It’s tough to evaluate the last episode of a series’ season without dragging the entire season’s worth of baggage with you. This is especially true when the last episode so perfectly characterizes the season. Archer’s big finale, unfortunately, is par for the course for season six. Sure, there have been a few episodes along the way that could hold their own against the show when it seemed incapable of slowing down. But, by and large, Archer’s move back to the espionage game from its year experimenting in Vice’s drug trafficking has been an uneasy one.
Not that following last week’s wouldn’t have been a challenge, regardless. In a classic case of a joke’s setup being funnier than the punch line, “Drastic Voyage: Part II” fumbles the momentum of Part I, resulting in a thoroughly lopsided two-parter. Taken together as a full story, it averages out to the majority of those from the rest of the season. Like so manyothers in the run up to the end, it starts strong—or at least contains a premise with strong potential—before throwing the Funny Car into neutral and coasting downhill. (The Funny Car runs on laughing gas. I know you totally had something for that, Archer.)
“Drastic Voyage: Part II,” of course, picks up immediately following the events of last week, as the miniaturized team race against the clock to blast a CIA scientist’s blood clot from his brain. Thanks to Krieger, they were injected into the patient’s foot instead of his head. Part two is really where the biggest action and comedy should have been, with the stakes ratcheted as high as possible. Instead, it all feels like a shrug. When the biggest surprise is that TV’s Michael Gray smuggled himself on board the submarine to facilitate what was probably the funniest line (Slater, rebuffing Dr. Sklodowska’s advances: “Lady, you got problems! Also, TV’s Michael Gray is staring right at us!”) you know Reed and company are hitting a brick wall with many of the running gags. I really didn’t want to believe they would try actually getting more mileage out of crippling Ray, but yet another season concludes with exactly that. There are plenty of other things to do with the character. He’s a former redneck/bomb expert/field agent/pilot who happens to be gay. Give the character something else to do, like you did in Bloody Ferlin. Sit the paralyzing injuries out for a season or two now, huh?
Moreover, none of the other characters’ setups from last week went anywhere in part two. Most damningly, that of Lana and Archer’s, with the lovely, but completely misguided, sentiment Archer displayed in part one never becoming anything more in tonight’s episode. It probably should have all been saved for this episode, just so something with impact came out of it. The crew (narrowly) fails, killing the patient as they revert to normal size before extraction. They’re again tossed out of the espionage business, as Lana wisely notes it seems like the CIA set them up to fail. There’s no stinger this year. No fiancé of Archer’s getting killed. No major character’s pregnancy reveal. No “You’re a daddy, Archer.” Just a cut to the gang in the desert, contemplating their next move, which will likely again deviate from the superspy setting in 2016.
When season six began, I was pretty excited to have Archer back in its spy tux, after slumming it with drug dealers, truckers and guerilla fighters. But the clothes don’t make the man, of course. The actions do. And if a year away from familiar surroundings didn’t ultimately bring back the show we know and loved with renewed vigor, I’m not sure another mere change of scenery can refresh it. Archer, I sure hope you meant it when you closed the season telling us you had some ideas.
Scott Wold is a Chicago-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter, if you must.