Unlike the other die-hards who devoured the new season of Arrested Development like the gluttonous stoners they are, I’ve decided to take the slow and steady route when watching the episodes. As the rest of the fan base has transitioned from engorged anticipation boners to flaccid disappointment n0n-boners, I’m still only a third of the way through the season and still seem to appreciate it more than the rest that are dead-set on staring at the teeth of this gift horse. Maybe I’m an apologist and I haven’t realized it quite yet, but while I miss the family dynamic a bit and some episodes point out the weakness of some characters, the season feels like an inspired experimentation of story arcs. So here’s my take on each of the first five episodes of the season.MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS!
Episode 1: “Flight of the Phoenix”
The first episode of the new season is also the first Michael-centric episode and it’s a great place to start off after a long hiatus. Michael’s episode sets the tone for the next few episodes as you are taken back through the hiatus and see just how pathetic each of their lives have become. We see Michael drunk on Quattro de Mayo, hoping to settle a six-figure debt with Lucille Austero the old-fashioned way: with some Afternoon Delight (whether in her brownie or not, we never find out). We see him share a dorm room with his son George Michael and eventually kicked out.
It’s funny to see Michael so oblivious to his son’s life, which is what made the running “Her?” joke so funny during the original run. You rarely see him so narcissistic and in the wrong and it’s an interesting turn, if maybe a bit dishonest to his usual characterization.
Episode 2: “Borderline Personalities”
I didn’t realize how little George and Oscar shared scenes together during the original run. Obviously, with Jeffrey Tambor playing both of them, it was unlikely to happen too often, but if there’s something going for this episode, it’s being able to watch Tambor play off… well, himself. It showcases the slight differences in how he plays the characters, right down to the slightly different voices that he uses for both of them.
The scenes in the desert are a bit tedious, if only because it’s still hard to see where that string ties into everything else. You do get to see hints to the fact that, going forward, nothing may be as it seems with them looking so much like each other.
Episode 3: “Indian Takers”
This is easily the weakest of the episodes that I have seen and the major problem is that it revolves around Lindsay, who isn’t nearly as interesting a character without the support of Tobias. The episode actually makes slightly more sense once you watch the Tobias-led Episode 5 and it’s a bit better in retrospect, but the Lindsay character just isn’t as interesting as the rest of her family.
Lindsay’s story takes us on a journey inspired by the first two-thirds of Eat, Pray, Love and sends her looking for meaning and a new way of life. Along the way she runs into the son of Johnny Bark and winds up on her ostrich farm. It all sort of makes sense, but this episode seems like filler in comparison to the others.
Episode 4: “The B. Team”
An episode after the weakest so far, the show is looking like it’s picking up steam. Approached by real Ron Howard to help bring the story of his family to the big screen, Michael has another strong episode, even better than his first.
This episode is chock full of cameos including Brian Grazer, Isla Fisher, John Krasinski and Conan O’Brien, plus brings back series regulars Carl Weathers, Kitty Sanchez, and James Lipton as the Warden/Screenwriter.
The episode’s strongest during Michael’s wheelings and dealings with acquaintances as he tries to circumvent needing to get his family’s permission to make the movie. It’s also great to see a callback to the stair-car as Michael is stuck with the same problem, only updated for 2013. Google it.
Episode 5: “A New Start”
This is easily the funniest episode of the first third of the season. It’s the first episode that features one of the odder members of the family and it looks like Tobias hasn’t spent the last six years becoming more self-aware. If anyone is in need of an analrapist, it’s this anustart.
Tobias’ episode ties-in closely with Lindsay’s first episode as they overlap in a number of key places, including India, and as I said, this episode makes that episode better. The funniest parts of the episode happen when Tobias mistakes a methadone clinic for a method acting class and gets involved with a former part-time actress/fulltime junky. The two wind up as knock off street performers who can’t help but get into run-ins with Imagine Entertainment and not to mention John Beard.