It doesn’t get much better than this for Archer. When the whole group (minus a Ron Cadillac) gets to go on an extended “adventure” together, the series is at its ensemble best. Of course, behind the scenes, the voice actors aren’t all in the same room, but the editing–which is way too good–makes episodes like these work flawlessly. And that’s a description that can be applied to “Palace Intrigue: Part I” as a whole. It’s easily the funniest episode of Archer Vice as a whole, and to borrow from the title, it sets up the most intriguing plotlines of the season.
The single most interesting question that needs to be answered by next week’s sequel is if the palace has an ice machine. It’s huge, so places like that have to have ice machines, right? Something only slightly less important is the issue of the Krieger clones. As far as character development goes, our evil genius is usually sidelined in favor of other arcs shared between Sterling, Lana, Cyril and maybe one or two others. Krieger is perfect in small doses and can elevate a scene or episode with a few lines about his miscalculations. Giving him a story like this alongside a larger focus on Cheryl/Cherlene allows “Palace Intrigue” to pay attention to two of the more minor, one-note characters in Archer. I don’t know if the clone plot is going to reveal much about Krieger as a person or change him in any significant way, but Archer is hardly the series to worry about stuff like that. As long as Krieger is appropriately traumatized and confused–and as long as he gets to do something crazy next week, like carefully planning the destruction of the clones–then that’s enough to give us a memorable Krieger thread from season five.
At the same time, Adam Reed is choosing to add different dimensions to the story of Lana’s pregnancy. Several times throughout Archer Vice, it has looked as if Sterling has really had a personal stake in the whole matter. “Palace Intrigue” introduces the idea of Archer wanting to be a candidate for the child’s godfather. His argument? He isn’t drinking as much as he used to. Only…he pounds what appears to be an entire bottle of scotch on the plane ride over and he sleeps with el presidente’s (voiced by the reliable Fred Armisen) wife the minute she walks into his room dressed as a maid (to round out the pair of guest performances, Lauren Cohan of The Walking Dead plays Juliana). Lana has a very appropriate reaction once she finds this out, which involves some of Archer’s reproductive components. As fans and viewers of the show, we are entertained and charmed by Archer. He is the protagonist of the series, and if he often screws up, he just as often makes up for it in ways that shows he has the capacity to be warm and human. We, then, want to see Lana let him in, but it also makes sense why she has so many reservations. And those reservations are probably helping repress legitimate feelings for Archer that can’t be let out until she knows he can be the person he thinks he’s trying to be.
The rest of “Palace Intrigue” is full of great hijinks and one-liners. Krieger, Pam and Cyril literally run around the palace, Krieger covered only by a very small towel because no one who works at the palace is responding to him yelling down the hall about needing more towels. Ray ropes Cyril into a hilarious trap about how sharing rooms all the time makes Cyril seem gay. Yet, for all the gags, “Palace Intrigue” is also a great piece-moving episode. Cherlene is the guest of honor for el presidente, who buys enough copies of her album on day one to make it go platinum. And the issue of the CIA being involved in this whole gun and drug trade still gives the former ISIS agents an inroad to redeeming their names in the American government. Additionally–and correct me if I’m wrong–Pam appears to not be high on cocaine in “Palace Intrigue,” which will hopefully act as the beginning of some sort of detox so that she can get back to being regular, crazy Pam instead of junkie, crazy Pam. Amber Nash has delivered such a standout performance in the role this year, but it’s about time Pam gets reeled back in. We’d hate to see her permanently damaged. Unless, you know, it became a running gag like Ray being paralyzed. That we could get behind.
[Photo via FX]