Friday, January 27, 2012

Archer - "El Contador"

Season 3, Episode 5 

Last week, I discussed at some length how Archer seems to have fallen into a predictable episodic formula, and while it's one that still works – based mainly on the fact that's it a formula that's open ended and allows for a wide-variety of stories to be told within the confines of the genre – it's also one that feels like it will eventually lose it's charms. That being said, it was nigh impossible not to notice the formula (or rather, another, more “classic” version of it) being used in this episode, but that doesn't mean that it wasn't good fun nonetheless. 

It's a given at this point that Archer will always be the focus of the A-plot of any given episode (at least until Adam Reed does one of those inevitable episodes that shift the focus to a second-tier player, a la Star Trek: TNG's “Lower Decks”), and that this will usually involve some sort of mission, be it ISIS-originated or born out of his own selfishness.

This leaves the B-plot to be filled in by the various ISIS Office Drones, who seem to have a bit more narrative freedom than the titular character. Tonight they were used how they've been used a majority of the episodes, by keeping them at the office while Archer and Lana (and in this case, Cyril as well) were out on a mission. It was something we've seen quite a few times before – especially since Krieger once again wreaked havoc thanks to one of his experiments – but it was one that worked, especially as it embraced the show's surrealist streak. I mean, Ray as a robot? Cheryl convinced the floor was lava? Pam turning minimalistic? All fantastic.

Existing among this continuum of Spies to Office Drones is Cyril, a character that the show waxes and wanes on using, based on the whims of Adam Reed (and I would also guess budget limitations and Chris Parnell's work schedule). There's nothing wrong with this inherently, since Archer has something of an ensemble cast, and the best ensemble shows manage to balance all the characters and make them as active or not in an episode as the story requires. However, because Cyril was so active in the first season of the show, the relative lack of story for him in season two felt like he was being unceremoniously downgraded. (It's also part of the reason that “Tragical History” didn't work as well as it should have.)

Thus an episode in which Cyril gets to be thrown back into the action and the character finds a newfound identity within the company feels necessary, not at all shocking, and a bit meta all at the same time. Items one and three are obvious, so it's really number two that I wish to talk about (and no, I don't mean caca). Cyril becoming an agent feels like something that the show would have to do at some point or another, so that in and of itself isn't particularly comedic. Neither is him working his way into the drugs cartel as opposed to simply being captured; that's also fairly old hat for these types of stories. However, seeing him actually be successful at being a spy, and coming up with a working plan on the spot was actually pretty inspiring giving the lows that this character has been through, and it was a much more earned moment than anything in “History.”

But because this is Archer, things couldn't end on such a happy note, and Cyril's skills going to his head and ending in some tragically hilarious comeuppance was just a fantastic way to the end the episode. In fact, this was a pretty dark episode of Archer, considering how destructive the Office's tea freak-outs got, that a tiger got shot in the head, and that the team wasn't able to collect the bounty on Colzado thanks to there inability to get a reciet from the DEA. Archer's always had a pretty large cynical streak, so this isn't exactly a surprise, or even a critique, but it will be interesting to see if this is the beginning of a new trend, if the show's only going to grow darker over the course of the season. Stay tuned.

Next Week: Archer's on a train. In Canada. With an ocelot. This sounds like the greatest episode ever.

Quotes and Other Thoughts:

“Sorry, I have to get back to Earth before the Stargate closes.”

“You don't give THEM the money.” “You can't, they'd blow it on crack.”

“And knock off that damn beat-boxing!”

“Ugh, last week it was free-styling.”

“The tropics, or Busch Gardens?”

“I call them 'groovy bears'.”

“I literally – figuratively – scoured the globe.”

“Non-sequential bills, please.”

“No, I bet in this context, it's 'The Shadow'...”

“You're looking for Predator, aren't you?” “....yes.” “A, he's invisible.” “Not totally! He has a tell-tale shimmer.”

“Tigers don't live in South America.” “Well, at least one does, because I just heard it's spine-tingling roar.”

“It taste worse than it smell!” “Well, if I had a nickel for every time I heard that....I'd have eight nickels!”

“Does that include rape-related injuries?”

“I'm going to die in a toilet stall – just like the gypsy said!”

“So I thought, 'What would Lana do?'” “Umm, not Archer?” “No, I had to outsmart them.”

“This is not mud all over my pants. It's caca.”

“Which is why tomorrow at dawn, I will be hunting the most dangerous game.” “Jai alai?”

“I mean if you want, I can watch you masturbate, but my heart's not going to be in it. It's going to be with that tiger's family. But you go ahead and start.”

“I get the woman. Call it, boom!”

“Are you really that selfish?” “Apparently.”

“Eat a dick, jungle.”

“Oh thank god, I thought you were crocodiles.”

“Probably shouldn't have done that...not enough left to get drunk on.”

“That's our pee, and that's the last I want to hear about it, because this building is a tender box, and I will burn it to the ground.”

“Speaking of excellence, did you hear we met a tiger? But then he got killed.”

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