If there’s a moral to tonight’s story, it’s this: Never fuck with Malory Archer’s booze.
The elder Archer has been hanging out somewhere at the back of the pack for most of this season, occasionally stepping forward to snipe at Sterling or, uh, coerce a destitute, abandoned newlywed into non-voluntary sex work. But one of the joys of “Comparative Wickedness Of Civilized And Unenlightened Peoples”—one of the most deliriously fun 20 minutes this show has ever put on TV—is the way it gives the entire cast a chance to shine, none more so than when Malory grabs a machine gun and lays waste to an entire German mortar team for daring to smash her gourd of tribal moonshine.
It’s a testament to the quality of work on display here, though, that even the episode’s less exciting half—i.e., the 10 minutes before Fuchs and his Nazi stormtroopers start trying to blow up Archer, Pam, and their team of friendly neighborhood cannibals, the Mua Mua—there’s plenty here to enjoy. We’ve got Pam getting high on frog poison, Archer’s endless translation-based arguments with Noah (a returning David Cross), and, most especially and ecstatically, the reveal that the Mua Mua want to worship Charlotte as a island goddess, a sudden influx of power that seems to transform her into full-on Crazy Cheryl mode in an instant. (God, have I missed Judy Greer’s insane little laughs.)
But once the bombs start falling and the air, in Archer’s words, turns to “like 50 percent metal,” “Comparative Wickedness” picks up an energy and vitality that Archer would have been hard-pressed to match even in its youngest, fittest days. Between Pam’s homemade crossbow, the rise of the Chub Club, and Fuchs’ gradual transformation into a Meth-Hitler Wolfenstein boss, the action doesn’t let up until the bad guys are defeated, and our heroes can sit down to their tasty feast of long pig and human oysters mignonette. (It’s a loan word, as Noah cheerfully points out.)
I tend to think of Archer as a show where the delights are primarily verbal; despite the occasional sight gag, the series tends to mine most of its comedy from its dialogue and its incredibly talented voice cast. But the visual “acting” in tonight’s episode was amazing, especially as the pace picks up near the end, cutting back and forth between the battle, Lana and Charlotte, and Fuchs’ gradual descent into Hitler-aping, Stuka pill-induced madness. The final sequence, especially—which ends in one of my favorite visual beats ever, as one chunky island pre-teen is suddenly joined by a whole squad of dart-wielding huskies—is triumphant in a way Archer often isn’t, and it’s a testament to the show’s animation team that such an ambitious episode concept actually pays off. (It’s worth occasionally dipping back into the show’s earlier episodes and reminding yourself how stiff the animation once was, and how much it’s evolved over the last decade on the air.)
It almost feels like overkill to note that the episode even has time for a little humanity around the edges; the Danger Island version of Archer has always felt a little gentler than the ones who’ve come before—grading on a curve, admittedly—and his moments of fear about leading the Mua Mua to their deaths, and his surprisingly sweet (again, curve!) bonding with Noah about his fear of getting shot are both grounding moments amid the joyful chaos. It’s all going to go to shit next week—now that the Nazis are (mostly) gone, the squabbles about the idol are certain to kick into high gear, so even if the damn thing doesn’t, like, cause the volcano to erupt and kill everybody, I’m still expecting a hefty body count for Danger Island’s finale—but for now, it’s a rare moment of positivity for a show that generally distrusts those things with a vengeance.
- This episode mines a lot of joy and comedy out of Noah’s linguistic nerdery, but none better than this exchange, from when Archer is trying to get the Mua Mua trained: “Will you tell them what a montage is?” “I honestly wouldn’t even know where to start.” “Try Eisenstein, you asshole!”
- Double Frisky Dingo references tonight; not only does Master Coconut come back, but we also get a “What the hell damn guy,” a recurring bit of callback dialogue that’s surfaced on Archer before. (In “Heart Of Archness,” among other places, because that’s the Rosetta Stone for this entire season.)
- I want to reemphasize how great it is to hear Charlotte embrace her inner madness, but in a fun, empowered way. I don’t know that it necessarily justifies all the shit the show put her through earlier in the season, but Judy Greer does haughty, delighted evil so, so well.
- “Budge-up, biggun!”
- “Cannibals don’t only eat people! I’m sure they have side salads!”
- And Cross gives a great read on “I pissed in my pants, man!”
- As does H.Jon Benjamin, as he notes that the Mua Mua aren’t scared because, “There is no way they can possibly imagine the unspeakable things that modern firearms can do to the human body.” Try not to get shot!
- We get one little three-way scene with Pam, Archer, and Crackers tonight, and I love that they mostly spend it arguing about binocular vision (birds don’t have it) and whether Crackers is delicious (probably not).
- Let’s hear it one more time for Chub Club, folks!
- Obscure reference alert: As noted above, Sergei Eistenstein was a pioneer of film and montage, and every Rocky movie owes him a serious debt. Stuka tablets were an actual thing; the Nazi military was a heavy user of amphetamines and meth to increase combat efficacy, and Hitler himself was a serious addict by the time the war was done. Meanwhile, as I noted above, Cyril turning into Hitler and then climbing into a robot feels like a direct homage to the Wolfenstein games (especially given the video game references Archer made earlier in the episode) while also being a callback to Space-Bot from the season 3 finale. And Crackers would like to join the Dead Kennedys in inviting any Nazi punks in the audience to fuck off.
- Aw, Pam finally got to eat a person.
- Amazing animation work on Fuchs’ going completely crazy at the end.
- Line of the episode: Archer, attempting to make the leader of the Mua Mua laugh: “Chief, you are a tough room.” (It’s mostly in Benjamin’s delivery; I love when Archer makes himself laugh.)
- Second place: Archer ruing his training priorities. “I think we maybe could have spent more time practicing actual combat, and a little less making the Nazi logs.”
- All that, and I forgot to mention that this is the 100th episode of Archer. Congratulations you weird, beautiful, hilarious collection of talent.