Archer - Best. Episode. Ever.
Our favorite egotistical spy Sterling Archer will be coming back this fall on FX for Season 3 and that means it’s time to for the Toonzone crew to throw down the gauntlet with our picks for the “Best. Episode. Ever.”
As always, “Best. Episode. Ever.” posts assume you’re familiar with the show and anything beyond this point will contain spoilers.
Ed Liu’s Choice: “Placebo Effect” (Season 2, Episode 9)
Chemotherapy and its side effects are REALLY not funny.
So how the hell is the Archer season 2 episode “Placebo Effect” so obscenely funny when it’s all about both of these things?
This season 2 episode builds on the previous episode, “Stage Two,” following the “Sterling Archer has breast cancer” plot thread. When Archer discovers that the drugs he’s been taking for his cancer are fake, he goes on a rampage up the organized crime chain (populated by comically exaggerated Irishmen) distributing the fake drugs. Unfortunately, he also decides to start making up for lost treatment time once he finds the Irish mob’s cache of real chemotherapy drugs, and must spend the rest of the episode combating hair loss, waves of nausea, and many other side-effects (mostly involving gross bodily functions) that get in the way of a really good rampage.
Archer has always gotten a lot of mileage out of transgressive comedy, with a good chunk of its laughs coming from, “I can’t believe they just SAID that!” reactions. At the start of this episode, I wondered if they weren’t going too far, and to be honest I’m still not entirely sure that they didn’t. However, I also have to admit that this was one of the most drop-dead, pee-your-pants funny episodes the show has ever done (no mean feat, considering how funny I think the show is normally). Maybe it’s the fact that most of the really horrible stuff happens to Archer (often through his own stupidity and pig-headedness), giving him a much-deserved karmic come-uppance for being such a colossal tool normally. Maybe it’s the addition of Ruth, a elderly cancer patient who grows and develops in surprising ways throughout the episode and puts a more human (and less transgressive) face on the disease. Maybe it’s all the tiny details they included about the nature of chemo and its side-effects, which leads me to believe at least one person on the writing staff has seen this up close and personal. Maybe it just punches through the offensive barrier, becoming so outrageously, openly offensive that you can’t really be all that offended by it any more. Maybe it’s all of the above.
I’m quite sure that a number of people are (or would be) deeply offended by this episode of the show and its irreverent approach to a subject that is, at heart, one of the least inherently comedic ordeals that one can endure directly or indirectly. Some will no doubt find the episode hitting too close to home to be funny. However, I remain impressed by the fact that the show was not only willing to go there, but that it found ways to be funny and respectful and even just a little bit touching, all at the same time. It would be an achievement for any show to balance out these wildly divergent elements at all, but “Placebo Effect” balances all that and still manages to make us laugh. Comedy is hard enough as it is, so I have to commend the staff of Archer for being willing to risk so much on such a potentially dangerous topic, let alone succeed so well in the end.
Darklordvaitor’s Choice: “El Secuestro” (Season 2, Episode 10)
Quote: “Yes! Just keep shouting your own name!”
So, it turns out that ditzy Cheryl is an heiress to the billion dollar Tunt family, whose railroads run all over the country. Why she works at Isis despite being worth a ton is unknown, even to her, but this little bit of news seems to cause Malory to lend some actual support towards Cheryl.
Too bad there are kidnappers out there to get Cheryl, so they can get a piece of that cash. Cheryl’s pursuers kidnap Pam during a public raid, after having been told by Cheryl that the other woman was the one they were seeking. Cheryl uses that distraction to run off. Now they have Isis’s own bloated beach whale, while the organization keeps Cheryl in safety.
To get Pam, Malory needs to negotiate with the kidnappers, which requires spending precious money on unprecious Pam. Meanwhile, Cyril takes Cheryl as a hostage of his own to get back money she inexplicably borrowed from him, even making up an alias to mess with Isis.
This episode is a laugh riot from start to finish. You have Pam, being punched to a pulp, laughing her butt off and mocking the kidnappers. Archer talking about the benefits of slavery and getting clawed by an ocelot. Malory contemplating the benefits of Cheryl’s existence now that she’s aware of her worth. Cyril making a fool of himself, and Lana laughing throughout.
The characters of Archer have been intertwined to be implausibly likable since the very beginning, and this gets the main cast at their worst, which also happens to be their best. The series shows tons of potential for the future, and this is one of the best episodes demonstrating this to date.
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