Posted by: pop-break | March 31, 2013

TV Recap: Archer, ‘The Papal Chase’

joel wosk gets ecumenical on your ass …

ARCHER: Archer, a new half-hour animated comedy series airing on FX

I sincerely doubt that the creator’s of the show Archer were trying to be topical with this week’s plotline involving the Pope. In fact, the whole season was conceived way before the recent changes at the Vatican, so a deliberate attempt would probably have been impossible. Either way, this week’s episode does take place at the Vatican and involves an attempt made upon the Holy Father’s life by a rouge squadron of the Swiss Guard. The only thing standing between the Pope and certain doom are the cunning and skilled agents of ISIS. If it were possible to convey stifled laughter via text, that last sentence would have been an appropriate instance. For those of you who have been following the adventures of the ISIS crew, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that their success rate is less than admirable. To put it more bluntly, based on previous performance, none of these people should have jobs (with the possible exception of Lana).

backseatdriver

In the opening sequence of the episode, Mallory is taking a video call from a Cardinal Corelli of the Vatican. Cardinal Corelli has informed Mallory about a plot hatched by a rouge squad of the Swiss Guard to murder the Pope the following night. Mallory dispatches Lana, Archer, and Pam to the Vatican to neutralize the threat. As you may remember, Pam demonstrated her aptitude for field performance in last week’s episode by acing the ISIS entrance exam. Both Archer and Pam will have to go in disguised as members of the clergy, while Lana runs operations from a remote location. However, the most important element of the plan comes from a most unlikely place. While reviewing the mission dossier, the team realizes that the Pope bears an uncanny resemblance to Archer’s long-suffering butler, Woodhouse, and would make a perfect body double. They all board a plane headed to the Vatican to hopefully thwart the attempt on the Pope’s life.

bettertimeswithlana

Upon their arrival, it becomes painfully obvious that Archer lacks even the slightest grasp of the Italian language and is doing a lackluster job of convincing Cardinal Corelli that he’s up for the task. In spite of this glaring lack of cultural experience, the Cardinal gives Archer and Pam the access card to the Papal apartment. In theory, their plan is: wake up the Pope, bring in Woodhouse as a decoy, and wait for the Swiss Guard to move in. However, before they even get started, Pam manages to drop a very large mirror on top of the sleeping pontiff. For a moment, they are convinced that they’ve killed him, but he soon wakes up unfazed. Lana and Woodhouse enter the Papal apartment and prepare to switch the Pope with Woodhouse, when the rogue Swiss Guard suddenly bursts through the door. They all escape out of the window (Pope included) and pile into the world’s smallest car for the ensuing car chase through the Vatican.

After some daring maneuvers and smartass remarks from Archer, he decides to take control by grabbing a flare and mounting the roof of the moving vehicle. He jumps from one car to the other and drops the lit flare into the gas tank of the Swiss Guard’s vehicle, thereby blowing it up and saving the day. When the actual Swiss Guard show up on the scene, they reveal what the ISIS team had already suspected: Cardinal Corelli was behind the Pope’s assassination attempt because Corelli was next in line for the Papacy. To add insult to injury, Corelli admitted that the only reason he chose ISIS for the mission was because he was convinced that they would fail.

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This was a very quick moving episode that contained both action and clever dialogue. There was no mention of the underlying plotlines that have been woven into the storyline over the episodes (i.e. Barry and Katia, Archer’s “real father,” etc.). However, I feel that the series benefits from the “one off” episodes. It keeps the show from getting too bogged down with things like cohesive storytelling and continuity and gives the show a chance to stretch it’s absurdity muscles by interjecting some really funny references and quotable one-liners. I mean seriously, where else but on Archer do you see a character dressed up like Father Guido Sarducci? It’s instances like this where you have to wonder if the show’s creators are simply writing jokes just so they can laugh about them later themselves. Whatever they’re doing, it’s working for me.

Check out Archer on FX Thursdays at 10pm

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