May 31, 2013

THE SKED NETFLIX REVIEW: “Arrested Development” (Episodes 8-11)


See also:  THE SKED NETFLIX REVIEW:  “Arrested Development” (Episodes 1-3)

                 THE SKED NETFLIX REVIEW:  “Arrested Development” (Episodes 4-7)

Rounding into the second half of Netflix’s ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT Season 4, the storyline is starting to become as twisty as a John Le Carre espionage thriller–a quiz, at this point, about just who wants and doesn’t want that Mexico/US wall to be built wouldn’t be an easy A.  (The episodes, leaning under the weight of their exposition, are now all over 30 minutes in length, without commercials–meaning 45 minutes-plus in network terms.)  Some things about the season are becoming clear, though.  The episodes are constructed around 4 touchstone sequences in which most if not all of the major characters take part (although not necessarily in the same space at the same time, so they may not have been filmed together):  the police station shortly after the Season 3 finale, a gathering of the clan in George Sr and Lucille’s (Jeffrey Tambor and Jessica Walter) penthouse apartment before Lucille’s trial for the events of that finale, a night at the Century Plaza Hotel that includes a fund-raiser for politician Herbert Love (Terry Crews) and an award to Maeby (Alia Shawkat), and the Cinco de Quatro extravaganza 5 years after Season 3 that provides a climax, but not a ending, to the saga.  Just about every episode features a visit to some or all of those landmarks, allowing us to get our bearings.

Episodes 8 and 9 bring us back to the Lindsay (Portia de Rossi) and Tobias (David Cross) part of the story, and as before, their pieces are the most beautifully interlocked.  Episode 8, written by Co-Executive Producer Richard Rosenstock and Supervising Producer Caroline Williams (all the episodes are directed by series creator Mitchell Hurwitz and Troy Miller), gives us Lindsay’s part, which focuses on her (red-haired, fake-named) romance with Herbert Love, and includes some more of the growing relationship between Michael (Jason Bateman) and Rebel Alley (Isla Fisher), including a dinner for both couples, and a series of very long hugs between Michael and Lindsay in which they impart their respective lies of the night to each other.  We also learn that it was Lindsay and her face-blind boyfriend Marky Bark (Chris Diamantopolous), plus their ostrich, who had overrun the penthouse after Lucille left for jail, when Michael looked in a few episodes ago.  It all ends, somehow, with Lindsay taking Herbert Love’s place to run for Congress–as a conservative Republican.

Episode 9 is Tobias’s, and one of the funniest so far.  The script by Rosenstock and Co-Executive Producer Dean Lorey masterfully brings together Lucille 2’s (Liza Minnelli) Austerity rehab center, Tobias’s mistaken arrest for attempted child molestation, the faux-Fantastic Four performances Tobias had been doing (before being shut down by trademark lawyers) with his drug-addict girlfriend DeBrie Bardeaux (Maria Bamford) who’s also at Austerity, Michael’s plan to have “Ron Howard”  produce the movie of the Bluths’s lives, Michael’s mistaken belief that Rebel is Ron Howard’s mistress rather than his daughter, Imagine Entertainment’s fictional control over the rights to The Fantastic Four, GOB’s (Will Arnett) former entourage leader Mark Cherry (not the Desperate Housewives one), Dr. Norman’s (John Slattery) aggressive drug therapy–and Tommy Tune as Lucille 2’s brother Argyle, a rehab center administrator who can’t resist the allure of tap dance.   The special end credits include a selection from the abortive Fantastic Four musical (Fantastic Two, Fantastic Three, Fantastic Four!) that didn’t quite go as planned.

Episodes 10 and 11 couldn’t really top that one.  Episode 10 belongs to Lucille, and after some more of that penthouse family meeting and our first real look at Lucille’s trial, highlighted by her passive-aggressive and then just aggressive duel with star witness Lucille 2, it’s initially set at the (very) minimum security prison where she’d been sent for her theft of the Queen Mary.  Lucille’s biggest challenge there is taking over leadership of the Jade Dragon Triad, the group of Chinese women who run the place when they’re not playing Mah Jong (and who are also the subject of a TV reality show).  Her secret:  she passes on her strategy for smoking where it isn’t permitted that she’d worked out with Buster (Tony Hale) when she was under house arrest, which is to say exhaling into his mouth and sending him outside to blow the smoke.  (Even Buster had some trouble with that one.)  Eventually, she falls out with her fellow Triad members–an attack with uncooked ramen noodles is involved–and heads to Austerity, where she becomes the villainness (and then the Invisible Girl) of Tobias’s Fantastic Four musical on, of course, Cinco de Quatro.  There are plenty of laughs along the way, although this was an episode that could have done with some editing.

The same is true of Episode 11, which brings us back to GOB’s part of the plot.  Written by Hurwitz and Executive Producer Jim Vallely, it’s built largely around some lengthy scenes featuring newly-gay (but not really gay, but maybe gay after all) magician Tony Wonder (Ben Stiller), GOB’s nemesis and eventually, yes, his lover.  As with the earlier GOB episode, this one is much more self-contained than most of Season 4 has been, although Arnett does have scenes with several of the other actors.  Much of the comedy is about GOB and/or Tony pretending either to be or not be gay, including GOB’s very committed fake-seduction of nephew George-Michael (Michael Cera), a sequence that allows Tony to overhear George-Michael talking about his multimillion dollar app.  It  culminates–after some manipulation by Ann (Mae Whitman), who has a son by Tony, the result of a fling after GOB didn’t escape from Jesus’s cave in time for their wedding–in the two men having sex with each other because each thinks he’s in bed with Ann, and each is wearing a mask of the other’s face, allowing them to feel that they’d achieved the true ecstasy of sex with themselves.  (GOB eradicates the romance from Michael’s memory when he discovers them the next morning by feeding him a “forget-me-now” pill, unwittingly also removing Michael’s memory of sleeping with Lucille 2 to repay his debt to her–meaning that he may have to do it again.)  The biggest reveal of the episode, though, has nothing to do with GOB at all:  Rebel Alley’s boyfriend is none other than George-Michael.

With 4 episodes to go, it’ll be interesting to see if Arrested Development spends its remaining 2 hours bending into deeper self-referential pretzel loops, or if any of the plot and character turns we’ve seen so far will lead to changes in the characters and mythology.  So far, Season 4 has been an amazing exercise in self-obsession, a triumph of a show proving itself its own biggest fan (or one of them, anyway).

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."