Archer 5×13 ‘Arrivals / Departures’: Vice No More

Archer

As a CIA-ordered airstrike of San Marcos looms, Lana prepares to deliver her baby, and all is revealed regarding the father of little Aubergine (Spelling? “Abbiejean”? “Abigene”? It’s not made clear.) and the origin of the metric ton of cocaine. It’s last call on this brave but unusual season of Archer, after the jump.

Lot to talk about in this episode. This was inarguably a satisfying finale. It tied up loose ends, closed out the season on a high note, and had some great character moments. It brought our characters back to where they started at the end of season 4, with the exception that now Lana and Archer are parents. I’ve no doubt that will color the proceedings going forward. It would be really interesting to go back and see whether the explanation for the cocaine and Archer’s involvement holds up. On first blush, it seems like there would be some major holes in it. It’s also never made clear why the CIA used ISIS to monetize the cocaine at all, but I suppose that was all part of the nonsensical circuitousness of the CIA plot.

Now, the question that it’s taken an entire season to answer: was Archer Vice a good idea by Adam Reed and the writers? At the beginning of the season, I anticipated perhaps a more “fun” set of episodes. What I mean by that is a lighter, less bogged-down affair. Sure, we’re talking about the ISIS crew selling cocaine – not the brightest of topics. But even the little preview/trailer sequence in Archer’s mind at the end of the premiere seemed to promise an over-the-top plot that is somehow different in tone when shown over the course of 12 episodes. Instead of over-the-top, we got a lot of “bottle” episodes – the crew trying to keep Holly away from the cocaine early on, or running around the San Marcos palace like headless chickens closer to the end – that put a damper on the proceedings. The spy missions themselves have always taken a backseat to absurdity on Archer. The missions were the means and Archer’s crazy one-liners and running gags were the ends. In contrast, the “missions” in this season, and the necessity of moving the plot arc along by episode’s end, seemed to take precedence over the comedy. There are absolutely funny moments, don’t get me wrong, but like a too-dry martini that Malory might drink, the standard Archer plot/comedy ratio was off.

Beyond that, it’s not terribly fun to watch our heroes fail slowly over the course of the season and then finally succeed at the very very end. It’s also definitely no fun to watch the generally strong female protagonist cast sit at home waiting for the men to return, as I noted in my “Rules of Extraction” review. Pam’s continuous cocaine addiction, while more bearable once the actual cocaine was lost or obliterated by Krieger, grated on me for much of the 13-episode arc.

Archer

Source: FX

Of course, your mileage may vary, but I see those aspects as major flaws in this season that hindered my enjoyment. To me, Archer simply may not be a hard-serialized kind of show at its core. And the (presumed) reset back to pure spy comedy is a relief for me. Archer Vice may or may not have been a misstep by Reed, but continuing this plotline another season definitely would have been a disaster for the show.

At the end of the day, however, I’m glad the writers attempted a season outside of ISIS. Even though I can’t say their plotting choices work for me, it was a bold move to shake up the show as it ages and elements begin to repeat themselves by necessity (more than they already do in the form of running jokes).

Finally, my favorite bits from this very funny finale:

Commander: And I hate to tell you this, but the First Lady and I are having an affair.
Cyril: Damn, dawg. That was my B.

Krieger: The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing.
Malory: Said the clone of Adolf Hitler.
Krieger: Well… Edmund Burke, but… doesn’t matter who.

(Cherlene picks up a gun.)
Cherlene: Private Me, reporting for sploosh!

Cherlene (referring to Malory): Can you give her a brain chip?
Krieger: A what?
Cyril: A brain chip? Like you gave Cherlene so she could become a country singer?
Krieger (laughs): Oh! No. That wasn’t a brain chip. It was just the sticker off the backpack of a little Lego spaceman.
(Everyone expresses disbelief)
Cherlene: Whoa! So my whole life, all I had to do was believe in myself!? And inject a sticker into my brain!?

J.P. Laub

is a pop culture connoisseur, politics wonk, sometimes gamer and consummate nerd. To give you some idea, he is an avid reader of Wikipedia entries about fictional and theoretical faster-than-light drives. Seriously, he once saw a random Dune reference on a website and spent 45 minutes reading about the Holtzmann effect and related entries.

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