The Archer formula is so well done and so perfect that it’s going to be a long time before this show stops being enjoyable. In “The Archer Sanction,” it sticks heavily to that established formula and churns out another great episode set in an exotic location.
Again, like every great Archer episode, the plot is split into two primary lines. The main story this time around being Archer, Lana, and Ray travelling to Swiss Alps to execute an assassin (not a Pope, or a Vice Pope, mind you) on a mission from
ISIS the CIA. The side story on the other hand being the rest of the gang getting completely wasted at headquarters while Malory is away.
That story in the Swiss Alps is naturally built up thanks to the incompetence of the CIA crew. Archer completely forgets who the target is, Ray forgets the gum, and Lana is left to clean up their messes. It’s a classic Archer set up that gets perfectly executed. To be completely fair though, the guest characters in the episode are pretty forgettable, but the episode doesn’t focus too heavily on them. They consist of the tour guide, who Lana and Ray both fawn over – which admittedly sets up some pretty great jokes, as well as some completely forgettable characters from Italy, Germany, and Japan.
Even with three of the characters in this main story being mostly forgettable and only there for the sake of one gag, the whole group dynamic of the climbers and the usual Archer crew is genuinely funny. Lana and Ray both awkwardly hitting on the tour guide and arguing about it, the tour guide being completely oblivious, and Archer constantly on the outside trying to snark his way into the conversations is the type of comedy that always works so well with the show’s characters.
Archer forgetting who the target is and only remembering that “they were from a country that was an Axis power in WWII,” is the epitome of what makes Archer great. On the surface it’s a pretty dumb joke, but it’s executed in such a smart way with such intelligent references, and carried out perfectly over the whole half hour, that it never falls flat. Especially when, in the end, the target is Irish/Canadian anyway – both countries that were not an Axis power at all in WWII.
Tension between Archer and Lana has been increased over previous seasons with the addition of baby AJ, and the events of this episode perpetuate it. There’s a sense of jealousy within Archer when Lana is flirting with the tour guide that comes out frequently. Where in previous season he probably wouldn’t have cared, but now he has a stake in her life. Archer isn’t that deep of a show when it comes to character development, but it’s a definite and welcome change to the show’s titular character that keeps growing over the course of the season.
As far as that baby goes, “The Archer Sanction” dances around bringing it up and mentions in a few meta ways. For one, when Archer calls Malory and tells Lana to shut up when she asks about the baby, which is a nice little nod to the fact that no one really cares about the baby, but it can still be used as a prop for jokes. The fact that Malory’s answering machine is an extremely elaborate fake message – like Archer usually fools her with – is well done, and I didn’t see it coming. As I said in my review of the season premier, that fake answering machine gag is one of my favorite in the series.
If you’re playing a game of “spot the Archer inside joke” while you watch as well, you’ll be happy to know that there is also a “Sploosh” dropped quickly in the episode. How exactly Ray is “splooshing” I’ll never, and never want to know, but he and Lana both say it synchronously in response to the hiking tour guide.
With Archer, Ray, and Lana out on a mission and Malory presumably missing, the rest of the group does what they do best: get wasted in places they probably shouldn’t. At first it’s at the headquarters in the swanky hot tub that Pam and Cheryl had installed, but they eventually move onto Malory’s apartment when Lana calls looking for her. With the group going to Malory’s apartment, we also learn some interesting facts about her. For one, she really likes long-haired dogs, and two, she keeps almost no food in her fridge. As well, it also turns out that she bug bombs her house without warning anybody, and that can potentially lead to a drunk group of coworkers drifting in and nearly dying from the poison.
Three episodes into Season Six and it’s clear that Archer isn’t going anywhere. The one-liners, running gags, and episode-specific jokes were all on point. An interesting group dynamic and some character growth also help along what in the end is an average episode of Archer. But when you’re a show as good as Archer, average is still pretty darn great.
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