Archer drives along with its latest from season 3, or technically season 3.5 with “Skin Game,” as Archer finds his long-lost love Katya resurrected as a cyborg, but their reunited bliss becomes threatened once more by Bionic Barry. Less of a plot-driven episode than last week, “Skin Game” still mostly delivers on the laughs you’d expect from typical Archer.
I very much enjoyed last week’s Archer ‘Crossing Over,’even though in some cases there were relatively few laughs to be had, mostly because it seemed a more contemplative episode than anything we’ve seen previously. It was as if the series had acknowledge that most of season 3 had fallen into stand-alones that while entertaining, still felt like avoidance of numerous plot threads left by the first two seasons. Given that ‘Crossing Over’took place late enough in the season to potentially catapult Archer through its final run of episodes, it seemed expected that the thread would naturally carry over into ‘Skin Job,’before somehow winding up in space.
With one potential father dead, secrets potentially dying with him, as well as Bionic Barry returned to head up the KGB, as well as a newly formed relationship with Pam, there were quite a few directions ‘Skin Job’could have taken. Instead, ‘Skin Job’mostly stuck to a few base connections, acknowledging the solemn events of the previous episode, but equally acknowledging that it wished to move past them to reprise another bit of Archer mythology. Enter Katya, the once-dead love of Sterling Archer’s life, creepily re-animated as a cyborg and given another lone episode with which to re-kindle their affair. Of course, Katya maintains a tie Barry as well, justifying his appearance toward the end of ‘Skin Job,’but beyond that feels like a bit of indecisiveness over what juicier thread to pick up week to week.
Ergo, Jakov remains dead with no mention of any data recovered from the explosion, Pam and Archer are quietly swept under the rug, and Barry keeps completely mum about his supposed master plan. The remaining two-parter that closes Archer‘s third season may well delve into a few of these ideas, but it certainly kills the momentum we had from last week.
One of the sentiments I’ve come across reading other reactions to ‘Skin Job’struck a definite chord with me, in that Archer itself lies within a somewhat bizarre universe. Most of the technology seems modern, with ‘˜60s styling for texture, yet no one quite bats an eye at corpses being reanimated to superhuman levels as cyborgs. And within the half hours we get to play with these ideas, there’s very little attempt to (no pun intended) flesh out exactly how cyborgs fit into the world of Archer, whether Barry and Katya really share any kinship in their making, to what degree they maintain human parts, or whether the being standing before them is truly Katya, or something programmed with her memory. It’s a heavy topic that could take hours to discuss, but the lack of description does seem a bit distracting when we try to find the right emotional mile-markers within the story. The concept ends up feeling exactly as ‘Skin Job’ends, with a shot-for-shot homage to The Graduate as Katya and Barry run off; in the sense that it’s a fun idea and something for the writers to play with, but there’s no clear purpose toward what they’re trying to say with it.
All in all, ‘Skin Job’is certainly one of the funnier half-hours of the season, be it Krieger’s home or increasingly aroused behavior, the non-stop sexual humor of Katya’s new physicality or Archer’s complete selfishness to Cyril, and there’s even a few well-played emotional beats regarding Sterling’s need to upset his mother, or come to terms with loving Katya as she is. Everyone gets a moment or two of one-liners and sharply-drawn character sentiments (even poor Brett!), and a real highlight of the episode is the fantastically animated Katya / Barry battle that ends in a Silence of the Lambs style (and predictable) reveal of Katya having fallen for Barry. And for the record, I found the expectation well-subverted that Sterling could truly let go of Katya, abrupt a development though it may have been.
The next and final two weeks of Archer‘s third season will see the ISIS crew taking to space to hobnob with the likes of Bryan Cranston, so I’ll be very curious to see what, if any of the past two episodes takes to the skies along with them, but for now it was nice to revisit a bit of old Archer canon, and I assume we haven’t seen the last of Cyborg Katya and Bionic Barry.
And Another Thing…
- Great recurring jokes of Neal Pert and YYZ (sorry, Y-Y-Zed), because OF COURSE Krieger has a fully lit professional drum kit in his skanky, run-down home.
- ‘I don’t really have a roadmap for my ex finding your robo-gina in the sink.’
- ‘How do you say…come at me, bro!’
- ‘Phrasing, boom!’As Brett lies dying on the floor.
What did YOU think?