This season it’s clear Archer has something to prove. He’s willing to do whatever it takes, whether blowing up plans with his clingy mother or putting a wrench in the carefully laid plans of his teammates as he does at the start of this episode.
We begin with Cyril and Lana expertly maneuvering around traps as they try to enter a vault, Mission Impossible-style. Their mission is to steal an exo-suit from a tech genius billionaire whose mind Krieger seems to have a pseudo-sexual fascination with. Cyril continues to do his best Archer impression using his impressive new physique but quickly runs into the real deal. Archer has taken down the enemy single-handed and when asked how simply proclaims it’s because he is the “world’s greatest spy.”
Lana can’t help but be impressed for just a moment before she realizes Archer never disarmed the traps and they are quickly thrust into a tense situation dodging lasers and machine guns. We also learn that the team is on a time crunch. A rival spy agency named Juno has popped up on the scene while Archer has been away and it is a race against the clock before they show up.
Meanwhile, Mallory is focused on the more important things like Sterling missing lunch dates. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree in their family. Voice actor Jessica Walters continues to impress with the way she can still Mallory’s haughty narcissism for laughs much as she does with her similar character in Arrested Development. While the Agency might have become more professional in the last three years, Mallory and Archer’s personal issues are always there to complicate things and pull everyone in their egomaniacal gravity.
The vault they break into is filled with what seems like children’s toys. Archer, being the man child that he is, can’t help touch everything despite the many warnings to the contrary. Archer pulls out a pinata that releases confetti and danger. Archer continues to screw up, unleashing trap after trap and making everything much worse. It’s good to be back.
Krueger and Pam are providing backup just outside in Krueger’s van. These characters aren’t paired together often but after this episode, I’m hoping for more scenes together. There is fun chemistry where Pam’s insane horn dog energy matches up well with Krieger’s insane evil scientist energy. The montage of them failing miserably at matching the ease with which Lana and Cyril broke into the vault is the highlight of the episode.
Mallory reveals to Cheryl the reason she’s been lying to Archer is to protect him from getting back into the spy game too early and injuring himself further. Her efforts are of course thwarted by the manic Cheryl. She figured they were just trying to break down Archer’s psyche. At this point, you would think they would just hire a new secretary.
Mallory tries to call Archer but gets what turns out to be his horrifying post-coma voicemail. The darkly funny voicemail is so perfectly in character as is Archer’s attempt at a call back where Cheryl and Mallory throw his prank back at him.
In the midst of the chaos, we finally get confirmation on what happened to Lana and Archer’s mysteriously absent daughter. Lana shipped her off to Swiss boarding school to both get a better education and not slow down the plot with parenting.
Archer stumbles into finding the right move and falls into some kind of evil genius arcade where he’s greeted by the billionaire, named Hands, wearing the exo-suit. She lets Archer test drive the suit which not only lets him move around with ease but also heightens his strength and speed exponentially. For a moment, Archer is back to his old happy-go-lucky- self throwing basketballs through walls and knocking speed bags off their joint.
While this is happening, Juno has finally arrived and pinned the team down. The doctor encourages Archer to abandon his friends but Archer is surprisingly selfless and goes to help his friends. He also can’t help but be a showoff and uses the suit to take out Juno. The episode ends with an errant rocket destroying Kreuger’s cherry customized van as Kreuger weeps for his lost love.
Archer has always been the James Bond circa Sean Connery era ideal of an alpha male. He could balance being a world-famous super spy while entertaining women all over the globe all with a constant blood-alcohol level that would kill most people. This new season seems to be toying with the concept of who Archer is when stripped of all his prowess in the field and in bed and is left a bitter, useless alcoholic. However, it appears they are walking back from going full-throttle on having a broken Dark Knight Returns-esque figure in Archer. It’s too bad because seeing Archer actually have some serious character development could do wonders in rejuvenating this aging show narratively, but as it is there is still plenty to laugh about.
-You cannot have sex in the suit.
-If I wanted my food to rot in the kitchen looking sad I’d be ordering a big bowl of you on your break.
-Is it unsettling to anyone else how comfortable Cyril is playing Jim Henson with a dead guy?
-I’m just seeing what appears to be a bunch of random useless crap.
– Are you looking in a mirror? Burn.
11 seasons in and Pam still delivers the heat.
7 Must-Watch Shows This Fall
We’re only a few weeks away from the 2022-2023 fall TV season!
With the addition of streaming services, there are plenty of choices when it comes to what to watch all year long, but honestly, there’s something so special about primetime programming debuting strictly in the fall.
Much like pumpkin spice lattes, it provides a cozy feeling of returning to a routine and reuniting with your favorite TV characters while also welcoming new ones to the fold.
But there are always a few standout shows — new and old — that we think you definitely need to add to your list this season.
These titles will likely be the talk of the town (see: watercolor talk before remote work took over and turned it into slack talk), and you definitely don’t want to be left out of the conversation—in person or virtual.
Lopez vs. Lopez – NBC
Who doesn’t love a multi-cam family comedy? George Lopez teams with his IRL daughter, Mayan Lopez, to portray fictionalized versions of themselves in what’s described as a “working-class family comedy about dysfunction, reconnection and all the pain and joy in between.” Brice Gonzalez of TikTok’s EnkyBoys fame has also been cast in the series, so keep him on your radar!
Premieres Friday, November 4
Alaska Daily – ABC
After the short-lived Netflix series, Away, Hilary Swank is returning to TV as a journalist seeking a fresh start in Anchorage, Alaska where she begins investigating a missing woman’s case.
Premieres Thursday, October 6
Monarch – FOX
Trace Adkins and Susan Sarandon are just a few big-time names hoping to hook audiences in a drama about a country music dynasty, the Romans. “When their reign as country royalty is put in jeopardy, heir to the crown Nicolette “Nicky” Roman will stop at nothing to protect her family’s legacy, while ensuring her own quest for stardom, alongside her brother Luke and sister Gigi,” the synopsis notes. A handful of A-list country stars have already been tapped for guest appearances, including Shania Twain and Martina McBride.
Vampire Academy – Peacock
Calling all vampire lovers! Julie Plec, the creative force behind The Vampire Diaries, is hoping fans will sink their teeth into yet another series adapted from YA books about a group of supernatural attending boarding school at St Vladimir’s Academy.
Premieres on Thursday, September 15
Big Sky – ABC
Big Sky isn’t exactly a new show, but the Montana-set crime drama is sort of reinventing itself in the third season with a brand new mystery and title “Deadly Trails.” Cassie Dewell (Kylie Bunbury) and former partner/now undersheriff Jenny Hoyt (Katheryn Winnick) will team with newcomer and sheriff Beau Arlen (Jensen Ackles) to investigate Sunny Barnes (Reba McEntire) described as a “successful backcountry outfitter with a secret history of missing customers.”
Premieres Wednesday, September 21
La Brea – NBC
If you snoozed on La Brea in season 1 because you thought it wouldn’t get renewed, it might be time to catch up ahead of new episodes coming this fall. The series will pick up on the disappearance of three cast members, who were previously stuck in 10,000 B.C following the emergence of a sinkhole in Los Angeles. They have been transported to a different time period, which they must now navigate. Meanwhile, everyone still stuck in 10K B.C searches for a way back home.
“This season will still largely take place in 10,000 BC. However, we will no longer be telling a concurrent story in modern-day Los Angeles. Instead, we will be telling a story in 1988 Los Angeles,” showrunner and creator David Appelbaum said.
Premieres Tuesday, September 27
The Cleaning Lady – FOX
Again, if you snoozed on the hottest drama, The Cleaning Lady forgives you, but it definitely wants you to catch up before new episodes drop! Elodie Yung stars as Thony, an immigrant mom that’s determined to do anything to save her sick child. When she witnesses a murder, she finds herself working as a cleaning lady for the mob and doing things she never thought possible.
Premieres Monday, September 19.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – The Gang Goes to Ireland/The Gang’s Still in Ireland (15×05/15×06)
Always Sunny has has several multi-part episodes, but I don’t believe there has ever been a stretch of this many episodes continuing a single story arc, and so far, I think it’s working wonders.
The first benefit the serialized formula of these episodes provides is long-term payoffs for jokes. Always Sunny’s humor normally comes from two main places – the humor of the current plot and the characters’ reactions to what’s happening (such as Mac talking about sitting on the drains at the water park), and the humor of long-standing continuity references, (such as Charlie and Frank referencing “Nightcrawlers”). But in “The Gang Goes to Ireland” and “The Gang’s Still in Ireland,” there are plot based jokes that payoff across episodes in a way Always Sunny doesn’t normally get to revel in. The guys wanting to take a vacation originated in “The Gang Replaces Dee with a Monkey” and is still paying off in “The Gang’s Still in Ireland” in major ways. Dee doesn’t wake up in the middle of the country if the guys aren’t on vacation and Mac’s identity crisis swapping from episode to episode provides a fleshed out running gag. These longer payoffs gives Season 15 a very unique feel, which is great news for such a tenured sitcom.
The writing on a whole is great in this arc, though, so it isn’t just a benefit for the humor. Going to Ireland has specific ramifications for the cast, and the more specific a location is to your characters, the better a setting for a story it is. On a broad scale, it’s a fitting location just due to the name of their pub, but on a character specific level, Mac, Charlie, and Frank all have particular issues that are being brought about by Ireland.
Mac decides to tie his identity to his Irish heritage, which leads him down a path of crisis when he learns from his mother that he isn’t actually Irish. Charlie meets his real father (gasp) and starts to pull away from Frank as he begins to identify with his culture, and Frank begins to realize that he may be losing Charlie. These plot lines are built around the Ireland setting, tying location to character and giving the setting a relevance to the story. Many sitcoms go to a foreign land to shake things up without actually tying a real plot line to the location, which makes those excursions feel more like a pallet swap than a necessary story beat. Ireland is pushing these characters in new directions, and I love that.
For Dee and Dennis, Ireland itself doesn’t affect them in quite the same way, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t just as intricately tied to the journey as the rest of the gang. Dennis falling ill is specifically tied to traveling (while being unvaccinated), which ties his storyline to the journey even if it isn’t Ireland specific, and Dee’s acting gig is what kicked off the journey in the first place. Dee’s plot line could have happened in Philadelphia, yes – she could have been late for filming anywhere in the world – but what makes the journey around the world so relevant to her is that the rest of the gang followed her. This was, potentially, a chance for Dee to start over without the gang; a chance to break free. Instead, her friends drag her down, bringing out the worst in her, and keeping her in the exact same state of mind she’s always in.
Asides from using the location to its fullest, these last few episodes’ structures are also excellent. While this may be the most serial Sunny has ever been, it hasn’t lost use of its format. So far, these episodes have been distinct storylines contained within themselves – in other words, these are not two-parters. “The Gang Goes to Ireland” deals with a very different plot than “The Gang’s Still in Ireland,” even if the events of the former directly affect the events of the latter. Personally, for anything that isn’t a mini-series or two-parter, I like distinction between episodes in television. Like chapters in a book, they provide much needed structure to long-form storytelling. It’s very easy for episodes to start blending together when each is just a continuation of the last, but when one episode is about Dee’s film role and Frank destroying documents and the next is about Dee dealing with her sick brother and Frank losing his best friend, a distinction is provided that helps keep the story manageable and lends purpose to the episodic format, instead of feeling like a sliced up movie.
Overall, I’m really enjoying the direction the middle of Season 15 is taking. It’s given a bit of new life to the series and hasn’t just been thrown together – each character has been taken into consideration when crafting this plot and coming up with a setting. I’m excited to catch the next episodes, curious to see how this approach will affect the characters next.
- The serialized format also lets us see these characters live life in an uncut sequence of time, proving the madness never stops. This has also proven to me that this show could probably run in a serialized way if it ever wanted to. The writers take enough care into mixing plot with character that I’ve no doubt they could do this format if they wanted to (I’m not saying they should, just that they probably could).
- Sure, Dennis could have gotten sick anywhere, but tying it to travel works for the story and as a commentary on real-world travel safety during the pandemic, and Always Sunny does enjoy making commentary.
- The music change has also given these episodes a fresh feel. I love Sunny’s classic music, but this change makes this particular journey feel special, and I like that the show ties its music together with its setting.
- So I guess Frank is definitively not Charlie’s father???
- They are leaning HARD into Dennis’ creepiest character traits. I always felt they would keep these traits quiet, even if obvious on the surface, but I sort of feel the longer this show goes on the more definitive of an answer we’ll get to Dennis’ true nature.
- Dee would be a great horror movie protagonist. Her all-for-herself attitude combined with her verbal aggression is the perfect mix for it.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – The Gang Buys a Roller Rink/The Gang Replaces Dee with a Monkey (15×03/15×04)
“The Gang Buys a Roller Rink” is an experimental episode of Always Sunny, flashing back to what basically amounts to an origin story for the gang. But does the gang really need an origin story?
Flashback origin stories (like prequels) are most successful when the information about the origin re-contextualizes something we know about the characters the story is exploring. An example where “The Gang Buys a Roller Rink” succeeds is in the reveal that Charlie actually paid for most of the bar, as it re-frames our knowledge on exactly how Charlie became the rat-killer of the joint. Dennis and Mac completely screwed Charlie over, and while this isn’t necessarily a surprising revelation, it does lend us a new perspective to the supposed early partnership between the three. If you want to take it deeper, you can even say it explains Charlie’s hard dedication to the bar that the others don’t seem to have, as evidenced in “Charlie Work.”
Unfortunately, I feel this is the only reveal in “The Gang Buys a Roller Rink” that really works. Dee truly earning her nickname as “Sweet Dee” in her younger years, only to be ruined by a bonk on the head doesn’t re-contextualize anything. We already know the gang played a huge role in turning Dee into who she is today through their constant mockery, so revealing that Charlie played a role into turning Dee into “Dee” doesn’t actually change the perspective much. Maybe one could argue that the point is to show how innocent mistakes can have drastic consequences, but in the context of this show, I don’t think that works.
And that’s the biggest issue with the episode. “The Gang Buys a Roller Rink” goes out of its way to clean up Charlie, Dee, and Dennis so that we can see the contrast between their 1998 incarnations with their present day selve, and tries to show us exactly what went wrong in their lives to lead them there; but based on the history of the show and the meticulous characterization each main player has been given, we already know there isn’t one thing that lead them to their horrible selves. It was decades of abuse, neglect, self-aggrandizement, brainwashing, and more, mixed in with their own base instincts, and their awfulness continues to perpetuate through the dysfunctional circle they’ve trapped themselves in. Giving a single day explanation to everything doesn’t just feel wrong – it goes against the themes and continuity of the show.
And yet, I’m not sure I even buy that this is canon. The gang are proven unreliable narrators based on other episodes that feature flashbacks. Even when they think they’re telling the truth, their memories often betray them because they were drunk or too caught up in their own egos to realize they weren’t the center of attention they believed they were. For a show that cares so much about its own continuity, I find it hard to believe the writers ever make a “mistake” when it comes to continuity, even if they choose to disregard a previous piece of canon, I believe in most cases that is a conscious choice by them.
So I can’t criticize “The Gang Buys a Roller Rink” for “ruining” the continuity of the series because I’m not sure I trust the memory we witness on screen. At the end of “2020: A Year in Review,” there was footage of the gang at the events they claimed to be part, which proved without a doubt that they were telling the truth in that episode. There are no such clarifying pieces of proof at the end of “The Gang Buys a Roller Rink,” so it’s definitely possible this episode is just an excuse to have some fun and experiment with these characters in a new way.
But if this is canon? I think it hurts the characters. I find it hard to believe the Dennis in this episode ever called himself a Golden God while in high school, or that Dee turned out as this sweet after being relentlessly bullied for her back brace (after all, we’ve already seen how much resentment she held onto from that time of her life). Those earlier details seem sort of meaningless if the gang only became the gang because of the singular night we witness here. I prefer some backstory to remain mysterious, even after 15 years, as the gang is infinitely more fascinating when they are the result of a million different things over the course of a lifetime and not a singular event that created them, because people are more complex than that, and frankly, so is Sunny.
I also didn’t find this episode too funny. Mac’s “mark my words” jokes don’t have a great payoff and are sort of easy jokes to plop in a flashback. Dennis watching Frank have sex issn’t anywhere near as funny as Dennis and Frank’s confusing conversation prior, and with Dennis’ view on Frank I find it hard to believe he would stay through the entire session. Mac dealing drugs might seem like it is in character, but his success with it really isn’t, as he’s always been a fake tough (even here with the broken gun!) and he definitely would have had his money stolen from him way earlier.
I did think it was fun to watch, though! Despite all my complaints, I enjoyed seeing this different spins on such recognizable characters, especially Charlie. It’s always fun to see him be competent.
“The Gang Replaces Dee with a Monkey,” presents such a perfect counter-example to “The Gang Buys a Roller Rink” regarding character consistency that I find it hard to believe they were written back to back, but maybe that was the point?
The monkey plot line is alright. The guys trying to pick a vacation destination is some pretty classic Sunny, where a simple task turns into a huge project. Unfortunately we don’t actually get to see them arrive at their destination, so I feel like that plot line didn’t quite pay off because we sort of skip to the reveal. I think an extra scene here with them building the words to write on the board would have helped, even if the words were kept a secret to keep the final reveal intact. The monkey is fun, though.
Dee, on the other hand, has an excellent story that is so completely in line with her character that it hurts to think she’s only this way because she bonked her head. She shows both progress and regression as a person in such a smooth way, which is exactly what I want out of this season of Sunny. After being brutally insulted by the casting director, I expected Dee to either lose her **** with him or spiral into a depression, but instead she listens and learns. Dee! Dee listens and learns!!! Even though she doesn’t grow as a person ethically, not internalizing the insult is a huge step forward for the self-loathing Dee. It suggests that for once, maybe Dee doesn’t care what someone else thinks of her.
This also allows her to recognize that the young actor in her class does care heavily about what others think of her, and Dee sees this as an opportunity for, I don’t know, retribution? Revenge? Catharsis? She finally has someone she can influence and control and, after years of suffering the same fate herself, she knows exactly how to do it. Dee is old enough, and dare I say wise enough, to recognize her flaws; after all, she must recognize her own flaws if she’s going to manipulate those same flaws in someone else.
Which makes her final reversal absolutely magnificent. After getting the call from the director, Dee returns to the Dee of years past, because guess what – she finally got approval. She’s validated, and that validation immediately blinds her again. It’s a perfect display of growth and regression and comes about naturally in a way that is true to life.
The key is that Dee’s character doesn’t change almost at all. She’s still crude, rude, and has no idea what she’s talking about regarding acting. Her small growth is only in her reaction to the insult of her acting ability and her horrific plan to exploit a young actor for her own sick comfort. This is, dare I say, near peak Sunny, and I’m excited to see what Ireland brings us.
- The gang being so upset about the rink closing down before revealing they haven’t been there in over 20 years is very in character for them.
- If anyone has an explanation for how the characterization in “The Gang Buys a Roller Rink” fits in with the existing continuity of these characters younger years, please share it.
- I know the show isn’t medically accurate pretty much ever, but Dee hitting her head and shifting personalities is one of those things that has actually happened in real life, and yet still feels unrealistic within the show. Sometimes, just because it’s true to life, doesn’t mean it’s true to the show.
- Danny DeVito looked great in the flashback. Almost exactly like Season 2 Frank.
- I’m really excited to see what the show does with a bit of serialization. I know I wrote an article about needing more episodic TV, but a show 15 years into its run needs to experiment some and I think this is a good risk to take.
- I wonder how much influence the marketing strategy had on “The Gang Replaces Dee with a Monkey’s” final reveal. Ireland was so heavily promoted in the show’s ads and that final reveal was somewhat built on the audience awareness of what the destination was going to be. I actually think it sort of worked? At least on me. I didn’t put it together that their vacation destination would be Ireland, even though it seems so obvious in hindsight, except there was NOTHING in show to tell me that – me feeling Ireland was the obvious answer was solely built on the marketing. Interesting to note.
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