Considering how unrestricted Archer Vice is in terms of where it can physically go, it’s amazing how well “House Call” functions at this point in the season by taking place completely in the Tunt mansion. The highlight reel that concluded the season premiere promised a whole lot of action – including international settings – or at least gave off that impression. And yet “House Call” is content to take some time off from the ex-ISIS crew’s attempts to sell their merchandise to potential buyers (before Pam eats it all) and, instead, focus on where these characters are at while the mansion is searched by the FBI.
The most genuine (if you can call anything that Archer ever does by using the word “genuine”) of the character-based sequences is between Lana and Sterling in the kitchen. Archer does his typical Archer thing by cracking jokes to alleviate any kind of seriousness there could in a discussion that ought to be serious, but his true colors shine through in ways that make it easy to see how much he really cares about Lana. Their relationship is the closest thing Archer has to romantic interest between two of its central characters. Yet, it’s the platonic stuff that’s just as powerful and much more believable in their case. Archer doesn’t need to express love or anything like that; he just needs to reassure Lana that she’s going to be okay in the end, which he manages to do with charm and crudeness in equal measures.
If Pam’s addictive nature isn’t a change of character, her current addiction is certainly leading to a change in physique. Again, most of this is played for humor, but it’s good to hear that Lana – at least – still seems concerned with Pam’s health even if she can’t come up with a pitch that will convince the others to get her the help she needs. Letting Pam run wild in Archer Vice is certainly an easy way to get laughs; however, calling her scenes “easy” is doing them a disservice. She has become one of the series’ most important characters, and “House Call” is a great example of why that role is right for her. Even at her most destructive, Pam is a generator of both comedy and story. Now that she’s even more of a physical presence, she gives the team another weapon to add to its arsenal despite the fact that the cost of the weapon is Pam’s health. When given the opportunity to use the tool that could cure Pam, Cyril and Krieger opt out. So, clearly they feel confident that Pam’s health is ultimately not going to be too serious of an issue or one that can’t be controlled to some degree.
Krieger’s mind-controlling device goes to Cheryl instead (or, rather, Cherlene). A complete overhaul of Cheryl probably isn’t necessary to make her character worth more the handful of jokes she usually contributes. Nonetheless, giving her something like a country star career to work with spices things up without deviating too far from how eccentric and self-important she can be. Cyril accuses her of being boring, and while she certainly doesn’t have the same kind of presence in the series as someone like Lana, there is a lot to enjoy with plain Cheryl. Cherlene only makes the deal better, especially if she gets more coaching advice from Ray.
At various points in “House Call,” more attention than usual is drawn to how awful these people are. If it’s not Cheryl enabling the monster that is Pam, it’s Krieger admitting to Cyril that all Ray needs is a simple reboot to regain use of his legs or its Malory letting an injured Ron walk out because of some misguided sense of pride and privacy. This is such a dysfunctional family that it’s surprising they can make it through a day in the life together, let alone pull off an elaborate drug deal. But ISIS was always able to be functionally dysfunctional, and that hasn’t gone away in the slightest.
[Photo via FX]