Archer: Season 3, Episode 12
Space Race, Part 1
It's always tough to write about the first half of a two parter. This is a thing I say every time I do it (much like my "pilots rarely put a show's best foot forward" speech), but it still remains fundamentally true. So much of the inherent structure of a two-parter depends on the second half sticking the landing, especially considering that this is a two-part finale. But then again, "Space Race, Part 1" is such a gleefully awesome episode of television, it's hard not to get pretty excited. As if the idea of the ISIS gang heading to space wasn't enough to get me excited, Bryan Cranston is around, giving a phenomenal performance (never better than in the running gag of Archer trying to get him to say "Danger Zone," which culminated perfectly in the cliff-hangar. That was a line reading no one will soon forget).
Archer has always taken place in some weird alternate universe that combines the past and the present in ways that are never quite clear, but now it apparently also incorporates some futuristic sci-fi elements, like space guns and the ability to terra form Mars. The fact that the show can pull off something this fundamentally different from its usual retro motif without clunky exposition or even really the blink of an eye is pretty impressive in and of itself, but that "Space Race" is so stellar even without that is truly worthy of praise.
There is a mutiny aboard the International Space Station, and the ISIS gang has to stop it. They are trained very quickly (I always love the idea in space movies that, really, you can train someone to be an astronaut in like two days) and sent off into space...where they discover that Pam and Cheryl have stowed away once again. Every time this happens, it seems a bit forced, as if the show really needed Amber Nash and Judy Greer around, but has no plausible reason for them to be there. But it has become something of a running gag in itself, and both characters are so funny here that I can't ultimately nit pick too much.
This is one of those episodes of the show that gives every character something hysterical to do. Even Krieger, who appears only briefly, is shown to have snuck into the training center to experiment on Archer without anyone's permission, taking a lot of blood and giving him somewhere between six and twelve enemas (Archer was out during them, so he isn't sure). Lana is thrown out of her comfort zone by space sickness, Cyril and Ray each have some great interactions, Pam gets to be hysterically adept at pleasuring Archer, and Cheryl gets to be completely insane, thanks to her failure to understand that a "boarding party" is not a social event. Then there's Malory, who is hilariously to small for her space suit and just drinks everything she can get her hands on, whether or not it is clearly alcoholic.
I am hesitant to say too much or to get too in-depth during a write-up of "Part One," but this was a very solid episode, hilarious throughout and with a plot just crazy enough to make a little bit of sense. I, for one, am glad that Pam and Archer are back on (after fearing during "Skin Game" that the show was shying away from what appears to be a pretty interesting dynamic), and ecstatic to have another half-hour of space-filled, Cranston-y goodness. The only downside is that will be the finale.
-"Would you say we'll be traveling to a zone of danger?"
-"Lana, its not a strip mall. Although I assume there's a bar." "A bar?" "Or, whatever, cantina..."
-"I'm sure the mutineers are armed." "With what? Slide rules and Tang?"
-"I would be well within my rights to jettison you both from this ship. But for numerous reasons, one of which is that this ship can't actually do that, I've decided to let you come along."
"You're screwin' him, aren't ya?" "Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat? Yes."
-"Fuck you, space."
-"Who am I, sixteenth century Irish female pirate Grainne O'Malley? Or her sole female descendant...."
-"Jesus, you're like a dog in a station wagon."
-"Woah, Charles Benedict Davenport. The father of eugenics? Jesus people, read a book!"
-"Welcome to the...Danger Zone."