This Archer review contains spoilers
Archer Season 8 Episode 7
“Grammercy, Halberd!” is an absolute marvel.
It has everything you would want out of an episode of Archer. If features (in no particular order): a character being hit by errant bullet ricochets (with Cecil Tunt taking on the departed Brett’s most noble responsibility), quick-witted word play (“You know the definition of insanity?” “It’s you! You’re the definition of insanity!”), a healthy dose of “SUPPRESSING FIRE!” and of course: frequent, sophisticated use of outdated weapons (“It sounds like someone is smashing up all your shit with a halberd.”)
Most importantly, however, “Grammercy Halberd!” features Sterling Archer. For a show that bears his name, Archer is rarely the funniest or most interesting character onscreen. What Archer: Dreamland has done and what “Grammercy Halberd!” does in particular is hand the reins of the show back to its lead character and it’s been all the better for it.
The Archer of “Grammercy Halberd!” is his usual laconic, frustrated self. He’s also a legitimate action hero with believable motivations and poignant fears. All season we’ve seen Archer’s World War II PTSD-stylized flashbacks. They’ve yet to pay off in any meaningful narrative way but this episode finally makes me appreciate how invested this admittedly goofy story is in humanizing its lead character.
It doesn’t hurt that the context for the flashbacks this time is Archer repeatedly running over a cyborg wielding a halberd with is car.
Archer: Dreamland has succeeded because its found the humor in the real. That’s a bit ironic for a season that takes place entirely in a coma dream but it’s no less true. Archer has always been good at finding humor in the “normal” speech patterns of human beings. Think of its continued use of obscure literary and scientific references or its delighted identifying of accidental dirty phrases (“phrasing!”). Even in this season characters have picked up a fun new verbal tic of exaggeratedly breathing “Whaaaaaaaaaaat.” when confronted with incriminating information.
What Archer: Dreamland has done so well is take that brilliant ear for dialogue and expand to to a brilliant ear, eyes and nose for…well, everything else. Archer: Dreamland has stakes (again: despite literally not having any real-world stakes), characters with emotional investments and legitimately exciting action set pieces.
No action set piece has been more exciting than the one in “Grammercy, Halberd!” Just as I semi-predicted last week, the episode actually does open with a character saying “So uh…what are we…” and then just takes off immediately from there.
Barry recognizes Archer’s voice from the time he, you know, drove over his ankles to save some Chinese prostitutes.
“You turned me into a freak!” he says.
“I think you might be confusing me with your personal shopper,” Archer responds, pointing out Barry’s motorcycle get up.
Barry doesn’t need much more motivation to continue his cyborg terms of enrampagement so Archer, Lana, Cecil, Cyril, Pam, Trinnette and Len Trexlor are immediately under attack. Archer hides with Len in a closet as Len reveals he knows a guy who knows a guy who knows a Nazi scientist. The others escape the room as Barry has the absolute time of his life kicking his already mutilated corpses around.
“Grammercy, Halberd” never loses steam. A sizable portion of the episode features its characters arguing over how to hotwire a car to escape and even that still keeps the madly fun pace up.
Watching Lana and Trinnette discuss the finer points of car repair wasn’t exactly thrilling last week but it all pays off now to hear Lana beg Trinnette to hotwire a car by saying “you know all that shit about putting breakfast in the radiators.” Why do they need to hotwire a car? Because Cecil lost his keys, then achieves an erection when Trinnette looks in his pocket for them and then eventually realizes he had his keys all along.
The Len Trexlor of this fictional universe doesn’t have the same potential father/potential son dynamic with Archer but their interactions are delightful all the same. They escape via a storm drain though “escape” is a strong term for falling off of the side of the building while Barry pursues them.
“Whatever this is, we don’t have time for it,” Archer says as he and Len rush past Lana’s feeble attempts to place Cyril and Pam under arrest. Archer, Pam, Cyril, Len and Lana hop in Archer’s car, with Trinnette having left to take Cecil to the hospital. The seemingly invincible Barry pursues them in his motorcycle and his new favorite toy – the halberd.
Archer has done car chases before. This one is its best. The stakes are just more intense since we’ve seen the damage cyborg Barry can do, halberd or no. And beyond that, this one just seems to move faster both in animation style and dialogue. Naturally everyone runs out of bullets and bickering is at an all-time high. Then Archer pulls off his signature move:* knocking Barry off his bike with his car.
*“And here I thought your signature move is finishing on a woman’s dress during foreplay,” Lana says.
From moment one, “Grammercy, Halberd!” is never not funny, exciting or some wonderful combination of both. It’s the end that really makes it special though. After finally defeating Barry, Archer offers up the most accurate summation of his personality possible.
“I always do shit like this,” he yells. “All I wanted to do is find out who killed my partner Woodhouse and before I know it I’m up my own asshole in kindapping plots and cyborgs.”
Setting an entire season in a literal dreamland was a risky move. Never cutting back to Archer in his coma in the real world is even riskier. How can the audience be assured that any of this actually matters? For most of this season that was a moot point. Archer: Dreamland has been so funny and tightly-paced that we haven’t had much time to consider it.
Still, Archer’s moment of realization at the end of “Grammercy, Halberd!” suggests that maybe he can take a lesson back into the waking world with him. Just focus, bro.
Archer: Dreamland is one good finale away from improbably being one of Archer’s finest seasons yet. Len Trexlor revealing that Mother killed Woodhouse, setting up an Archer/Mallory showdown, suggests that Dreamland will stick the landing.