Now the story of a great television show that got cancelled and the diehard viewers who had no choice but to keep yelling and screaming until Netflix brought it back for another season, seven years later. It’s the Arrested Development Season Four Recap-A-Thon, Episode 15: “Blockheads” finishes off George Michael’s storyline—and the fourth season.
Picking up where “It Gets Better” left off, George Michael and Michael’s increasingly high-stakes voicemail war gets interesting, as “George Michael was proving more adept at lying than anyone suspected.” The episode proceeds to lay out how the George Michael/Rebel relationship came to be, most of which was pretty easy to put together from the previous George Michael episode. Much more surprising (and a little shocking, gotta tell you!) is that all of those sycophants at the beginning of said episode weren’t business associates—they were the sex offenders of Sudden Valley, delighted by the arrival of 23-year-old but much-younger-looking George Michael, kicking off a volley of shirtless football and Twister gifts. (The father/son “put it into Bluth” exchange is one of the season’s dirtiest—and funniest.)
What is most interesting about this episode, even ingested over a short term, is how quickly our allegiances switch. Rebel and Michael had such good chemistry when she was introduced back in the fourth episode, but by the time George Michael is revealed as “the other man,” we’re rooting for the son, and not the father. It’s somewhat due to the increasing desperation and fallibility of Michael, a slow arc that has been in progress since the original Fox run; he does, after all, still go for Rebel when he knows who the other man is, even if he think they’re breaking up. Not cool, Michael. Not cool.
Bateman still delivers, though, with two of his best moments of the season coming bang-bang on top of each other in this episode: the way Michael fumbles into saying too much at the door, and his full-throated “SHIT!” at discovering the photo. Meanwhile, Cera and Fisher are genuinely good together—that’s a really sweet moment that they share in the photo booth, and about all you need on a show like this to create a rooting interest.
By the time father and son face off at her door (“This just just—“ “Horrifying!” “—too funny”), the emotional stakes are surprisingly high for a show that is ostensibly a joke machine. How much of that was a result of spending a day with the Bluths, as the all-at-once Netflix release enabled, rather than a week at a time over a season? It’s hard to say. Perhaps there is something to Mitch Hurwitz’s suggestion that viewers not binge-watch the whole season, because “you can’t take it all at once,” and “It’s a comedy! It’s not like Lord of the Rings. Comedy takes a lot out of you.” Maybe he’s right, but I have to say this: the dense plotting, parsed information, and elaborately interconnected series of set-ups and payoffs really do reward the binge viewer. And frankly, the first couple of episodes are wobbly enough (because they’re re-grounding, and getting all that stuff established) that viewers lacking in patience might not stick with it, weirdly enough. But they should. It’s a season that really is all of a piece—and, like previous years, one that is so full of background jokes and throwaway bits that it’s also going to reward re-viewing.
Is season four as good as seasons one through three? At first glance, maybe not; there’s definitely some uncertainty early on, and as enjoyable as it is to spend time alone with these characters, the ensemble spirit is certainly missed. But it also has a different look, tone, and level of ambition—and even its weakest episode is still funnier than 90% of what passes for comedy on television these days. If season four has some flaws, so do most; it is still (let’s remember) something of a miracle of fan dedication and new sources of content that it exists at all. Hurwitz penned a lovely note to the show’s fans today, and put it simply but eloquently: “But really, this is yours now.” I like the spirit of that sentiment.
Side note: Can’t help but notice they run those end credits like a movie’s. When is that gonna get made again?
- Jay Johnston’s Officer Taylor raises his nightstick—but, cruelly, doesn’t bring it down on the Bluth in question.
- “Although in all fairness, this is something a Bluth brother would do.”
- “Well that’s prefect, because I’m… not yet ready to have children!”
- “This is no longer a peace pizza. That is a war pizza!”
- “You want a Twister? I was given like, four Twisters.”
- George Sr.: “How many did you hire?” G.O.B.: “A horde, that’s the minimum they come in.”
- Narrator, on Rebel’s Wright Brothers comment: “I’m sure she meant just one of them. Hey, how about her knowing that they had a bicycle shop!”