Archer S9 E7 “Comparative Wickedness of Civilized and Unenlightened Peoples”

So far I’ve been praising Archer: Danger Island for keeping its story small and tight, without succumbing to the clusterfuck of cross purposes that can mar a series finale. So it’s surprising that with only one more episode to go, the show lurches sideways into a self-indulgent detour that doesn’t really add anything to the narrative and smudges a reality and timeline that were playing out rather nicely, even as once again, almost nothing happens plot-wise.

Things start badly with a couple of tired old jokes: Archer expects the Germans to attack in waves, followed by a boss, even though he’s a lacrosse jock who can’t play cards and doesn’t even know his way around porn, so I can’t imagine gaming is high on his agenda. The gags get even cheaper when he concludes: “Obviously we’re going to have to montage the shit out of this thing.” Thank Kahlua they don’t actually follow through with a cutaway (because this isn’t Family Guy), but the joke isn’t so fresh, and the trope has been sent up better by other shows (including, uh, Family Guy). Archer has a pretty good track record for occasionally brushing against the fourth wall rather than reaching right through it, but the show’s sailing close to the wind with a gag like that – and Pam bringing back the “Master Coconut” Frisky Dingo reference from last week isn’t helping. (Same catchphrase two episodes in a row? That’s a ping-pong paddlin’.)

And then, having said that we don’t cut to a montage… well, there’s still kind of a montage. For some reason the Germans are still a few hours away, though it’s not clear why, or how that works. They set out before Lanaluakalani, who’s already been home and back, caught up with Malory and Reynaud, crashed her car, loaded it up with Malory’s gubbins, and has somehow arrived before them. No matter how many monkeys they shoot, this timeline really doesn’t make sense. And it’s been bent out of shape to fit a narrative wherein Archer – Sterling Archer, who was comfortably KO’d by Pam in one blow – is somehow responsible for training the natives to be… warrior tribesmen? Is that not exactly what they were to begin with? Why are the locals – who captured Archer and Pam in the first place – now looking to a white savior to teach them how to do what they do best?

Archer and Pam both now sport war paint, but Archer has also acquired a bunch of necklaces like a spring breaker at Mardi Gras, and for some reason he’s really worried about letting down a group of people who were literally going to eat him a moment ago. It’s an odd sentiment for a guy who was planning to ditch Pam and Malory once he finds the idol (although it’s getting increasingly unlikely that any of these jabronis ever will). Then again, it clearly worries him that Pam and Crackers don’t think he’s brave enough to rush a mortar. It’s really not clear what his motivation is here. I might say the same for Crackers, who’s still being treated like a pest despite having been nothing but loyal this whole time, yet still sticks around to shout trash talk. (His angry “fuck off!” is adorably impotent – such big words coming from such a little bird who can’t even use binoculars, let alone throw spears.)

The other characters’ motivations are easier to discern, if only because most of them just want to get loaded. Pam has discovered licking tropical frogs. Malory is so desperate for booze she’s resorted to “phlegm Sangria.” Charlotte, who was full of champagne to begin with, is now even more drunk on power, and has settled into her new role as Kahlua so readily, she’s already given up on the concept of time. Fuchs is taking time out from mainlining amphetamines between his toes to enjoy some Stuka pills – which, unlike the real-life counterpart they so closely resemble, are now cut with methamphetamine and cocaine. And except for Charlotte, they all level up as a result. Pam produces a crossbow she doesn’t remember making. Malory trots obliviously through a firefight even Archer’s smart enough to hide from, and mows down most of a platoon single-handedly, despite being too drunk to even pronounce “schnapps” anymore. (What is Malory’s backstory in this incarnation, I wonder?) And Fuchs simply snorts his way through the episode, morphing into an Aryan Tony Montana, and ultimately mecha-Hitler, which I can only presume is a Wolfenstein reference. (Oh shit, Archer was right, there was a boss.)

Once again Archer shows the signs of a complicated relationship between the animation department and scriptwriters. Fuchs is a particular case in point, since he does nothing but spout lame pop-culture references the entire episode: “this is how you get Fuchs,” “nobody puts Fuchs in a corner,” “meddling kids,” “this is why we can’t have nice things,” etc. This sort of placeholder dialogue is unusually lazy for Archer, and it’s all in service of a huge fight scene which not only doesn’t make much sense, but doesn’t really have any stakes either. (I mean, other than the ones covered in poopoo. You know what I mean.) The old Archer and Lana would have simply taken the whole platoon out at close quarters in under a minute. Now we have to make way for a whole cast of silent extras, and of course there’s more gore: even a simple neck-snap now results in a shower of house red for some reason.

Between the nebulous timeline, the tribe’s inexplicable willingness to be led by a human pot roast, Malory’s apparent invulnerability, and the presence of a futuristic mech, I’m tempted to chalk this up to Archer’s coma. (I honestly told myself that in these write-ups I wouldn’t bother trying to work out what the events say about hospital-bed Archer, but Danger Island keeps making me do it. I’m now 0 for 4 on my resolution.) The power loader is clearly from Aliens, which Archer knows well, and the training sequence is aggressively reminiscent of Hook – right down to the part about how even fat kids can be heroes with enough validation from an arbitrary leader. And it makes almost too much sense that Archer would identify with Peter Pan, a boy who never grows up, gives himself credit for others’ achievements, doesn’t fear death and just wants to ditch his mother… yet still needs a woman to fix all his problems. It’s not a satisfying conclusion, but it’s more satisfying than chalking it up to Adam Reed’s known aversion to ever resolving a narrative, and it’s the best fit I can find for this anomalous misfire in an otherwise stellar season.


Stray Observations

  • “You can hear their women scream from here! So I hope someone brought potatoes!” OK, what? I think this must be a callback I missed. Anyone got this one?
  • “Death! To! Whites! No! Off! Ense!” I mean, they’re pretty racist, but I’ve seen worse.
  • French dialogue of the week: “Deux-Deux, should we run?” [shrug] “You are the fucking worst.”
  • Charlotte asks for mignonette, the shallot vinegar often served with oysters. Mignonette was also the name of the ship in R v Dudley and Stephens, a famous criminal case from 1884 concerning cannibalism among shipwrecked sailors. (Fans of Life of Pi may also like to note that the victim in that case was named Richard Parker.)