“I swear to God I had something for this.” (Episode Summary)
Well thank god that didn’t happen. After a week’s buildup toward what we thought would be the episode when Archer dies, Adam Reed employed the old bait-and-switch. Not only did Archer survive the staged hostage crisis, but he survived his own friends’ killing him on accident. Once multiple Figgis Agents donned clown masks and started prowling the halls of Veronica Deane’s mansion, you could see the pieces falling into place: Rather than Archer being bested by some rando in a clown suit, he’d be gunned down by a shotgun blast from one of his peers — on accident, of course.
But then Pam gave herself away with a classic “shit-snacks” and everyone walked away with nothing worse than a few bean bag bruises. Of course, we also found out that the “cops” from Episode 1 (J.K. Simmons and Keegan-Michael Key) aren’t exactly who they seem — actors, perhaps, hired by Shapiro to keep the hostage situation on track? — and that Deane’s lawyer was the one trying to steal the necklace to get the insurance money. Why? Veronica is broke, and they both need the money. How this all ties into future episodes remains to be seen, but we know one thing for certain: Archer lives (at least for one more week).
“Bloody Mary, full of vodka, pray for me now…” (Best Drinking Reference)
Shockingly, despite being held captive for hours on end, Mallory didn’t exhaustively complain about a lack of alcohol. Sure, it was the first thing she addressed post-escape, but the yellow clown showed the most troubling addictive impulses with that preposterous sandwich he built (right before Pam kicked his ass).
“Danger zone!” (Most Action-y Action Sequence)
We have a few to choose from this week, what with Lana getting her own mano-y-mano fight scene with a clown before she threw down with Archer and Pam in a shotgun-wielding brawl we feared would end tragically (but thankfully did not). Yet the finale stole the show, as it so often does, this time by using some musically-punctuated slow-motion shots of bean bags slamming into faces and groins. The sequence certainly could’ve benefitted from an extra 15-30 seconds or so, adding a few more layers than just rippling skin (or creating a montage of rippling skin). But if the biggest complaint is that we want more of something, that’s a pretty good indication what they’ve created is rather stellar.
Mallory: “Well, even if he was–“
Lana: “–which, he was!”
Mallory: “…then I’m sure it was only because you were throwing yourself at Ellis Crane.”
Cheryl: “Suck it, Bechdel Test.”
Mallory: “You suck it, missy!”
“Literally the only thing about Los Angeles that doesn’t make me want to vomit.” (Best Hollywood Reference)
Perhaps the most Hollywood thing about the episode was the depiction of police officers portrayed by two fake police officers. It looks like Harris (J.K. Simmons) and Dietrich (Keegan-Michael Key) weren’t the authorities they made themselves out to be, either on the scene of this staged robbery or in the opening moments of the season. When the real police officer showed up, they quickly shirked responsibility and fled the scene. That combined with the fact that no one knew who they were gives credence to the idea they’re in on long con orchestrated by…someone. Perhaps they were hired by Shapiro. Perhaps they had their own agenda. Perhaps it was someone else pushing their buttons. No matter who they are, they sold their part by playing into every police stereotype they could. Be it the good cop/bad cop routine, firing insults left and right, or acting like they’re superior to everyone and everything around them, Harris and Dietrich certainly felt like the real deal. And they probably learned it from the movies.
“A black astronaut, Cyril. That’s like killing a unicorn!” (Best Quote)
“Can’t or won’t?” (Analysis)
The unfortunate side effect of this rather brilliant bait and switch — which, frankly, could be purely based on my subjective perspective — is that you (or at least I) feel a little let down that more didn’t actually go down. As glad as I am that the extended arc of Archer’s death continues, the efforts made to add mystery to the story weren’t enough to make up for the fact not a lot happened in “Bel Panto: Part II.” The clowns escaped without us ever knowing their true identities. Archer never faced a comeuppance for his makeout session with Veronica. Shapiro was proven to be scamming everyone, but that came as no surprise. And no one died — which, again, is a good thing, but certainly the less dramatic option. It’s also worth noting that most of “Archer’s” two-part episodes go the other way — the second trumps the first. But hey, this is probably still the…third best birthday episode we’ve seen on “Archer” (behind “Drift Problem” and, of course, this).