Now that it’s returned to its normal, non-Vice format, Archer has struggled a bit with structure. Vice had its ups and downs but the singular concept at least gave season five a sense of escalation. The Archer team had a goal and each week they either moved closer to that goal or Pam cut further into their cocaine supply…usually the latter.
Abandoning the season long plotline has meant some wild fluctuations in tone. Save for last weeks alien debacle, the episodes have been pretty good. They’ve just felt too disparate from one another like an album that succeeds as a collection of songs but fails as an album, itself.
“The Kanes” continues this trend. It’s better than the episode that precedes it and altogether an above-average episode of Archer but it doesn’t have any sense of time or place. It’s an episode that could have been the second episode of the first season or the second to last episode of the last season.
There are some jokes that work because of our familiarity with the Archer universe like Pam being able to make peace with some gangbangers because she routinely beats one up in her underground fight club. Everything else is par for the course.
This late in the game it’s a little weird that we hadn’t met Lana’s parents yet. As one of the saner characters, it’s usually Lana’s job to react to her more decidedly insane co-workers. This hasn’t led to many opportunities for her character other than acting exasperated.
The temptation must have been there to turn Lemuel and Barbara Kane into weirdos so Lana can do her traditional playing-off-the-crazies schtick. To “The Kanes” credit, however, Lemuel and Barbara are absolutely the West Coast intellectuals who would raise a Lana Kane. And creatively it pays dividends to have Archer as the fish out of water. Archer can refer to Berkley as “an entire city that gets a pass on acceptable behavior” and not appreciate the irony that he was just down to have a threesome with the mother of his child’s parents. For what it’s worth, I agree with Archer: Lem and Barbara’s behavior totally suggested threesome.
The Kanes, themselves, work as characters in large part thanks to Keith David and CCH Pounder. It’s hard enough for a guest actor to make an impression on a half-hour comedy. It’s even harder when they only get to use their voice. David and Pounder thankfully have excellent voices and immediately establish an intimidating that the episode doesn’t have to worry about setting up. Well that and a flashback to Archer’s previous “meeting” with them. “We got the mashed potatoes just the way you like them. 98.6 degrees.”
It is pretty funny that everyone in the Archer universe is involved in something that would make them a target for gunfire. In Dr. Kane’s case it’s his research on turning algae into a biofuel. Shortly after Archer thinks he’s accepting a threesome masked men turn up and steal Kane’s research. Archer, Lana and Lem tear after them in Lem’s mustang form Bullitt. (“When he’s not busy ejaculating.” “Not in my Mustang you don’t.”).
It’s even funnier, however, that it’s the C.I.A. that’s trying to turf the research. “If you think the Middle East is messed up now, wait until we don’t need their oil,” Slater tells Archer. He’s got a point, I guess. But maybe the C.I.A. should consult with their independent contractors more frequently.
The “b-team’s” adventure in Brownsville speaks to the whole season’s episodic, disjointed nature. They only show up a third of the way through the episode and even after they do, it’s not entirely clear why they’re their. Though for consistency’s sake, Pam for the third episode in a row displays her beast-like nature.
- Archer’s airport designs are still very 1960s but at least Archer still has to put all his flasks through the X-ray machine.
- Love the sight gag of the tablecloth ever so slooooowwwwly sliding off the table
- H. Jon Benjamin is better at voicework than we will ever be at anything. “So that’s not so hard, is it?” “Ugh, do we do phrasing?”
- “Sorry I tried to spit-roast your mom.”