After viewing the questionable beginning to Archer‘s fifth season – a weak, sluggish set-up episode that was heavy on the verbal flashbacks, way too light on the jokes, and had a three-minute montage trailer (out of an allotted twenty minutes, egads) depicting all the hijinks the characters would get up to during the season in an attempt to entice viewers to stick around through all the weirdness – I figured I’d give the season a few episodes to find its footing. Two episodes later, Archer is starting to get back in its usual hilarious groove (though it’s not any less ridiculous for it.)
For those who haven’t yet seen or heard about the latest season, the season premiere “White Elephant” is the beginning of an adventure unlike any other ISIS has experienced. By that, I mean there is no more ISIS. Turns out Malory Archer (voiced by Jessica Walter) had been running a top secret spy agency completely without government authorization, and it took said government four whole seasons and an inordinate amount of years to catch on to her. Now that they have, they’re shutting the whole operation down and throwing everyone into prison.
But worry not, because Malory ends up getting everyone out of jail almost scot-free. They just have to give up all their ISIS-owned assets, like their base of operations, all the money they made, their stash of weapons and technology, and their homes… but miraculously, not the literal ton of cocaine stashed away behind Malory’s old office.
The obvious thing to do here is become a drug cartel, which is exactly what Malory tries to do. And thus begins the tale of Archer Vice.
The two episodes following the lackluster pilot, “A Kiss While Dying” and “A Debt of Honor,” continue the descent into madness as everyone rendezvouses back to Cheryl’s ri-donk-ulously huge mansion and start trying to develop the contacts necessary to get all that coke off their hands and away from Pam. It’s here where the season starts to reclaim some of that magical Archer quality that was missing in the first episode; that is, the show started to be funny again. (Offensively funny, yes, but that’s just part of the charm.)
This James-Bond-turned-Miami–Vice revamp is a daring move on the part of Archer creator Adam Reed and producer Matt Thompson. They basically said “fuck it” and switched up a winning formula just because they felt like it was getting stale and wanted to try something new, so I give them major props just for that.
However, if Archer‘s goal was to be feel entirely fresh and different, they might have missed the mark; once the novelty of “ha-ha, super spies are now drug dealers” wore off, it’s pretty clear that almost everything and everyone remains the same, only with a shiny new backdrop in which those situations can play out.
Sure, there’s a couple other big career/life changes thrown into the mix, like Cyril (Chris Parnell) going from mild-mannered accountant to lawyer and money launderer, Cheryl/Carol (Judy Greer) pursuing a career as the world’s greatest country singer and poor unsuspecting Ray (Adam Reed) as her vocal coach, Pam (Amber Nash) becoming a coke fiend, and Lana’s (Aisha Tyler) pregnancy via sperm donor. For better or worse, though, these are the exact same bitchy characters we first fell in love with.
So far Archer Vice has had a pile of cocaine’s worth of both hits and misses, but if it continues to embrace its own insanity with the series’ usual mix of fantastic one-liners and over-the-top scenarios, I’ll definitely be tuning in to watch it all go down.
Lana: Maybe she couldn’t tell because you seemed pretty serious just now when you said you set up a drug deal.
Malory: Well, how else are we supposed to sell it? It’s not like we can have a yard sale.
Archer: Yeah, Lana! Hellooo, people would steal it?
Archer: Potato, puh-treason, whatever.
Lana: It’s just that we’re only, like, two days into this whole drug cartel thing and you’re already addicted to cocaine.
Cheryl/Carol: I know it’s bad, I’m not ear-crippled!
Archer: Lana! He gave his palabra!
Archer: QUIT EATING ALL THE GODDAMN COCAINE.