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Archer Review: Back In The Danger Zone

Marshall Lemon | 9 Jan 2015 20:00
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Archer returns to its classic spy parody roots and forgets almost entirely about Vice, for better or worse.

Archer Vice sure was different, wasn't it? After four seasons exploring the lives and exploits of a thoroughly dysfunctional freelance spy agency, Season 5 switched gears by completely dismantling the organization and seeing if the show could be about drug runners instead. As it turns out, no, it could not. But as strange as the shift was, it remained appealing television thanks to great performances and solid writing. Archer, Lana, Malory, and the entire cast are hilarious whether they're facing KGB agents or Central American cartels, and they all went through significant changes that kept us watching the entire divergent season.

But now it's time for Season 6, where we're getting back to spies and putting all that Vice business behind us. And I mean all of it. Pam's put back on the weight she lost. Cheryl seems to have forgotten about her country musician career. And of course, Archer's back to his usual routine as the world's best secret agent (in his own eyes). Other than Lana carrying a newborn baby around you could assume nothing had changed at all. Well, other than Brett still being dead.

It's incredibly refreshing as it is for Archer to return to its spy movie parody roots, especially after the long wait between seasons. But at the same time, we seem to have dropped some of the more interesting changes too, like how Archer slowly realized he wasn't a complete asshole. Which would be fine in and of itself, if Archer wasn't following the exact same pattern we saw in previous season premieres. You can only keep telling the same joke for so long after all.

Regardless, that's a fairly minor concern at this point. The premiere is still a riot to watch, and it's likely that Archer will see the effects of last season in future episodes. Archer's actually answering his phone, for one. Who knows what could happen? In the meantime we're about to enter the Spoiler Zone, so if you haven't already you can catch up on Archer through FX, Hulu, or buy the episode on Amazon.

Picking up six weeks after the events of Archer Vice, Archer returns to form by waking up hungover in a trashed hotel room with a bottle of King Cobra Whiskey beside him. (The prostitutes, naturally, are in a nearby washroom.) We're quickly filled in on what's happened when he answers a phone call from his mother: Archer disappeared - again - after learning he was the father to Lana's child while ISIS rebranded itself as a new freelance spy agency. Lana insists that Archer come home to address what's happened, but given Archer's convenient location, Malory has a job for him to complete first: Retrieve a CIA computer from a spy plane that just crashed in the midst of a conflict in Borneo.

Archer makes his way to the jungle island to complete his mission but encounters a wrinkle in his plan: The jungle is already occupied by Kintaru Sato, a World War II Japanese soldier who never found out the war ended. As crazy as the concept is, it's completely accurate historically, although pop culture savvy Archer only understands it through the lens of a Six Million Dollar Man episode.

In the real world, these soldiers were treated with dignity, reintegrated into society via surviving commanding officers. But since this is Archer, the process is a little less graceful. Sato leads Archer through a trap that impales his foot and breaks two of his ribs in combat. Archer captures and ties up his attacker while trying to explain that he's not racist for doing so. Later, Sato steals the oddity that is his smartphone, and is horrified to learn exactly how the war ended at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Once the awkwardness is out of the way though, Archer and Sato actually end up bonding. Archer tells Sato much of his recent life story, prompting a rebuke that he shouldn't abandon his daughter. Sato steps up to help Archer complete his mission now that he's too injured to do so alone. And in what is hands-down the most emotional scene featured in the series, Archer uses his phone to reunite a tearful Sato with his still-living family. It almost makes up for Archer's colossal dickishness at the beginning of the episode... almost.

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