After a couple episodes limited mostly to the confines of the Tunt mansion, the Archer crew takes a road trip to Texas to begin Cherlene’s music career. “Southbound and Down” is more in line with the kind of adventurous direction promised in this season’s premiere, but the stakes don’t seem as high as they ought to be just yet. However, Archer - a dialog-focused series if ever there were one – rarely relies on the premise of its stories for entertainment, and this most recent installment gets great banter and pathos, even, from some of its character combinations.
Sterling and Pam serve as the anchors here, in that regard. There are the normal Archer hijinks, continuing with Pam’s drug addiction and incompetence when it comes to pretty much anything and everything (Pam gambles away Sterling’s gun at a truck stop, where she also is extremely free with the information that her group is driving around with a huge amount of cocaine). But rather than just poking fun at Pam, there is a quasi-sweet moment in which Sterling implores her to give up the drugs because he and the rest of the ex-agents liked her the way she was. It introduces the idea that Pam might be on this binge because she did not like who she used to be (she has more confidence now in her attractiveness, but it’s a shallow way of looking at an otherwise serious situation). That’s probably as close as Archer is going to get to introspection, which is probably even closer than it needs to.
Most of the rest of “Southbound and Down” doesn’t have the same layering, which is a shame. We get brief moments spent with Krieger and Ray, who now has working legs that Krieger can and does manipulate for his own purposes. This might have been better served with more focus on the transformation that Ray goes through now that he has less of a reason to be miserable; yet, we only check back in with the two one time after the cold open. Seeing Ray on the road tip back with his team (especially Cherlene now that he’s tried to train her) could have been a great way to bring his character back around, and there’s no reason why Woodhouse – as injured as he may be – and Krieger couldn’t have held down the fort themselves. But I can’t imagine Ray not having a larger part as the season progresses because of how far his character has come since humble beginnings.
Cyril, Lana and Malory are the ones who accompany Cherlene in her expensive tour bus that apparently has a hot tub – Sterling spares no expenses even in the face of bankruptcy. There’s some pregnancy banter (Malory constantly drinking in front of Lana is a great recurring sight gag), but the funniest stuff here is Cyril’s innocent confusion as to how Pam can drive so long without dozing off like he is. Despite being dragged into the field several times, Cyril is still horrible when it comes to any situation that requires concentration to overcome pressure. It probably isn’t easy trying to outmaneuver a bike gang wielding firearms when you’re driving a bus, but Cyril can’t help but look like the least qualified person to be doing anything other than pencil-pushing.
The danger is almost for naught, too, as Cherlene walks off stage after just one song, claiming she’s an outlaw. Someone approaches Malory about making Cherlene famous, but we can only assume that that, too, isn’t going to go well and that the guy might not be who he says he is. In any case, the ball continues to roll in Archer Vice, which is now mobile and has a nice dose of southern charm.
[Photo via FX]