As the season builds up steam, however, it becomes more obvious what the show is trying to do as the episodes start to overlap and reframe what you've already seen. In many ways this isn't 15 new episodes of Arrested Development, but one long, almost eight-hour episode of the show.
That's why I'm kind of confused by creator Mitch Hurwitz's suggestion to watch the new season in installments instead of shotgunning the entire season in a weekend, the way many viewers did with previous Netflix original House of Cards.
He might be trying to avoid the fatigue that Cards suffered from when viewed all at once. I watched that entire show in a day for a previous column and a week later, I had trouble remembering which episode major events took place in. It doesn't seem necessary here however. Since Arrested Development jumps between characters each episode, its easy to remember what happened when.
Rationing out the season also seems unnecessary (despite the fact that, at best, it will be a few years before the next episode) because the new Arrested Development gains even more on a rewatch than the show's Fox run, which already had amazing staying power. The early episodes of the new run are just as interconnected as the later ones--you just don't know it yet on your first viewing. Jokes that seemed like wastes of time are now the funniest in the episode.
Of course, you don't have to watch the new season this way. It's still perfectly enjoyable without dedicating a third of your day to really trying to pin down the complexities of how episode 14 connects to episode one. It's just that the downsides to telling one eight-hour story are more obvious this way. And, despite the season's many high-points there are some problems as well.
Early episodes gain a lot on rewatching but that's because they're largely the weakest on a first watch. It'd be hard to blame long-time Arrested Development fans for being disappointed if they watch just the first two episodes and then take a break.
Part of that is just the story taking some time to get rolling. Some of it is a problem with the season's structure. When given the focus for a full half hour, some members of the Bluth clan simply can't carry an episode by themselves, relying on guest actors to move the story along for large parts of the run time.
In fact, there are so many guest actors in the new season it can be distracting at times. Less than a minute into the new season, Kristen Wiig and Seth Rogen show up as younger versions of Lucile and George Sr., while The Office's John Krasinski appears for a single (admittedly hilarious) throw away joke. Even literal extras are famous comedians at times. Community creator Dan Harmon appears for a grand total of three seconds in the second episode.
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