is a memorable character, and considering her increased presence and involvement in season four, it makes it even harder to lose her now. I hope, whatever has happened to her, she's all right, and will survive to get into more wacky situations with the Bluth family in the future.

That's not to say some arcs haven't run their course. While we may get some more milk out of them, Tobias's (David Cross) return to show business with the Fantastic Four musical seems doomed, Michael's (Jason Bateman) movie may be done, the wall Lucille (Jessica Walter) wants to build could be finished, and Maeby's (Alia Shawkat) run as a CEO seems a failure. Yet, based on the way Arrested Development breathes new life into old running gags frequently, these things might not be over with yet, either.

Overall, the final five installments feel much the same as the first ten, partially owing to the fact that they tell the tales of different characters than the early ones. Episode eleven, "A New Attitude," completes Gob's story, but the other four all have new characters at their center, whom were not featured until now. It's a little strange that all of the characters who have two episodes this year have their installments set close together, but it seems to work.

Part of why the flow is not interrupted is because the earliest episodes begin with Michael, and the latest end with George Michael, which may be Michael's most connected-to character in this season. Michael and George Michael have a bit of a falling out, which is finally addressed, but not resolved, in George Michael's episodes, number 13 "It Gets Better" and number 15 "Blockheads." It's this father-son through line that makes the year feel somewhat complete. Plus, Michael appears in almost all fifteen episodes, so he is the thread that keeps everything together.

George Michael's episodes are important because it finally feels like he joins the adult members of the Bluth family in all their craziness. He has his own eccentricities, but his have always seemed tamer and separate from his father, aunt, uncles, and grandparents. Now, though, dating the same girl as Michael, much as Gob and Michael once did, and letting a lie create an entire company, raises him up to their level. I'm not sure this is a good thing, but it does feel like he has a bigger part to contribute.

It's interesting that George Michael finally gets over Maeby at the same time Maeby might actually be interested in him. She won't like him any longer when she realizes he's a big liar, probably, though who knows? However, it's nice to see their dynamic change, and character growth for them.

Maeby's development isn't so much arrested, as moving into a new chapter. In "SeƱoritis," her episode, the twelfth, she is getting a lifetime achievement award in the film industry, a sure sign that her career is over. She's way too young to be done working and has a bit of an identity crisis, which is what pushes her into trying to run George Michael's non-existent company. This is a Maeby more desperate and insecure than we've seen her before, which is a fascinating direction to take her in.

Buster's (Tony Hale) turn, the fourteenth installment, "Off the Hook," isn't particularly notable. Of all the Arrested Development stars, Buster gets the least to do in this fourth season, rarely seen in other installments. His feature is a very typical, predictable Buster story, with the episode title alluding to the hilarious new attachment on Buster's wrist when he gets rid of his hook. But it doesn't break any fresh ground for him, basically repeating past arcs.

Gob's arc with Tony is one of my favorite Arrested Development bits ever. I adore the way Arnett and Stiller play these roles so sincerely, showing vulnerable men who don't like themselves and love themselves at the same time, unsure what friendship feels like. I doubt they will become a full-fledged couple, as neither really seems gay, but their stunted emotional maturity makes their dealings both awkward and very funny at the same time.

The supporting character I want to see more of in the next Arrested Development incarnation is Steve Holt (Justin Grant Wade). We glimpse him a couple of times, but it's more of a reminder of his existence, than any actual plot. Biological father Gob is wrapped up in his own stuff, so there is no time for Steve, but I'd really like to see the two of them forced to work things out in some manner. Ah, well.

In the end, it feels really good to have Arrested Development back, and I'm grateful for these fifteen episodes, but at the risk of sounding spoiled, it isn't enough. Because of the lack of closure, there absolutely has to be more. It's almost guaranteed to happen, but until production begins, it leaves me a little on edge. The season three finale was more conclusive.

All fifteen episodes of Arrested Development's fourth season are available on Netflix now.

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