And there you have it. The two-parter of Archer Vice ends up departing from the typical Archer multi-episode arc just enough to fit comfortably within both versions of the series. Coming from the series pedigree, “Palace Intrigue” gets the layout of both episodes right, telling a story that’s set entirely in one location. Calderon’s mansion isn’t as intriguing–to borrow the episode’s title–as places like Sealab, outer space or a pirate island, but it does just fine within the frame of Archer Vice, which has revolved almost entirely around the crew’s unsuccessful drug trade. How it deviates, though, is by its lack of resolution, since we’ll almost certainly be picking up right where (geographically and in the timeline) we leave off in “Part II.” Obviously, Archer Vice appears to be a thirteen-parter for the series, but “Palace Intrigue” is easily the most focused story that’s been told this season and manages to use its ensemble to full effect.
The outlier is Krieger, whose story needs to be addressed in some slightly more meaningful way. He is a sort of clone, we learn, but the details of his past remain a mystery. What little we get in his scenes is mostly limited to his reaction when Malory blatantly verbalizes her apathy towards the guy who has probably got her into more trouble than not in their past but was still a huge part of ISIS. On some level, this is a meta comment about Krieger being undervalued and underused, respectively, by both the ISIS team and Adam Reed. Reed created one of those characters who is hard to use in an A-story but is adored by fans, and if “Palace Intrigue” is the most that can be done with him, then so be it. I at least appreciate the effort to fill out his past during a season in which Reed has really gone to town on experimenting with characters and structure in Archer.
Everything else is pretty much cash money. Two crew members get shot: Cyril in a wonderfully comedic cold open and Pam in a rather dramatic part of the final act. Both are wearing Kevlar, however, relieving fans who might rightfully think that a major death in a season like this is fair game. Cyril gets a bullet from Archer, who tries to silence him before spilling the beans about Archer sleeping with Juliana, Calderon’s wife. While it’s fun to see Cyril get walked over, it’s more fun to see him get his revenge later in the episode when he rides through the front door in a tank, maneuvering the cannon right in Archer’s face after the latter tries to take over the situation. In fact, Cyril gets what might be the best moment in the entire episode when he screams at Malory for being so difficult to please (this comes, of course, after spending a reasonable amount of time in Calderon’s garage trying to pick a vehicle that won’t displease her). The Pam shooting is played for laughs only after the fact. Taking a bullet for Archer might just be the former newbie field agent recognizing she’s in a position to help one of her teammates, but it could just as easily also be a show of how strong that friendship has evolved over this season after the two spent some quality time in Mexico. “Palace Intrigue” doesn’t really allow for any individual cast member to shine, but this has definitely been Amber Nash’s season, making a semi-sacrifice like this a great dramatic payoff following so many comedic ones.
The strangest part of “Palace Intrigue,” however is its place in the Archer Vice season. We might have expected to see an episode follow it as a means of transitioning the series back to its roots in some way. Yet, we finish up here with two full episodes left before the season wraps up. This is another first for Archer, which has historically used its serialization to either open or close the season completely. Archer Vice, then, is sandwiched by a thrilling prologue and what will hopefully be a similarly thrilling extended epilogue. There’s plenty of material on the table still, such as what Cherlene’s attitude towards her career is going to be now that she’s been emotionally dragged down by a facade after being risen so high. And then there’s just the practical stuff, like how are these people going to get back home? Do they really even want to yet? More answers hopefully to come next time on Archer Vice.
[Photo via FX]