Arrested Development: 4.12 “Señoritis”
Posted by therebelprince on June 8, 2013
Today, Arrested Development knocks one out of the park, with the best look yet at Maeby Fünke. Not to mention answering that lingering question of what Mort Meyers has been up to in the last five years…
“Gotta tell you, I think movies are dead. Maybe it’s a TV show.” — Maeby Fünke
Please note this review contains spoilers for the entire fourth season of the series.
As usual, I’ll take a look at the episode, followed by some callbacks, random musings, and the new evidence in the Who [bleeped] [bleep] mystery.
written by Jim Brandon & Brian Singleton
directed by Mitch Hurwitz & Troy Miller
Where Lucille and George Bluth’s children took on their parents’ cluelessness and self-absorption, Maeby took after her grandparents in other ways. Like Lucille, she’s canny and often three steps ahead of her competitors. Like George, one gets the feeling she could crawl out of any hole but would probably need someone else to handle the finances. For a season that is overall about people choosing between right and wrong, Maeby’s story has a slightly different ring to it: she’s a rare example of someone who knows full well the difference between her options, but still takes the easy way out.
On first view, we’ve now seen seven of the nine Bluth stories, and enough of George Michael’s to have some idea of what’s going on. As a result, Señoritis is able to spin Maeby between the characters and circumstances like a pinball, giving the youngest Bluth a crash course in family ethics leading up to that fateful night of Cinco de Cuatro. The basic beats of her story are unsurprising: after a quick jaunt to India (in which she turns out to be the Shaman at the Four Seasons, an incredible surprise I never saw coming), Maeby finds herself out of a job due to her ironic lack of a highschool diploma. So she spends (most) of the next five years slacking off at school, realising she can get by living in various Bluth-owned buildings and making up increasingly referential names for herself. (From Maeby Finke, she becomes Maeby Featherbottom, and then Maeby Flunke.) Abandoned by her parents not once, but twice, Maeby ekes out her own existence until she is finally reunited with George Michael about six months before the present day.
There are comparatively few surprises in the telling of this tale, but Señoritis is one of the slickest half-hours of the season, capping off a run of my four favourite episodes from the bunch. It’s an episode that treats the series’ overall continuity with reverence, while also telling a flawless character tale about who Maeby is, where she comes from, and the choices she happens to make five years on. Unlike George Michael, whose awkwardness seems to come primarily from overparenting, Maeby has taught herself life from the word go. Her reaction to losing both parents to India in a single day is one of mere resignation (as it has been time and time again in the original series), but Señoritis doubles down on this. Alia Shawkat perfectly plays the moment of self-doubt – buried as it is under the Hollywood-class Shaman makeup – that perhaps ultimately turns her against any kind of meaningful relationship with these people. After Tobias packs up and moves out with DeBrie, he and Maeby are completely estranged for the remainder of the season, but her relationship with Lindsay is far more complex. Their confrontation outside the Opie Awards – and inside, for that matter – is a wonderful example of the two characters trying and failing to connect for the simple reason that they’ve allowed the space between to overcome them. It shouldn’t be any surprise, therefore, when Maeby chooses to prostitute her mother out to Herbert Love (unknowingly, of course), unwittingly causing her mother to end up running for Congress against… as it turns out, her greatest rival Sally Sitwell.
(The almost unbearably perfect set of circumstances that lead to the above are just a few of the many things I adore about this season’s construction. Perhaps the greatest fear among a certain type of Arrested Development fan was that the series would step heavily onto the callback pedal, making this entire season just an indulgence for longtime fans. While it’s clear that this wasn’t the case, I think references get a bad name for no reason. They unify the show’s world, creating a piece that rewards repeated viewing and fan engagement, and also create the sense that these characters, their familial relationships, and the city they inhabit really do exist. By my reckoning, for every overt Blue Man or Steve Holt! reference this season, many, many more have been hidden away under a layer or ten. Numerous variations on “no touching”, the floor levels at Imagine being a 90-degree reminder of the Lucille/Lucille apartment war, the way that GOB is again responsible for having unconscious people in the back of his limo… tropes recur and cycle in on each other in increasingly vague ways, and I like that. Even within this season as a whole, the external circumstances that lead Maeby from her mansion to the penthouse to the model home to living with her family again are worth exhaustive research.)
It seems that Maeby will use anyone and anything to her advantage. She seems to have a genuine fondness for Mort Meyers (currently selling his own internet start-up, Schnoodle) and perhaps George Michael, but this is a girl who’s spent years literally regressing in the role of a high school senior. At the opposite extreme as Lucille (who has turned down the moral choice ever since she met George, Sr. at that Klimpy’s), Maeby is too young to have really been offered the choice between reality and fantasy life, but sadly she’s someone who has been living both a figurative fantasy life with her two vain, deluded parents, and a literal fantasy life on the Tantamount film lot. We shouldn’t be surprised, then, that Maeby is more like her parents than she realises. When Maeby finally rejects the film industry, she does so only after it has rejected her, in a fit of pique that evokes her father’s reactionary ways. When she steamrolls over George Michael’s FakeBlock business (which should be clear by now, even to a first-time viewer, doesn’t really exist), Maeby is just mimicking her grandmother and mother.
All of which leads us to Perfecto Telles. The rumours that there’s an undercover cop at school have Maeby unnerved, and when she grows suspicious of Perfecto, he soon confirms it. He’s a cute kid with a clear passion for Disney Channel TV shows, but there’s just enough evidence to suggest Maeby might be correct. When she schemes to get blackmail material by posing as a 17-year-old and sleeping with him, Maeby can have no idea just how terribly it may turn out. Lucille Austero – Perfecto’s foster mother – witnesses the interaction, and the young couple soon learn that Maeby’s the sex offender while Perfecto’s the kid. Eli Vargas, while we’re talking about it, is just great as young Telles, and I hope he plays into things again in the future. Did Maeby or Perfecto cause the disappearance of Lucille 2, which now appears to actually be a murder? That meaty bit of plot is put on hold while we reach the logical end of Maeby’s season four character arc. As with GOB’s roofie cycle, Maeby’s development has been caught in a holding pattern for the last five years, and she ends the season literally arrested. Like most of the characters (excepting George Michael, who ends the season pondering it, and Buster, who isn’t quite evolved enough to ask), she has to make that choice between self-analysis and blithe acceptance. In Maeby’s case, she doesn’t even let the narrator finish the question.
Thoughts and musings:
- My favourite joke of the season remains Sally Sitwell’s alopecia, but Michael Cera has a lot of fun with his revelation that George Michael has never met Lucille 2. It’s a bizarre and absorbing bit of original series trivia that is played so archly it’s almost ridiculous, but I love it as much as the Austeros love ham.
- I enjoy the increasingly blasé attitude of Ron Howard’s narrator, from back when he was pretty straight-and-narrow in season one. Here, the narrator openly admits that he didn’t fill us in on George Michael’s lack of kissing prowess. (Although, Maeby is unaware of what he learned in Spain last summer.)
- Another reality show is being filmed in Maeby’s algebra class back in 2007.
- SHOWSTEALER PRO TRIAL pops up with a warning this time: “you have one use left before free trial expires”.
- Where is Tobias’ “fallacy” song from? “It’s from nothing”, says Maeby.
- Maeby’s opening credits are dominated by her scatting.
- The ever-welcome Christine Dunford makes a brief appearance as Maeby’s producer, Lynda.
- “Please don’t squeeze the Shaman.”
- At non-Thanksgiving dinner, the Fünke family settle in to watch my favourite reality TV show out of the multitude mentioned in season 4: Babies Having Babies.
- This episode features the entire cast, although some for only mere moments. It also reveals to us that Maeby was at the family meeting, a fact that has been deliberately hidden from us in previous episodes.
- Not having the internet is “like living in 1999”.
- That’s apparently Keri Russell as the widow Carr on the Fünke answering machine.
- Jordan Black, Community‘s Dean Spreck, pops up in a minor-but-crucial role as the bartender near Maeby’s school.
- Mort passed on The Hunger Games and got fired from the studio. His exit was graceful but his return? Pretty…pretty bad.
- By Rebel’s estimate, deactivating your Facebook page is tough: “it’s easier to get out of Scientology”. (I like that gag because you feel as if any sitcom hack could write the words, but its use here has equal relevance to all the characters in the scene.)
- Speaking of Rebel, it should be noted that George Michael met her first.
- Some great jokes at the Opies. “Thankyou, Kirk Cameron, for that incredibly bible-y introduction.” I particularly enjoy Maeby’s jaded, “I have to go talk to a bunch of thirteen year olds who think they can still play fifth grade.”
- Michael gets Maeby’s rights to the film, after another lengthy discussion of how the voting bloc scenario should have worked. Of course, within minutes, he’ll be kicking the whole family out of the movie.
- And finally, Sally remarks that the outline of Lucille 2’s body is “the way she usually falls”, a reference to Liza Minnelli’s famous poster for Liza with a Z.
- The out-of-order Barry Zuckerkorn arc culminates here, when we see him in the act of a crime which he prepared in Double Crossers and for which he was tried in The B. Team.
- With both Perfecto and P-Hound falling for Maeby, she sure seems to be developing a pattern of young, non-white men developing serious infatuations.
- Turns out it was Maeby and George Michael coughing at the marina, in the hopes of getting some attention from their parents.
- Maeby will utilise 10,000 extras. “That way we’ll have them.”
- Among Maeby’s yearbook quotes: “Life is a roofie circle” and, from her British character, “I love you Americans. You’re all such wonderful pussies!”
- FakeBlock is now a hypothetical buy. And Jim Cranmer has a cameo in Gangie 4: Facelift.
- Like her grandfather, Maeby doesn’t know how to tip, particularly when it comes to African-Americans. She just gives out stock options.
- HOME RUN!
- Andy Richter takes on the increasingly unusual activities of his quintuplets. This time, Rocky is undercover posing as his own brother Donnie. (Given Rocky also spends time posing as Andy at exclusive clubs, you’ve gotta wonder how many issues that guy is developing.)
Who killed Lucille 2?
There’s some neat misdirection early in the episode, when Perfecto makes up a story about drug kingpins at Cinco, but even with that resolved, this episode offers up many clues.
#1. Michael Bluth – owed Lucille 2 $700,000. [seems unlikely since he intended to [bleep] his way out of the problem on Cinco de Mayo]
#2. Stan Sitwell – sold his shares to Lucille 2 and has a lot at stake against both the Wall, and the Austero-Bluth company.
#3. Lucille Bluth – leading proponent of the wall Lucille 2 is fighting against and suggests in Double Crossers that something might just happen to her rival. Also seems mighty convinced Lindsay really is a Bluth after all. Realised her second love, Oscar, had been stolen by her rival, and pledged to “pay [Lucille 2] back once and for all”.
#4. George Bluth, Sr. – puppet of #3.
#5. Heartfire – potential puppet of #4.
#6. Oscar Bluth – had an affair with Lucille 2 and clearly wanted to keep it quiet. He also spent part of the night making out with her by the staircar.
#7. China Garden – slept with Oscar, and seems like the possessive type.
#8. Tobias Fünke – only has til Monday to come up with the funds for his musical extravaganza. He can’t go back to prison.
#9. DeBrie Bardeaux – a meth addict who we know will end up at Cinco de Cuatro, and whose current state received no kind words from Lucille 2.
#10. Cindy the Ostrich – maybe the late Lucille did a chicken dance of her own…
#11. Byron “Buster” Bluth – clearly susceptible to his mother’s wishes, one of which primarily includes defeating Lucille 2. (He’s also a guy with some serious issues controlling his appendages.)
#12. George Oscar “GOB” Bluth II – the new President of the Bluth Company, destined now to share his parents’ rivals. He may have suspected Lucille 2 of sabotaging his Christian illusion.
#13. Marky Bark – sure, his main beef is with Herbert Love (and the guy has face blindness, not colour blindness), but Marky insists Lucille Austero is part of the problem as well.
#14. Herbert Love – clearly has no morals, may know about the compromising photographs, and will do anything to win. He went missing on the same night as Lucille. (cue Indian singing voice) Coincidence?
#15. Lindsay Bluth Fünke – now aware that Lucille has compromising photos of her, and needs to do anything she can to sabotage a rival. And is Lucille 2 her real mother?
#16. David the campaign strategist – would presumably do anything for his boss, as evidenced by his “giant!” snipe.
#17. Argyle Austero – no clear motivation, except Lucille may have blamed him for the failure of Fantastic Four: The Musical. But we’ve seen him kick, and it looks dangerous.
#18. Sally Sitwell – stole $100,000 from Lucille 2. Wanted to run for politics herself.
#19. Tony Wonder – he’ll do anything to save his career, and he and Sally have a lot of dark deeds going on.
#20. Pastor and Mrs. Veal – may have suspected that someone in the Austero camp ruined their daughter’s wedding, leaving her pregnant and unmarried.
#21. George Michael Bluth – it’s a long shot, but he may have been bitter that Lucille 2 took his car (the very car on which she was murdered). And she was bankrolling what was ultimately a non-existent business. (And was George Michael lying about having never met Lucille 2?)
#22. Maeby Fünke – a new business partner for an unstable venture, and now at risk of being caught out as a sex offender.
#23. Perfecto Telles – possibly protecting Maeby, since we’ve seen in the case of Herbert Love that he’ll use violence (or have others use violence) when need be.
On the next Arrested Development: George Michael and Becky and Ray! Oh my!