The Bluths have triumphantly returned after a seven year hiatus to Netflix with season 4. After discussing season 1, 2, and 3, it’s safe to say I was incredibly excited for this. They’ve managed to not only bring back the entire family, but practically every side character makes a return appearance. Considering how this season was filmed, beyond just the miracle that it even happened, it was amazing how well it came together.
The principle cast were all in second position for this show, meaning they have other commitments that must be fulfilled first. Each episode followed a different member of the family, with a few scenes containing one or two other characters. Save for one scene in the Balboa Towers condo (which was likely filmed in one day), the entire cast was not seen together. I’ve read several interviews with writer/creator Mitch Hurwitz where he stated how they had the entire season scripted, and filmed everything out of order, depending on what days they had what actors. They might have had Jason Bateman and Michael Cera one day, then Jessica Walter and Jeffery Tambor the next. Watching the show, seeing how their stories interwove, I really couldn’t wrap my head around how it was all perfectly edited together.
The first episode started wonderfully, with narrator Ron Howard clearing his throat to get back into his usual cadence. The story opens up on Cinco de Cuatro, the annual celebration created by Lucille 30 odd years ago in hopes of depleting party supplies for Cinco de Mayo so their Mexican laborers would be at work instead of partying. This party is were all the story lines ultimately ended. From there we see Michael (Jason Bateman), and we learned how his life has changed since the end of season 3. Many scenes from the previous finale are spliced in, making the plot more cohesive, along with the moments from immediately after Lucille highjacked the Queen Mary.
Things were off to a good start. We were treated to flashbacks of Kristen Wiig and Seth Rogan as Lucille and George Bluth Sr. before seeing the familiar title credits. The second half of the episode dragged with a drawn out, not very funny joke. This had me worried. While every actor easily slipped back into their old roles, they can only be as strong as the material they’re given. Thankfully, this was just a bump in the road as the rest of the episodes began to pick up steam. Arrested Development’s strong suit has all been the interweaving and call back. The writers didn’t want to lean to much on what came before, and needed to start somewhere. Learning where the stories go and how they ultimately work in and around each other is the best part. In this, season 4 does not disappoint.
There are a few questions left as some characters ultimate fates aren’t shown, leaving the door open for more episodes, or potentially the long gestating movie. Again, each episode is about a different family member, with the opening credits changing accordingly. Each family member is listed as that episodes central character’s relation. I remember reading about Micheal Cera’s trepidation in returning to the show, which seemed a little obvious as he was absent after episode 1 until 11, with the last few remaining episodes showing him more. Sadly, the character missing the most was my favorite, Buster. I was inclined to think it was lack of material, but considering his absence in other episodes, I’m inclined to believe actor Tony Hale was simply busy.
I’m excited to go back and watch the season again, trying to catch all the things I missed the first time. The season ending with such little conclusions has me hopefully for more Bluths, but I’m happy that we got this much.
“You wouldn’t tip an African American, would you?” – George Bluth Sr.