By Kyle B. Stiff
Plenty of people are complaining about the Netflix-exclusive new season of Arrested Development. We’ve waited for this shit for seven years. Does it really suck as many balls as the naysayers say? Or is it so good that it makes everyone uncomfortable on a level so deep that it’s hard to examine without dredging up a lot of emotional turmoil?
Exhibit one: Look at the complaints. The range of the complaints is exasperating. Cataloguing them all makes humanity look like a creature so fickle and easily annoyed that he is simply beyond entertaining. The strange complaints, many of which are wholly unique to the individual making them, may be due in part because fans of Arrested Development tend to have an IQ in the triple-digit range and are capable of expressing themselves without using terms like “sucks” or “awesome”. That’s all well and good, but intelligence has nothing to do with dealing with emotions. And Arrested Development season four is, if nothing else, emotionally discomforting.
Everyone has hit rock bottom. Michael has built a ghost town and is himself a lost, abandoned ghost, Gob is trapped in an eternal roofie circle, and Tobias’s hopes have latched onto a junkie lying in a pile of garbage – LOL!, right? Imagine watching Jerry Seinfeld talking to the police as they try to understand Kramer dead in his apartment, a victim of some wild contraption beyond rational comprehension. Imagine Roseanne from Roseanne living out of her car, unsure where her children have ended up and secretly resentful of her husband’s hospital bills accrued before his death. Or imagine the cast of Friends kidnapped by snuff-porn producers and forced to endure the unendurable before they turn on one another in a fit of repressed rage boiling over… nevermind, that last one might be pretty good.
That’s season four. Even though we were always dealing with a family of self-serving sociopaths, the lightheartedness is gone. The new season has left the safe territory set aside for sitcoms and gone into a new land. A place with greater range, but also greater discomfort. It’s easy to be sentimental about the first three seasons, but remember: Sentimentality is no real indicator of value.
I have a friend afflicted by crazy dreams; he will most likely die of a heart attack in his sleep someday. He once had a dream that he was shown some new Star Wars media, like movies or books or “trading cards” or whatever. The muppets and ridiculous 70s haircuts and planet-hopping fun were replaced by something out of Hellraiser, cruel and sadistic creatures that were perversions of living forms, technology black and cold and lifeless, all civility replaced with sheer depravity and the sense of being trapped in the dark void between the stars. “They’ve gone too far,” he thought to himself. “They’ve gone too far!”
Season four steps into that territory. Chances for jokes are sometimes bypassed in favor of showing a character reaching a dead-end as their schemes fall apart. We love them all, so it makes us uncomfortable.
But should we feel comfortable all the time? Even when entertained? Do we really need to see the old goofball antics rewarmed and re-served? Isn’t it better to be tricked into taking a trip to some higher-dimensional Hell and seeing a labyrinth of time unfold, the setting for the climax explained with confusing detail at the very beginning, and then be forced into a roofie circle filled with moments of remembrance as we piece the tale together, each broken glass puzzle piece made out of a human life seemingly unfit for happiness and incapable of enlightenment?
Of course it’s better. Challenging paradigms always is. Season four is unique and amazing – there’s nothing else like it. Deal with your discomfort. Walk the path that begins and ends at Cinco de Cuatro. Meet the Ostrich of Eternal Recurrence again and again, and understand that it most likely means nothing.
Now that’s Entertainment!
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If you liked this post, you should check out some of my books. I’ve got an epic series called Demonworld, which is equal parts Mad Max and Lord of the Rings (think “science fantasy”), and a much-loved gamebook series called Heavy Metal Thunder which is currently a hyperlinked Kindle book but will be a fancy phone app any day now.