Archer: Season 3, Episode 1
Heart of Archness: Part I
The jokes on Archer fly so fast you'd need a transcriptionist to catch all of them. Every dialogue is basically a verbal volley between all of the characters which swerves from absurdism to stupid comedy to referential sarcasm with no warning whatsoever, all of which is delivered by some of the best comedic talents around right now. Basically, Archer is awesome, and if "Heart of Archness Part I" tells us anything about the upcoming third season, its that we should get our expectations up pretty high.
Of course, season three isn't here quite yet. Not technically anyway. The three episodes of Archer airing over the next three weeks tell one long story in an attempt to entice viewers of FX's other great comedy, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia to check out the show when it returns full time in January (and worry not, I'll be there to cover it when it does). So it feels strange reviewing "Part I" of the saga (we're calling it a saga, ok? Get on board now) by itself. It's always tough to review the first part of a multi-part episode, which usually focuses more on set up than actual plot, but this was such an entertaining 22 minutes of television I'm going to try anyway.
Season three (or this mini-pre season, which I'm calling the first three episodes of season three) picks up three months after the end of season two, where we saw Archer's Russian fiance gunned down at their wedding by Bionic Barry, On Her Majesty's Secret Service Style. Mallory, panicked at her staff's inability (or reluctance) to find Archer brings back her former employee and lover RIp Riley (the always awesome Patrick Warburton) to track Archer down. We quickly learn he's been tending bar on a tropical island, banging newlyweds and drinking. So, basically exactly what you'd expect from our boy. Yet after his traumatic loss, he wants out of the spy game, so he is reluctant to join Rip and return to ISIS. Rip forces him aboard the plane, Archer tricks him and knocks him out, the plane crashes, and the two are rescued by pirates. Long story short, Archer ends up the Pirate King, which he learns via special guest star and pirate slave David Cross as they return to a Pirate Fortress. All in all a good episode for Archer.
Plots on Archer are always at least a bit ridiculous, but this one feels slightly thinner than usual. This could be because it is only the first part, but I think the greater flaw lies in the lack of screen time given to everyone back at the office. Most of my favorite episodes of the show devote a good chunk of time to the gang back at ISIS getting involved in tomfoolery (we didn't even get any Krieger tonight!), and at least so far, this saga feels light on the office comedy. The palpable chemistry between Warburton and H. Jon Benjamin carries this episode through long stretches of the two of them arguing, and in fact, gives the whole thing a very Road to... movies feel, which I don't mind at all. I just wish we'd been given a little bit more of the complexity and diversity of the best episodes here in this first outing intended to pull people in (though ditching the density might actually be the point).
None of this is to say I didn't enjoy "Heart of Archness Part I." It did feel like the beginning of an epic the way only Archer could do one, and if the plot summary I provided didn't dound downright propulsive I don't know what you think that word means. Agendas are constantly shifting throughout the episode (my personal favorite being when Archer decides to drop the booze to shoot the shark in the face), but none of the twists or turns ever felt contrived. This was the natural evolution of the story, with plenty of jokes thrown in for good measure.
Plus, I think telling the story of Archer's grief is a great move for the show. I think this series is at its best when it is tackling real emotions and serious darkness along with its laughs (I thought Archer's battle with breast cancer last season was brilliant, and his Terms of Enrampagement was a series highlight for me), and it seems like we'll deal with some actual pain from Archer as this plays out.
Overall, I can't tell you how much I like "Heart of Archness" until I've seen all three parts (and expect a "Saga Grade" at the end of this), but this is a solid start. I wouldn't place it among my favorite episodes of the show, but it certainly had some laughs and I enjoy the direction it seems to be taking the characters. I also enjoy that this show can be so silly while also telling actual stories. This is a solid start to a saga, and I can't wait to see how well the show ties it together.
-"And whatever my equivalent of sploosh is. Which I guess is just sploosh. Only with semen."
-"Seaplane. It's like an airplane had a baby with a boat..."
-"You're so hot for him I could heat this chili in your cooch." "Don't you have some humans to resource?" "Nope. Most of my complaints are against Mr. Archer. We here to make cooch chili or what?" I love the way this show mixed that subtle exposition for new viewers (Lana may still have feelings for Archer, Pam is the HR rep) in with a joke about making chili in Lana's vagina. Only on Archer.
-"Wait a minute, is this a ruse? Because if so, its pretty elaborate..."
-"Two personal records! For breath holding and number of sharks shot in the face!"
-"Oh my god. What if I have psychic powers?" "I don't know, just try to use them for good?" "No."
-"I'm sorry. I didn't know pirates were still a real thing."
-"If the 5 year old me heard that, he'd get a huge boner. Don't know why I just said that..."
-"Of course I'm not gonna be a pirate. I'm gonna be a Pirate King!"