It’s a sad day for all of us here at Eat, Sleep, Television.
No, it’s not the economy, unemployment, or some kind of flesh-eating bacteria that’s put me in such an unending funk.
My problem is much more severe…
You see, there are two colons in the title of this article. And it looks a little weird. I could make that first colon a hyphen, but then there’d be one article with a hyphen and a billion others with colons and that’d be just as upsetting.
Also this has nothing to do with anything and I should probably get to the review already.
I wanted to like “Space Race: Part 1.” I wanted to love “Space Race: Part 1.” It takes all of my favorite things in life and wraps ’em up in one neat little bundle. Archer. Bryan Cranston. Other things, too. Like, um… space.
But I honestly felt like Cranston was the only thing keeping this episode afloat.
Granted, there were certainly things to like about the ISIS team’s venture into the final frontier. Archer’s gleeful reaction to weightlessness in the Vomit Comet. Archer’s sudden backtracking after revealing he spent fifteen years in boarding school. Archer’s repeated attempts to get Cranston’s Commander Drake to say “danger zone.”
Basically, anything actually coming out of Archer’s mouth was fantastic. I’ve come to expect greatness from H. Jon Benjamin every week, and “Space Race: Part 1” throws plenty of classic lines his way. And I even found myself feeling pretty pumped up when Archer swung into action and saved everybody’s hides (more or less) at the episode’s end. Archer will always be a show that values punchlines over actual punches, but there’s still the occasional visceral thrill to be found when someone brandishes a pulse rifle in a fight for his life.
But I can’t help myself from finding fault in this episode- for a number of reasons. First, I’ve officially given up on seeing any more of Bionic Barry this season. Two weeks ago, in “Crossing Over,” we had the mention of Barry’s super-secret and still-yet-to-be-revealed master plan. One week later, we’ve got Barry, but still no plan. And now we’ve got a finale completely devoid of Barry. I’m not expecting Archer to suddenly transform itself and start telling one season-long story, but if you’re going to kill off a character (it’s not like Jakov was an integral part of the show, but still) and then imply that there’s more to the story, it’d be nice to actually see that play out.
I will say, however, that the Archer/Pam affair is still going strong, and I would absolutely love to see those two continue their bizarre, oddly perfect relationship into next season. Everything about this pairing is great- Archer’s still equally disgusted by and addicted to Pam’s specific variety of lovin’, and the casual nature of their relationship (like when they both shrug their shoulders before a pre-mission hook-up) is certainly refreshing.
Honestly though, my biggest complaint with “Space Race: Part 1” is that nothing really happens until we actually reach the Horizon space station at the end. It’s a two-parter, and clearly the majority of the conflict is going to occur in the second part, but that’s no excuse for an episode that’s almost entirely devoid of conflict. Archer acts without thinking, Lana has a weak stomach, Mallory does nothing but chug rubbing alcohol (did anyone else find that a bit far-fetched? The idea that Mallory is so desperate for a drink that she’d blindly chug a test tube full of some unidentifiable liquid just seemed… well, a little cartoonish)- it’s essentially the same thing over and over again. Everyone in the audience will immediately figure out our heroes will be on board the shuttle in a few days’ time and they’ll all be woefully underprepared, so why does the episode linger on the training sequences for so long? Spending such a large portion of the episode on something that’s this predictable just makes it feel like we’re killing time until the fun actually begins next week.
Ok, I’ve gotten that little tirade out of my system- let’s talk about Bryan Cranston. I was a little hesitant that Cranston, an actor of unbelievable ability in both dramatic and comedic roles, was cast as Drake, a fairly boilerplate military official-type role we’ve seen on Archer plenty of times before.
But as I moved further into “Space Race: Part 1,” it all started to make sense. Yeah, Drake’s completely forgettable in the first act, but as the episode goes on, little dribs and drabs of Drake’s madness seep through the cracks of his no-nonsense facade, and the reveal that he’s actually behind the mutiny makes perfect sense (even if it was just the tiniest bit predictable). And the role combines all Cranston’s strong suits- as Drake starts to go off the deep end, he starts to take on an almost Walter White-like level of sinister smugness that’s played totally for humor. When Drake turns to Lana and sneers, “well I’m sorry to hear that agent Kane… because you’re going,” everyone else just stares at each other until Archer starts giggling about the Danger Zone again. It was one of the best bits in Part 1, and hopefully Part 2 will bring even more of this to the table.
And the animation was probably the best I’ve ever seen on an episode of Archer, especially where zero-gravity fluids were concerned (of both the yummy and non-yummy varieties).
So yeah, “Space Race: Part 1” was a little hit-or-miss for me, but I’m not too worried about next week’s episode. Archer’s never been a slouch when it comes to season finales, and we do get one more week of Bryan Cranston before he’s inevitably killed off at the end of these space-capades.
If only there was something I could do about those two colons…