This was originally going to be a blog entry declaring that the best episodes of Season 4 of Arrested Development were the ones that featured GOB Bluth, namely “Colony Collapse” and “A New Attitude.” While I still feel that these episodes are great and hilarious (and plan to tell you why I liked these episodes so much), I don’t feel confident in declaring them the best episodes of the season. Here’s why: upon re-watching these two episodes in preparation for writing this entry, I realized that I hadn’t really seen the season. Yes, I watched it (in a week-long binge) but I didn’t really remember which episodes were good and bad. In my memory, the whole season was all a long string of jokes and repetition, leaving me with the impression that the season wasn’t so great. I frequently smiled, but I didn’t laugh out loud. It was a slog. Or a bog. Or something else that kinda makes a pun with “GOB” as a I was trying to think of a witty title for this article. (ie. “GOB a jewel in the bog”)
I had the same experience watching Season 4 as I did while watching Seasons 1-3 for the first time. When I first stumbled upon Arrested Development, I did not find it funny. I was not on the same frequency as the show. It seemed like I was always waiting on a joke, and that the narrative was always moving too fast for me. Similarly, with Season 4, I found that I, again, was not getting the jokes or that the plot was moving too slowly for me.
I think the reason I connected so deeply to “Colony Collapse” and “A New Attitude” was that the pacing and general structure of these two episodes were so much like older episodes of Arrested Development. Familiar. Fast and funny.
[Spoilers ahead] In “Colony Collapse”, GOB accidentally becomes engaged to Ann Veal. (Some great names that she is called instead of “Ann” in this episode: Plant, Egg, Mouth, Blank, HER? Hair) At the wedding, GOB performs an illusion that is an allusion of the crucifixion of Christ. GOB accidently gets locked in his “getaway rock” and then gets locked in a storage unit. He hits rock bottom and starts himself on a roofie-circle to forget all these events. GOB does not marry Ann. (HER??)
In “A New Attitude”, GOB deduces that a rival magician, Tony Wonder, sabotaged his Christ illusion. To get revenge, GOB plans to seduce Tony with Ann’s help and ruin Tony’s reputation as the Gay Magician. The plan backfires spectacularly (with an elaborate sequence of different people wearing masks) and GOB falls for Tony.
The whole GOB storyline is a glorious, intricate, hilarious spectacle of failure and trying to forget that failure. The whole thing is crazy, convoluted, but makes perfect sense. GOB is constantly trying to hit new highs, but in doing so falls to the deepest lows. An example, when GOB becomes engaged to Ann, he seeks out George Micheal’s approval. When GM gives him the “yes” GOB has hit his goal. He can now marry Ann. But with the high comes the low. Now he has to marry Ann. HER??? The soundtrack plays those oh-so-familiar opening bars of “The Sound of Silence”… Hello darkness my old friend…
The GOB storylines work so well because there is a deep emotional problem in GOB, and he is motivated to solve it. He tries everything to feel better (even if it means taking roofies every day.) The jokes come fast and hard and the plot is constantly moving. GOB’s storyline is in great contrast with other characters on the show, whose stories play out slowly. Often, jokes that are set up in one episode, don’t land until many episodes later. Those stories are playing the long game. The GOB story is immediately satisfying.
When watching Season 4 of Arrested Development for the first time, I felt like I wanted it to be different. Faster, less repetition, more jokes. Now, I realize that, just like the first time I watched Seasons 1-3, I need to adjust my internal joke clock to get on pace with the show. Season 4 is not the same as 1-3, and we shouldn’t expect it to be. So, upon first viewing, the storylines with GOB were easily my favourite of the new season of Arrested Development. But I’m not confident that the other storylines weren’t great, too. I just wasn’t on the same page as the show. I think I’ll wait a few months and watch again, and see how everything lands.
(But I’m positive the GOB/Tony Wonder storyline will always hold up. I loved how they were both playing each other, but over the course of the episode, both seemed to fall for the other. Their moment of climax in all its masked glory, left me totally satisfied.)