“Helping Hands” blends old and new to great effect in a wonderfully silly episode of Archer.
This recap of Archer season 11, episode 3, “Helping Hands”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
When Archer is at its stupidest, it’s also usually at some version of its best. And that was very much the case with “Helping Hands”, which wasn’t an all-time great episode or anything, but had such a laidback slapstick silliness to it that just keeping track of all its wacky ideas, gags, and visual beats was a funny exercise in itself. And that’s not all, since it also made a point to call back to the themes established in the first two episodes of this eleventh season: Everyone’s newfound competence, the slightly tweaked three-years later dynamics, and the fact that Archer’s presence invariably results in complete calamity.
Thus, we start with Cyril and Lana on-mission, their task being to infiltrate the compound of weird scientist tinkerer Hands (D’Arcy Carden) and pinch her experimental exo-suit, a mission kept deliberately secret from Archer who, predictably, finds out what they’re up to, arrives unannounced, and ruins the whole mission.
In some ways, this is good – at least for the audience. It traps Archer, Cyril, and Lana together to work through or at least angrily acknowledge their grievances – there are a metric tonne of petty swipes in “Helping Hands” – while Pam and Krieger form a nutcase support duo. The episode could have been content to let this setup playout for the entirety, but instead, Archer’s inability to leave things alone whisks him into a direct confrontation with Hands.
It’s difficult to know what to make of Hands since it’s difficult to know how much more we’ll see of the character – the implication is a bit more at the very least, but you know what this show is like for introducing and then swiftly abandoning characters. But she’d make an interesting foil; someone who Archer will be drawn to given his current predicament and the episode makes a huge point of establishing that she’s smart and observant and can supply the plot with a load of fun gadgets and gimmicks. In the words of a broke juggler, I’d like more Hands.
Anyway, the rest of Archer season 11, episode 3 is a mixture of old and new. Old: Cheryl, who is up to her old tricks and gets a bunch of killer interactions with Mallory, including faking anaphylactic shock to try and finesse a chemical boost, forgetting that shellfish allergies are Pam’s thing, not hers. New: A rival spy unit, JUNO, who has it out for our heroes. Old: Sterling is an idiot whose stubbornness, arrogance, and sheer dumb luck often save the day in a way that prevents him from having to reckon with his own ineptitude. But new: Maybe the team would be just fine without all of that. Then again, maybe they wouldn’t. It’s difficult to tell. Also old: Elaborate voicemail pranks. And where would Archer be without those?
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.