Maybe it’s just the fact that Archer has been on such an insanely hot streak, but tonight’s episode, while filled with solid jokes and some interesting moments, was probably my least favorite of the season so far. I’m never as big a fan of the episodes where Archer and the gang go on some mission in another country as many of you are. I didn’t much like “Swiss Miss,” and I seem to be the only person on Earth who continues to find “Skytanic” one of the series’ weaker episodes. (I know, I know. I don’t know what I’m talking about, and I should be burned at the stake.) I think that what I most respond to in the show is the character gags and the office comedy, while I find the spy spoof stuff pleasant enough but rarely the reason I check an episode out.
Let’s start with the best thing about tonight’s episode: It built to a pretty great climax. The endings of various episodes this season have been the places where the show has fallen down a bit when it has fallen down, but you couldn’t say that about this one. There was a genuine, action-packed climax, involving Archer, Lana, and Gillette commandeering Formula 1 cars and joining the Monaco Grand Prix, then leaving the course to dodge traffic along other streets, before the episode’s villain fired upon them from a helicopter. There was some great dialogue throughout, like Gillette coming up with an excuse to abandon the pursuit or Archer explaining that YEAH, he KNOWS about his surroundings, because of SITUATIONAL AWARENESS, and the car chase was pretty exciting, as far as animated car chases go. It was probably my favorite action sequence of the season, and combined with the resolution of the (very minor) ISIS storyline, it sent the episode out on a high note.
On the other hand, much of the fun this season has been in getting to see the various ISIS characters bounce off of each other, and that fell by the wayside tonight, as the ensemble was very clearly divided into an A-story and a B-story, with the B-story barely getting any screen time at all. While Archer, Malory, Lana, and Gillette were fighting their way around Monaco, everybody else was back at the office, having realized that Malory had emptied their 401K accounts to have the $4 million she needed to pay off the bad guy to get her sex tape back. There was potential here—it’s always fun to see these people try to cope in a crisis, and I always enjoy a visit to the Krieger lab—but so little time was spent on any of it that it almost felt as if the episode would have been better off sticking with the Monaco storyline.
Unfortunately, the Monaco storyline didn’t really get going until that last act. There were some clever ideas here, like Archer having no idea what bearer bonds are and getting sucked in by gambling, and I liked the basic plot of the characters talking about breaking into the casino to get the money back before realizing that Benoit had already gone after the money himself (thus leading to the car chase). But there was plenty of stuff here that felt like it was on autopilot. Archer being an ass is the center of the show, sure, but the episode got less mileage out of the constant returns to him being unable to say “Benoit” without appending the word “Balls” to the end. It just stayed stuck in neutral, on the same joke over and over. (A better running gag was both Archer and Malory remembering the ill-fated Halloween when he “dressed as Hitler.”)
However, the episode did get better as it went along. I found the first act very dry, but it started to pick up in act two (when the characters launched their scheme to get the money back and everyone back at ISIS started figuring out how they might get that money back), and the third act, of course, was fairly good. I also liked all of the little callbacks to previous episodes, like the fact that the show remembers that, hey, Archer has those two tattoos on either shoulder or Pam’s continued jealousy over Cheryl’s obscene wealth. I certainly didn’t have a bad time watching this episode, but I didn’t laugh nearly as much as I did at many of the other episodes this season.
Again, though, part of this has to do with the fact that I’m just less excited by the spy spoof episodes than many of the show’s other viewers are. (And as a show that blends a whole bunch of elements for a whole bunch of audiences, it has to service all of them over the course of the season, which means not every episode is going to be right down the middle for me.) The last few episodes have been so strong, too, that even the slightest of letdowns probably feels like a bigger step down than it actually is. There’s nothing outright terrible here, but there was too little of the crazy chaos around the edges that marks the best episodes of this show.
- Every so often, I talk about the “writers” on this show, without actually realizing that the show doesn’t appear to have writer producers in addition to Adam Reed. And I am now reliably informed by folks who would know that, yeah, Reed writes every word of every script. Guy must be exhausted, though it accounts for why the show has such a distinct and recognizable voice.
- There was something quite amusing about just seeing Gillette in Malory’s outfit and his simultaneous comfort and disgust at wearing the thing.
- I liked the ludicrousness of the car flying up into the air and hitting the helicopter after hitting the ramp. Didn’t they do something similar in the last (weakest) Die Hard film?
- I could have spent an entire episode watching Pam, Cheryl, Cyril, and Krieger try to sell off the various items around the ISIS offices to the fencers, which may account for some of my disappointment.
- Archer’s descent into gambling addiction was also pretty funny, particularly his call for gummy bears all around.
- It's really too bad I didn't have a screener so I could make a screencap of Malory and Archer's Chaplin/Elvira holiday.
- Speaking of which, it looks like the next few episodes won't have screeners either, so you should expect these a little later than they have been.
- "Where's the other one? Greasing up in the bathroom?"
- "Sorry. Sorry. I was laughing at your name."
- "As thick as possible while still being swan-shape-foldable."
- "I must go find fresh towels and a whore."
- "Pretty dumb taking a bath with it."
- "Not many women could bring me to orgasm in front of my mother. I don't think."
- "Shit snack and crackers."
- "Gummy bears all around!"
- "Let's play some goddamn cards!"
- "And now all the candy is mother's cuz cry baby hit on 17 again. Like an idiot."
- "Why was I dressed as Hitler?"
- "Can't play cards. Can't drink."
- "I mean not without my turtleneck, but still…"
- "And dickbrain's here."
- "Well wait, he is a duke."
- "Allegedly disgusting, although… probably disgusting."
- "Can you not rub your dick in my mother's pantyhose, please?"
- "There's a zoo here?"
- "And some blow jobs! I mean printers."
- "This might be hard to drive with such a huge, throbbing erection."
- "I am getting off. I love this."
- "Just must be out of… carburetor."
- "There's this new thing called situational awareness?"
- "I'm not the one who was handing out blow jobs like puffy stickers."
- "Plus I gave 'em all my stickers."