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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Archer Vice: A Kiss While Dying (Season 5, Episode 2)

As I stated in the previous review, one of my main concerns over the first episode this season was the very forced ending preview of what was to come. In my opinion, the greatest strengths of previous seasons was in the surprise of new episodes- you never really knew what antics Archer and company would get into next (aside from clever mini-previews during the credits). Astute viewers of last week's ending would have been able to piece together a lot of the plot that occurs this season. Which coming into this episode really hurts it, at least at first.

This week we see that what's left of ISIS has been forced to move into, as Archer puts it, "Casa de Addams family" AKA the Tunt manor (secretary Cheryl's family home). I found myself really enjoying this bit, and it points out one of the show's greatest strengths in how its built up these characters over the years and always ends up utilizing even the most trivial of details as an eventual callback. After breezily getting us up to speed with their new digs (including some great Krieger and Woodhouse gags), we get down to the start of the cocaine business. Mallory has found a buyer and sends Lana, Archer, and Pam (after Krieger hilariously assumed Mallory was joking when she asked him to design a foolproof way to transport it) to Miami to complete the transaction.

From there, we slowly cut between the action in Miami and back at the Tunt manor in New York. Which brings me to the weakest section of the entire episode. Cuts between the field and office are usually some of the best scenes in the series however, this episode stutters a bit in this regard. Ray has decided to become Cheryl's "voice coach" to help her toward the goal of being, "THE country's best country singer and some of Canada". While Archer and company meet the intermediary Ramon, who is reprising his role from way back in season one's "Honeypot" episode, the show cuts at annoyingly quick intervals with egregious pacing. One cut in particular to the manor lasts less than 4 seconds and is way more distracting than funny. However, after this small misstep we get back to a more natural style longtime fans of the show are used to. After Ray gives up for the day as Cheryl's voice coach, the gang in Miami is brought to the buyers who are none other than the hired hit-men that happen to be gay (long story) from the same "Honeypot" episode, Charles and Rudy.

As is typical with shows of this age, bringing back old characters can either help or hinder a show just as It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia has proven over on sister network FXX. Archer manages to do this just right: it has been long enough to warrant a revisit to these "Honeypot" characters, it doesn't feel forced, and they actually add something to the story (season nine of It's Always Sunny could have used a refresher of this). Lets just hope Archer manages to hold this balance, and not make it a gimmick.

Continuing the plot, after Charles and Rudy end up stealing the cocaine Archer and company regroup back at Ramon's taco stand. They decide to steal back the stolen goods and get the money that was promised, and Ramon leads them to where Charles and Rudy live. The ensuing standoff then hints at a season long "big-bad/protagonist" a la Barry from season four (here's hoping the triumphant return of Conway Stern! I'm sensing a pretty badass Crockett & Tubbs vibe if this ends up being the case), and then all three returning characters apparently die. The show concludes with a hilarious reveal that the money was in fact counterfeit and that Charles, Rudy, and Ramon duped them all. What I most enjoyed about this scene, is how it calls back to season two's "Jeu Monegasque" in that the plan used is revealed via voiceover and quick flashbacks. The final scene before the credits works rather well, with Charles chiding Ramon (and nodding at the audience) at how ridiculous it was for them to fake their deaths when they already had the counterfeit money and the cocaine.

I had my sincere doubts at how this episode would work since the recurring characters were already revealed last week and a lot of the plot could be surmised, however there were enough surprises and hidden laughs to make this a pretty strong second episode. Lets hope the season can keep the momentum going.

Potato, Po-treason...
  • Great re-use of the Tunt mansion as the now functional headquarters of the former ISIS employees, but where's Babou??
  • Really enjoyed how subtle the use of Krieger was this episode, he practically stole the show in office antics this week! My fears of him being overused seem to have been unfounded, which is a good thing.
  • Loved the way Pam quickly becomes addicted to cocaine, after she's strapped into a body-cast laced with the stuff. Her fast talking antics after Archer is injured were classic!
  • The reappearance of Ramon, Charles, and Rudy from season one was a welcome addition and they were used in a meaningful and truly hilarious way.
  • Great to see the re-worked Archer opening credits! Judging by wikipedia's listing of the show being temporarily named Archer Vice, it appears this may be only used for one season. Based on how well the Heart of Archness episodes and the back and forth on Ray's paralysis worked, I have great faith in the writers being able to pull it off.
  • Can I just repeat at how hilarious and brilliant the double-cross of Ramon, Charles, and Rudy was?!
It was still a stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid plan!
  • Some of the mid-episode cutting between Miami and the Tunt mansion was a little out of whack.
  • Ray was still a bit under-utilized this episode.

Verdict: This episode has a few minor hiccups in the middle, but managed to pull together to be a rather strong showcase for the remainder of the season. Featuring some old faces, a coke addicted Pam, and a hilarious double cross- things are looking good so far!

The re-worked Archer title presumably being used this season. It's so 80s! I get such an awesome Scarface, Miami Vice, and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City vibe!

Note: Just wanted to add a quick little postscript everyone. I recently decided to start a new blog on a radically different topic: Alternate History. The blog is titled "A Branch Historic" and can be found here. Fear not film and television fans, this doesn't mean the reviews will end as I plan to continuously update both blogs. As always, thank you everyone for reading and have yourselves a great 2014!

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