Archer season 4 episode 6: Once Bitten
Channel 5 still doesn't seem to be scheduling Archer regularly, but James is on the case. Here's his review of the latest episode...
This review contains spoilers.
4.6 Once Bitten
I’m going out on a limb here but I generally assume that the main reasons we love Archer are the highly risqué comments that these characters come out with in the work place, combined with the egotistical off-the-rails-James-Bond persona of its leading man. Sentimentally touching moments aren’t something that we immediately associate with the show but on the few occasions they do happen, they work rather well. Like the cancer storyline in season two’s Placebo Effect and to a lesser extent the relationship between Sterling and Pam that developed in season three, the humanisation of Archer doesn’t happen often, but it helps keep him a likeable character, as opposed to an arrogant douche.
Once Bitten finds Archer, Cyril and Ray stranded in the Turkmenistan desert while on an ISIS mission to blow up a pipeline (for the first time this episode it’s hinted at that ISIS may just be hired mercenaries, rather than government agents). Archer is using the map for toilet paper in his usual, self-centred fashion and taking pot shots at Greek people (never let it be said that Archer isn’t an equal opportunist when it comes to his scathing judgments) when he gets bitten by venomous snake.
There’s some good three way interplay between Sterling, Cyril and Ray in this episode, particularly when Archer reveals his “bucket list”, the number two item on which is to murder Cyril. Once again, Archer uses the dialogue that you wish you could use to your co-workers on a daily basis. Most of us have to contend with a HR department slightly stricter than Pam Poovey though.
Once Bitten does a nice thing in that it predominantly separates its male and female characters for an episode. So while the men folk are combating poison in the desert, Mallory, Lana, Cheryl and Pam are discussing the flat footedness of agent Kane. The first scene between these four in Mallory’s office is excellent and sets up the Mallory vs Lana theme of the episode, with Cheryl and Pam not helping the situation out at all. The battle between Mallory and Lana is really well done, with Mrs. Archer getting the lions share of the best lines once again – “Ah, Lana – I thought I heard self righteous clomping” is the way in which she greets the woman, who is actually her best agent, later in the episode. There’s also a classic Cheryl Tunt moment that is so evil, it even has Pam Poovey expressing a “Damn!!!”
Then it gets weird. Back in Turkmenistan, Archer slips into a delirious state that sees him meeting James Mason and making a sex joke about Janis Joplin. Mason escorts Sterling through a series of life-flashing-before-your-eyes type scenarios that ends with the dredging up of a long forgotten memory of his father – right at the moment Ray and Cyril manage to negotiate with some desert gangsters for an antidote.
It’s a tantalising glimpse of Sterling’s back story in what is possibly the most surreal episode of Archer yet, and another moment in which Archer seems to be on the verge of attaining something you might call happiness, only to have is cruelly snatched away yet again. It’s a nice touch for the character, and the show, to see him show a slight vulnerability.
To finish, I have to mention the always entertaining Dr. Krieger, who in a bizarre moment is seen icing a miniature cake while in the ISIS control room. The reveal of whom the cake is for, is even more bizarre that that!
Read James's review of the previous episode, Viscous Coupling, here.
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