Arrested Development Season 5
Starring: Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, Jessica Walter, Will Arnett, Alia Shawkat, Tony Hale, Will Arnett, David Cross, Portia Del Rossi
Creator: Mitchell Hurwitz
Review by Michael Walls-Kelly
Goodbye forever… see you tonight.
It’s easy to see why somebody wouldn’t be that interested in watching a new season of Arrested Development these days. The allegation against Jeffrey Tambor was bad enough, but then a large chunk of the male cast decided to come off like total pricks in a New York Times interview the other day. Combine that with the fact that season 4 was easily the weakest of the series so far. Any potential lack of enthusiasm makes perfect sense. However, if you do feel the need to check in on the Bluth family, there’s plenty in season 5 to enjoy.
Netflix has split this season into two 8-episode halves (I’ve seen the first seven episodes) with the first chunk will be released on May 29, the second to follow sometime later this year. The show picks up where it left off with the Bluth family. They wisely jettison some storylines that didn’t work that well while streamlining others. The main storylines for this half of the season are the disappearance of Lucille 2, Lindsay (Portia de Rossi) running for office, and Michael (Jason Bateman) and George Michael (Michael Cera) navigating their relationship after the punch that ended season 4.
I watched series creator Mitchell Hurwitz’s remix of season 4, titled Fateful Consequences, a few weeks ago. It was an interesting curiosity, but it ultimately didn’t make the season stronger or weaker. It still suffered from too many disparate storylines, less focus on the core family together and an over-reliance meta-jokes, ridiculous guest characters and Ron Howard’s narration. A lot of that is cleaned up in this go-around and brought back to a season 3 level.
A major benefit of season 5 over the previous Netflix season is the fact that they were able to get the cast together when they needed to. Except for one scene with Portia de Rossi — who has retired from acting and only makes a few appearances here –, there weren’t any egregious examples of green-screening the cast into scenes. Whenever the characters had their own storylines, it never felt like a workaround for scheduling. That may be the writing being better this time instead of the actual production logistics. Either way, the end result is better.
Michael Bluth continues to be the perfect role for Bateman. Despite many attempts at imitating the character, The Gift is the only film that has used Bateman’s ability to creep smug douchebaggery into his performance as well as Arrested Development has. Jessica Walter and Tony Hale continue to embody their characters — Lucille and Buster, respectively — to a terrifying degree. Oddly, GOB (Will Arnett) and George Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor) don’t get as much to do as they did in season 4, with Tambor specifically feeling subdued and a little sidelined.
Cera and Alia Shawkat, who plays Maeby, have always been strong actors, even when they were younger. This is the first time I feel like they’ve stolen the show when it comes to flat-out belly laughs. Shawkat, in particular, gave me my first laugh-out-loud moment in the first episode. With Lindsay being mostly absent and Tobias (David Cross) predominantly bouncing off of Lucille and a new character played by Kyle Mooney, Shawkat doesn’t get a lot of story to carry or as much time to show off. Cera, however, anchors the emotional throughline of the season, easily holding his own with Bateman.
I’m interested to see how this first half wraps up and whether it will leave me desperate for the rest of the season. I doubt we’ll get any more Arrested Development after season 5. I don’t really think I want more. I’m happy that the show has regained a little bit of its earlier magic, especially if this is the final season. Hopefully, it doesn’t drop the ball in the second half.
Verdict: Watch it. If you’re an Arrested Development fan, then you won’t be disappointed. It’s the first season that’s been an improvement over the one before it, which is good. It never reaches the heights of the series’ earlier run. The benefit of having a schedule that fit most of the actors is apparent.