It’s becoming an increasingly pleasurable activity to tune into Archer each week and realise it’s getting better and better. Will it ever quite reach the unassailable heights of its best seasons? Perhaps not. But it’s having a pretty good go, and I can respect that. Archer: Danger Island Episode 4 – A Warrior in Costume was the best episode yet of the show’s wacky ninth season, and perhaps unsurprisingly it captured some of the old spirit by reintroducing a familiar wrinkle to further torture Sterling Archer. Which is as things should be.
That wrinkle was Barry, in his… what, fifth or sixth incarnation now? Throughout the show’s history he has appeared and reappeared, at least once as an actual robot, so there’s no real reason he shouldn’t show up in “A Warrior in Costume” as a preening German fighter pilot who has of course shot down Archer himself multiple times. Archer: Danger Island Episode 4 conveniently showcased all of those previous encounters with trademark flourish, thus better contextualising Archer’s neurotic behaviour in the presence of his old nemesis.
If you’re wondering what Barry is doing here, a throwaway line from Cyril suggests it has something to do with his native-exploiting scheme for boundless Nazi riches, although that plot didn’t get much attention in “A Warrior in Costume”. Having said that we got a very funny bit in which Cyril makes a pun to an unimpressed Lana, who informs him that other languages have puns, too. “BUT NOT AS POWERFUL AS GERMAN PUNS!” he screams, while injecting amphetamines between his toes so he can have more sex.
Believe it or not Archer: Danger Island Episode 4 also made room for some actual, proper character development, temporary or otherwise, as Barry’s presence drove a rift between Archer and Pam, the former typically unable to keep it together under the pressure of not being the biggest jerk in a given location. He’s having sweaty night-time recollections of his past encounters with Barry, and takes it out on his erstwhile co-pilot, first berating her attempts to repair the seaplane and then, by episode’s end, landing them both quite literally in shark-infested waters.
Archer becoming his worst self when he’s constantly humiliated is hardly new material for the show to cover, but it is in the context of him having a best friend and partner, and “A Warrior in Costume” makes his loss of Pam’s respect feel like a legitimate consequence of his behaviour, even in light of a perceived success. And I can’t think of a joke for that sentence so let’s just move swiftly on.
Elsewhere, Cheryl is enjoying her new high-class escort work – Barry brought a whole squadron of fellow German pilots with him to the island – by duping her clients into fucking a tub of coconut butter and leaving her well alone. This is funny on its own, but also allows her to upend the power dynamic between herself and Malory, using the pilots’ adoration to fashion herself as a sex queen without having to have any sex. Clever, especially for Cheryl, who has historically been a kinky rich idiot; plus it furthers the idea that the island exists weirdly separate from the era’s nebulous geopolitical power dynamics, which was confirmed further by Ray Gillette trying to arrest the pilots for encroaching on French sovereign territory and ending up being stuffed in a barrel. I like to read that as a decidedly anti-colonialist statement, but then again it’s just a cartoon.
The usual forgetfulness of the sitcom might make all this cease to matter as early as next week, but who knows what shenanigans Adam Reed might have for us by then? He’s still taking great pleasure in slapping modern knowledge against the period setting and poking fun at his own creative tendencies, so it’s not like he’ll be short on material. If nothing else, Archer: Danger Island Episode 4 was the high-water mark for the show’s current season, and I’ll happily tune in next week for more of the same.