By Sam Bertschmann
For Arrested Development fans who have been slumped over and listening to sad Charlie Brown music since its cancellation seven years ago, the much-anticipated fourth season of Mitch Hurwitz’s groundbreaking comedy was released exclusively on Netflix this past Sunday, having previously aired on Fox from 2003 to 2006. Consisting of 15 new episodes and a nonlinear story arc, the new season retains much of Arrested Development’s trademark style and humor, also setting up the ensuing movie—should it come to fruition—nicely.
Each episode follows one member of the Bluth-Fünke clan, covering the same period of time through each character’s point of view. Though the new episodes can be watched in any order, they are best enjoyed sequentially, since connections can be made between each character’s story.
In an interview with Vulture, Hurwitz explained why viewers should watch season four in its proper order.
“I pretty quickly realized everything here is about the order of telling the stories, that there will be shows where you find out a little bit of information and then later shows where you revisit the scene and you find out more information—and that’s not fun in reverse,” said Hurwitz. “To get more information first and then less information isn’t as interesting.”
Indeed, the new season grows increasingly funny as the episodes progress for exactly this reason. The links between the characters’ separate stories become more and more apparent, and most loose ends are tied up by the end of the 15th episode.
Hurwitz also advised against binge-watching the new season, though seven and a half hours of new Arrested Development are as impossible to resist as Oscar’s hair. That hair…
The latest season marks the return of not only Michael (Jason Bateman), George Michael (Michael Cera), George Sr. and Oscar (Jeffrey Tambor), Lucille (Jessica Walter), Gob (Will Arnett), Lindsay (Portia de Rossi), Buster (Tony Hale), Tobias (David Cross) and Maeby (Alia Shawkat), but also most recurring characters from the first three seasons, including but not limited to Ann Veal (Mae Whitman – her?), Lucille 2 (Liza Minnelli) and STEVE HOLT (Justin Grant Wade).
The new episodes are littered with guest stars not featured in the first three seasons as well, such as Seth Rogen and Kristen Wiig as young George Sr. and Lucille, featured in a series of flashbacks, and Isla Fisher as Rebel Alley, narrator Ron Howard’s illegitimate daughter.
Season four is funniest in its references to the first three seasons; the show remains rooted in running gags from its earlier days. Much of the new material, however, is brilliant as well. The use of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” during Gob’s moments of introspection is particularly hilarious.
Standout episodes include “A New Start,” which focuses on Tobias, and “Colony Collapse,” which follows Gob. The last five minutes of the former provide Tobias with inadvertent innuendo and double entendres on par with his days as Mrs. Featherbottom.
Rumors of an Arrested Development movie have circulated for years, and the season four finale leaves viewers with cliffhangers to be resolved in the film, if it does eventually happen.
Unfortunately, Bateman told Rolling Stone that, though the new season and movie were designed to work together as the conclusion to the series, “there’s probably gonna be about a year, maybe year and a half, between the two.”
Season four of Arrested Development will have to tide fans over until then. Thankfully, its refreshing humor and intricate, cohesive storytelling make for great repeated viewings. Here’s hoping that viewers will not have to say goodbye to these for too long.