Archer Review: “The Papal Chase” (Season 4, Episode 11)

On Archer, missions never go according to plan, but they’ve so consistently been subject to sudden twist endings this season that this has had the opposite of the intended effect, which is that those revelations are an expected, as opposed to a surprising, occurrence.

It’s a minor quibble, one which I was willing to put up with to a point, but it deserves mentioning when it happens on a show which seems to pride itself on its unpredictable nature. These characters will literally say or do anything short of get along with one another.

This season, though, it’s been one bait and switch after another. One week it’s Malory pulling the strings, the next it’s Kreiger, of all people, and this week it was a power hungry priest with his eye on the papacy. Ye, the culprit has remained somewhat of a revolving door week-to-week, which helped prevent it from becoming too tiresome a plot contrivance.

However, while the actors might change, the story remains the same. Archer‘s verging on becoming the animated equivalent of House, a show viewers could literally set their watch to. The patient was always cured in the last ten or so minutes of the episode, thanks to one of House’s infamous eureka moments, and it was never lupus.

On Archer, the characters arrive at their knowledge of the true nature of their missions in much the same way as House, which is to say in an unexpected flash. Like with House, though, the writing is sharp enough for me to be willing to forgive the predicability.

I guess what’s bothering me about it the most is that I thought Archer was above this sort of thing. Maybe this is natural, though. It could be that the show has been following the same formula from day one and I’m just now noticing its ins and outs because they didn’t do as good a job at writing around it with this week’s episode.

Never before has an episode of Archer flew by faster than this week’s. That probably has a lot to do with the fact that the characters themselves are on the move almost from start to finish. This gives them ample opportunity to highlight how far their effects have come, and the quality of animation caught me more off guard than the twist.

Except, by keeping their characters continuously on the move, the episode is never given the chance to sink in. Its jokes whiz past at such velocity that I can hardly recall most of what was said. I remember Pam’s “hah!” in response to the pope thinking Archer was homosexual (and jazz hands!), but the rest of the episode is somewhat of a blur.

What I can say, though, is I wish they had toyed more with Woodhouse and the pope being lookalikes. Though I guess with Woodhouse sticking around in the Vatican, at least until him and the pope come to, there remains potential for more antics involving the two of them.

I also was disappointed by how little our sinful band of characters got to clash with the pope. Pam got in her share of banter with him, sure. Yet, as I already pointed out, the jokes were too rapid fire to leave much of a lasting impact.

Archer‘s generally the sort of show that likes to pause and call attention to its own cleverness, but there was little of that in this week’s episode. As a result, I’m liable to have forgotten all about it prior to next week when we get the first of the two part season finale.

Perhaps that was by design, the people behind the show wanting to give viewers a breather before they get into what one assumes will be the most plot-heavy episodes of the season. Barry’s sure to show up, because the writers aren’t the sort to bring him back and then do nothing with him, minus have him orchestrate a rather grand prank upon Archer earlier in the season.

Personally, though, I would rather have had an episode that built up to, or at least foreshadowed, what’s to come. But I guess the writers would rather we be made to wait and see.

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