This Arrested Development review contains spoilers
Arrested Development Season 5 Episode 8
And just like that we’ve finally come to the Second of July parade in Orange County. Arrested Development Season 4 made an unusual decision to build its entire run around one event – Cinco de Quatro. Previous seasons were never structured with a big denouement in mind but perhaps it was necessary for the structure of season four to build out from one event due to limited cast access.
It’s not as immediately clear why Arrested Development Season 5 had to as well. To be fair adding a “Second of July” right after a “Cinco de Quatro” is a uniquely Arrested gag. Arrested Development builds on its past jokes, in theory making every episode exponential funnier than the last. This is also a fairly funny joke on its face for as Lucille explained a few episodes ago, they had to move back their Fourth of July parade for the Hispanics of Orange County wouldn’t buy up all of the supplies like the Anglos did before Cinco de Mayo.
Structurally, however, it’s just another thing that makes season five feel eerily like season four. It begs the question: what was the point of all this? The issue with Arrested DevelopmentSeason 5 is that it feels fundamentally inessential. Mitch Hurwitz has long been working on a fabled Arrested Development film and after the relative success of the first Netflix season just retooled that film into the season we just watched. And are we to understand that theArrested Development film merely catalogued the month after season four, which was supposed to be a prologue?
The issue is that this feels like a prologue as well. Granted, the season isn’t over yet with Netflix joining the infuriating trend of creating “half seasons” for its shows. So perhaps the back half of season five will bring everything into much clearer focus and end in triumph. It’s just hard to shake the sense that for three years now we’ve watched prologue after prologue after prologue. The 23 collected episodes of Arrested Development prior to season “5B” is just one long episode before presumably the best “On the nextArrested Development” either.
That’s not to say that this finale, “Premature Independence” is a waste of time because it isn’t. Or that it isn’t funny, because it is.
There are plenty of solid jokes to be found in “Premature Independence.” Buster is still in prison and doing all the things his mother told him not to: touching mice, reading illustrated Qur’ans, watching Two and a Half Men. Naturally, he’s afraid of the “halfman.”
“As if they needed another reason to call me…”
“Halfman?” Lucille asks.
Tobias is off in Mexico looking for Lindsay and finding instead DeBrie Bardeaux (a very welcome return for Maria Bamford). Prior to the DeBrie discovery, Tobias calls Lucille and brainstorms what to tell Lindsay should he find her.
“I was just thinking I’d say ‘your mother is so sorry she upset you,’” Tobias says.
“Out of the question,” Lucille immediately responds.
The characters have really warmed up here and grown back into themselves. Maeby as Annette has been a highlight all season and as she contemplates leaving the Annette life behind so she doesn’t have to have sex with Stan Sitwell she remains in rare form. She creeps George Michael out with her clear yet unacknowledged affinity for young men (“I’m not saying I would do it but like if I had a gun to somebody’s head, you know. What do you want me to do? You want me to shoot a kid, you monster?”).
GOB is back to his monstrously selfish old self, setting up his double closet magic trick at the parade and momentarily forgetting that his brother is in prison and offering him a role when it looks like Tony Wonder won’t show. Buster is more than happy in his role as prisoner in the Keystone Cops skit as it turns out.
The characters are the most consistent they’ve been yet in “Premature Independence.” Equally as consistent is the return or new arrival of some very uniquely Arrested gags. There’s the return of somewhat out-of-date, weirdly gentle political satire. When DeBrie poses as Lindsay on the float she becomes too nervous and throws a black cape over herself, to mixed reactions from the crowd.
“She’s a Muslim.”
“She’s disrespecting Muslims.”
“She’s a ghost!”
“She’s disrespecting ghosts!”
There’s the return of the Milford Academy along with the wrinkle of their quietest marching band in California (or anywhere else I presume).
And then, of course, there is the Keystone Cop conclusion, which is very Arrested. Earlier in the episode Lucille believes she is speaking with a freshly-returned-from-Mexico George Sr. But that was Oscar and Oscar makes his triumphant return during the parade to jailbreak his nephew/son from fake prison and leave the fake cops in the dust behind them. Why? It’s not immediately clear but poor Buster doesn’t even realize that he is on the lam or that he was due to be released from prison in just a couple of days for his light charged of tampering with evidence.
Thanks to the ingenuity of the narrator, however, all the action occurs in old-timey silent film era filter. This is the kind of lunacy that Arrested Development likes to lead up to and it doesn’t necessarily disappoint. It also just doesn’t thrill.
There are a satisfying amount of revelations in “Premature Independence,” like George Michael and Maeby being the ones in the stair car in Barry’s photo, Michael subsequently mistakenly lying to Lottie Dottie (DA), and Tony Wonder’s inevitable reappearance in which he and GOB share a private conversation while on mic. This is an appropriate level of comedic release after seven episodes of build up. The problem is the aforementioned seven episodes of build up.
Arrested Development is all about momentum with joke after joke after joke successfully building upon one another to eventually reach comedy nirvana. Season five’s momentum was too stilted and halting, taking the viewer to just a mostly successful and funny finale of a half-decent show rather than true comedic bliss.