by Za’chary Westbrook
3 out of 5
Much of Archer‘s Season 1 was insufferable. The whole super-secret-agent-is-bad-at-his-job thing was cute in the Pilot, but they squandered that in subsequent episodes by focusing less on the incompetence (Get Smart anyone?) and more on him being a self-centered ass; which only just works parody. The show eventually saved itself by making every other character, save Lana, equally horrible. So, while most of any given episode is people hurling abuse (which would be more fun if the characters were clever), they all kind of deserve it and that is fun.
The other major short-coming of Archer is that it too often confuses “people referencing their sexual exploits” for “jokes”. This is much the same problem that so many horror movies have, thinking that blood = scary. Gore is not scary, but there is a percentage of the community who thinks it’s either a) disgusting or b) kind of cool and neither has much in the way of sense and less in the way of taste. Such films are geared, not towards a certain atmosphere (horror films have possibly the most diverse atmospherics of any film genre, largely because many horror filmmakers simply don’t know what they’re doing), but rather a very specific set of visuals; which is the same logic as porn and Michael Bay films. Similarly, many comedies are simply geared towards finding new ways to talk about sex. Not show it, talk about it (this is America, where showing = porn, talking = comedy), all to pander to the percentage of the population that treats sex the way Lee Jin-gyu treats social interaction: it’s part of his life, but he’s so poorly adjusted to it emotionally, that it really shouldn’t count.
Moving on. Archer, working with a delicate balance of elements, seems to have found it’s stride. It’s not great TV, but it’s legitimate satire, now. Predictable in every way, but it manages to make that kind of charming through sheer commitment. In this episode, financially declining ISIS needs to secure a long-term contract with a German tech-magnate, Conrad Schlotz, who needs his daughter protected during her 17th birthday.
Of course, rampant playboy Sterling Archer is initially on auto-pilot about the Fräulein, until the age hits him and, surprise!, he has standards. Sterling is legitimately not interested in James-ing with her Galore, yet absolutely no one, reasonably, believes him. Then, and here’s the real twist, the teenage girl is all over him! Haha, right? Okay, yeah, it’s the sub-plot of For Your Eyes Only, making it less parody and more homage, but seeing Sterling avoiding a woman with the same heavy-handedness with which he pursues, still funny.
Of course, the young girl is slippery and keeps managing to find Sterling alone and unzip her coat, followed immediately by an attempt to kidnap her. The first ending with Sterling using hairspray to ignite the kidnapper, which is funny because it’s Sterling doing something successfully. The up-shot of animation is that they are able to go more extreme with old gags. Which is good, because old gags are all they’ve got.
The scene where Sterling and Lolita Anka argue over how she is only playing a tart to get attention, while on a snowmobile fighting off gunmen, is a scene that would be nigh impossible to film, yet really deserved to exist. The visuals are, of course, insanely cheap and the show is at its best when it’s relying of dialogue for its jokes. So, the extended arguments Sterling has with everyone trying to defend himself from accusations of attempted statutory rape (on principle, as this is Switzerland and their age of consent is 16) are entertaining.
Less entertaining is the largely visually geared sub-plot of Malory Archer trying to seduce Schlotz while slipping him cooked accounting to secure his long-term patronage. We’ve seen this in Archer before and, twist!, Schlotz is into socially maladjusted HR rep Pam, because he’s a “chubby chaser”. There is an eventual drunken orgy for no apparent reason other than the attempted sight gag of Pam nude. Because, you know, naked fat chicks are hysterical.
Archer is unapologetically adolescent, yet manages to find the juxtapose of adolescent behavior in serious situations often enough to be enjoyable. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s less “James Bond meets Arrested Development“, as creator Adam Reed claims, and more “Get Smart meets Family Guy“. Which, hey, sometimes you do want to watch. Nor does it change the fact that every time I watch, I keep wishing it was Danger Girl. Oh well.