Archer: The Man From Jupiter

Call me crazy but I’d say that “The Man From Jupiter” was easily one of the strongest episodes of Archer in the history of Archer. Maybe you agree with that. Maybe you don’t. I certainly do, as it’s… you know, my opinion.Why don’t you hit “Continue Reading” and we’ll delve a little deeper into all of this…

Fantastic. You hit the button. All is going according to plan.

Now, you may not know this (and why would you, really) but Archer has always been kind of hit-and-miss with me. On occasion, I’ll watch an episode and think it’s one of the best things on TV. Then I’ll see another episode and feel nothing but a resounding “meh.”

I think it’s because of the high expectations I have for Archer. Created by Adam Reed (co-creator of Frisky Dingo, one of the most underrated, offbeat, near-perfect cartoons every to air on Adult Swim), starring H. Jon Benjamin from the stellar Home Movies, and with a supporting cast pilfered from Arrested Development, Archer seems like it’ll be this constantly perfect mash-up of comedy geniuses.

And the problem (for me, anyway) is that Archer can’t ever live up to those expectations. Although if the rest of Season 3 is as strong as last night’s episode, then I’ll gladly admit every doubt I ever had about the show was totally unfounded.

But enough about me- let’s get on to the actual show. In “The Man From Jupiter,” Archer stumbles upon his hero, Burt Reynolds, through random chance and discovers his mother has become intimately involved with the movie star he’s idolized since he was a kid. He tries to stop them from being together, but relents after Burt saves him from a pack of Cuban hit men.

For Archer, it’s not really that complicated of a story. It’s all very straightforward. No elaborate set-ups. No plot twists. The whole story revolves around three characters and the rest of the cast spends most of their time in unimportant little snippets here and there.

And I think that’s what makes the episode so great. The strength of Archer (and the similarly-styled Frisky Dingo) is the dialogue. It comes fast and playful and stuffed full of zingers and bizarre, obscure references and frequently takes a left turn out of nowhere that ends up in a place you’d never in a million years think you’d get to (Burt’s sudden fascination with pimp cups or the unexpected mid-car chase tickle fight).

Stuff like that is what Archer thrives on. So when the show focuses on things that aren’t lightning-fast exchanges of dialogue (action scenes, Dr. Krieger, etc.), it never feels as fun or as fast or as exciting.

Take the action sequences. Yes, this is a spy show. But the animation itself is stiff and blocky when it comes to movement- note how the car chase at the end kept switching to 3D whenever you needed to see an actual car crash with lots of movement. And even then, the action isn’t the highlight of the scene. It’s the dialogue. We know Burt and Archer are gonna be fine. We know the Cuban hit squad is going to die in some horrible, action-packed way.  What we don’t know is where the hell Burt and Archer’s conversation is gonna go in the next two minutes, and that’s what truly drives the scene. The funniest, most memorable scenes from “The Man From Jupiter,” whether it be Archer and Burt’s conversation on the rooftop, or their conversation in the elevator, or whatever else,were all just scenes where the characters stood around and talked to each other. Episodes like this one that downplay the action and emphasize the dialogue always feel so much stronger to me.

And while I’m here, let me make one quick aside about Dr. Krieger- I don’t think he’s that funny. My humblest apologies to fans of the show who like him. Every line out of his mouth always comes out in some unsubtle, predictable way that seems to go against the very foundation of this show. Look at the car chase at the end of this episode. In one car, we get Archer and Burt making snappy conversation, and in the other we get Krieger screaming about how he loves his van. It just feels like all the stuff with Krieger belongs on a similar yet significantly less funny show.

So anyway, that was my quick aside.

And that should, for the most part, wrap up everything I had to say about “The Man From Jupiter.” I think Burt Reynolds did a terrific job keeping up with the show’s odd sense of humor. I absolutely love the Reynolds/Archer dynamic. I’m impressed that the show can pull off a super-exaggerated version of Burt Reynolds that everyone loves but still feels grounded in some kind of reality (as in, he doesn’t feel overblown to the point of a stale Chuck Norris joke). Plus, the minor flaws I sometimes find myself picking at within this show weren’t present in the slightest.

Keep up the good work, Archer. Keep up the good work.

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