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Arrested Development - Season 5A - Advance Preview

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In the spirit of Arrested Development, feel free to read this preview as a Ron Howard narration:

     Previously on Arrested Development: Last we saw of the bunch, Rebel Alley Howard (the fictional daughter of Arrested Development’s fictional version of Opie Ron Howard) managed to drive a wedge between the two closest members of the Bluth family, Michael and George Michael, while Lucille 2 went missing under very mysterious circumstances.

     After a five year hiatus, the Bluth family and company are returning for a new set of zany adventures. When the series returns tomorrow, even longtime viewers may find themselves a bit confused by the timeline and old references. Season four of Arrested Development was largely seen as a critical disappointment as it struggled to get all of our favorite characters in the same room at the same time. Thankfully, the writers noted this problem and have done a lot to fix it this season.

     While I see this season as a massive improvement over season four, it should be noted that it is not without some growing pains early on. The time-twisting narratives are undeniably difficult to follow, especially given the fact that most of us have not watched an episode of the series in more than five years. The first episode features a five minute plus recap and an incredibly difficult structure that frustrated me when I first set out to watch. I would encourage devoted viewers to rewatch the last episode of season four before attempting to watch this season’s premiere.

     Given the complexity of each episode, it would be nearly impossible to recap or even adequately tease all of the different twists and turns involved in this half season (or any season) of Arrested Development. In lieu of this, I’m going to tease just a little about the best character arcs in the next eight episodes:

     Season five starts with Michael attempting to avoid everyone in his family and, as is usual for members of the Bluth family, failing at every single turn. By the end of the third episode, Michael is already saying, “I’m done with this family” and then rushing back to help them all a whole two minutes later. Needless to say, this season is going to feature a lot of this sort of thing (as every other season has).

     One of the highlights of the first eight episodes include what is done with the Rebel Alley storyline. I have to admit that I was not a big fan of this part of the series back in season four. It seemed genuinely strange to put Michael and George Michael in such a situation and George Michael punching his father just seemed out of character. This season fixes a lot of those problems by making the story interesting, giving us a real reason to enjoy Rebel’s character, and constructing an enjoyably awkward reunion for the father and son. This storyline also introduces a lot of special cameos “related” to Rebel Alley in episode six (including one bittersweet cameo that genuinely shocked me).

     Another of my favorite storylines from these episodes includes Gob’s relationship and struggle with Ben Stiller’s Tony Wonder. While the majority of this story does not come to fruition until the eighth episode, longtime viewers will find large pieces of Gob’s arc this season similar to Tobias’s in previous seasons. While I’m a little confused as to why the writers chose to switch the characters around so much, it’s an undeniably entertaining set of episodes for Gob.

     Tobias, meanwhile, working in his “professional” position as a therapist, helps Lucille to escape from rehab and take refuge in a beach house that many had considered long gone. Still hopelessly seeking an acting career, Tobias continually makes a fool of himself in his usually dramatic ways. This season sees Tobias attempt to act out the roles of many of his (former?) family members. With a small exception, Tobias is somewhat underused as his own character does not receive a real focus in these eight episodes (though not near to the same degree as Lindsay), but is excellently used in a number of the scenes involving all of the major characters.

     Both Stan and Sally Sitwell have a large presence in this season. The elder Sitwell is lured into another of Maeby’s money schemes (this one involves her dressing up as an old woman at a senior center) which ends up involving more wigs than were probably used on the set of The Americans. Sally serves as Lindsay’s opponent in the race for a seat in Congress in a role that I hope will be bigger in the second half of the season.

     Basically saying anything about Buster at this point would be a big spoiler for the next season so you’ll just have to wait!

Rating: 8.7/10 - While I found the first few episodes somewhat discombobulating, this season is a definite return to form for the series. It’s funny, it’s clever, and it's every bit as smart as its characters are silly.

Episode Ranking: While I heavily recommend watching in order (it’s hard enough to follow all the twists in this series when the episodes are in order!), this is my ranking of the episodes of this season.

 #1: Episode 5
 #2: Episode 8
 #3: Episode 6
 #4: Episode 7
 #5: Episode 4
 #6: Episode 3
 #7: Episode 2
 #8: Episode 1

Tune in to Arrested Development's fifth season premiere on May 29th on Netflix for eight crazy episodes of entertainment! Be sure to come back here to SpoilerTV to let everyone else know what you thought of the season's first eight episodes.

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