This Archer review contains spoilers
Archer Season 7 Episode 8
The charming part about “Liquid Lunch” is how little it cares about creating a compelling reason to get Christian Slater back on the show.
Seriously. I mean that as a compliment. It’s fairly clear from how little of CIA-related substance happens in the episode’s A plot that Adam Reed and company probably just wanted Christian Slater in studio again to portray the aptly named CIA agent “Slater.”
I don’t mind and FX certainly doesn’t mind as Christian Slater now has a pretty awesome, zeitgeist-y show of his own now in Mr. Robot. If the Archer team can find a way to bring Matthew Rhys back in for a needless cameo, I certainly won’t complain.
Whether it’s from midseason fatigue or an outside the box, shrewd narrative decision, Slater’s return and the CIA mission he enlists The Figgis Agency conduct goes nowhere in a pure plot sense and that’s ok. MK Ultra doesn’t matter, aside from putting into motion Krieger and Ray’s bizarre hypnosis bet. The CIA’s mark Hinkins is found easily and inadvertently killed almost immediately after. Slater even admits that he wasn’t even going to pay for The Figgis Agency for the mission anyway.
Instead, Slater’s return and his red herring of a mission that follow is all about Archer getting waterboarded and then revealing his feelings for Veronica Dean. In a weird yet pretty great way, Archer’s indifference to the machinations of its main plot create one of the most satisfying “A” plots of the season.
I was concerned about Slater and his CIA mission at first because season 7 has been so successful with the new private agency storyline along with the Veronica Dean season-long intrigue. The fact that Slater’s return is really just a Trojan Horse for Archer and Lana’s relationship falling apart and going on a break all while Slater is there to listen and comment shows that I had little reason to worry. Even when season 7 looks like it’s going to deviate from what’s been working it subverts that and moves its characters forward within the new framework in interesting way. This really is a remarkable season.
It’s jarring to notice that more than halfway through the episode, Archer, Lana and Slater aren’t much nearer to their main mark, the MK Ultra mind-addled scientist Hinkins, than they are at the beginning. Then Archer says the fateful line “is waterboarding even that bad?” after a source immediately spills the beans on Hinkins location due to the threat of waterboarding and “Liquid Lunch” lives up to its name.
Everything about the waterboarding vignette is absolutely fantastic and reminiscent of my favorite Archer (maybe TV in general) moment of all time: Archer attempting to defuse a bomb with Ray’s help. It reminds me of that because Archer’s extended water-boarding is for people with vaginas* monologue followed by his immediate metaphorical eating of shit is just peak Sterling Archer.
We know the moment Archer reveals he skipped waterboarding training and trash talks the “enhanced interrogation technique” he will soon thereafter be waterboarded. But the results themselves still far outstrip our expectations. Smash cut to: Archer in the back seat of a car as Lana drives with a thousand-yard stare and bloodshot eyes. “I didn’t know it would be like that.” he says. “As God as my witness, that was the worst thing I’ve ever experienced…wait a minute, I’ve actually drowned before! That was worse than drowning!”
That would be enough to completely justify the red herring of the CIA plot but the fact that Archer (off-screen) apparently confessed he might be developing feelings for Veronica Dean is just even better. Slater, you’re welcome to come back to the show whenever you’d like.
While the Archer, Lana and Slater plot shines in its simplicity, the appreciably more high-concept B plot largely fails in execution. Slater’s return sends him, Archer and Lana on a mission but it also creates one of those classic Figgis Agency bets that the gang can’t help themselves from.
Archer’s railing of Slater over the evils of Project MK Ultra** inspires Krieger to claim that he can hypnotize everyone in the office. And before long the conditions are set. If Krieger (with some help from Ray on the inside) can hypnotize Mallory, Cyril, Pam and Cheryl successfully then everyone will have to come to his one man show.
It’s pretty funny that Krieger cheats so blatantly and merely sprays some “zombie spray” on Cheryl, Pam and Cyril to bend them to his will but Archer isn’t able to capitalize on this plot much further than that. Even Mallory being inexplicably immune to the spray isn’t as satisfying as it could be since there is no explanation. It would be funnier if there were an explicit explanation that Mallory sprayed herself with the compound every night just to develop an immunity.
Alas, the reveal that Krieger resorts to using one of his impeccable clones (or robots? or robot clones?) of his coworkers to accomplish the trick is interesting. And remember this is the second time we’ve been offered a look into Krieger’s weird replication of his coworkers with the first being at the end of “Motherless Child” in which Barry absconds with a Cyril mask.
It’s usually best to encourage Archer and comedies in general to swing for the fences. In this instance, however, “Liquid Lunch” is at its best when is plot is going through the motions and its characters are arguing about waterboarding and 50 (million)-year-old actresses.
*”Plus, I bet this only effects women. People with vaginas. However you choose to self identify.”
**Archer has in depth knowledge about the strangest of things while being completely ignorant of basic thinking such as “waterboarding is bad.”