This Archer review contains spoilers.
Archer: Season 7 Episode 5
We’ve been through enough two-part Archer episodes at this point to know the deal. The first episode will inevitably feel incomplete because it doesn’t have an ending by design but will step up its humor game to compensate. One of my favorite Archer jokes ever came near the end of the first part of “Space Race” where Bryan Cranston coolly delivers the line “You’re in the danger zone now.” Still, the conclusion of “Space Race” was inevitably better because it had a complete ending.
Archer’s two-part episode compromise is a necessary trade-off to work around the vagaries of the standard television schedule* and we’ve all come to adapt to and appreciate it. Having said that, the end of “Bel Panto: Part One” is unexpectedly frustrating because it seems to just beginning to get to the good part.
Scroll through this review until you find the picture of deranged clown burglar “Mr. Rompers.” I’ll wait. Now, isn’t that just one of the most appealing character designs you’ve ever seen animated? The colors are incredibly vivid for the usually muted-Archer palette and the character’s face and hair capture just enough of the clear insanity barely contained below the surface.
“Bel Panto: Part I” moves along at a nice, leisurely pace with a requisite amount of jokes and laughlines for the first two-thirds of its runtime. Then Mr. Rompers and his band of merrymen stroll in and the episode just hits another level. There’s nothing wrong with “Bel Panto: Part One” per se. And I’m trying to obey the unspoken rules of the Archer two-parter – patience now; payoff later. But I’m finding it harder this time due to the unexpected vibrancy of the third act.
Granted, acts one and two aren’t bad. Shapiro returns to The Figgis Agency with another job because it’s far too late notice to find a different P.I. firm. Veronica Dean (Hey, she’s back!) will be attending a fancy fundraiser that night and insists on wearing the priceless necklace, the “tsarina.”** Shapiro needs a crew of specialists to monitor her and the necklace and to make sure no ill befalls them.
Archer, Mallory, Krieger, Cheryl, Lana, Pam, Cyril and Ray all get to attend to a fundraiser for the hilariously appropriate cause of the “American Tinnitus Foundation.” Well, Archer, Mallory, Krieger, Cheryl and Lana get to attend, Pam Cyril and Ray have to be cocktail waiters. Pam takes this assignment with her usual grace and gives Krieger maybe the best nickname yet of the young season: “Otto Von Jizzmark.”
The set-up is solid and the jokes are strong right out of the gate. But knowing in hindsight that the party will be stormed by criminals in clown outfits by the end makes the middle portion seem to lag. There are great jokes scattered her and there. “Oh really? You’re going to go do the job I paid you a fortune to do?” Shapiro asks Archer. “Might as well. I’m already here.”
“How’s Ron?” Cyril asks Mallory when she expresses interest in a Hollywood producer. “How’s nobody?” she brutally shoots back. The framework around these jokes, however, are merely just put in place to kill some time before the real storyline can begin in earnest like Archer flirting with a young starlet and Lana being wooed by the aforementioned producer.
Then the clowns are sent in. And “Bel Panto: Part I” gains a furious energy that will hopefully last through “Part Two.” Veronica Dean ushers Archer into a panic room of sorts and Archer is immediately on his “A” game. The joy with which he confronts the presence of murderous clowns is palpable. Almost literally so as we hear the telltale sound of his erection pushing against his pants after he says “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go kill some evil clowns.”
Archer is the rare character who is equally funny whether he is being self-aware or clueless. And this version of Archer is well into the “self-aware” category as he coolly tries to prepare Veronica Dean for the gruesome reality of his plan to incapacitate a clown and take his disguise.
“That wasn’t so bad. You made it sound like you were going to…” Veronica begins before Archer loudly snaps the passed out clown’s neck. Then she screams. Archer is well aware that the reality he’s come to accept as normal and even awesome most of the time isn’t necessarily the reality that other people are accustomed to. His logic is unassailable, however. A gunshot to kill the clown would have been too loud and they would have been heard. Also, he really does have tinnitus.
“Bel Panto: Part I” is a solid episode of Archer but it succeeds even more as a hype man for “Part Two.” Archer has gone on all manner of themed rampages before. The pink clown rampage has potential to be the best yet.
*Though if Adam Reed asked FX President John Landgraf to air an hour long episode, I’m sure Landgraf would oblige. He’s so cool. I should put more flowers in the John Landgraf shrine in the back of my closet.
**It’s hard to nail down the exact spelling and pronunciation of what the necklace is called by ear but let’s go with “tsarina” in deference to Russian royalty.