Some spoilers might catch you, Cornballer style!
The finale of this season has a lot of fantastic elements, but it isn’t quite as strong as my favorite predecessors. I’ll just get my biggest confusion out of the way: the music. There are a lot of acoustic-y sappy love song-type things sprinkled in, and it is hard for me to tell if it is serious or not. I’m assuming it isn’t, but it balances pretty precariously. This is normally something that I like, but in the case of Arrested Development it is so out of the ordinary that it is more distracting than it is a joke with payoff.
All of the other jokes pay off well, and there is a lot of new material to enjoy. The plot lines addressed are left sufficiently open-ended, perhaps for the movie or for a fifth season. I was hoping for a tad more closure, especially after having been thrown around my linear conception of time for so long, but it also means more new material. The ultimate strength of this episode is not in its comedic value or it’s plot twists, however. I think it resides in going back to the original twisted heart of the show: George Michael and his father.
Choosing to focus on George Michael for the last episode is conceptually very fitting when one thinks back to season one. When we first meet Michael Bluth and his son George Michael they seem like two peas in a pod, and most innocently you think of Michael as the persecuted “straight man” in a family of crazies. George Michael is his loyal son, and they are out to save the family business. Between the two, there is a struggle to maintain closeness as Michael gets more involved in running the company, while George Michael learns that the way he was raised does not help him function in the real world with said crazies.
As the show progresses we learn that Michael is as manipulative and codependent as anyone in his family; he lies to the women he dates, he lies to his family, and he can’t maintain his own affairs long enough to have any stability–mostly because of the lies. In season four, George Michael runs into all of the same problems, and with no less than a redhead (just like his mother, whom Michael always placed on a pedestal after her death). He tries to get too serious too soon, and scares her off (typical Michael move). George Michael “proves more adept at lying than anyone could have suspected”, and essentially is running a fake company, almost exactly like Michael taking over for the Bluth Company with its shoddily built cover-up homes. Let’s not forget that Michael also has a lie-filled relationship with his own father George Senior, and the cycle becomes apparent. (For god’s sake, the grandson’s name is a sad, celebrity-mocking synthesis of his father and grandfather’s name!)
Though the two men appear identical in their habits, they prove in season four to at least be different in some of their choices. When George Michael discovers that he and his father have been dating the same woman and that his father knew and continued to see her, the tension is palpable. George Michael insists he would have never done so had he known, and Michael lies through his teeth. For once, his son can see it plain as day and son punches father. Michael is already pretty beaten up, his inevitable downward spiral painted on his face.
The season ends most poignantly with a huge rift between them–one that will hopefully last a while, giving both characters even more time apart to reveal more of their true selves. I always felt very frustrated in past seasons when George Michael would continually forgive his father’s inconsiderate acts. Though these last moments are hard to watch, it was mostly so because the acting appears easy. Jason Bateman and Michael Cera have great chemistry, and I for one want to punch Michael in the face (especially when he gives that vacant “I hope they don’t call me out” stare he does so well). Heck, I even want to give George Michael a little slap for getting himself mixed up in pretending to be something he isn’t, but it seems like he knows well enough (for now).
This season might not have been what a fan would have written, but I have come away feeling grateful for that. For all of the flack it has received from fans, I want to contribute some praise. As someone who not only loves the show, but appreciates well-written TV regardless of whether it’s what I want to see: this season was poetic. I can’t wait to watch it again (all in one sitting, this time).