In many ways, “Filibuster” is standard episode of Archer. It’s cut up into three acts, it digresses beautifully into a discussion of both Star Wars and Judeo-Christian lore, it connects scenes with conversational non sequiturs, and it continues to play with the many hats its characters can play, from secret agents to coke dealers and now to dictators, too.
But in its tone, it’s markedly different. This is a particularly weird, particularly dark episode of Archer, with more consequences for the characters and more concern for, you know, whether or not a warhead filled with nerve gas will kill a bunch of people. After a season of freewheeling debauchery, where even Lana Kane didn’t seem to care much whether or not ISIS was “doing good” anymore, “Filibuster” feels like a course correction for the show, and a bit of a wake-up call for its characters. A lot of cocaine and free time and visits to Central American dictatorships have all together awoken the worst sides of these people, and they’re sort of beginning to get it.
It’s funny—given that Archer turned into Archer Vice this season but is now morphing back into Archer—that Sterling Archer himself starts out in prison at the beginning of the episode. Adam Reed’s scripts always have a lot to read into—and Archer himself is the heart of the show. It’s interesting, that as Archer Vice evolved (and has become, more or less, Archer San Marcos), Archer himself became less and less important to the plot. He’s not a brilliant tactician like Cyril, or a ruthless negotiator like Malory, or a charismatic country singer, or a sexually adventurous hanger-on. He’s a secret agent! He’s always been a secret agent. And he’s so useless in the drug trade (and, honestly, so dangerous to it) that Cyril, our new president-for-life, locks him up in prison. But when shit really hits the fan—as it does, in a way that feels realer than any threat since Archer’s breast cancer—Lana speaks the awful truth. They need Archer. It is Archer time.
“Filibuster” is a filibustering episode, a half-hour of loudly talking to postpone the inevitable. It’s an episode that is moving pieces into place for next week’s season finale—where Archer will turn this gang of incompetent drug dealers back into slightly competent secret agents. There’s a mission (disarm the warhead) and good guys (the CIA is here!) and bad guys (Calderón’s army; also, Cyril) and a plan.
Insofar as unexpected darkness goes, “Filibuster” brings two characters to the forefront that rarely occupy that space, and then throws them into opposition, sort of: Cyril, and Krieger. I think it speaks to the underlying horror of “Filibuster” that it puts nice-guy douchebag Cyril Figgis in a position of absolute power—and puts Krieger in the position of voice of reason and all-around Good Guy.
Cyril has always been “shitty,” as Malory succinctly called him a few weeks ago; it’s profoundly disturbing to see him in the role of president-for-life, because he abuses the hell out of it. He takes to absolute power rather gleefully, imprisoning everyone who annoys him and then eagerly exploiting Calderón’s wife, forcing him to marry her and then mouth-raping her while a crowd of four former co-workers and current thralls offer lukewarm congratulations. “And so, by the power self-vested in me, I now pronounce us man and wife. And I may also kiss the bride.” Malory pronounces it, accurately, the “second-worst wedding ever.” There are elements of humor to the scene—Pam’s digression about “inappropes,” chiefly—but it’s more tragic than comic.
The same goes for the other two major developments of the third act: Krieger, unexpected good guy, first argues with and then kills all three of his clone-brothers, before returning to an ISIS gang that didn’t realize he was even missing. There’s a running gag about bowties, but otherwise the rather brutal death of all three other Kriegers is kind of sad—is that all the family Krieger had? And meanwhile, there’s the tiger: Cherlene, Archer, and Calderón go look at a tiger, and because tigers are vicious carnivores, Calderón ends up eaten. It is pretty hilarious that Archer names the tiger Shane, which immediately prompts Cherlene and Archer to call “Shaaaaaneee” plaintively after the devouring tiger, in homage to the film Shane. But while all three situations are ostensibly kind of funny, at least at first, they all shift into something awful.
Archer has proved itself adept at dismissing serious problems with a shrug and a line of cocaine (or a coca leaf smoothie, today). With the arrival of Agent Hawley and Slater, there’s a clear line for our heroes to clear their names and return to their semi-regular lives. But this time, they might actually carry some scars. And also, a baby? But hopefully not the tiger and the baby.
- Nice callback to Cherlene’s obsession with “doing it on a tiger.” Too bad she forgot the tranquilizers this time.
- In addition to the chemical warhead, Kreiger is not really comfortable with “the clone bone.”
- If I could separate the Star Wars/rabbinical school conversation and give it a separate grade, it would be an A++++++++, along the lines of this.
- “I facetiously beg milady’s pardon.”
- “Oh my god, he’s totally a Shane!”