Overview (Spoilers Below):
Archer continues to experience growing pains as he tries to reintegrate himself into the Agency and figure out his new role. There’s no room for Archer’s bruised ego to turn him into a wild card since their mission takes them to an underground martial arts tournament run by an international black market arms dealer, Win Lee. Archer and company need to smuggle Win Lee out of the country and back into the United States so he can stand trial, but in order to get close to him they need to enlist in the ghoulish tournament that would make even Jean-Claude Van Damme wince.
After the emotional and mature territory of the previous season premiere, the second episode of Archer’s new season leans in the opposite direction and indulges in broad, silly parody. It works all the better that these two episodes are airing back-to-back because they comfortably reflect the two extremes of storytelling that Archer does so well. I’m not sure why it took Archer this long to engage in a Bloodsport parody that stars Pam, but that’s the kind of story that’s just perfect on every level. Now it’s finally happened and while it may not be the deepest episode that Archer has ever done, it’s still a wildly entertaining installment that continues to hint at the direction that this season is heading.
Archer doesn’t try to make the character’s reintegration into the team easy and it’s comforting to see what was established in the season premiere not go forgotten. Archer is still in a very transitory period and it looks like he will be for a while. Even outside of his spy work he experiences growing pains with his new non-Woodhouse butler, which leads to some great, morbid laughs. His new tactile-cane continues to confound Archer and does more damage to himself than anyone else. It’s also fascinating to learn that Archer’s multi-year absence didn’t just help improve the morale at the Agency, but it also has led to greater financial independence and profits that have allowed the team certain perks, like a private jet, that would have otherwise been impossible.
It’s comforting to see Archer and Lana return to a bit of their old dynamic, even though there’s still plenty of tension between them. Archer remains confrontational about Lana’s decisions during his coma and the lengths of his sexual harassment here get a little egregious. I still hope that the plan isn’t to get these two back together, but their chemistry is all over the place in this episode. That being said, it is helpful for Lana to breakdown Archer’s aggression and try to explain to him just how off base and egotistical they are. This shows a level of growth that wasn’t previously present. There’s also more subtle evidence that Pam is Archer’s true confidante during this difficult period. She laughs at his jokes several times in this episode and there are small moments of connection that are never too blatant, but still go a long ways. I’m really impressed so far with how this season is carefully and respectfully approaching character development.
It’s in that sense that “Bloodsploosh” comes across as deceptively simple, but the level of thought going into the dialogue conveys layers and viewers should officially stop being concerned about the show feeling inauthentic or that any kind of magic has been lost by Adam Reed stepping down. There’s a fight scene where the dialogue is comprised entirely from the titles of Glenn Close films as well as a callback to Archer: 1999’s “space phrasing,” which is honestly even funnier when it’s used out of content like this. “Bloodsploosh” also brings Archer back to the series’ classical style of editing where incomplete thoughts are finished through other character’s dialogue in completely different scenes. It was a prime feature of the show during its earliest seasons (and even goes back to Frisky Dingo), so it’s very satisfying to see that style come back in full force.
It’s also a little inexplicable to hear a Hadouken shout-out in Archer, which is already in addition to the straight-up “Kumite” reference, but “Bloodsploosh” doesn’t even attempt to hide its unabashed love and inspiration from the filmography of JCVD. It’s almost a little upsetting that the episode didn’t get Jon Gabrus or someone from How Did This Get Made? to guest star in the episode. That being said, it’s still wonderful to get to hear Bowen Yang show up in Archer. It’s also a very small detail, but one that speaks to the meticulous nature of this show’s art design. The Agency’s office has a bunch of art on the walls that’s the same as several pieces that were featured in the previous episode’s museum. Whether this means that they simply stole some paintings or were gifted them as a sign of thanks doesn’t exactly matter, but it’s a tiny touch that’s appreciated and shows the overlapping and connected nature of the stories in this season.
“Bloodsploosh” had a hard act to follow after the brilliant season premiere, but it’s able to keep the momentum going as it doesn’t just return to the staples of this series, but is able to make them resonate in new ways due to the groundwork that the previous episode lays for it. There’s the perfect mix of action and comedy with the emotional and the absurd where something like an underground death fight can feel like a character-building episode. It’s also an episode where Malory gets to save the day and pulls everything together, which is a rarity in the series, despite her perpetual competence. Hopefully this is an indication that Malory will get to do a lot more than just give briefings and remain in the office this year. Archer’s 11th season remains impressive and while it’s still too soon to tell, it looks like it isn’t going to struggle with this new-old premise.
Finally, while not relevant to the plot, the episode also goes out on a solemn note with a dedication to Ron Leibman, who didn’t just voice Ron Cadillac, but was also Jessica Walter’s real-life husband. While this season of Archer has very much been about family and having a purpose, this hits a little extra hard after this dedication.
And yes, “Old Way Better Cheryl” is officially back, baby.