Archer is a show that knows its strengths. People love to see the spy parodies, the drunken antics of Archer and the overall insanity that occurs at the ISIS offices. But one thing that Archer occasionally tries to do is change. Throughout the season, we’ve seen the relationship between Malory and Archer grow into one of a bigger understanding between the two. More importantly, the season has dealt with Archer not exactly getting what he wants. The season started with him dealing with the loss of his love in the “Heart of Archness” series of episodes, and it only continued to toy with Archer’s consistent need to get his way. We’ve seen this season as Archer dealt with losing the ideal of a childhood hero, his dream car, his possible father and lost his love again to his archenemy, Robo-Barry. This all culminates in the season finale, where the greatest moment isn’t something hilarious done by Archer, but rather a selfless act that shows character growth, regardless of how short it lasts.
When we last left the gang, they were trapped on a space station orbiting Mars with a group of space pirates, led by Bryan Cranston as Drake, who wanted to use Lana, Cheryl, Pam and Malory to populate Mars. It’s an insane mission that only gets crazier as everything falls apart for Drake, leaving him to repeatedly just shout in dismay, “MARS!!” Lana strips down to distract the guards, while Cheryl decides that maybe she should be the self-proclaimed “Martian Queen,” as long as she doesn’t have to have any kids clawing their way out of her. ISIS ends up cornering the pirates, who have given up, only for Cyril to kill everyone by mistake. If that seems like an underwhelming ending, the appearance of Barry causes it to become an epic finale.
Archer can go back to the hijacked Horizon space station, fight Barry once again, this time in a cargo mover like the one used by Ripley in Aliens, in man-in-robot vs. robot battle. But Archer has to make a decision: risk the team at ISIS for a chance to once again fight Barry or get home safely, leaving behind a fight he desperately wants to fight. For once, Archer makes the selfless decision to do what is best for his team rather than what he wants. However this doesn’t last long; as Cyril gets ready to land on Earth, Archer tries to steal the controls from him, leaving everyone injured, except of course for Archer.
“Space Race, Part II” doesn’t have some of the big laughs that the first part featured. By that, I mean Archer never rode Cyril through waves of Lana’s puke joyously. It is a step down from the first part comedically, but the episode does give us a few fun moments for each member of the cast. We get some of Lana’s finest work all season as she toplessly battles the pirates, continuously worrying more about her breasts sagging than the constant shooting occurring around her. Cheryl giving demands if she is to be the Martian queen, in a Bjork-style swan dress made of things around the space station is as odd and unusual as you would expect from a woman who has an ocelot train cart. Malory also gives Cheryl the most fitting description of her, calling her a “whorediot.” We even get a few fine moments with Krieger and his anime girlfriend as we learn that her mother doesn’t like Krieger. Can season four please bring us an all-Krieger episode?
Archer never focuses on character changes, but rather lets them happen naturally through the usual insanity throughout the episode. “Space Race, Pt. II” doesn’t focus on the change, and even usually has the character completely disregard this change immediately after, but it’s those moments that seem monumental when they happen sporadically, as we see in this episode.
I’ve truly enjoyed where Archer has gone this season. Archer has always been a finely tuned series, one that really became something amazing with the season two cancer story arcs. Season three became more consistent and daring than the previous two seasons, while also giving us a deeper look at the secondary characters that inhabit this world, such as Gillette, Cyril, Cheryl and Pam. It’s also great to see an animated show, which usually just goes for as many laughs per minute as possible, take its time to tell stories that may not be as hilarious as usual but will work to the advantage of the show further on down the road.
Season three of Archer has shown great character connections, offering a deeper understanding of who all these characters are and setting up some exciting story arcs for the season to come. Season three has made Barry the perfect nemesis for Archer, and the show has spiced up the series-long question as to who Archer’s father is (fingers still crossed for Burt Reynolds), without making viewers feel betrayed when their questions aren’t answered. Archer has become one of the best and continuously hilarious comedies on TV today. Every season Adam Reed makes the show even greater, never failing to shock and pleasantly surprise. With episodes like “Space Race” and season three in general, Reed has a lot to live up to, but if anyone can handle it, he definitely can.