This Arrested Development review contains spoilers.
Arrested Development Season 5 Episode 1 Review
In preparation for reviewing the new season of Arrested Development, I embarked on a weeklong binge. It was a furious race to finish three seasons and the remixed fourth season, which recut the character-focused installments in favor of the show’s more traditional story structure, resulting in a modest upgrade in quality. What stood out to me on the binge was that other than time travel shows, few television shows are as fixated on revisiting the past as Arrested Development. Though its callbacks, recurring gags, and easter eggs hit harder when watching the show in chunks of episodes, the narrative hand holding and frequent plot reminders built for weekly network TV grew tiresome when watching on the show’s adopted home, Netflix.
I pushed through the binge to keep the plot straight. *Ron Howard voice*: Little did he realize, episode one spends so much time catching viewers up yet it somehow still manages to lose the plot.
Dropping the remixed season, dubbed “Fateful Consequences,” a few weeks before season five was released should have caught everyone up to speed on where we last left off with the Bluths five years ago. Even if you bypassed the remixed season 4, Netflix put a handy recap before Arrested Development season 5 episode 1 as a refresher. I watched all of this and was exhausted by the time any new footage was shown. When we did see new footage of Michael Bluth at the beginning of the episode, it’s unclear why exactly they are revisiting the plot of the 2013 Owen Wilson movie The Internship. Nonetheless, Michael is working at Google and he’s still deeply damaged by his family. When the timeline jumps to the days after the Cinco de Quatro disaster, Michael begins to put the pieces of his life back together and we have to go through Michael and George Michael’s fight for Rebel Alley all over again, with new footage that doesn’t necessarily add in new jokes or missing context we couldn’t interpret from the original scene.
This goes on for every character introduction in the episode almost as a way of cleaning up the mess left by the season four finale. Even with the Lucille 2 cliffhanger, and the other season four plot threads that were expected to be continued, it’s disappointing to see the show stuck in a revisionist past. The post-credit scene of the original season four finale saw Buster arrested for the disappearance of Lucille 2, yet that appears to be retconned when Michael finds Buster in the attic and, in what should be a big moment to kick off the season, they have one of the least memorable exchanges in the show’s history.
For a show so tied to revisiting the glory of its past, the first episode is almost one giant parody of itself. Really, there’s not much to critique that we haven’t already done here, here, or defended here. Hell, it would probably be more useful reading my season four finale review. What was new I sort of enjoyed. There was some OK dialogue between George Michael and Maeby and it’s good fun watching Michael dig in his heels while talking to a new character called Lietentuent Toddler (“I’m all grown up, toddler” is some classic Arrested Development shit). Part of the reason episode one is a misfire is because creator Mitch Hurwitz didn’t make good on his promise that the family would be together more in this season, though it’s obvious that’ll be coming soon. Regardless, having the first episode essentially be a Season 4b epilogue gave me a sour taste to start the season. I’ll leave you with this tweet while I move on to episode two, where there’s hopefully something better for me to review.