Archer: Season 3, Episode 4
The Man From Jupiter
It would be hard for me to hide my excitement at Archer's return, so fortunately, I don't have to. The show kicked off its third season tonight (ok, technically it kicked it off way back in September with "Heart of Archness," but for all intents and purposes, tonight functioned as a premiere) with "The Man From Jupiter," which, in 22 minutes, made an argument for why this show is great television, turned in a hilarious episode, and reminded us all that Burt Reynolds is awesome. If the exchange between Reynolds and Archer (in the world's slowest elevator) about Archer being prevented from installing a Bat-pole in the building's garbage chute wasn't enough to reawaken your love for this show, then I imagine you and I will have plenty to disagree about over the course of this season (and you should tell me so in the comments).
"The Man From Jupiter" didn't have separate plots so much as two stories that were heavily interconnected, which provided a great way to get all of the cast (including the long absent Krieger, who was sorely missed during "Heart of Archness," and Yuriko, his long-absent digital bride) in the same scenes. Seeing as Archer is never better than when its excellent ensemble is riffing at lightning fast speed (I still find it hard to believe the dialogue on this show is recorded individually, considering how well the timing works out), this means that "The Man From Jupiter" was often excellent.
Archer meets Burt Reynolds in a hotel bar, only to discover Malory is dating him (of COURSE she is, because he is a man on this show) and throw an Archer-like temper tantrum. Meanwhile, a Cuban hit squad is after our hero (though Malory forgot to tell him for a week after his "faux answer" answering machine annoyed her). Archer thinks that Malory made up the hit squad, so he ignores her warning and kidnaps Burt Reynolds, which means that Lana, Gilette, and for some reason the rest of the ISIS crew (sans Pam and Carol, who are on Malory duty) set out save Archer and Reynolds.
All of this leads to a phenomenal set piece: a computer generated car chase that has the ISIS gang fleeing from the Cubans in Krieger's van (weighed down by Gilette's handicap-equipment) while Archer and Burt Reynolds race to save them. The chase was actually pretty cool in and of itself (in fact, I would put it among the best action sequences the show has ever turned out), but it was little more than an excuse for an extended scene allowing Reynolds and H. Jon Benjamin to play off each other. Which is really all I ever could have wanted out of this episode.
Archer is, at heart, a silly show, and one that is not above being shockingly, hilariously vulgar (see: anything Pam said tonight, or really ever). What really makes it shine, however, is the near-perfect joke construction, the lightning fast pace, and the real intelligence behind many of the show's barbed one-liners. I can't say that I'm a huge Burt Reynolds fan, and so a lot of tonight's cleverest references probably sailed over my head, but I can definitely get behind a plot line that presents Reynolds as a perfect human being, a man who can charm Malory, talk Archer out of kidnapping him (and into letting him date Malory), catch the Cubans AND stop a car with brake cables out, if only for the fact that, while "this guy is the perfect man" plots aren't exactly new, absolute perfection is sort of inherently funny and it was executed very well here.
I talked about this in my review of 30 Rock last week, but the best season premieres succeed by simply reminding us why we loved the show in the first place and letting us hang out with the characters we adore and have missed since the last season ended. Everyone got a chance to shine tonight, there were callbacks to old gags galore (Yuriko and Carol's frustrated inability to remember who is her supervisor being two of the best), and Burt Reynolds was actually hysterical throughout, something that was far from a given in my mind when I heard he was guesting in the premiere. Yet the best episodes of Archer have more than madcap lunacy and lightning fast banter to them. At the top of its game (as it was during the breast cancer arc last season), this show has real pathos that often takes me by surprise. That was a minor element of "The Man From Jupiter," but the episode still provided hints as to what this season might throw at our favorite secret agent. Burt Reynolds pointed out that Archer's conflicts with Malory often stem from his child-like inability to recognize her as a real person with human needs, and that Archer pretends to not care about his coworkers but is actually deeply invested in their well-being, both of which are sort of obvious to longtime fans of the show but are facts our protagonist remains willfully oblivious about. Perhaps this season we will finally see Sterling Archer mature. And even if there is no real character progress in the near future (which I seriously doubt), if Archer's third season is as hilarious and excellent as tonight's episode was, I will be happy for a long time to come.
-"I thought you were great!" "Really?" "Well...I wanted to."
-"We were meeting for drinks! I mean, obviously sex was implied..."
-"I'm sitting here with just a mustache and memories of last night...And also a blanket. My AC is stuck on freeze."
-"You could drown a toddler in my panties right now...not that you would..." Pam's vulgarity is pretty funny on its own. But I love even more her tendency to bring things back down to earth directly after.
-"Regards? They weren't even warmest!"
-"Who calls it Tinseltown?" "Carol Channing?" "Or someone who thinks that's what celebrities call it." "Stockard Channing?"
-"I don't have a response to that." "They never do."
-"Why are you torturing her like that?" "Why are you asking rhetorical questions?"
-"Loved you in Gone with the Wind."
-"I hate to sound Hollywood. But could you put my Pimm's cup..." "In a pimp cup? My pleasure sir." And, a few mintues later, "Where are we on that chalice?"
-"You should get a Bat-pole." "$9,000. Lowest estimate I got." I couldn't possibly transcribe this whole conversation, but it was pure GOLD.
-"I forgot about Hawk." "He was part Indian."
-"Wait, was that the same footage?"
-"Is that a ghost?"
-"I'll show him! I'll go find me a ten-year-old!"