It didn’t quite hit me until the opening scenes of “A Kiss While Dying” that Archer Vice is really happening. At first blush, that montage in Archer’s head from “White Elephant” looks like a dream, or a hallucination, or just a joke—ha, ha! This is what Archer wants out of his life! And then the second episode of the season starts, and they’re all in Cheryl’s big mansion in New York, and everything looks okay… and then Pam wheels in, balancing a literal fuckton of cocaine on a forklift. That montage of stuff is actually all going to happen. Not only is it kind if remarkable to shift gears as much has Archer has this season, but it’s also totally nuts to offer a glimpse of what’s to come. Spoiler alert: Adam Reed does not care about your spoiler alerts.
So yes: We saw Pam in the body cast in Archer’s head last week, and sure enough, she delivers this week. Of all the characters, Pam seems like she is going to take to drug-dealing most naturally—her moral compass has always been neutral at best, and entirely optional when convenient. Amber Nash and Pam’s animators have made her a character that relies on physical comedy even though she is not, in fact, a physical being; it seems very natural, again, that Pam is the one that ends up encased in the full-body cast made of plasterized cocaine, because she’s always flinging herself or being flung at any sign of danger. Somehow, she always survives (occasionally, to Malory’s chagrin), but “A Kiss While Dying” introduces a twist: Pam is rapidly becoming addicted to cocaine.
I’m going to get serious here for a second. It’s a testament to Archer’s totally wackadoo sense of humor that getting Pam hooked on coke is simultaneously awful and really funny; Archer would not settle for anything less than mingling both feelings into an awkward cocktail. But I honestly don’t know how I feel about it. Archer has taken on any number of sensitive issues, including addiction—so it’s not the subject matter, exactly. But it’s a little weird to me that Archer positions Pam’s yen for cocaine as choice, when it’s realistically not that at all. And doubly weird that this comes from a character whose appetite—for sex, food, and adventure—is routinely a subject for discussion. (Mild spoiler: Eventually, if you haven’t heard, all this cocaine starts to make Pam thin—which is triply weird.) I don’t know where I fall on this just yet, but we’ll see how it goes. And I’m interested to hear what you guys think.
Anyway! The primary purpose of “A Kiss While Dying” is to bring the team to Miami. Archer Vice isn’t entirely springing up out of nowhere in the universe of the show—the characters are actually being given a few reasons to go down to Miami and then get stuck there. The wide shots of the Miami cityscape are just fantastic. Also, it’s definitely Miami in the ‘80s—in its seedy, trashy heyday. That’s a small thing, but I really liked the nod to the original Miami Vice’s era—as well as the bald acknowledgment that nothing that’s happening here really makes all that much sense, so they might as well be in a different decade. Archer’s style has a retro quality to it, anyway, so dialing back the clock 30 years feels right.
And in Miami are a few guys we’ve met before—from all the way back in season one. Ron Perlman comes back to Archer to voice Ramon, the former spy for Fidel Castro who Archer was supposed to seduce that one time in Miami. (He failed, but we all have the memories of Archer rollerskating in short-shorts to comfort us.) I’m not sure how well Ramon’s return worked for me—Archer’s insane fidelity towards his friends, especially those who are both criminal and gay, has been dealt with by the show before. It’s certainly some characterization for Archer—he’ll go over a cliff for his friends, even though he’s often stupidly, stupidly wrong. And, you know, Archer is a little gay. (For kitchens, mostly. But still.) But this is all stuff we knew already, and repeating it doesn’t do all that much for the story. The only part of the episode that lags is the five minutes or so after Pam, Archer, and Lana reach Miami, mostly because the show can’t quite figure out how to make Ramon funny (and the scenes back in New York lack their usual bite).
But, no matter. Because it’s not just Ramon that has returned! Ramon is playing middleman for Malory’s drugs—for Charles and Rudy, the freelance hitmen (voiced by Thomas Lennon). Archer is naturally a little shocked. Ramon, friends with the guys that tried to kill him? “Yeah, we’re like BFFs now,” either Charles or Rudy says. And to Ramon: “Here’s your fondue set.”
Pretty much everything that happens from then on out is gold: Charles and Rudy can’t be trusted, naturally, and end up seizing the coke, the money, and the fondue set (“It’s not even real Le Creuset!”). Archer and Ramon break into Charles and Rudy’s house and put down their guns to squee over the kitchen. Pam runs around, high as a kite, making engine noises. Lana runs from the car with a gun, cradling her stomach and chanting, “sorry baby sorry baby sorry baby.” And all of this is scored to Cherlene’s guitar-playing—because, when she thinks no one can hear her, she’s actually a great singer, as Kreiger’s numerous bathroom-cameras discover.
Archer is at its best when its pace is not just frenetic but literally (figuratively) hurtling through space and time with no clear destination. The country music from Cherlene and the coke-fueled scat from Pam help to make what is already an absurd final scene even more so. As is usual with Archer episodes, in the end, it turns out none of it really mattered. Ramon, Charles, and Rudy faked their deaths, because, why not, so Ramon’s dying wish—that he kiss Archer at least once—with tongue!—is just a regular wish, after all.
Given that fantastic setup last week, it’s natural that this fifth season would need a little bit of time to find its legs. This is a fine episode, but it’s more exciting for what it’s promising in the next few weeks.
- It’s very strange to me that Lana isn’t complaining more about ISIS being treasonous, or about dealing drugs for a living now. She’s ambitious, but usually she wants to be a good guy, too. I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop on this.
- “That… sounds high.”
- Archer thought he didn’t have to pay rent because he banged the landlord’s wife when she dropped off the key. I wonder if that’s how he paid his electric bill, too?
- “This smells like a kennel! But for dogs that are poor.”
- I know I am pretty clueless, but I really didn’t know you could eat cocaine. Especially plaster-cast cocaine.
- “So I should take life advice from an unwed mother? … With a dirty car?”