It’s such a troubling feeling associating a show as historically and consistently gut-busting as Archer with the word “disappointing.” But how else can I describe an episode that focuses on two of the show’s best characters (Sterling and Pam) on a personal mission to rural America (a basic premise last seen provoking some of that season’s strongest laughs), while menaced by Archer’s most lethal—and greatly missed!—cybernetic nemesis, Barry? For any other comedy on TV, “Edie’s Wedding” is damn smart and funny. But that’s in regard to any other comedy. This is frickin’ Archer, and this week simply wasn’t Archer-funny.
It begins amusingly enough. The opening sequence finds a sobbing Pam physically manipulated and maneuvered around by Archer as he makes an Irish coffee for himself in the staff break room. Maybe it’s because he remembers that Pam’s a surprisingly good lay, but he grudgingly condescends to offering a sympathetic ear (or at least as sympathetic as Archer gets, delivering to Pam a fierce slap across the mouth to stop her blubbering). Pam’s sister, Edie, is getting married to a man Pam had a crush on in high school. She’s also upset she wasn’t asked to be Maid of Honor. In uncharacteristically charitable form, Sterling agrees to be her date for the wedding. Here, usually, we’d immediately understand Archer’s ulterior motive, following his insistence he’s acting purely out of altruism.
But he apparently has none. It’s weird, un-Sterling and—really—overall un-Archer-y, and wastes an opportunity for a joke that could have been built on throughout an episode that feels oddly empty, especially given the stakes. In the meantime, the B-plot is awfully thin. Lana can’t find anybody to babysit little Abijean (still no riffing on the terrible baby name from the peanut gallery!), since Archer unexpectedly left for Wisconsin with Pam. Malory is evidently back together with Ron Cadillac (hopefully we’ll actually have him in an episode or two this season) and busy, Ray purposefully avoids her and provides the funniest lines of the episode as he escapes via the elevator: “What?! I’m pressing ‘open!’ Oh my god, it’s like Maximum Overdrive! Let’s talk about how scary this was Monday!” Of course, Cheryl is… Cheryl (who has now begun snacking on aloe plants, I guess), and Lana is desperate enough to even ask Krieger before coming to her senses. This, in turn, hurts Cyril’s feelings that she never asked him. Though for good reason: Cyril still has designs on Lana, demonstrating that he’s pretty much as duplicitous and self-interested as anyone else in the office. (“I’m gonna re-hit thaaaat,” he sings smugly to himself while Lana is dozing in the car.) But that’s it for the office antics.
En route to Wisconsin, Archer and Pam are spotted by Archer’s murderous cyborg foe, Barry, in Chicago, who then changes his flight to follow them. It’s a pretty huge coincidence that really could have used a joke to sell or, at least, underscore it. Upon arrival at their hotel, we finally meet Pam’s sister, Edie: She’s just like Pam, only brunette and wayyyy meaner. Unlike that aforementioned “Bloody Ferlin” episode, which introduced us to Ray’s allegedly “hick” brother, there’s nothing else behind what’s obvious at first blush. Pam and Edie simply hate each other, and immediately start brawling viciously. (Did Edie pay for college through underground fighting, too? How’s she able to hold her own against the brutal fury of Pam? Again, missed chance for a gag there.)
A lurking Barry then ambushes and kidnaps Pam in order to lure out Archer (though I’m not sure why he needed bait; Archer’s always been pretty enthusiastic about brainlessly mixing it up with Barry, despite his general fear of robots). Archer forces Edie to join him in rescuing Pam, since she knows where Barry’s taken her, but has to knock her out to do so, as Edie would rather not miss her rehearsal dinner than she would help save her sister’s life. Barry, in addition to his default “revenge against Archer” mode, is smarting from having been dumped by (now head of the KGB) Katya for Nikolai Jakov’s dimwitted former assistant, Boris. This development, in particular, makes very little sense, character-wise. Not only does it make the highly-competent bombshell former-fiancé cyborg seem foolish, it should have caught Sterling as a huge slap in the face, seeing as she originally dumped him for Barry, who is, at least, a cybernetic match for her. (Plus, no part of it is funny enough to justify the abrupt inconsistency.)
But this time, at least, it seems Archer has learned, having robbed (“Well, burgled, technically.”) a weapons store on the way to the grain silo where Pam is being held, leading to the second-biggest laugh when Sterling objects to the concept of grain silos (“Why can’t they just have the cows come directly up to feed?!”), on their way up to Barry’s ambush. Barry and Archer clash, while Edie berates Pam as she’s bound and helpless. Before he’s able to kill his rival, Barry makes the mistake of insulting Edie, causing her to attack him, and giving Archer the chance to put a huge hole in Barry with explosive rounds. (Barry: “I’m not a doctor… or a roboticist, but… that can’t be good.”) The three then escape the barn, burning it down behind them with Barry inside. In the meantime, by missing her rehearsal dinner, Edie’s groom-to-be cheats on her, ruining the wedding and giving Pam a small measure of petty satisfaction. The final scene is of Barry’s full-on Terminator exoskeleton’s eyes dimming, only to turn back on as he cackles. I was half-expecting (and hoping) Katya would appear then to tell him to get his shiny metal ass back up, but that was it. There’s no stinger, or really, any comedy there. It captures the episode pretty well, actually; light and slack on the jokes, and lacking real punch to the ones delivered.
I have to admit, I never thought I would be writing 1000-plus words on my frustration with an episode of Archer (still currently the funniest show on television, by my reckoning) this soon after beginning this assignment. In a way, it’s a little unfair to hold the show to such a crazy-high standard, but Adam Reed and company have practically become victims of their own comedy power. And, if you’ll forgive the disparate nerdiness and paraphrasing—with great Archer-funny comes great responsibility.
Scott Wold is a Chicago-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter, if you must.