This Arrested Development review contains spoilers
Arrested Development Season 5 Episode 7
GOB is a perfect Arrested Development character. He’s loud, thoroughly mediocre, weirdly sexual, and prone to making “huge mistakes.” He’s also a magician (illusionist), which can safely be considered one of the funniest professions.
Even when Arrested Development struggles, he tends to be a lone bright spot. Those who don’t like season four often add the caveat of “well the GOB episodes were pretty good.” That’s why it’s been so surprising just how much of a non-factor he’s been in season five.
GOB has spent almost the entirety of the season up until this point, quietly sulking in the background over his failed relationship with Tony Wonder. To make matters worse, due to the vagaries of “very famous people scheduling” he’s had to do so alone, with Ben Stiller as Tony only appearing via phone call.
In episode seven, “Rom-Traum,” GOB doesn’t get his groove back per se but his misery does finally start to pay some comedic dividends. GOB mistaking “Laguna Closet Conversions” for gay conversion therapy is a brilliantly dumb joke that would not have felt out of place in seasons one through three. “It’s not what you think,” GOB tells Michael. “They just convert closets and stuff.”
GOB knows this because rather than letting a pun victimize another stupid Bluth and move on, “Rom-Traum” wisely stays with GOB at Laguna Close Conversions and lets him dig a deeper hole.
“GOB didn’t want to let the men know that he didn’t know what ‘resale value’ was gay slang for,” the narrator (who is not a Nazi sympathizer, by the way) says.
“I’ve never had any complaints,” GOB says.
It is indeed weird and perhaps a little off-putting for Arrested Development to make another one of its characters gay but at least the thoroughness of the follow through is funny. And it also bears mentioning that the show is taking two wildly different tacks regarding Tobias and GOB.
The joke around Tobias has always been his complete and utter ignorance of his own sexuality. He’s almost an asexual being who just can’t help but say things like “I can’t wait to get all those leading man parts in my mouth” because he’s an ignorant goober. Where GOB just fundamentally doesn’t understand what love is. Remember his “I know what an erection feels like, Michael. No, it’s the opposite. It’s…it’s like my heart is getting hard.” So when his heart finally does get hard for another person, why wouldn’t it be a magician just like him, regardless of gender? He can’t quite figure out how to love anyone else anyway.
That’s all heavy stuff and far too much thought to have to put into appreciating the GOB goofiness onscreen. I’m just thankful our large adult son, George Oscar Bluth is back, planning a magic trick with closet specialists who work for the company he bought to hide his sexuality. This is prime GOB Bluth and that’s what this season was missing.
Unfortunately, “Rom-Traum” takes a bit of a step back with the rest of the Bluths. After the gleeful weirdness of the Howard family reunion, the show takes some Bluth boys down to Mexico, as it is oft to do. The energy level remains up, bless them, but the jokes just don’t land as efficiently or effectively.
Three generations of Bluth boys become suspicious of one another after Michael lays what he thinks is a clever trap for his mother. He has Barry call him to provide him with phony information that the DA has found the stair car. When his father decides to abscond to Mexico he follows him, thinking that Lucille has instructed him to go retrieve Lucille 2. George Michael in turn decides to follow his father because he thinks he’s carrying on an affair with Rebel, who is doing reshoots in Mexico.
Satisfyingly, every single one of the Bluth boys is wrong. George Sr. is really just going back to Mexico to beg the desert shaman for his mojo back and Michael is under the delusion that Lucille would trust George Sr. with anything rather than just humiliating him about Dusty coming over. The plot machinations here are fun and there’s an appropriate sense of urgency for this second to last episode of the “half season.” It’s just the jokes that don’t fully work.
George Sr. doing “soft time” on estrogen this whole time is fairly funny but not worth the time investment of his morose nonsense. The Mexican Romney family brings back the “Mr. F” motif but doesn’t offer up much beyond that.
“Rom-Traum” gives us our GOB back, and beautifully so in the “on the next Arrested Development” portion. Michael, George Michael, and George Sr., however, are all sacrificed to a plot that is now just finally starting to take shape after an entire season four and six episodes of this season. Arrested Development has developed into something watchable and even likable in the home stretch. It’s just hard to shake the disappointment of why it took so long.