For a couple years running now, Archer has made a habit of capping their seasons with outrageous two-part adventures, first in space and then under the sea. (Last year was a bit of a deviation, as the journey to civil-war-riven Latin American country San Marcos took more like three episodes, and wasn’t quite the standalone Espionage of the Week that most Archer episodes engage in.) So how do you top space mutinies and sinking submarines? Miniaturization, of course.
This year they parody the 1966 film Fantastic Voyage, wherein a brilliant scientist Dr. Kovac has a dangerous blood clot, and the whole gang is going to get miniaturized and sent into the doctor to remove it. Failure means getting cut loose by the CIA forever. With the whole formerly-ISIS gang together on the mission, the cast gets plenty of chances to riff and bounce off each other, delivering classic Archer banter. Whether its Ray and Cyril discussing his possibly-serial-killer hand (The Freshmaker), or Pam and Archer planning to get sloppy at Sizzler, the episodes give plenty of comedic moments.
Another regular feature of the season-ending blowout is a cool guest star. This year it’s Carrie Brownstein, of Portlandia and Sleater-Kinney fame, as Dr. Slowdowska. (Fun fact: Her Portlandia costar, Fred Armisen, was last year’s Cool Guest Star.) In fact, there’s a wealth of guest vocals here, with everyone having a grand old time. Christian Slater is here, as Slater, charming in just how frustrated and annoyed he is by the agents formerly employed by ISIS. As the kids might say, Slater can’t even with Archer’s nonsense. Gary Cole comes back as Agent Hawley, also ready to cut the incompetents loose from the CIA payroll. And “TV’s Michael Gray” appears to, well, basically showboat.
Part One of “Drastic Voyage” doesn’t really get into the actual voyaging—it’s all setup. Our favorite spies are informed about this last-chance mission they’re being sent on, and the very definitely insufficient training being given to them for it. They’re successfully shrunk and ready to launch. Because this is Archer, nothing can go according to plan, so a vengeful attack by Krieger on the OR disrupts the entire injection process. The crew ends up not in Dr. Kovac’s head, but in his left foot, necessitating them to race to the brain, finish the clot, and safely get out before the sub regains its normal size. Part two begins with the Nereus zipping through bloodstreams and heart chambers. There are moments where it feels like a warped Magic School Bus adventure (if the Magic School Bus were helmed by a brilliant, contemptuous scientist who is also a sexual being, thank you very much).
Meanwhile, Agent Hawley and Malory are minding unlucky baby AJ. This is one of those moments where the line between Malory Archer and Lucille Bluth seems to be slim to none, as Malory spends the episode making denigrating asides about baby AJ’s weight. “She seems like a normal baby weight,” notes Hawley. “Yes,” Malory responds. “And everyone deserves a trophy just for showing up and everyone’s Kickstarter has merit. Tsk.” Ice cold, Mrs. Archer. Ice cold.
Hurdles and threats begin to build up almost as soon as Archer and Co. enter Dr. Kovacs. Ray ends up paralyzed again–a well that Archer has arguably dipped into too many times at this point. The oxygen in the sub is being consumed faster than expected. Carol inexplicably has a pair of tungsten knitting needles. The crew reaches the clot site, only to be attacked by leukocytes, requiring Archer to leave the sub and laser-gun both the aggressive cells and the clot by hand. This season has spent a lot of time examining Archer and Lana’s wrestling with their new parenthood. It’s changed their relationship to each—they’re now dating, however dysfunctionally—but more importantly, it’s changed their relationship to their work. Jumping out into a man’s bloodstream to fight voracious white blood cells might not phase Archer, but Lana is intensely worried, especially since both of them tend to be on these missions. He doesn’t believe he can die, but that’s all that Lana can think about in the moment.
We’ve known that Archer will be gracing our TV screens until at least 2016, after FX ordered seasons 6 and 7 last year. While this is wonderful news for fans of spy-comedies and high jokes-per-minute rates, it does remove some of the suspense from this finale. No members of the core cast are going to perish, making the leukocyte attack and rapidly depleting air supply (thanks, TV’s Michael Gray) less compelling as threats. However, this knowledge is also why the complete and utter failure of the mission, with the deminiaturizing sub exploding Dr. Kovacs and killing the doctors attending him, came as a legitimate shock.
This colossal screw-up (and Krieger’s destruction of the Doc’s computer), leaves Archer and his band of merry misfits as outcasts from the espionage community—or at least the CIA’s corner of it. In fact, they’re literally on the side of the road in the desert, attempting to hitch a ride. It’s at this point that they start to ponder whether they should bother trying to get back into the CIA’s good graces at all. Archer rallies his exhausted, overheated troops with a rousing speech. “Why would you want to work for those Ivy League, white-shoed, DC pricks?” he asks Malory. “That’s not who we are. We’re the outsiders. The scrappy underdogs. We’re Delta House, the Dirty Dozen, the Rebel Alliance, the Commitments. We’re the Bad News Frickin’ Bears!” When Malory peevishly (yet reasonably) complains that they need a revenue stream, Archer dons a pair of aviator sunglasses and notes, “I’ve got some ideas about that.” What could this mean for season 7? Are we going back to Archer: Vice? Or maybe we’re going to get Archer: Super Troopers? Whatever the case may be, I’m all in to find out when the spies return.