Netflix has released Season 4 of Arrested Development in its entirety, which means we'll be binge-watching the series' revival and sharing our reactions with you over the next couple of days. The recap below contains spoilers from Episode 9 - "Smashed." Read no further if you haven't seen the episode yet!
“A New Start,” the first episode of Arrested Development’s fourth season that centered on the loveable-yet-hopeless Tobias Funke (David Cross), was one of the darkest that the series has ever produced. The episode ended with Tobias being completely broke, getting arrested as a sex offender on John Beard’s To Entrap a Local Predator, and having his girlfriend, DeBrie Bardeaux (Maria Bamford), hopping into a strange party limo hoping to score some drugs. It looked like things were going absolutely horribly for everyone’s favorite blowhard never-nude, and that tragedy continued to be just as funny in Tobias’ second fourth-season episode, “Smashed.”
Tobias has earned his bad luck streak after years and years of terrible decisions – like turning down a comfy $120K per year job working for Lucille Austero – but this episode actually has things looking somewhat bright for the idiot. A brief-yet-terrifying stint in prison leads Tobias to reconsider Lucille 2’s earlier offer and becomes a therapist and analyst at the Austerity rehab clinic. He is excited to learn that Mark Cherry (Daniel Armerman), popular pop star and former friend of Gob’s, but is even more thrilled when he is reunited with DeBrie, his new found lady love.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t sit well with Argyle Austero (legendary tap dancer Tommy Tune), who works as the head of the clinic and sees Tobias and DeBrie’s relationship as a conflict of interest. Unable to see his new love interest in counseling, Tobias is inspired to direct a musical version of Fantastic Four, which have DeBrie reprising her role as Sue Storm. The problem is that he needs to get to Ron Howard in order to get the rights to the characters, and that causes him to clash with Michael’s storyline.
The reason I had high hopes for the fourth season of Arrested Development was because I believed that the key to the show was just getting the characters right – a task that I had full confidence the writers and actors could accomplish. And it’s the perfect understanding of Tobias that makes Smashed such a great episode. Practically every quirk is recognized, from his inability to sit in a chair like a normal human being to his proclivity towards covering his body in blue paint to his mastery of awkward language, but deeper that surface level gags is a character we remember and recognize. Tobias is a stupidly emotional and passionate person who unfortunately believes that every thought he has is a good one. Cross sells the goofiness perfectly as he carefully tries to weave in the fact that he’s a sex offender into every conversation, and it’s not a stretch to believe that a man with nothing would choke out Ron Howard for getting in the way of him and his girlfriend. The audience has a funny relationship with Tobias. We love him, but we desperately want him to fail.
Bamford deserves special recognition for her performance as DeBrie, who has quickly become my favorite new character of the fourth season. Arrested Development has a great history of finding the line between horrible and hilarious, be it the “incestuous” relationship between George Michael and Maeby or the almost wedding between Michael and the mentally challenged Rita (Charlize Theron), and the Tobias/DeBrie relationship fits right in. Bamford plays the character with a great horror and trauma that serves as a perfect counterbalance to Cross’s overly-enthusiastic Tobias. We feel bad for laughing, but that doesn’t mean it’s not incredibly funny.
As I predicted in my recap of “Borderline Personalities,” the second episode of the season, the show has eased into its new “one-character-at-a-time” format. The show is no longer playing catch-up and now feels like real, full stories, and the way with which it plays with narrative threads is downright fascinating. On a macro scale it’s amazing to see how Tobias’ storyline intersects perfectly with Michael’s, and on a micro scale I love hearing Tobias say “That red-haired lady can’t throw her wad at that guy,” witnessing an event that was shown in the previous episode. Part of the joy of Arrested Development is rewatching and finding out how all of the little stories match up. I’m already excited to do it for season four and we’re only at the ninth episode.
The Rest of the Developments:
I’m pretty sure Andy Richter did this entire episode with his face willfully blurred out so that he could play Emmett. And that's awesome.
Let’s hope that grunting cops reminding Tobias to reveal that he’s a sex offender becomes another running joke. Though, honestly, it’s funny enough that Tobias is a sex offender.
We finally get to see Tobias’ role as Frightened Inmate Number Two as well as the rest of his breathtaking acting reel.
Tobias’ inability to sing along with Argyle is reminiscent when Michael was having trouble singing the Sugarfoot theme song with Cal Cullen (Dick Van Patten) in the second season.
Tobias can’t enter Sudden Valley without calling out to John Beard now.
Tobias and Gob share a meal of Parmesan cheese and yellow mustard, a reference to an earlier episode this season (and a combination that kind of makes me want to vomit).
“Well, it looks like life is going pretty well for both of us…except that I’m broke.” “And I’m a sex offender!”
The music lyrics and choreography of the Fantastic Four musical are done by Anonymous Alcoholic. Or as Tobias likes to call him, “Mr. Cherry.”
Mystery Science Theater 3000 characters are back for Imagine Generic’s Apollo 13.
What the hell is going on with George Michael? Maybe his anti-social media idea taking off.
Who knew that somebody wearing tap dancing shoes could be that intimidating? And what’s up with the gorilla suit?
“The B-word of the C Ward. Or is it the C-word of the B Ward.”
Tobias gets another “good grief” moment – his first since George Sr. faked his death in season two.
I kind of want to try a hat-on haircut now. And call my barber Floyd.
Tobias’ middle name has been revealed! And it’s…Onyango?
Lucille Bluth is a horrible, horrible person.
Who is the mystery man in the sombrero who kicks his way through the Fantastic Four company meeting?
Check what’s written on the dumpster behind DeBrie’s head when she is passed out from pills.
“That red-haired lady can’t throw her wad at that guy” – I guess Tobias spotted Lindsay on the boardwalk.
Will we ever get to see Buster’s side of the story? And will that side of the story include being thrown into the Fantastic Four musical?
Tobias needs to find a way to start identifying boats better. He hopped on the wrong one in the pilot and in the season three finale he booked the Queen Mary thinking it was a nightclub.
As dark as Arrested Development can be at times, the ending of this one with the drug addicts performing their superhero musical is kind of sweet.
Read more Arrested Development recaps here.