B-

Archer: "Skytanic"

B-

Archer

"Skytanic"

Season 1, Episode 7

I wasn't really feeling "Skytanic" for a good portion of its running time. There were some funny lines, and I always like blimp humor, but the episode itself just wasn't cohering quite like I would have liked. Particularly since this Entertainment Weekly item pointed out that this show is not likely long for this world, I was really wanting the last handful of episodes to be as awesome and on-point as this show can be. And, instead, I was getting lots of disconnected adventures on a blimp that felt, at their worst, like Archer Mad-Libs, as though the writers knew they needed to have Malory act lustful and have Archer act like an asshole and so on and so on.

But, I mean, I was laughing at it, so it wasn't like I wasn't enjoying it or anything like that. It just seemed a step below last week's truly terrific installment, and I was ready to mostly write this one off as fun for fans of the show but not really a great episode of television overall. These things happen, sometimes, and it's better to just roll with it, especially when you've got a low-rated cult show on your hands, the sort of thing that will almost certainly attract most of its following six years from now on DVD, when it's rediscovered by the Internet as a show ahead of its time (or something).

But then arrived the last act, and it was so good that it almost brought the entire episode up a few grade points. Archer functions best when it's creating a rolling calamity, the sort of thing where mishap begets mishap begets Archer getting shot in the foot. "Skytanic" hadn't worked up until this point because, well, it was a bunch of disconnected adventures on a blimp, not a tightly plotted little affair like so many of these episodes are. I initially liked the idea that all of the people from the ISIS office would be on the blimp with Archer, Malory and Lana, but the show didn't really do anything with it, mostly keeping the office folk in their own plotline while the others dealt with spy stuff.

So, instead, the episode just went full steam ahead with the bomb plot as its climax, and that ended up being the episode's saving grace. Lana and Archer put in a call to what amounted to the ISIS help desk, trying to figure out how to disarm the bomb, and things went from bad to worse to catastrophic quickly and hilariously. (Favorite part: Archer explaining that what he actually meant was "M" as in "mancy," not "N" as in "Nancy.") Why, Cyril even showed up at the end to help Lana get the bomb out of the blimp before it blew up and took everyone down with it. This entire final act is a perfect example of what Archer does at its best, and if I were looking to convert any friends who might be fans of the show into actual fans of the show, I'd probably start by showing them this one sequence.

I talked a little in previous weeks about how much Archer relies on the sheer rhythm and patter of verbal comedy. It's surprisingly similar to radio comedy in that regard. And this sequence, despite the fact that it involves a bomb ticking away to an explosion, is a perfect example of how the show uses that verbal energy to tell its stories. Most animated shows - even more minimally animated ones like the Fox animated bloc - use lots and lots of bright, colorful pictures or big, exciting movement to send the stories over the top. Archer has action sequences, but they're usually pretty spare. No, everything here relies on good dialogue, snappy delivery and interesting concepts for scenes that are both immediately recognizable enough (the better to do goofy spins on them) and simultaneously novel enough to not seem boring. The bomb sequence was all of these things.

The rest of the episode was ... less so in this regard. Most of the jokes in the episode pretty much boiled down to, "Hey, we're on a blimp! Isn't that novel?" While I like this sort of faded glory and Americana type of storyline, the show never really did anything with the blimp beyond the idea that it was an inefficient method of travel. And I suspect that Archer's constant fear that the blimp was going to explode like the Hindenburg was supposed to be funnier than it was, one of those gags that stops being funny and then comes around to being funny again. Instead, it never really made the leap to funny in the first place, as if it got too bogged down in the mechanics of hydrogen being flammable and helium not being so or something.

While Lana and Archer were off looking for the bomb that turned out to be fake before turning out to be real (and Archer's constant profiling of possible bomb suspects was funny), Cyril, Pam and Carol/Cheryl were off in a storyline that played off of Cyril and Carol/Cheryl's hookup in last week's episode. It sort of seemed like Archer was going for some sort of crazy sex farce here, where the various partners all kept running into each other. I'm not a big fan of sex farce, but I would have liked to have seen this show's take on it. Instead, the episode mostly couldn't figure out what to do with Cheryl/Carol and Pam, relegating them to a B-plot that barely deserves the name B-plot and sending Cyril running all over the ship but not giving him much to do.

Again, this wasn't a terrible episode or anything, but it very much had the feel of the wheels spinning in place while everyone's waiting to get somewhere. I was excited last week that Archer seemed like it was going to start paying off some of its character interplay with continuing storylines. But along with continuing storylines, you eventually end up with episodes where nothing happens by necessity. This was one of those episodes, and it felt like a waste of both the show's interesting characters and an intriguing setting. Still, a nice ending, and that saves it from falling to a C.

Stray observations:

  • Yes, the ratings for this look pretty grim. I'm in for a penny, in for a pound at this point and will ride out the rest of the season, but you might want to start saying your goodbyes or sending FX wildly improbable tchotchkes in an attempt to bring it back.
  • "Were you watching some other blimp commercial just now?"
  • "Well, I don't normally fly on the Hindenburg 2.0."
  • "I, uh, see ... here's the thing ... fruit basket!"
  • "If anything went wrong on this flight, he'd lose millions." "It's the perfect cover."
  • "Hello, airplanes? Yeah, it's blimps. You win!"
  • "Did I interrupt something?" "Uh, rehearsal with your Commodores tribute band?"
  • "Apparently, you're showing off your veal-y vulva."
  • "Guy sees an empty glass, and all of a sudden, he's Judge Crater."
  • "Bombs. Bombers. Vulvas. You people are just ruining my trip."
  • "Apparently not, so ... good news."
  • "I'm Trudy Beekman. I'm on the co-op board, and I'm going on a blimp. MYEH!"
  • "Captain Lammers!" "Nice read, Velma."
  • "Well, obviously, the core concept. I mean I didn't go to space camp."
  • "Why do you always not shut up?"
  • "B as in butthole. And M as in 'mancy.'"
  • "Hooray for metaphors!"