Lucille Bluth has always been one of the strongest characters on Arrested Development. As the Bluth family’s mean, boozy matriarch, Jessica Walter has consistently stolen nearly every scene she’s been in, but while she’s always good for a laugh, Lucille’s never been the most three-dimensional. It’s probably why she’s one of the handful of characters to only receive one episode centered around them this season—and perhaps why she gets fleshed out a little bit towards the end.
“Queen B.,” or Lucille’s Arrested Development, opens with a clip of The Real Asian Prison Housewives of the Orange County White Collar Prison System. The show (which I’m surprised isn’t already actually airing on the Bravo network) chronicles the Jade Dragon triad—Noh, Olive and Mrs. Oh—as they butt heads with the newest member of their gang, Lucille. “Anyone who comes after me is gonna be one unfortunate cookie,” she says, before cracking herself up and pointing out her pun. From there, we flash back to her pirating of the Queen Mary, and it’s revealed she turned the boat around to give Lucille Austero the finger. Her alibi is that Buster fell off the boat and she turned it around to save his life.
As she awaits her trial under house arrest, she and Buster hit a few rough patches. He delivers her toast with hook holes in it and threatens himself with “it sure would be a shame if something were to happen to your pretty little key witness,” and Lucille remains her normal, domineering self. On the eve of her trial, she goes to grab a few of her possessions in case things don’t turn out in her favor, and she discovers her family’s been labeling her stuff so they can divvy it up when she’s gone. The family’s all absent for the trial as well, and Lucille 2 is the only witness to show up. Of course, her questioning quickly devolves into a hilarious argument with Lucille 1, and Lucille 1 finds herself facing three-to-five years behind bars at a country club prison.
It’s there that she convinces the Chinese (specifically, Olive Garden, a member of her new gang) to foot the bill for the wall on the border. But after an assassination attempt involving a sharpened package of uncooked ramen (which she escapes by flinging hot water on it), Lucille agrees to check into Austerity—the rehab clinic owned by Lucille 2 where Tobias is currently serving out his court-ordered work release program as a therapist.
She resists at first, of course, but eventually a few breakthroughs are made and Lucille gets a little more depth as a character. She overhears Tobias say “this woman is a villain” in reference to Lucia, a character in his Fantastic Four musical, and she assumes he’s talking about her. “You think I’m a villain too?” she snaps. “My children are all waiting for me to die so they can divvy up my stuff, my Chinese gangmates were getting ready to noodle-stab me, and even one of the guards called me ‘Gangy’ and he was talking about that monster movie! He thinks that horrible monster looks like me, so fine, you want to call me a villain, I accept it. I’m your villain.” She’s on the verge of self-discovery, about to cry for the first time in 60 years, but Tobias cluelessly shuts her down with more talk of his play, and when he reveals it’ll be taking place on a boat at Cinco de Cuatro, Lucille reverts to her old, conniving ways and agrees to be in the play so she can take to the sea with George Sr.
At Cinco, she discovers Oscar has been filling in for George Sr. on their visits and, upset, she tells George Sr. they’re getting a real divorce. Then insult gets added to injury when she uncovers that Oscar has been with Lucille 2 as well. She finally runs into Tobias, who tells her “You are not the villain. Those days are over. What you are is the Invisible Girl. You make it impossible for people to see you in order for you to protect yourself.” He’s talking, of course, about his play, but she assumes he’s speaking as her therapist and describing the defense mechanisms she uses to push away anyone who attempts to get close to her. She has an epiphany and decides to go back to rehab, declaring “I just have to make one little quick stop first” and disappearing into the crowd before we end on a shot of the blood-stained steps of the stair-car and the narrator’s assertion that “perhaps ironically, it was also the night that Lucille 2 became the invisible girl.”
Who made Lucille 2 disappear? Did Lucille 1 decide to go full-on villain after all? That remains to be seen, but I’m betting no—she’s already (sort of) done her time, and it doesn’t make sense after her big breakthrough. Perhaps next time we see the Bluths, someone else in the family will be awaiting trial?
- “She stole the Queen Mary to get away from the SEC. Oh, and she winked. Correction: it’s a glare.”
- “I got Olive Garden to offer us unlimited bread.”
- “I like the plan, I just wonder if we’re not in that treason-adjacent place where the government will retaliate and execute us.”
- Worth noting that Lucille’s prison number is 07734, which is “HELLO” upside-down and backwards. Annyong!
- “That suit looks very hetero on you.” “Well, thank you! You look very hetero as well.”
- Lucille looks at an ostrich piñata during her revelation about being the Invisible Girl instead of the villain.
- Of all the running jokes in the series, Lucille Bluth reacting to Gene Parmesan coming out of hiding might be my favorite.
- I really hope the Arrested Development movie is a Clue-style whodunit to determine who killed Lucille 2.