February 10, 2012 - 7:06pm
BY DAVID TAO AND KAYLA UPADHYAYA
Now in its third season, FX's animated comedy “Archer” continues to follow the escapades of the worst best secret agent in the intelligence world: Sterling Malory Archer. Senior Arts Editors Kayla Upadhyaya and David Tao recap “Drift Problem.”
Kayla: We took a break from spy work this week with an episode much more low-key than the first few of the season. Instead of an ISIS mission, we were presented with rather normal things: Archer's excitement over his new toy, the inevitable moment when the car goes missing, etc. But in usual “Archer” fashion, normalcy quickly turns into absurdity and Archer ends up taking on some badass drift racers. Of COURSE Pam is involved in drift racing, OF COURSE.
David: Well, when your brand new Dodge Challenger!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (registered trademark of We Love Product Placement Incorporated) comes equipped with anti-pursuit devices, a bulletproof body and an interior bar, low key isn’t the first thing that springs to mind.
Kayla: By low-key, I meant a lack of action.
David: It seemed like there was a lot more literal action than in weeks past. Lots of drift-racing shots, Archer’s fancy spy-mobile victimizing a bunch of police cars on his way to work, etc.
Kayla: Those were cool moments, but overall the episode didn’t leave me with much. They relied a bit too much on old material and didn’t forge anything new.
David: It seemed like a quasi-sequel to the last Pam episode, except this seemed like a bit too much of a stretch. When we found out Pam used to be an underground street fighter, it was pretty cool — a super interesting and surprisingly believable twist for a side character in bad need of development. This week though, the Pam as a drift-racing criminal associate seemed like the product of a sleep-deprived writer’s room. It was a rough week, they all watched Tokyo drift and thought they'd dump most of the work on the animation guys.
Kayla: You see, I disagree to a certain extent. I agree that this episode felt like the product of lazy writing, but the parts I had the least qualms with were Pam’s scenes. If anything, I wanted a bit more of that quasi-side story. There wasn’t really a B-plot this week. And I didn’t feel like the A-plot was interesting or well meshed enough to carry the entire episode.
David: The Pam bits felt like a bit of a B-plot, in the sense that it didn't really fit into the overall story. It seemed really shoe-horned in. Then again, the A-plot, like you said, was pretty bad. Archer loses his shit after losing his birthday present, and it’s all because his mother’s a psychopath and gave him a really shitty childhood. Replace birthday present with some other plot device and it’s every mediocre episode of “Archer” ever made He’s a needy, selfish, douchebag with ridiculous mommy issues. I love that about him, especially since he’s a cartoon character and I’m not immediately drawn to how many real-life people I know who match that description, but when the writers milk the mommy thing too hard, I start not caring.
Kayla: I just felt like too much of this episode leaned on Archer, when really they have such a great ensemble of characters to work with. Lana has been somewhat peripheral for most of the season so far.
David: Krieger, too. Woodhouse is back though.
Kayla: Pam and Carol have had their moments, but we still haven't gotten too much of the regular ol' office crew and their shenanigans ... other than the crazy drug bit. A lot of this episode relied on Archer/Woodhouse and Archer/Malory interactions. Like I said, it was a bit too much of old material. I don't mind when “Archer” does callback jokes and recycles things from past episodes, but this week felt entirely like rehashing.
David: I love callbacks. They establish some sort of serialization and reward loyal (read: obsessive) viewers like us. But there’s a thin line between that and rehashing, and this was like, entirely rehashing … rehashing mixed with animated action, and animated action isn’t what I watch “Archer” for.
Kayla: That being said, there were still some hilarious moments and lines this week. It's always fun to see Archer get so excited about something, whether it's an ocelot or a fancy new spy car. And I didn't mind that when Malory warned Archer not to lose the car it became oh so predictable that that's exactly what would happen.
David: That was some super effective product placement, too. It made me want a Dodge Challenger, and the “Archer” writers managed to work in some sarcasm too: “Corinth is famous for its leather!” The writers probably know that in the context of Dodge, Corinth is a made-up place that isn’t, actually, famous for its leather.
Kayla: The car Walter White totaled in “Breaking Bad” was a Challenger.
David: He wouldn’t have been able to do that with Archer’s Challenger, given the bulletproof upholstery.
Kayla: Very true.
David: Generally with “Archer,” we get two to three good episodes and one “meh” as the writers recharge … the two cancer episodes and the train episode, followed by the Grand Prix episode. While I wasn’t a huge fan of the season premiere, I’m in the minority there, so we’ve had three solid episodes. I’m sure the writers will be back next week with something better.