TV Recap: Archer, ‘The Holdout’ (S6 Premiere)

Written by Lucas P. Jones

ARCHER --Key Art

The Holdout Plot Summary:

After a six week bender, Archer (H. Jon Benjamin) must recover a computer from a downed plane and finds an unlikely ally in the process.

For Archer fans, season 5 was a bit of a departure. Okay, it was actually a huge departure. The writers totally flipped the script on the fans and delivered a quasi-reboot, which I thought was extremely successful. So when it was announced that Season 6 would be more of a return to form, I was a bit disappointed. With last night’s premiere however, all notions of the possibility of a boring “same old shtick” were dispelled.

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“The Holdout” opened with a classic shot from the series. Archer wakes up in a run-down motel in some foreign country, a bottle of strange liquor next to him, and a phone call from Mallory. After a nod to the running voice mail gag, the main story opened as we are told that Archer went on a 6 week bender to run away from his responsibilities as the father to baby AJ (are we really surprised?). The show quickly picks up, and Archer is soon on a mission to recover a computer from a downed plane, while surviving the forces of a communist rebellion. He finds a strange ally in an aging Japanese WWII-era soldier, who doesn’t realize the war is over. This character is the source of a surprisingly touching moment at the end of the episode, which is broken up by some more “classic Sterling.” While it’s still too early to tell, the spy agency’s involvement with the CIA doesn’t seem to hinder the show, rather, it served as a springboard for some subtle and well-timed humor.

Meanwhile, it looks like the rest of cast is back up to their old games; being incompetent and making Mallory’s life a living hell. Pam and Cheryl are put in charge of a ten million dollar remodel of the office, they reveal that the shiny new building is actually a hologram, and they instead spent the money rebuilding, to exact detail, the old office. It even comes with Brent’s bloodstain on the carpet, which is another nod to a great running joke. The return of these older jokes throughout the show might normally be seen as a lack of creativity, but in this episode they didn’t seem shoehorned. They were funny, and most importantly, subtle.

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That might be the reason I’m really excited about this season. Archer succeeds when the writers incorporate subtle jokes and humor into the episode without trying to bash you over the head. The show is especially funny when characters either break the fourth wall or, even better, get so close to being a self aware character, only to shake it off at the last minute. Between the strong opener and the possibility of some real character development on the Archer and Lana front, I have a strong feeling this season is going to be one of the best, and I seriously hope those words don’t come back to haunt me.

Archer airs every Thursday night on FX – all images courtesy of FX.

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