B+

Archer: "The Rock"

B+

Archer

"The Rock"

Season 1, Episode 8

Before we begin in earnest, I find it necessary to point out that, against all odds, FX has picked up Archer for a second season. Since you comments section folk have reliably informed me that the second season is when Adam Reed shows really start to cook and since I'm already really enjoying this show, I will await it with eager anticipation. I'm glad that FX - which has been having some problems with critically acclaimed but lowly rated shows like Damages - is using all of that Sons of Anarchy cash they have sloshing around to support terrific little shows like this one. Let's hope that season two is somehow ready to debut with It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia in the fall, though I know that will never happen (not because I think FX has it out for the show but because I'm pretty sure there's not enough time between now and then to get a full second season together).

And, cherry on top, "The Rock" is another very funny episode of this show, and one that continues the sort of complicated plotting and building of character webs that the show was up to before the unfortunate hiccup of "Skytanic." The more I watch Archer, the more I realize that the relationships between Archer and Lana and Archer and his mom are the more sellable aspects of the show, but what's getting me into the show are the moments back at the office. I think this is rather similar to how The Office gradually expanded past its central foursome to create an entire ensemble of players around the edges of the series that made for a livelier world. And while Archer isn't quite to that point just yet, it's done a terrific job of setting up big players like Krieger or "Bilbo," even as it's playing up the supporting players in the office, like Cheryl/Carol and Cyril.

Tonight's episode takes another pretty old sitcom plot device - the workers at the crazy workplace decide to go on strike because of a variety of issues, some serious and some not - and makes hay out of it. Something about taking these old plots and tossing them in the middle of the spy world Archer takes place in makes them two degrees weirder and several degrees more interesting than they would be in and of themselves. The best thing about using these plots is the fact that Archer manages to find ways to work out just how standard office politics and plotlines might intersect with the world of spycraft. Sure, it's funny when the office workers are marching outside of ISIS, but it's even funnier when everyone thinks they're picketing the non-descript cleaners that takes up the first floor of the building. Even in a time when they feel grievously mistreated, the workers of ISIS know that the mission must remain top secret. Hence, incredibly vague signage.

At the same time that everyone was going on strike, Archer and Lana were supposedly finding the flaws in the security of the nation of San Marino. In actuality, Malory just wanted a big ass diamond that was in a building there. (At times, it seemed as if the show was portraying San Marino as consisting entirely of that one building. And while that was funny, I'm not sure the joke came across as well as it should have if that was, indeed, the intent.) Naturally, it's always fun to see Archer and Lana getting on each other's nerves, and watching the two of them prepare for the mission without the help of the office staff was hilarious, especially Archer showing up holding two shovels and wearing night-vision goggles. (Also choice was that early series of gags as the two infiltrated the building, Archer constantly shushing Lana, Lana giving him the finger and then Archer's phone going off and playing a song I couldn't quite pick out but that seemed to be incredibly irritating.)

Again, the episode made great use of pinging between storylines via editing, so one joke would fill in as a punchline for a setup in another storyline entirely. The central emotional conflict, as it were, involved Cyril having purchased a rather puny engagement ring to give to Lana. When Pam made fun of him over it, he started agitating for more in the way of salary (including a rather lengthy diatribe against his father), and that led to the strike. But what's great about this is the way that the storyline keeps turning the screws on Cyril, who's unable to deal with the fact that he's managed to become Carol/Cheryl's lover as well. (Naturally, the show lets him out of this rather easily, since she's got a thing for Krieger by episode's end, but maybe that will revert in the next few episodes.)

Even better are all of the jokes the episode makes involving some of the other staffers. Someone said in the comments for "Skytanic" that you can tell how good an episode of the show is based on just how much Krieger is in that episode, and I don't know that they're wrong. There's something just so batshit about Krieger, something that keeps the show from becoming too predictable. It's too easy to say that every show like this needs a mad scientist type, but Krieger brings a great energy to his scenes. It's as if someone crossed the standard character of the underappreciated office nerd tech with Walter Bishop from Fringe, and it's becoming one of my favorite things on this show.

At times, I sort of feel like you guys and I are the only people watching this show, and I'm hopeful that the masses who aren't making it a big hit catch up on DVD before season two, because this is a show that's really starting to figure out just what makes it work and just what makes for a good episode of the show. It's a series that is starting to build up a whole world full of interesting characters and fun plots that it's paying off all over the place. (Witness, for example, the return of Jeffrey Tambor, which mostly just seemed to happen so we'd remember his character exists.) I don't know what I'd say to someone who's not watching Archer to get them to watch it (beyond, "It's really funny!" I guess), but this is a show that all serious TV fans should get on board with and as soon as possible.

Stray observations:

  • "You gotta slap her in the diaphragm with a forearm shiver."
  • "Houdini died of AIDS."
  • "Just one of, like, two-dozen equally appalling videos on your Web site."
  • "Are you just hitting random keys?" "Well, obviously!"
  • "Lana, they're called little people, not hobbits."
  • "He's a hobbit enthusiast!"
  • "Ha! How's that for bread and roses?"
  • "So I say ... no union." "Yes! Confederacy forever!"
  • "Thinking goggles, yes ... shovels, don't know how or why we'd use 'em."
  • "We're out there risking our lives every many of the days!"
  • "And I love that I have an erection that doesn't involve homeless people."
  • "You're cool with Krieger shuckin' your sidecorn?"
  • "No! Carry me, monster hands!"
  • "And you can have your dick son back."
  • "Cyril, you can't put a price on good pussy."

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