Archer Vice – Smugglers’ Blues Review: A Slight Disappointment
“Smugglers’ Blues” is perhaps the first episode of the season to feel underwhelming. It is an adequate installment, a fun story with great moments of hilarity, typical for an episode of Archer
, but it is a given that an installment of the show will be funny, we know that. Seeing as how the new premise had so successfully impacted the previous episodes’ stories, this one left a lot to be desired. “Smugglers’ Blues” is a very standard episode of Archer
; it feels like a season four episode, not only in its structure, but also in the level of enjoyment. It is just fun enough, not particularly hilarious or in any ways memorable. I have stated in earlier reviews that Archer Vice
has gotten better and better with each episode, I can’t say that anymore, it is not an egregious half-hour of television, but it isn’t consistent with the quality of work we have been treated to this season.
Like many previous episodes the action is divided into two stories, Archer’s ridiculous mission in Colombia and the rest of the gang back in New York. It is as reminiscent of the old ISIS days as the show could get. Though quite a few episodes this season have adopted this familiar narrative structure, there was always something to them that separated them from the pre-drug dealing days. Such as, odd character pairings and groupings or unexpected moments of honesty and/or emotion from an unpredictable source. The character groupings in this episode didn’t do much to highlight the series’ sense of comedy in a particularly noteworthy way.
This season has given us the sublime combination of Archer and Pam and for a while the series spoiled us by pairing them up week after week. Those two have worked brilliantly because, not only are they both incredibly ridiculous and insane personalities, but also when put together, they are both forced into extreme situations that affect their behavior substantially. Especially in this season in which Pam’s usual self-indulgent personality has been pushed to the extreme. When Archer is paired with her, then he is immediately thrust in the position of the rational and more logical pair, therefore forced to become the responsible one against Pam’s outlandish attitude. And despite his new and unfamiliar position as the rational party, he never loses the immature and self-involved quality of his personality. Last week’s episode is a perfect example of Archer showing his impulsive and selfish tendencies, while having to reign in Pam in order to fulfill an objective. Their two distinct brands of humor play off one another well. Also, their time together in extreme situations has compelled the characters to reach new levels of development in compelling and earnest ways, surprising us with real, heartfelt moments.
However, the character dynamic among Archer, Cyril, and Ray, while amusing, doesn’t come close to what we have been watching previously. Yes Ray and Cyril have their individual quirks, some of which made it onto the episode (Cyril’s cowardice and overall ineffective work as a field agent, Ray’s disinterest of the task at hand as he worries about not learning Spanish, “GoI hate I took Latin…just feel like such a tourist…” or his greater interest in showing off his drink in “Snacklesnap.”), but they don’t make much of an impression. Essentially we get two ‘straight men’ working against Archer’s recklessness. In this situation Archer is his usual selfish, arrogant and impetuous self and the other two are present to react with exasperation and/or incredulity at their current situation. They don’t necessarily add another level of hilarity or complication to the situation; therefore making the story one note and lackluster. If only they had switched Cyril for Pam, (because, really, why bother with taking Cyril on the field? At least Pam is “coke strong” and can be useful in combat) then there would have been a more balanced combination of zany antics and “straight man” humor.
Like in the episode “A Kiss While Dying” in which Lana, Archer and Pam were the team delegated to go to Miami. In that scenario Lana was the voice of reason becoming increasingly frustrated with Pam’s coke-addled ways and Archer’s implausible plans, creating a nice triangle of conflict and comedy. The comedy in that situation arose out of the characters and their relationship to one another, which has been sustained throughout the season, whereas in this latest installment Reed relied more on the absurdity of the situation to entertain viewers. The success of Archer
lies fully on the vividly realized characters, while a scenario could be amusing on its own, if the characters are not used to their utmost potential, it just isn’t as funny.
With the main action in Colombia the supporting players didn’t have much to do. Another shame, because there Pam, who we’ve become so accustomed to seeing in a more prominent role, is among them. We don’t even get a great, weird Cherlene moment. At least Krieger always delivers with some bizarre treat, this week: a closer look at his GILF videos. Poor, poor Woodhouse.
Despite the underwhelming quality of the episode, it does a good job creating anticipation for the next episode. We can assume that Lana and Pam, and maybe others, will head to Colombia to rescue the three idiots, which could be a lot of fun. Also, maybe a tiger appearance.
What did you think of “Smugglers’ Blues”?
- “Cocaine enthusiast?”
- “All babies should be drowned?”
- “I mean, did you used to be a man?”
- Love Archer’s overzealous desire to pilot any and every craft he is currently within. And, as much as I enjoy the callback, it is like Reed feels obligated to remind us of the exact moment so we can get the joke. We get it, didn’t need the thorough explanation.
- Voicemail gag!
- And the return of phrasing? Archer’s gleeful amusement is hilarious.
- “Look here’s some cocaine puddin’, here’s some more cocaine puddin’. Oooh, cocaine puddin’!”
- Just under the twenty minute mark, this is one of the shorter episodes of the season, but the story comes off quite dull making the episode feel longer than it is.
- It is great to see the show continue the Malory/Archer story thread. Their dysfunctional relationship has always been a source of great material and I love how Reed is exploring it in a more earnest/serious way. She actually cries for him!