The writers giveth, and the writers taketh away. After a relatively strong few entries, mostly riding on the coattails of “London Time,” the latest pair of Archer episodes hit a significant slump, and one that’s going to be difficult to get out of in the time left to the season.
Let’s start with “Dingo, Baby, et Cetera.” since it came first and all. A promising exploration of Archer’s genesis into the man and agent he is today falls disappointingly flat when Archer, Lana, and Krieger fly to Japan to protect a spy from an assassin. The same assassin Archer failed to stop in his first mission, a fact that has him on edge. It’s Lana’s job to get the target to expose himself (phrasing) in a way that makes the assassin vulnerable. Archer is there to take him out, and Krieger is there to provide important insights into Japanese culture, whiiiiich…
Yeah. Anyway, the episode is alright but suffers in several respects. First off, how, in the name of Ashley J. Williams, do you make Bruce Campbell dull?! Not that McGinley isn’t dryly amusing in his way, but this is a huge waste of Campbell’s talents. As the top ISIS agent and Archer’s mentor for his very first mission, Campbell should have plenty of opportunities to chew the scenery. Instead, he’s mostly the straight man. He gets Archer to drink and (badly) flirt, but he’s given very little to work with. Archer’s first love interest Reiko (Karen Fukuhara) does better, but the storyline doesn’t have much time to develop. We’re treated to Lana’s quasi-cheating and emotional chicanery in lieu of plot and honestly, it’s not her best look. The interplay between her and William (Emmett Hughes) as they oh-so-carefully negotiate mutual satisfaction is funny but feels like a betrayal of the character in some respects.
In “Colt Express,” comatose scientist Colt (Eric André) miraculously wakes up after an ill-conceived experimental treatment (aka a Krieger special) goes horribly awry. He and the gang go on a journey across Singapore to recover or destroy his MacGuffin, capable of either solving the world energy crisis or destroying it entirely. Typical. Between the terrible sense of humor, kickass van, and sexualized holograms, he’s basically Krieger’s brother from another mother. Meanwhile, Lana, Cyril, and Archer infiltrate rival agency IIA with temp-to-perm employee Ray’s help. That’s right, Ray’s working with the enemy! Gasp indeed. Cyril keeps pestering Lana about her emotional cheating and the way she’s slowly but surely turning into Archer. Cheryl is upset because by Singaporean standards she’s middle class at best. And Archer, surprisingly, is actually competent at his job for once. It doesn’t matter in the end, though, because a surprise appearance from Other Barry spell Archer’s doom, and the episode ends with his capture by supervillain Rex Licardo. I really enjoyed the new camaraderie between Barry and Archer, and I hope Other Barry’s appearance is short-lived. Archer could use an actual friend.
It’s better than “Dingo, Baby, et Cetera” at least, I’ll give it that. It even feels a bit like classic Archer, with a flashback and obscure references. Ray’s return is a welcome turn of events, as the episodes without him were definitely lacking. Eric André is a decent mad scientist; he and Lucky Yates even have similar voices. But the episode remains short, and Judy Greer and Amber Nash are entirely wasted. Worse, though, is Mallory’s presence. After Jessica Walter passed we were told that she’d finished “almost everything” for season 12 by showrunner Casey Willis. All the episodes apart from “London Time” demonstrate that isn’t true. Her absence requires poor Chris Parnell to word-vomit all over the place in the first few minutes of “Dingo, Baby, et Cetera” and it shows. Her unavoidable absence wouldn’t bother me so much, I think, had Willis not insisted she’d be there. Better to have a throwaway line about being back in the office than to splice in old dialogue that doesn’t fit. I’m sure they did the best they could in the time available, but I still feel there are better solutions.
That catches us up to last night’s season finale, “Mission Difficult”, which we’ll have a recap for soon. There will be a 13th season coming next year, and we’ll see how they deal with Mallory’s loss moving forward.