Archer, Season 4

Jon Hamm’s Deadpan Brilliance and an Intense Underwater Escape Make for the Perfect Season Finale
Talking television.
April 11 2013 10:30 PM

Archer, Season 4

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Jon Hamm’s deadpan brilliance and an intense underwater escape make for the perfect season finale.

Archer_Sealab_Hamm
I don't remember this scene!

Courtesy of FX Networks.

In Slate’s Archer TV Club, Jeremy Stahl IMed each week with a different fan of the FX spy comedy. This week he chatted with TV Guide senior writer Damian Holbrook.

Stahl: Thanks so much for joining me, Damian. You moderated a very fun-looking Archer panel at San Diego Comic-Con last year, and I’m really glad to have you here for the Season 4 finale. I have to say that I thought last week’s episode was a bit disappointing. Even Archer executive producer Matt Thompson described “Sea Tunt: Part 1” as "kind of a prick tease of an episode." But I felt like tonight’s conclusion totally vindicated last week's show.

Holbrook: I felt the same way about Part 1. It was like a long tease to get to the Jon Hamm moment. It still had great stuff for Cheryl, though.

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Stahl: This week, Lana, Cyril, Ray, and Archer are tasked with taking out rogue eco-terrorist and Sealab 2021 icon Captain Murphy, voiced brilliantly by the aforementioned Hamm. Murphy is threatening to blow up New York, and (less importantly to Mallory) Miami and D.C., if his insane demands (a complete moratorium on all fishing for 50 years) aren’t met.

If last week’s episode was one extended helicopter ride to get us to the underwater SEA LABoratory, this week plunged us right into the Dangaaa Zone. I loved the undercover personas each agent had, especially Archer’s local Emmy-winning camera-dude/nationally ranked kite surfer Randy Magnum. Also, great to see Archer’s Bob/Guido Sardouchebag mustache back.

Holbrook: I am obsessed with Randy Magnum now. I fully expect to see some cosplay of that at SDCC this summer.

Stahl: In her review for the AV Club, Sonia Saraiya described how last week's episode sort of ratcheted up the previously laughably low stakes for ISIS. Even if Murphy's terrorist threat turned out to be make-believe this week, the stakes felt elevated even further, especially in that final scene.

Even though Lana's pregnancy was heavily foreshadowed early in the episode, the reveal still felt like a big one because of the suspense of that moment with the Sealab being flooded and everybody's lives at stake. Also, even though you knew Archer would survive, that defibrillator scene was genuinely tense—a lot like the sky dive off of the Tunt Towers. The action this season has generally been much improved.

Holbrook: The pod flooding sequence—which oddly reminded me of the large set piece from that Poseidon remake a few years ago—was pretty fluid (excuse the pun). In fact, I would say the action parts of the show have been amping up ever since the Burt Reynolds episode.

Another thing that really surprised me was the heightened emotionality. Archer's "sacrifice" and his resurrection brought out a level of emotion in Lana that was all about Aisha Tyler's vocal performance. Of course, seconds after that, it was back to their usual business of love-hate.

Stahl: You noted in your Comic-Con panel that you thought Lana still might love Archer. I think this episode completely bears that out and demonstrates that the love is reciprocal. I mean, Archer even said it himself when he was drowning. Do you think they're going to be getting back together next year?

Holbrook: I do think a reunion is in the cards, if only to bring in fresh material for them to fight about. The writers can't keep going back to referencing their failed relationship, three seasons later. As for them hinting at Lana's pregnancy, I missed those telltale signs completely because I was chalking them up to a callback to last season's “Space Race” finale, which saw Lana vomiting most of her time in orbit.

They even dropped "boondoggle" a few times, not to mention the mirrored eco-maniac plot, so I just assumed they were having fun recasting "Space Race" at a much lower altitude.

Stahl: All true. I thought they did a great job of making Captain Murphy more likable than Bryan Cranston’s “Space Race” villain Commander Drake, though. When he wasn't psychotically threatening destruction upon America’s major East Coast cities and holding a knife to Lana’s throat, of course.

Can we talk about Jon Hamm's voicing? This was my favorite cameo of the entire series. And I'm not even a Mad Men fan. Hamm's comic timing is just so perfect, and the way that he read the canned arch-villains' lines was so terrifically deadpan.

Holbrook: Totally. Jon Hamm is too good-looking to be as funny as he is. And his performance here was a perfect fit for the cadence and style Archer is known for. I was, however, a little concerned by how gravelly his voice sounded.

And once Lana called him out on not having the chemical weapons, he shifted slightly enough from Master Villain to Tragic Tree Hugger to make his final moments believable. I especially appreciated the fact that he was crushed to death by a Goz Soda Machine, a sweetly morbid nod to Sealab 2021's original Captain Murphy, the late Harry Goz

Stahl: Thompson mentioned in his Warming Glow chat last week that there would be an awesome Harry Goz shoutout, and I totally missed it! That note makes the last scene flawless. Captain Murphy's final words were some of my favorite Archer dialogue of all time: "Awk-ward! Ignore me, sorry, I'm dying. Crushed by an offbrand drink machine. Oh my God, just like that old gypsy woman said—gurggle." So much Archer-ness for one guest character.

Holbrook: And that was right after his line about his spleen slipping out of what used to be his anus. A line only Jon Hamm could pull off with such deadpan perfection.

Stahl: Overall, I think this season felt simpler and more cohesive than Season 3. The jokes have been better than ever, and as we've already said, the emotional stakes and the quality of the action sequences have been heightened significantly.

Holbrook: This was definitely a standout season. It was firing on all cylinders and dared to go so far away from the ISIS offices that I feel like we got an expanded Archer universe. And after this episode, we had one that sets up next year for some very interesting possibilities. Mallory as Grandma. Pam as the world's most vile wet nurse. Maybe even a baby battle between Lana's kid and the Wee Baby Seamus.

Stahl: I am kind of hoping for some sort of 3 Men and a Baby antics with Krieger, Cyril, and Archer, even though we’ve already established that the dad is a sperm donor, and Lana would never, ever sleep with Krieger (who stole this finale, by the way, with that nude, coked-up drum solo). OK, I could go on about how much I loved this episode and how much I love this show, but the Internet only has a limited amount of space. Right?

Holbrook: Thank you so much for having me! If I was right there, I would tickle you like Archer did to Ray.

Stahl: No, my bionic legs! J. Stahl out.

Jeremy Stahl is a Slate senior editor. You can follow him on Twitter.

 

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