Archer: The Handoff Review

Archer wastes no time in putting its best foot forward in its new format

This Archer review contains spoilers.

Archer: Season 7, Episode 2

Archer’s season 7 premiere, “The Figgis Agency” was an excellent thesis statement for what could be a great season of TV comedy. Episode two, “The Handoff” follows that set up with an absolute home run of an episode, completely justifying this new “P.I.’s in Los Angeles” soft reboot.

“The Handoff” is an all-time great episode of Archer by any comedic metric. The rapid-fire verbal jokes work like crazy. The throwback humor works. The animation works. Everything works as the cast, animators and writers just gleefully atomize any comedic premise that comes near them.

The constant boner jokes are just hysterical. First, we audibly hear Archer’s erection expand in his pants as Veronica Deane grabs his hand. Then Krieger responds “Hey, me too!” when Lana taunts Archer for old ladies giving him a boner. Finally, when someone tells Archer “You’re no longer on Mallory’s teat, Krieger opines “Ugh I’m never going to be able to stand up.” That’s all just GOLD.

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Just as important as the jokes, however, Archer nails the plot. There has never been such a thing as an out and out unfunny episode of Archer. At least a handful of jokes always land because the people involved are just too inherently funny to turn in a dud. But there have been some disappointing and bad episodes of Archer. And those episodes are the ones that treat the narrative as an afterthought.

Not “The Handoff,” however. In “The Handoff” the humor comes naturally as an extension of the plot instead of just Mad-Libbing it’s way in. It doesn’t hurt that its essentially, though not officially, the second part of a two-part episode.

In “The Handoff,” the Figgis Agency must immediately get down to business undoing their work from the previous episode. In “The Figgis Agency” an imposter Veronica Deane got Archer and Co. to steal sensitive documents from her lawyer Alan Shapiro’s house safe. Now the real Veronica Deane is coming to The Figgis Agency because someone stole the documents.

This natural level of absurdity that’s present throughout the episode heightens nearly every joke. In the Archer universe, the characters are rarely forced to reckon with their own incompetence but here is a situation in which they awkwardly have to track down something they already stole. If the consequences of that aren’t funny enough, there is also the news that he poor guard dogs now have to wear little puppy diapers because Krieger’s hush puppies gave them wicked diarrhea. “I swear to God it was like a Family Circus cartoon in here,” Shapiro (played by Patton Oswalt) says.

Ray, Pam and Cyril have a fun time back at the office spinning around in chairs and being admonished by Mallory but it’s the Archer/Lana/Shapiro troika that undoubtedly gets the biggest moments.

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Shapiro needs to bring Archer and Lana to a rendezvous with the scary bikers who claim to have the contents of the safe to trade. This means that Lana will pose as Shapiro’s driver and Archer will be placed in the trunk. Archer is not happy with this development but at least it gives him time to come up with some killer trunk puns: Fran Trunkington, Trunky Brewster, Archie Trunker, etc.

All of the trunk puns pale in comparison to the quick cut of nonsense that goes down upon meeting with the bikers. “You the Jew lawyer?” the lead biker blurts out the moment Shapiro steps out of the car. Then for the second time in two episodes, someone inexplicably places a disc between Lana’s breasts instead of handing it over to her. Then when it feels like the humor cannot possibly escalate anymore, Mallory decides to give Sterling a call and the sweet sound of a “Mulatto Butts” ringtone emerges from the trunk.

Archer has had some fun action set pieces in its day but I never dreamed that it would combine a classic Sterling Archer rampage with his equally impressive fake voicemail. Mallory, Cyril and everyone back at the office, listen stone-faced to the sounds of complete carnage and devastation assuming its one of Archer’s fake-out voicemails.

“You gotta hand it to him, this was the best voicemail ever,” Mallory says at the call’s conclusion. “It would have been…it would have been” Archer says, covered in blood and surrounded by the dead bodies of his combatants. An amazing, all-time episode of Archer needs at least one of these over-the-top action comedy moments and I’m hard-pressed to think of one that works this well since the bomb defusing in “Skytanic.” Bravo!

And that’s before the rest of the office wises up and comes to the rescue with Ray wearing assless chaps for some inexplicable reason. (“Earl Campbell called. He wants his thighs back,” Ray tells Lana.)

The gang gets the disc back and everyone safely returns to the Agency. While assessing the pros and cons of the mission, Cyril places Archer getting shot under “pro” before saying at least their second run at a private investigation was a learning experience. To which Archer responds “Joke’s on you as I didn’t learn anything.”

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Fun narrative? Great new jokes? Great recurring jokes? Archer not learning anything? That’s a perfect episode of Archer right there.

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5 out of 5