So here we are. After 7 years of persistant purchasing/torrenting/renting; in-jokes amongst friends, message boards and pop culture blog comment sections and whispers of will-they, won’t-they: it’s finally here–new episodes of Arrested Development on Netflix.
Let’s just get this out of the way right now: there was no way that Arrested Development would truly thrive in this type of situation. The fevered anticipation of the series’ return as well as its increased popularity, thanks to the internet, made expectations way too high–not to mention the fact that, due to scheduling conflicts, all of the cast members weren’t able to consistently film together so instead the entire season is full of episodes dedicated to each character. As much as we’ve clamored and dreamed for this, nobody actually believed it would happen… and now that the day is here, it’s hard to know how to feel. There’s excitement in the air, as well as trepidation–even now this unedited babble is merely spilled over glee and conflict over what I’ve just watched and the aching need to write about it. Grantland’s Andy Greenwald posited on his mailbag the past Tuesday two questions (technically three, but only two matters): 1) Will the new season be any good? and 2) Will the new season be good enough?
The first one is an easy one to answer: Yes. It won’t shake up the world and it wasn’t without its duds. One of the things that has always helped AD is that, even in its weaker episodes (i.e. most of season 3), the show thrived off of B, C or D stories from the other members of the Bluth family. Now, with each episode focused on specific characters, there are no B, C, or D stories and as a result–the duds really stand out. Not every character is meant to carry a full episode–especially full episodes that don’t adhere to a strict time format–and some of the storylines just don’t seem to stick, but the new season is definitely daring in its approach. It’s not just content to provide fan service (although there’s plenty) and it’s admirable that the show would take a risky approach like this. It doesn’t always work and it’s full of over-explanation, in an effort for a more “mainstream” audience to keep up. It gets grating at times–AD has always been great about respecting an audience’s intelligence–but overall it doesn’t get too out of hand. The pacing is a bit off, due to the way the episodes are structured. Most noticeably, the season is really, pretty dark. AD has always been great at balancing the heart of the show along with the dark undercurrent. There’s always a sense that these people love each other–even if it’s only because they have nobody else to turn to–but the new season focuses only on the darkness. At times it can be jarring. A lot of times. And you do get a very real sense that they’re building to something more: whether it’s another season, a movie or who knows (maybe a christmas special). It’s definitely the “empire strikes back” of seasons.
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