Archer Review: “Once Bitten” (Season 4, Episode 6)

To begin with, I feel like I should address what I perceive to be the elephant in the room, which is Barry. Last week, Archer inadvertently helped him get back to Earth, tricked into it by his former lover, now Barry’s fellow-cyborg cohort. And at the end of the episode, Barry was rushing towards Earth at a rather alarming rate.

So why, I must ask, is he not even mentioned in this week’s episode? I at first assumed Archer had perhaps gone on the run from Barry with Cyril and Ray, because we weren’t given much to go off of at the start. But it soon became clear that that was most certainly not the case.

No, this was one of Archer‘s more self-contained episodes. We get teased about a possible reveal of who his real father is, but then the carpet is dragged out from under us at the last minute and we’re left with no real resolution, which made “Once Bitten” a rather peculiar episode.

Was it about as entertaining as always? Certainly. With Archer, there’s hardly any doubt that each week you’re in for, and I apologize for the (half) rhyme, treat. I’ve yet to meet an episode of the show that I wouldn’t rank above the best many lesser shows have to offer.

Still, I can’t shake the feeling that this was what I would say constitutes Archer-lite. Each character gets his or her moment, and it moves along at a rather brisk pace, but I was left wondering what its purpose was in the grand scheme of things. Surely it wasn’t just to be the biggest of all cock-teases when it comes to the identity of Archer’s real father.

I imagine his search for the truth will factor heavily into the remainder of this season, but I wish the subject would’ve been broached in a less frustrating fashion. I mean, I’m all for them holding off on certain things and letting them build up, but I was bothered by the way they handled it in this episode.

And I’m not just talking about the sub-plot concerning Archer’s real father. They also, as I already mentioned, ignore Barry entirely, acting almost as if the events of last week’s episode never happened at all. If there had been a brief mention of him and where he was in relation to the characters, and the Earth’s atmosphere, that would’ve been satisfactory. But for his looming presence not to even be brought up struck me as an especially odd choice.

That being said, when looked at out of context, “Once Bitten” was, as I said, a fairly fast-moving episode that worked well enough. While it was light on the sort of zingers the show regularly deals in, it definitely still had its moments, such as Lana being read like a large-print book by Cheryl.

Personally, I’ve always been a fan of those moments when the show gets serious about dissecting what makes these characters all such headcases. Normally, it’s been Archer on the receiving end, so it was nice to see a change of pace in that respect. Even better that it came from such an unexpected source. Who would ever think Cheryl, ISIS’ resident pyromaniac and masochist, would be the one to tear down Lana’s defenses so thoroughly?

I also loved getting that glimpse, brief as it was, into Archer’s past. The show is very particular about when we’re granted a look into how he grew up to become the boozer with mother issues, so you know you’re in for a treat when it comes time for another one of those extra-special flashbacks.

The highlight of which was probably Woodhouse drugged out on the toilet. Just as the shock factor made Cheryl’s little speech work even more, it made Woodhouse’s brief appearance even funnier. To think, Woodhouse and Archer weren’t always so different. In fact, the Archer of the present would probably be palling it up with Woodhouse if he were to meet the younger version of him.

Which makes me want to see more of how the two of them interacted when he was young. Hopefully Archer’s search for his real father will provide us with the necessary flashbacks to see their early relationship fleshed out in just that fashion. But, more than anything, I want to see Barry return once again and begin to wreak havoc on Archer’s life. Though I imagine that’s how the season will end, as usual, so it’ll be a long time coming.