This Archer review contains spoilers
Archer Season 7 Episode 6
It’s amazing what just a dash of serialization does for a comedy in its advanced age.
South Park experimented with a full season of elements of serialization in its 18th season before diving headfirst into a season-long story in season 19. It worked wonders, creating a relevant, vibrant season of television for a show that’s almost old enough to drink.
Archer obviously isn’t nearly as old but just as recently as last season it was showing some signs of age. Now it’s clearly in its “experimenting with serialization” stage. The season opened with the sight of Archer face down in a pool on a mansion’s property and since then it’s peppered in bits and pieces of the ongoing Veronica Dean storyline with recurring references to a conspiracy called “Longwater.”
Of course, Archer is just dipping its toe in the serialization waters, much like South Park did. It’s not like it’s attempting to emulate Game of Thrones just yet. Still, even just that slight added element of an ongoing storyline has breathed so much unexpected life into season seven.
“Bel Panto: Part II” is not only a fitting conclusion to the “Part I” that precedes it but also just yet another all-around fantastic episode in a season that seems to be piling them up. Part of this is that “Bel Panto: Part II” is just plain hilarious (“The only thing Archer is cramming is a very average-sized dick into Veronica Dean’s old twat.” – Lana. “Suck it, Bechtel test.” – Cheryl). Just as importantly, however, “Bel Panto: Part II” is invested in the concept of escalation.
The nice thing about serialization is that hypothetically each moment or episode should build upon the previous one and therefore just get better and better. Archer season 7 isn’t necessarily on a perfect line graph, perpetually inclining to the top, but it’s certainly close. And “Bel Panto: Part II” takes that lesson of the season and condenses it into one episode. Almost every moment of the episode is a reaction to the one that precedes it as though the show is asking “let’s see if we can top this.” Lo and behold, they usually can.
After the somewhat incomplete set up last week, “Part II” is able to hit the ground running. The robbing clowns are eating pizza kindly provided by the police and hostage negotiators and Lana, Cheryl, Cyril, Krieger, Shapiro, Mallory and Pam remain their captives while Archer hatches a plot to save the day whilst wearing “Pinky Brewster’s” pink clown get-up. The real tragedy of the episode is that Archer never finds out his clown costume’s nom de plume is an absolute knock-out of a pun.
“Bel Panto: Part I” was ultimately a worthwhile episode of the show and very funny at times. Still, part of me now wishes it didn’t exist and we just opened in media res with a torn apart mansion, some clowns, their captives and a terrified orchestra playing away. As things stand, the escalation of more and more characters incapacitating the clowns and taking over their disguise is hilarious and genuinely thrilling. Especially since Pam kicks off the proceedings with “I hope you’re not allergic to getting your ass beat” before she tears apart a clown.
By the time Archer in pink, Pam in yellow and Lana in green meet up for an unwitting friendly fire showdown in a weightroom, the episode has more than made good on its initial investment in the storyline. Again, it’s all about the escalation.
It’s a shame the episode couldn’t be longer as I suspect if it were every character would have ended up in a clown costume with the real robbers scattered around the mansion unconscious. The clown’s final solution, Plan X is a decent enough compromise in which they escape disguised as members of the orchestra and leave the rest of the crew behind in clown make up to endure a cacophony of rubber bullets.
So many episodes of Archer end with the crew back at the office, heavily bandaged and or literally paraplegic (even Archer doesn’t escape the carnage this time. It figures the only time he receives lasting injuries are when rubber bullets are involved). “Bel Panto: Part II” is not different. Except this time Archer is actually able to crack a case.
He correctly guesses that Shapiro hired the robbers to steal the Tsarina so he could cash in on an insurance policy. It turns out that Veronica is broke and Shapiro is just trying to look out for her. Now, that’s Archer’s job, ensuring that the season will continue to build upon itself until we get to see his body floating in that pool again. At least for now, he’s momentarily accomplished what he’s been adamant he won’t do all season: learned something.