As we close in on the end of the mixed Season 4, Episode 13 promises It Gets Better. Sure enough, this is one of the more focussed episodes in the season.
Zeroing in on George Michael for the first time, we see where he’s been since he last kissed his cousin: in college, struggling through Freshman year, only finding himself on a gap year in Spain. Returning home with an intention to make the woodblock the next big instrument, George Michael and his roommate P-Hound begin to work on an app called FakeBlock, while dealing with all sorts of shenanigans surrounding his father, his cousin and his name.
The episode starts nicely with something that is only going to pay off in 75 minutes’ time and then snakes its way back in a way that other Season 4 episodes have often struggled to do. The college years of George Michael aren’t exactly laugh-packed and Michael Cera’s performance isn’t quite as strong as he’s been in the past years, but the writing is stronger here than some subsequent episodes. When the episode turns FakeBlock into a Social Network parody, though, it gets closest to falling off the wagon in terms of structure and humour – it’s at these points that it doesn’t feel like Arrested Development, with stronger camera angles and walking-and-talking scenes that just wouldn’t have happened in older broadcast episodes. These aesthetic changes really take fans out of the moment.
Much like Maeby’s episode, this outing features a lot of the two cousins interacting and working together, as George Michael tries to woo her with his new-found sexuality – but ends up finding Rebel Alley as a new admirer instead. In the guise of George Maharis, the young Bluth finds the world at his feet thanks to a misunderstanding of what FakeBlock is and subsequently can’t shake the attractions of Ron Howard’s daughter, which only serves to create more tension should his father find out, the father he kicked out of the dorm earlier this year. George Michael isn’t quite struggling under the weight of what he’s done, but there’s both a clear issue with how he treated his father and also how his father treated him – it climaxes in a scene where Michael forces his son to tear up a cheque before the family, which launches head-first (like Pete Rose) into cringe-comedy territory.
There are some big issues with Episode 13 that have plagued the whole season. One piece of narration see Ron Howard talking for 41 seconds during an awkward silence, overtaking both the scene’s joke and exposition. It’s not as funny as it should be and just becomes aggravating. We also see snippets of the Cornballer advert from seasons past, but cut carefully to hide Jeffrey Tambor’s face – a decision that makes the casting of Seth Rogen as the young George Bluth Sr. redundant. Meanwhile, George Michael, like Michael, is fast becoming a Bluth and these character changes don’t feel interesting or narratively fulfilling,. As a result, his episode can be quite hard to sit through.
It Gets Better.
The episode does have good points. We see Michael’s deceased wife Tracey for the first time, played by Eagleheart’s Maria Thayer who fits the description well (although it’s doubtful that she’ll return in any flashbacks or archive footage again). George Michael also watches a cartoon in Spain: Sit Down, Shut Up, a US remake of an Australian show developed by Mitchell Hurwitz and featuring the voices of Jason Bateman, Will Arnett and Henry Winkler – the kind of meta element we know and love.
Mostly, though, it’s just a focussed piece of work – a solid chunk of Arrested Development that balances awkward moments with a plethora of call-backs.
For more on the Bluth’s new outings, read our Arrested Development interview with the case, our chat with Annyong, or our other Arrested Development Season 4 reviews.