This Archer review contains spoilers
Archer Season 8 Episode 5
“Sleepers Wake” knows exactly where it wants to end.
That’s out in the Griffith Observatory grounds right after Cyril and Pam (though I suppose we should acknowledge Pam by her more gender-neutral Dreamland mononym of “Poovey”) have absconded with the ransom money from a hedge mushroom for. And then of course we have a more proper denouement of Mother chewing Archer out.
“So…how was your evening?”
This is a fine ending an even better next step in the unexpectedly sprawling narrative of Archer: Dreamland as a whole. Problem is that “Sleepers Wake” doesn’t really know how to pass the time until we get to that point.
So far Archer: Dreamland has been an excellent, streamlined Archer viewing experience. It’s not until this episode, just past the halfway point of the season, that we havw any semblance of wheel-spinning or time-saving. In this instance, it’s not because the season has too much space to fill. These writers are professionals and are working with only about 2 and a half hours of screentime. Rather “Sleepers Wake” is doomed by a mandatory conclusion and few creative or worthwhile ideas of how to get there.
“Doomed” is undoubtedly a strong word. This is still an episode of Archer, after all and therefore more than funny enough to justify its 20-minute existence. It’s also a rare episodic narrative dud in what appears to be an otherwise well-plotted and entertaining season.
Plus, is there the first appearance of Robot Barry, Dutch? You bet your ass there is, Other Dutch.”
The newly bionic Dutch Dylan gets the lion’s share of screentime in an episode that ultimately has little to nothing to do with him. And you know what? That’s fine. Barry almost always makes the most of his appearances. The long, tortured history of Barry Dylan from prettyboy ass to Russian mole to unhinged inhuman supervillain has been one of the series’ better ongoing storylines. To see essentially the whole seven-season long arc of this one-time spy condensed into roughly 8 minutes is hilarious.
It begins (where else?) in Krieger’s lab. Or as Barry later comments “Dreamland has a whole god damn Nazi robot farm in the basement…in this economy?” Barry’s roboticization has been completed and immediately upon waking Barry is intent upon killing him – or his boss Len Trexlor.
“I don’t know who I’m going to kill first?” Barry says.
“First of all, it’s ‘whom,’” Krieger interrupts.
Why Barry would even want to kill Krieger or Trexlor is unclear as he seems to be pretty stoked with his new limbs but then again that’s always been part of the appeal of Barry’s robotic madness: how perfunctory it is. Have robot limbs: will kill. Of course, Barry cannot kill Krieger just yet as Krieger has injected him with a compound that will kill him unless he gets more every 12 hours. No problem! Off to Trexlor.
That path to vengeance leads Barry straight into a Terminator remake when he appears at a biker bar and demands some clothes. This naturally leads to unimaginable bloodshed, chaos and Barry getting some leather duds and a bike. Well done Dutch and Other Dutch.
Where Barry is almost always a delight on his own, Cyril oftens needs a little help. That’s not a slight towards Cyril the character or Chris Parnell as an actor. It’s just that uptight pricks often need non-uptight pricks to shine humor-wise.
The soft-spoken and blunt morgue employee does as best he can and it does lead to a truly Shakespearean monologue vowing vengeance from Cyril upon escaping the morgue fridge. Still, it’s not until Cyril is back with Poovey that we can all have fun making fun of him losing his wife again.
“First the whores and now Charlotte Vandertunt? How many women can one man lose?” Trexlor asks him on the phone.
“Oh, your wife!” Pam excitedly offers.
Then Trexlor promises to kill Cyril before receiving a call from Krieger that Barry is on his way to kill him. Death threats on Archer are kind of like the infamous rake gag. There are never too many.
Poovey and Cyril get some quality time together as they set up their role in the episode’s final act. With the help of Charlotte’s unwilling brother, they’ll steal the ransom money out under from Archer’s nose so that Cyril can keep his life.
For Archer’s part, he’s well-aware of Poovey and Cyril’s plan because how could be not be? It’s fairly obvious and Archer is satisfyingly a great detective in this incarnation of the character. Regrettably, he’s also a lazy asshole. Instead of preparing, he finally makes his move with Lana.
I like how Archer often undercuts our expectations. Rather than spending a whole season flirting, Archer and Lana just abruptly have wildly unsatisfying sex. “Great, now I have no liquor. Just a big old pair of blue lady balls,” Lana whines. I just don’t quite buy Lana’s motivations in the matter. Her sudden interest in getting involved in the action feels like just that: sudden. It feels like the writers’ desire to get Lana involved rather than the natural development of her character.
At least Lana’s inclusion means that she gets to roll her eyes at Archer’s insistence on bringing a hooker to the exchange. The exchange itself isn’t one of Archer’s greatest comedic setpieces but as a narrative means to an end it works like gangbusters. This is a strangely aggressive and sprawling narrative for what basically amounts to an 8-episode miniseries. For that reason alone, it’s hard to resist Archer: Dreamland’s charms. It doesn’t hurt that it also features exchanges like:
“You know what happens to snoops?”
“They get poops?”
They get poops indeed, Krieger, they get poops indeed.