Arrested Development Taught Me How To Binge Watch [Season 5, pt 1 Review]
Honestly, I'm having trouble believing I just finished watching (the first part of) Season 5 of Arrested Development, cause it sure didn't feel like it. Not exactly because of the myriad of controversy and off-camera cringing, though that certainly didn't help, but because the show originally premiered on Fox fifteen years ago and was revived by Netflix five years ago. Even as a huge fan, one has to ask, are we beating a dead stair car, here?
Arrested Development was, essentially, the first show I ever binge-watched. My DVD copies of Seasons 1-3 were purchased in 2006 (shout-out to Bookman's in Tucson, Arizona, RIP) and were well worn and used by the time I eventually got rid of them, which was around 2013, when Season 4 aired on Netflix and I knew that the show would be immortalized on their streaming service forever.
But Season 4 was weird. I remember watching the first few episodes nervously, and for good reason. It was super dense plot-wise, complicated, and worst of all not very funny, until I realized what creator Mitchell Hurwitz was going for. You see, it may seem like forever ago, but the concept of Netflix Original Series was in its infancy, and Arrested Development Season 4 was one of the first entries in their original content line-up. That might sound boring, but it's important to note. Season 4 was designed to be watched on a loop, or picked up at any point at any episode. It was, and still is, a pioneer in streaming, binge-worthy television in a way that couldn't exist otherwise. Whereas many of Netflix's original shows could be aired traditionally week-by-week, with the original cut of Season 4, it would've been impossible.
Many people couldn't get into it, however, so the season was recently re-cut into Arrested Development: Fateful Consequences, released on Cinco de Cuatro this year, which gave viewers the steadiness and straight-forwardness necessary to make Season 5's equally dense and complex story to be a bit more palatable.
And I think that's what Season 5 ends up being; palatable. The beefed up storyline with Maeby (the amazing Alia Shawkat) and George Michael (the low-key amazing Michael Cera) is very welcome, as they were probably underutilized in Season 4. The season revolves around Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) coming to terms with his own selfishness and amorality, framed around the possible murder of Lucille Austero, with Buster Bluth as the prime suspect. The show successfully takes all of the series' open threads and pumps the brakes on them, giving time to develop the nuance of the ideas presented in Season 4.
It's not without its faults, there's still 6 whole minutes of catch-up to play in the first episode, and it doesn't really hit its stride until episode 3, but all-in-all if you're interested in the idea of "Arrested Development Season 5", then you'll find something to enjoy about this.
Despite claims to the contrary, there is a spot for the Bluth family in 2018. Yes, they resemble a little too closely another rich, terrible family that dominates headlines, but its self-awareness of the fact (and the fact that many of the traits precede the 2016 election) places the show slightly above the murky waters it wades in. Nevertheless, if it's more dour than fun to you, then I surely understand. Arrested Development season 5 doesn't want to upset you, but it's nice to enjoy the ridiculousness for a few hours, and I hope to do it again sometime.
Tyler Scruggs is a writer and musician living in Atlanta with his partner Mark. When he’s not churning out internet content, he’s paying too much for coffee and buying movie tickets week in advance. Feel free to validate him on Instagram (@Scruggernaut), Twitter (@TylerScruggs), or on Scruff (you’ll know it when you see it).