I’ll confess: My immediate first thought when Archer’s old Spanish Civil War rival, Gunter Ziegler, showed up on screen tonight was, “Oh, thank god, it’s not Barry.”
Don’t get me wrong! I love Dave Willis’ voice performance as Archer’s cyborg boogeyman, but the character totally hijacked the finale of Dreamland last year, and I’m still feeling the need for a more extended break from him and his Other self. On a wider point, it also occasionally feels—what with its love of inside jokes, self-references, and, in these last two seasons, the recasting of familiar faces in new parts—like Archer has become a comfortable but somewhat airless room in its old age, a closed system working its way through many of the same gags over and over again. So hearing a new voice—German comedian Flula Borg, of “Jennifer Is A Party Pooper” fame—come out of Ziegler’s mouth was a breath of fresh air.
Ziegler—who, it’s quickly revealed, was the guy who shot out Archer’s eye—is on the island to support Fuchs, who’s ramping up his efforts to collect the local MacGuffin and kick the French off Mitimotu. (And also just to party and have a good ol’ time; I’m still rolling my eyes a little at the show’s willingness to portray the Nazis as “just some fun dudes!”, but I’m hoping there’s an intentional subversion on its way.) More importantly, he’s there to make Archer feel tiny and weak; not only did he enucleate our hero, he emasculated him, too, shooting him down five times in a row during the war, and granting him the nickname “the reverse ace.” (Or just “Breakfast,” if you’re feeling cute.)
Ziegler’s presence on the island pushes New Archer into a very Old Archer mental mode, a familiar mix of selfishness, anger, and poor planning that almost ends with him shooting his defenseless nemesis in the head (and the eye, and the dick). But—in a scene I found weirdly moving, maybe because I’m a big old sap—Pam manages to talk him out of this honorless, “chickenshit” path. (Danger Island continues to pull big dividends from giving Archer someone whose opinion he maybe kind of cares about, and who isn’t just there to scold him for being the asshole he naturally is.) Admittedly, “honorable” in this case involves arson, kidnapping, and some mild homophobia, but presumably we’re grading on a curve.
Meanwhile, Charlotte continues to navigate the wacky world of island sex work; as the only available woman on all of Mitimotu, apparently, she’s a big hit with the arriving Nazi troops. This time, at least, she maintains some agency, eventually using their affection for her to turn the tables on Malory and Ray, who’ve been consistently treating her like shit since the day she arrived. To the annoyance of some of you, I’m sure, I remain pretty divided on this whole character arc; obviously, it’s funny that she tricked the drunk Germans into just fucking a jar of coconut butter, instead, but there’s something a little, well, chickenshit about all these feints toward making the character a sex worker without any intention of actually going there. (Not that I necessarily want the show to delve into this stuff, but it does feel a little “have your cake and eat, it too.”)
The most notable thing about “A Warrior In Costume,” though, is its structure: Archer spends most of the episode flashing back to the five times Ziegler shot him down, and it adds a nice element of pacing to a series that can sometimes feel a little artless in the ways it’s plotted out. (They’re also just beautiful bits of animation, as is the final episode-ending dogfight.) Besides shooting Archer down (and bullying Ray), Borg doesn’t get a ton to do, though—this is a weirdly episodic entry for a show that’s become increasingly serialized of late, introducing and dispatching the character in a scant 20 minutes—but he’s got an air of cheerful menace about him that works for the character.
Structural tricks aside, this is one of those episodes of Archer that works largely because it doesn’t shake things up too much. As much as I love a good one-liner or bit of weird historical trivia, a lot of this show’s comedy comes simply from the rhythm of how the characters talk, the “Shut up, bird”s and “Ya knoooow”s that define its comic vocabulary. “A Warrior In Costume” has those beats in healthy supply, reminding us that, even if Archer’s tricks have gotten a little familiar in its advancing years (and the air in here a little stuffy), there’s still a comic comfort to them that frequently pays off.
- Please enjoy this thoughtful analysis of the origins and uses of “Dick’s hatband.”
- “It is an incredible coincidence, ja?”
“Literally incredible.” This is a good episode for sarcastic Crackers asides.
- “Plus, not to mention his eye.”
“Then why did you?!”
- The fact that Ziegler casually jokes about being one of the bombers at Guernica ties into my thinking that the Nazi characters are only overtly evil when they’re speaking in German, mimicking the way Hitler’s regime just seemed like another expansionist state until it was way too late. (Or maybe Adam Reed and company just like the joke of occasionally reminding you that these guys were also total monsters.)
- Charlotte’s only other prospects have been the loving old couple in the corner of Malory’s bar. The woman seems like she might be on the fence!
- Lana, possibly bored with this season’s bilingual wordplay: “Yup, other languages have puns, too.”
- Archer, getting shot down for the fourth time, and channeling every Team Fortress 2 player who’s ever been capped in the head on their way out of spawn: “Oh, so now we’re just camping?!”
- “Yeah, I wouldn’t hold my breath.”
“Well, I wouldn’t be a talking bird.”
- Archer’s dashboard full of mirrors was a dumb-but-fun visual gag.
- And I do love that Ziegler’s death—dropping back behind Archer, and then getting unexpectedly ripped apart by his tail gunner, Pam—does kind of bear out Archer’s complaints about their poorly matched planes. (Not that it stops Sterling from taking all the credit.)
- “Don’t worry, I put Crackers on it” is a very funny plan, as is Lucky Yates’ stumbling explanation that Ziegler and his buddy ditched out for Shanghai to start a club called “Scandals.”
- “Oh, okay, I guess just pout…Pam?”
- Obscure reference alert: I’m always worried I’m missing some great gags hidden in all the German or French, but such is the curse of my mostly monolingual ear. (I know enough Spanish to get that Ziegler calls Archer “Breakfast” in at least two languages, at least.) Also, kringles look damn delicious.
- Line of the episode: Great Malory action on this exchange with Ray, after he barges into her bar to find the Germans singing “It’s A Long Way To Tipperary”:
“What is the meaning of this?”
Malory: “The best I can tell, it’s about an Irishman learning about cunnilingus.”
“Oh, sorry, that’s when—”
“I know what it means!”