The Buzz: ‘Arrested Development’s’ Season 5 Starts With Flashbacks And Confusion

Arrested Development had a very solid three-season run on Fox from 2003 to 2006. It was a strange show that followed the very dysfunctional Bluth family as they struggled to live with one another while keeping their company afloat. Throughout its run, the show was lauded by both viewers and critics for its quality. While many were upset it was canceled, it seemed like the right decision at the time as even creator Mitchell Hurwitz felt like it was time to move on. For years Hurwitz dreamed of making an Arrested Development movie to officially wrap up the series, but it seemed like nothing more would ever come of the series. That was until Netflix stepped in and released season four of Arrested Development in 2013, seven years after it was canceled. Many agreed it wasn’t the best the show ever had to offer, but it was still enjoyed for the most part. Almost five more years would pass before Netflix released a re-cut version of season four as lead-up to season five. The re-cut version dubbed  “Season 4 Remix: Fateful Consequences” was much maligned for unnecessarily extending the episode count and cutting much of the best moments. Season five picks up with the aftermath of that season. 

Most of the season five premiere “Family Leave” felt like its only purpose was to recap the events of the previous season. Granted, it’s been almost five years since the last season aired, but anyone not already familiar with the story will likely only be more confused than helped by this recap episode. So much information is thrown at the viewer that it would be nearly impossible for anyone to just jump into this episode unless you’ve already seen the entirety of season four. While many shows can run with a serialized format with great success, it doesn’t work quite as well for Arrested Development. Serialization is more common in dramas like Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead, where every episode matters and builds off one another, but that’s not to say it can’t work for comedies too. Many comedies like BoJack Horseman and GLOW have proven that even comedies can have several different running storylines without having to sacrifice the comedy. Arrested Development though, seems more interested in telling overly complicated storylines than being funny, something most fans have come to expect since the show does advertise itself as a sitcom. 

One of the biggest issues outside of the excess of flashbacks and continued storylines was the lack of character interactivity in this episode. One of the best parts of the original series was seeing the whole cast get to rift off one another. Much like season four, many of the characters still remain separated in the premier. In fact, most of the main cast hardly even appear, with only Michael, George-Michael and Maeby being the only characters to appear in more than one scene outside of flashbacks. Every other main character is lucky if they even have a minute of screen time. Lindsay doesn’t even appear in the actual episode and only appears in a preview of the next. Hopefully, it won’t be long before all the characters are reunited as this episode does bring several characters together, but I could still see it taking a few more before everyone’s back together. One other worry is that Portia de Rossi, who plays Lindsay, has stated that she has retired from acting. Clearly based on the preview from the next episode, she’s made an exception for Arrested Development, but that’s no guarantee that she’ll be in the whole season. Only time will tell, but I can’t imagine Arrested Development going on without her.  

There are some good lines of dialogue thrown in here and there when the show’s not flashing back to previous events. Most of Michael’s interactions with people are quite enjoyable and there was even some laugh out loud lines delivered by him. In particular, his “love you” at the end of the episode was comedic gold. The main actors all still seem to have retained their chemistry from the original run, so when they did get to interact, I found myself engaged. Unfortunately, these moments are far too sparse to save this particular episode, but as long as the rest of the season doesn’t insist on constantly wasting time on flashbacks, there’s still hope for the rest of the season.

Despite its flaws, there was nothing in the premier that leads me to believe that the rest of the season can’t be salvaged. The most important aspect of the show, the comedy, was still there and so long as Arrested Development has that, it’s worth watching. With a lot the family seemingly headed for Mexico, season five has a golden opportunity to reunite the cast and lead them on some wacky hijinks in their new environment. It’s unlikely that the show will ever truly recapture the magic of its original run, but there’s still plenty of fun to be had with these characters. Maybe after this season, it would finally be the perfect time to start developing that movie Hurwitz always wanted to wrap up the series. Either way, I wouldn’t be opposed to more episodes, so long as the creators focus more on the comedy and less on the convoluted storylines of the past. The first eight episodes of season five are out now, with the second batch of eight episodes expected to premiere later this year. All episodes of Arrested Development can be found on Netflix, even the uncut version of season four if you’re willing to do some digging.