At the end of this season’s premiere, we knew this season of Archer (sorry, Archer Vice) would be different. Now we know exactly HOW different. The second episode, “A Kiss While Dying,” is a demonstration of what we should expect for Archer Vice.
During the season premiere we found out that ISIS was in fact operating outside of government jurisdiction, and the entire staff was arrested by the FBI. They were set to be charged with treason, but Mallory got them out of the charge through some yet-to-be-named connection. Now ISIS is dissolved, and the crew’s only hope for maintaining their lifestyle is in selling off their last remaining asset: an enormous block of cocaine.
But despite the twist of the premiere, in many ways it’s this season’s second episode, A Kiss While Dying, that should be considered the first true episode of the season. The first episode threw everything out the window, but ended with a montage sequence that serves as a season trailer. This episode showed everyone not just sifting through the rubble, but unknowingly grabbing a shovel to dig themselves deeper.
For the first time ever, Archer has a full-on season long story arc. The show has (at least temporarily) abandoned the 60s spy motif in favor of an 80s drug lord one. The gang is working even more outside the law. Pam is hooked on cocaine. Cheryl has a talent besides being insane.
And by all measures, these difference are set to make a unique and compelling season of one of TV’s most smartly written shows.
Archer has often been referred to as a fusion of James Bond and Arrested Development. Archer Vice is in a position to play with both styles in different ways. It turns the James Bond bit on its head – they’re not taking out a drug cartel, they are a drug cartel. In a sense, this changes everything – character are taking on new responsibilities and will have their abilities put to the test in new and coke-induced ways. The Arrested Development bit is what keeps in in check – and in particular keeps it Archer, Vice or not. Running gags aside, the biggest thing both AD and Archer have in common is the way the characters absolutely refuse to learn anything – character development essentially takes a walk up a down escalator. We learn how the characters are crazier, and they do change slowly, but they have a hard time breaking out of their terrible habits and changing their alienating personalities. In Archer‘s (and AD‘s) case, that’s a good thing – characters getting violently tripped up by their own motives is what makes the show. If these first few episodes are any indication, we’re going to be watching the ISIS agents we’ve known for four seasons in a sparkling new environment doing sparkling new jobs – but as the same ol’ oddly-competent doofuses we know and love.
Depending on your pop culture experience, you’re either going to feel like you’re watching a send-up of Miami Vice from the wrong side of the law or witnessing an animated comedy version of GTA: Vice City. Either way, you’ll be pleased with the direction.
Even with the season-long story arc, the episode followed a format similar to what we expect from Archer: Mallory puts the team on a ridiculous mission for transparently selfish reasons, Lana has reservations, Archer’s ego screws it in some way, and everything ends at square one again – all while Pam, Cheryl, and Krieger find some completely inappropriate way to get involved, and Cyril and Ray suffer for it. Be sure to throw in a little something pushing a character’s arc forward.
The potential for character development is staggering this year – the season has barely started and we’re seeing new sides of characters. We’ve got Lawyer Cyril, Coked-Up Pam, Pregnant Lana, Country Singer Cheryl, and Archer… well, he’s still Archer, only now he’s a drug dealer instead of a secret agent. It’s still the characters we love to hate, but they’re acting differently enough that we might see some new dynamics.
If this series meets its potential like it seems to be, we’re in for something different and something special. Remember, this is FX, a channel that specializes in making comedies where best friends find inventive ways to throw each other under the bus. GET EXCITED, LANA.
– “This smells like a kennel… but for dogs that are poor.” ~ Archer, in response to Pam’s cocaine body cast.
– Krieger having cameras in all of the rooms, including the bathrooms – further including one that is clearly inside of the toilet bowl itself.
– Archer referring to Cyril’s hands as his “masturbators”
– Archer, in response to Lana saying that she will hold him accountable if something goes wrong: “That’ll teach me.” Sums up Sterling Mallory Archer quite well.
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