At this point in its relatively long run, Archer has developed a safe, comfortable pattern. Each episode is a particularly verbose game of Mad Libs that the writers came up with to entertain themselves. The same general plot is there, they just need to insert things like a new location that will be fun to animate, an action sub-genre and a relatively surprising conclusion.
The DNA of this little Mad Lib can be seen clearer than ever in “The Archer Sanction.” Archer, Lana, and Ray arrive in a new, fun to animate location (the Swiss Alps), they endure a new action sub-genre (Clue-style murder mystery), and finish off with a surprising conclusion (the decidedly un-surprising reveal that Crash McCarran is their target). In many ways, Archer is becoming more predictable and maybe even a touch lazier in its later seasons. Paradoxically, it’s also slowly becoming funnier. At this point, Archer is a known quantity. The show will rarely wow you with its structure, but it will make you chuckle as you race to Google “Charles Fredric Andrus.”*
*For all intents and purposes, he’s the father of the “modern” watermelon. Whatever that means.
And there is plenty to chuckle over in “The Archer Sanction.” Granted, the humor looks bleak early on, with Archer, Lana, and Ray arriving in the Swiss Alps and Archer whining that Ray forgot the gum. This is designed to be such a transparent running joke through the episode that, at first, it can only elicit eye-rolls. But damn it all if Archer doesn’t sell it and eventually conclude it with the best joke of the season thus far (more on that later).
The motley team is there to assassinate an assassin for the C.I.A. Obviously, Archer has never read nor brought the proper documents to identify who said assassin is. Archer has always been incompetent, but his newfound insistence on not reading anything is a particularly successful gag for the new season, especially now that the team will be working for the less-forgiving C.I.A. At least Archer can recall that their target was from a country that was an Axis Power during World War II. This proves to not be very helpful as their three climbing companions in addition to McCarran (whose voiced by a very capable Rob Huebel) are named Michiko, Hessler, and Cevino. Lana suggests calling Mallory on the satellite phone to find out who the target is, but Mallory is in on the Archer family prank of elaborate voicemail hoaxes. Dukes.
Lana then contacts the office “B” team of Cyril, Pam, Cheryl, and Krieger to track down Mallory and make sure baby AJ is ok. The B team is predictably hammered for Cheryl’s birthday, but head to Mallory’s anyway because finding the baby sitting in front of Mallory’s cold wrinkled dead body would be the best birthday gift ever for Cheryl…aside from that Formula One team.
Like the rest of the season, thus far the adventures of the office drones are the weaker half of the episode. Pam, Cherly, and Krieger are so aggressively weird that they require a much more involved plot to reign in their humor. Still, there is a pretty excellent conclusion with the gang being so hungover they can’t realize they’re actually breathing in poison from Mallory’s insecticide-filled apartment.
Pam, Krieger, Cyril, and Cheryl would have been much better served out in the Alps to witness the suspicious deaths of the Axis Powers crew and figure out who should snuggle up with who for warmth. Though to be fair, no combination can top a naked Archer telling a naked Ray “If I ever have sex with a man, it will be a man who remembers the gum. And not that it matters, but also black.” (That’s the aforementioned best line of the season.)
The reveal that “idiot beardface sweater model” is the assassin is not much of a reveal at all. While it would be nice for the writers to dig deeper into their bag of tricks for a satisfying mystery, Archer isn’t really about structure as I said before. It’s about the jokes: dense, quick, smart, and wicked. And the fact that Archer thought Ireland was an Axis Power is all the satisfying denoument the show could ever need.
“Sploosh” is definitely not the sound an avalanche makes.
“Watermelons are red??!?!”
“Don’t make any sudden movements – bowel or otherwise.” – Ok, that’s a close second for best one-liner of the year so far.
Archer cheerfully admitting that he’s jealous of McCarran is great. He’s so self-assured and suave that even when he admits he’s jealous, it’s somehow charming.
Ray is the “DMZ” between Archer and Lana. That’s…a surprisingly apt analogy.