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 interactives editor and Archer lover Chris Kirk.
Jeremy Stahl: C. Kirk! Thanks so much for joining. As Archer would say, “Let's do this!!” Does anyone ever call you Captain Kirk, by the way? I just thought of that potential nickname today.
Chris Kirk: Yes, everyone calls me that to my extreme chagrin. But you may call me that for the sake of our dear readers.
Stahl: Excellent, Captain Kirk, set course for Vermont! What did you think of this week's episode? I have to say, at first I was kind of disappointed, but reflecting now on some of the better jokes, the episode is growing on me.
Kirk: Between Archer being totally oblivious to his buddy's romantic intentions and Cyril and Pam's insistence on the peer review, I thought it was a great episode. Also: “Vermont has liquor stores, right? No, they have to. It sucks there.” Classic.
Stahl: Really? The peer-review stuff was what didn't do it for me. I get that this is a great workplace comedy, and usually the office fodder is some of the funniest stuff in the show (see: ant infestation in the break room), but the peer reviews seemed forced and uninteresting. I mean, they were Pam's baby, but we barely saw her the entire episode. Also, Cyril seems far too level-headed to have been insisting on doing paperwork while his life was in mortal danger. Looking back, though, the Lucas Troy-Archer relationship, especially the payoff at the end, made the peer-review stuff worth it.
Kirk: I thought the ending was hilarious, with all three of them just sitting in the car, shocked, Archer clutching a whiskey bottle.
Stahl: Archer is possibly the most hilariously cruel show to its main character on television—Adam Reed has ended episodes by killing Archer’s fiancée before his eyes, giving Archer cancer after he thought he was in the clear, assassinating Archer’s (maybe) father while he was getting laid rather than fulfilling an assignment to protect him, and now killing Archer’s best (only) friend in the most gruesome manner possible (“Is it bad?”) only to reveal that the friend had sexually assaulted Archer while he was passed out drunk.
Kirk: Archer is such an arrogant jerk that's it's satisfying to see him suffer. And none of his misfortunes ever has a permanent implication. By the next episode he'll be back to his usual self. Which is good! The constant cycle of watching this disrespectful, obliviously egotistic jerk get his comeuppance is what this show seems to be about.
Stahl: I think I enjoy seeing the bro side of Archer suffer, but witnessing the resilient, neglected-by-his-mom side suffering is kind of sad. Hilariously sad, obviously. The final punchline was the most laugh-out-loud hysterical one I can remember in the entire series. The absolute dread, sadness, and horror in Lana's eyes were too perfect when contrasted with Archer's nonchalance at being the victim of a sexual brottack.
Kirk: I didn't take it as nonchalance. I just figured he was so utterly traumatized that he wasn't even expressive.
Stahl: What about the “Can we have the radio” line, though? I feel like he was already back to his usual self.
Kirk: It's a mixture of both, probably.
Stahl: Either way, it was beautifully executed. That's one of things Archer does best—finish on really strong notes. Often the show’s funniest (and not coincidentally, darkest) jokes are saved for the kicker. This is an old Adam Reed signature. I recently rewatched an episode of Sealab 2021 in which Reed just redubbed line-for-line an incredibly boring episode from the original series, but he added one last brilliant touch: While the credits were rolling, Sealab blew up.
Kirk: It's shows like Archer and Sealab that really make you appreciate the reset button.
Stahl: Yes. Next week Lucas Troy (perfect name, by the way) will probably be a distant memory and Mallory will be on to Item 9 on the agenda—a vomit-inducing cruise with Ron Cadillac that the entire ISIS team will somehow be roped into joining?
Kirk: I do think the show does a great job at playing off our perceptions of the characters. At the beginning of this episode, almost everyone but Archer is convinced that Luke is gay. But it's easy to dismiss this as the office just gangs up on Archer. Of course, Luke actually turns out to be gay ... although apparently gay solely for Archer. Also, Archer has this amazing ability, at least for me, to be very funny in the smallest of ways. When Mallory Archer says that Luke went over to Odin as soon as she finished training him, Archer responds, "She said, oversimplifyingly." I loved that totally made-up adverb. The show excels at what I suppose you can call "microhumor," the punch lines and the back-and-forth, as well as the "macrohumor" of funny premises and plot developments
Stahl: He said, overcomplicatingly.
Kirk: Classic you.
Stahl: OK, C. Kirk, I have to go fill out your peer review. I'll give you an “excellent” in the ”works well with others” category.
Kirk: Thanks, Jeremy. It's still a bit snowy in D.C., so keep an eye out for Predator.