Archer: “Arrivals/Departures”

(Episode 5.13)

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Archer: “Arrivals/Departures”

Archer fans have sat patiently through a fifth season with a new direction. Opting for a lengthier, overarching story for the season as opposed to their tried-and-true ISIS agency-focused episodes, the show has had more character development than before. This new approach has also given Adam Reed more freedom to plant seeds of misdirection throughout the season before wrapping things up in a true season finale. Was it worth the build-up?

I can’t really say, yet. I’m certainly not disappointed, but I also can’t say I’m entirely satisfied.

Picking up from last week’s “Filibuster,” Lana stands in the office, asking to go to a hospital to have her baby. Agent Holly, or whatever his real name is, reveals a bunch of information that comes as a surprise. Apparently we’ve been watching people try to sell cocaine on behalf of the CIA in an elaborate plot to buy weapons from Iran. At first, it seems Archer is involved too, but it’s later clarified that only Malory was in on it and she kept it from Archer and the rest. Or was Archer doing a really good job of covering up for himself?

Either way, Malory later talks to Agent Holly, with a gun pointed at him under the table, and they quickly reach an agreement that sets up Archer to get back to its spy agency routines next season.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to think, at some point earlier in the season, that Archer might somehow be the father of Lana’s baby. But, I have to give credit to Reed and his staff for making me either change my mind or just forget about that, because the reveal here came as a surprise and worked well. It’ll be interesting to see how this develops next season and beyond.

Back at the nerve gas-filled rocket, Krieger and Ray do their best to disarm the rocket, but end up setting the rocket to go off in a matter of minutes. So, they remove the nerve gas and let the rocket fly off without it, meeting the car with Cyril, Pam and Malory, which brings them all back.

There are plenty of plot points ready to be explored for next season already, which leaves a lot to look forward to—the tank of nerve gas, possible reappearances of Slater (Ray just wants to know what his deal is, remember?), maybe more history of Krieger’s cloning, and, of course, Archer and Lana now being parents.

So, why am I not entirely satisfied?

As much as I love this show and embrace the desire to change things up in order to remain fresh, when I think of Archer, I think of a show that packs more into 20 minutes than any other show on television. The ability to consistently tell an elaborate story packed with laughs in such a short time at that level is rare. In the first few seasons, there were so many standout episodes that I can re-watch countless times. With season five, since the show has focused on a longer story, the potency of each episode has been toned down in favor of a more cohesive season. Even the season finale here stands as more of a conclusion of the previous twelve outings than its own episode.

In other words, the season might not have as many standalone memorable episodes, and only time will tell if this, ultimately, was worth the season-long changeup. We can’t really know until we see what these characters get into next season. For now, it has been a welcomed-enough change to one of the finest animated shows on television, allowing us to peer more closely into the minds of the show’s central characters, especially Archer and Malory. And regardless of the season’s ultimate legacy, the team behind Archer deserves a lot of praise for taking a big risk and executing it so well.

That being said, now that we’ve spent some time getting to know these characters better, I’m looking forward more than ever to seeing them get back to their lives as ISIS agents next season.

Carlo Sobral is a Winnipeg-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste.