In Slate’s Archer TV Club, Jeremy Stahl will IM each week with a different fan of the FX spy comedy. This week he chats with Slate senior editor and Archer lover Dan Kois.
Jeremy Stahl: So many things to like about that episode, amiright?
Dan Kois: Let's start with the Bob's Burgers crossover opening—I really loved seeing those characters Archerized. (And Archer with a bushy Bob moustache.) It makes the most of Jon Benjamin's vocal ubiquity—and makes me hope for follow-up episodes in which Archer finds himself in Dr. Katz's house and Home Movies' soccer field.
Stahl: Archer as Coach McGuirk would be amazing, but seems unlikely. Executive producer and creator Adam Reed has noted before how there won't likely be a crossover with Reed’s old Adult Swim superhero show Frisky Dingo because Cartoon Network owns those characters, so Home Movies seems even less likely. Obviously, 20th Century Fox was cool with this usage, as well they should have been. I didn't have a clue what was going on until we returned to Mallory's office after the opening credits, and for a second I even thought that Reed was taking us into some weird surreal Louie-style alternative reality. Of course that's not this show's M.O., but I was definitely thrown in a very good way.
Kois: For an absurdist comedy, this show's ridiculously obsessed with maintaining canon, right down to the "dicky" tattoo we saw on Archer's shoulder this episode.
Stahl: Like Louie, this is clearly a show that is capable of some very big, different things, but unlike Louie it has to fit within the reality of that world. Still, I hope they do more batshit stuff like the amnesia-crossover intro in upcoming episodes.
Kois: To summarize what actually did happen, Archer has amnesia, caused by his hatred of seeing his mother happy, and he apparently fled her wedding to Ron Cadillac, the biggest Cadillac dealer in the Tri-State area. I enjoyed seeing the way Archer's Archerness shone through, even though his mind-brain was completely erased. Like his outrage at his hotel margarita. "Sour mix? What is this, Auschwitz?"
Stahl: He might have been “Bob,” but he was still Archer, which is to say he was still a pop-culture-obsessed badass alcoholic dick (not in the private investigator way, in the being a raging asshole way). Also, he still recognizes a pair of She-Hulk hands when he sees them.
Kois: Canon intruded, once again, in the closing revelation that Barry is still up on the International Space Station, and is tracking Archer's every move. Is there any level at which the show actually invests in the espionage aspects of its plot? Or is it all just larky, crazy scaffolding for the show's many, many great jokes?
Stahl: I would say that the scaffolding is not just holding up awesomely funny, often super-meta jokes that really do go deep ("phrasing, first!"), but also a great ensemble workplace comedy and characters with whom I genuinely want to spend 23 minutes of my week. But to your question, Adam Reed has said that he spends hours on Wikipedia researching the show, so he definitely invests in making that scaffolding as sturdy as possible.
Kois: Hahaha, "hours on Wikipedia."
Stahl: It's real research!
Kois: Zero Dark Thirty gets full cooperation of the CIA, but Archer gets Wikipedia.
IT SHOULD BE THE OTHER WAY AROUND.
Stahl: What are you looking forward to from the next several episodes? I'm actually not that invested in the wedding plotline, but I guess that's because they haven't fleshed it out yet. I'm really curious to see whether Gillette remains handicapped, and how bitter that eventually makes him toward Archer.
Kois: Oh, I'm a big Barry fan. I like his cyborg heart and his casual use of murder as a motivational technique. Can't wait to see what's next from him! I also think it is high time for Cecil Tunt to make an appearance.
Stahl: Maybe Cecil owns an ostrich farm and Cheryl/Carol will need to enlist ISIS to help him fight off rustlers.
Kois: I'd watch that! When this show focuses on its minor characters it is often at its best—witness last season's Justified parody/Ray mythology episode.
Stahl: To the extent that the show is capable of being earnest and self-reflective, I think Cheryl/Carol actually said something quite revelatory about herself and these characters this week. As a billionaire heiress, she doesn't have to go in to work ever and she hates everyone at ISIS. But she continues to go in because she likes to hang out with everybody at work and she would miss hating them so much.
Kois: Aw, that's how I feel about Slate! Must be why I like Archer so much.
Stahl: Really? Slatesters are too lovable! ISIS is where I go to get away from all the wonderful, smart, funny, cuddliness that is Slate to get my weekly dose of hate-sauce. Which must mean both places are doing something right. Anyways, thanks for chatting with me Dan! Until the next trip to the … danger zone.
Kois: So long, Ike Turner!