Arrested Development season 4 in its entirety is on Netflix, ready to be viewed at your own pace, whether once a day/week or all at once. As a fan of watching television, I’ve watched the entire season through several times. However, I thought it was important for us to write about each episode separately before taking the season as a whole.
Opening in the past, in “Flight of the Phoenix,” we learn that a 30 year celebration, Cinco de Cuatro, was started by an angry Lucille Bluth to protest “The Mexicans” war against May 5th. Played by Kristen Wiig, she gets Jessica Walter’s contempt and shrill voice just right. After several viewings, I have gotten more used to Seth Rogen in the role of George Bluth, but if I were watching it once the way I would have in a normal season, I did not like Seth Rogen as the younger George. Cinco de Cuatro is where we run into Michael, drunk and $700,000 in debt to Lucille Austero (Lucille 2), played by Liza Minnelli. He propositions her on top of the stair car, at his lowest point.
In the model home, Micheal runs into G.O.B. who has just finished a secret tryst. As we’re watching, we realize that we are not at the actual beginning of the goings on. As Michael notices who G.O.B. was with, G.O.B. forces him to take a “forget me now” so that Michael wouldn’t remember and expose him.
Six months before Cuatro, Michael is living in his son’s dorm room at UC Urvine. George Michael is dealing with his father’s intrusion, while Michael is completely oblivious to how intrusive he is. Michael seems to have completely broken down. George Michael wants to wean off of his name because if you do a “Something” search for George Michael, you would find the sexual sexcapades of the ex-Wham front man George Michael. He also talks about needing privacy, but doesn’t have the heart to tell his dad that he wants it from him.
We get some catch up thanks to “Showstealer Pro Trial Version” that show us the end of season 3, as well as some follow up of what happened after Lucille turns the boat to flee to sea. Lucille ends up turning back, though no one knows why (I did have a good laugh at the headline “pursed lips sinks ships”). 3 months later, the family is sitting around trying to figure out how to keep Lucille out of prison. They are dealing with Maritime Law, which Zuckerkorn knows nothing about. He knows so little, he actually misses the hearing. Michael is amazed that the family wants him to do all of the work, not get any money to work on the company, and still help his mother’s case. So he does the one thing he has wanted to do for a while. He sells his shares to Lucille Austero and leaves the family for good. He takes the money from his shares to finish Sudden Valley. Even though he didn’t feel the need to tell his family he’s done with them, he does it anyway. He builds Sudden Valley, even though there is no road to it, but when California’s housing market collapses he finds himself in a ton of debt with no one buying. He borrows $700,000 from Lucille 2 to help with construction costs but the death of the mailman in an area without any kind of reception makes him leave the valley and head to UC Irvine.
Yet even as Michael tries to get back in the game (an interview with Altitudes, the Outwest Airline in-flight magazine), George Michael is trying to figure out how to get rid of him. The latest thing is when Michael bursts into his room while he was with Maeby. P-Hound suggests that they have a vote. Michael thinks he’s good, suggesting a pack first, no talking (NO TALKING!) clause in the vote, but the vote doesn’t go his way.
He leaves the vote to try and find the inflight magazine, just looking for a win. He is forced to buy a ticket by the cast from Workaholics. After some trouble, he finds his article and is devastated to learn that his gesture of humility (prayer hands) was taken as a plea for help. He disembarks, the life story of Arrested Development in mural form is on the wall as he exits the Phoenix airport. He plans to stay until he realizes how hot it can be in Phoenix and returns to the penthouse to find it in horrible disrepair, seconds before he is mowed down by an ostrich.
Single Episode Viewing Review: The first episode of the 4th season of Arrested Development, “Flight of the Phoenix” was a disjointed, unfunny, hot mess. I felt embarrassed for Michael Bluth, who was the center of the previous 3 seasons as the person trying to save his family and the family business after his father was arrested. I’m okay with the “what came first” layout of the episode and there is a part of me that is happy that we have to piece together the series of events and get all of the stories teased in this episode. The title “Flight of the Phoenix” refers to the flight Michael has to take to get his mojo back, but I was hoping, especially after the completely disheartening downfall of Michael Bluth, for him to have a bigger “rise from the ashes” moment. I also expected the same thing for the return of the series, but I got more of a sizzle than a fire. I didn’t laugh once in the episode and I could feel my heart dropping into my stomach, afraid that this is what I could expect for 14 more episodes. I was also unsure of the concept of concentrating on one person, although it may be a good thing that this highlights the selfish actions of the family as they are no longer trying to hold each other together.
Binge-Viewing Review: There is so much in this episode that comes through upon multiple viewings. It is, perhaps, the weakest episode, but it sets up and benefits from jokes in future episodes. I still laugh every time Michael calls Lucille 2 a “hot mess.” It also pays good homage to past seasons. George Michael turns “What did we say is the most important thing?” on it’s head when his frustrated answer is privacy. The ostrich that Lindsay doesn’t care about from season one runs rampant through this season. The loose seal from “The Trial of Captain Hook (double whammy reference) pays off for a good laugh from Kristen Wiig’s Lucille. George Michael’s story gets bigger laughs when you remember this episode.
Canceling this show might definitely have affected the storytelling in this episode, but it may also be the best thing to happen to this show. Time has given the writers and actors insight into their characters and the direction of the show. If there will be a movie, this new season may be just the ticket to get it done.