Without the use of flashbacks, “On the Carpet” functions as a bottle episode of Archer, with the crew gathered in a common area as Malory tries to get a reasonable explanation as to why everything is so messed up right now. Archer is certainly one of the few shows that could get away with just having its characters talk at each other for an entire episode, so it’s almost a shame that the flashbacks are included. But “On the Carpet” continues a strong second half of Archer Vice by relying on some of the strengths of its previous episodes.
For one, the guest star–Christian Slater–is used much better and to more comedic effect than Kenny Loggins was a few weeks ago. The whole drug plot actually takes a much more interesting turn, introducing potentially huge implications going forward. When the guys discover that the CIA is involved with some murky dealings, that opens up the door for the former ISIS team to expose some illegal activity, hopefully earning points with the United States government and earn their way back to being ISIS again (this time by following certain regulations, ideally). Adam Reed has come out and said recently that next season will be a sort of “deboot” for Archer and that it will return to its spy roots, so “On the Carpet” seems like the logical first step given that information about what’s going on with the drug dealing.
The flashback scenes with Archer, Cyril and Ray once again draw on some of the season’s better special effects as Ray tries to land a plane full of imbeciles. It’s difficult to pull off convincing action sequences in an animated show like this that doesn’t have the same kind of style as a lot of anime or shows like Samurai Jack and Justice League. Yet, when it needs to, Archer can deliver a great crash or gun fight in a pinch and make it look good. Often, those scenes are also funny, such as Archer getting shot by a bean bag at the end of the plane landing. Just as often, though, the show takes them seriously as action set pieces that work well in that way.
Krieger commands the other great flashback, as we get to see his botched attempt to utilize a stealth submarine to transfer the remainder of the cocaine across the seas. The evil genius has not been given much to do this season, so this is a welcome addition to “On the Carpet” and one that makes a lot of sense given that he’s probably the most active character at the Tunt mansion as opposed to the other people who mostly just drink. To Pam’s utter dismay, Krieger blows up the sub while it’s full of coke after he realizes there’s no way of transferring out of the convenient room in the Tunt mansion that has a pool big enough to allow for its production and maintenance.
The bottle aspect of the episode itself is the heart of “On the Carpet,” which executes great visual gags like Cherlene being topless except for whipped cocaine the entire episode or Archer pulling off the blanket he’s wrapped in to show the massive bruise that the bean beg has left on his chest. The structure of Malory’s interrogation to extract the story of the episode is certainly a bit too rigid, but it’s bookended well by showing us Malory dressed up at the beginning, drinking what seems like bottles of scotch at a time, and concludes by having the characters address that. It turns out Malory and Ron have patched things up to some extent, though part of that includes their marriage being an “open” one (both Cherlene and Pam get a call from Ron immediately after; Cherlene answers the phone and gets whacked into unconsciousness by Malory, and Pam hits ignore after seeing that). I was hoping Ron wouldn’t be forgotten as Archer Vice moves more in the direction of solving the big crime plot at its core. This instills some confidence that Ron has a concrete place among these people, as he’s proven he deserves both for utility and as a character who complements them well.
Next episode begins the first official two-parter of Archer Vice, which has historically been some of Archer‘s best stuff. Following the use of Krieger in “On the Carpet,” it would be great to see some of the other supporting characters used to better effect, even briefly, since most of them have been cooped up in the mansion and left to their own devices. There hasn’t been a proper ensemble episode since the premiere, and if Archer Vice can contrive a reason for the whole crew to be out and about at some point in the two-parter, I can’t see why that wouldn’t be a huge plus.
[Photo via FX]