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Archer Review – Back from the Dead (11×1&2)

Archer/ FX

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It can be difficult for many shows to stay fresh deep into their run. The Simpsons have been accused of declining in quality anywhere from season two to season twelve by die-hard fans. Series creator Adam Reed’s attempt at avoiding the typical pitfalls that have befallen many other once critically adored shows was to try to literally reinvent the narrative starting with season five. That season, dubbed Archer Vice, took on the trappings of a cheesy 80’s television series with the gang running drugs, flying twin-propeller planes, and cruising down jungle rivers. 

The show would go back to the status quo the following season but at the end of season seven, we learned Archer was stuck in a coma. This gave Adam Reed the license to spend the next three seasons having Archer reinvent itself as 40’s noir, 30’s adventure, and sci-fi a la Aliens. These three seasons were all apart of a dream taking place in Archer’s comatose mind reminiscent of  Bobby Ewing in Dallas.  Archer’s overarching plot could finally move forward, but it would do so without Adam Reed’s presence in the writing room. 

Season 11 premiered with two new episodes. We begin with a high octane motorcycle chase.  The animation shines in this sequence, managing to fit in an incredible amount of detail and polish while still keeping the same Archer style. The high-speed pursuit ends with a reveal that the team is back to normal sans the titular Archer, who is finally out of his three-year coma but much worse for wear. Archer is in bad shape, now walking with a cane due to nerve damage and a five o’clock shadow painted on his chiseled chin.

Archer returns to the office but it’s quickly apparent the natural order of things is off. Cheryl isn’t acting crazy, Pam isn’t being raunchy,  and Cyril, the oft punching bag for Archers barbs, has bulked up and assumed a leadership role in his absence. Archer is now at the bottom rung of the totem pole.  Predictably, he does not take these new developments well but there’s no time to dwell on things. The team has been tasked with guarding a priceless statue. It’s clear that the team has become quite professional in the absence of Archer’s self-absorbed toxicity and Archer can’t stand being sidelined.  Even worse is Lana, his on-again-off-again beau, and mother to his child has moved on and married.  Its clear Archer is a ticking time bomb that is ready to upend the dynamic.

After a few drinks and a nice moment with Pam, Archer reluctantly accepts his new support role. This new status-quo is upended quickly as the plan organized by Cyril quickly goes to pieces, causing Archer to spring into action. The thieves are thwarted and Archer has taken the first steps in taking back control. 

The second part involves the team infiltrating a martial arts tournament and extracting a man named Win Li. This was the much weaker of the two and tries to walk back some of the changes introduced in the first episode. Cyril flashes signs of competency before quickly becoming a punchline. Pam valiantly holds herself together but after mid-way reverts back to being the crude quip machine. Cheryl is back to being insane. The plan goes belly-up and once again it is up to Archer to save the day. 

It’s here I also remember just how brutal Archer can be for a comedy. Henchmen are callously shot by Archer. Characters get injured and bleed from every part of their body. A scene involving a man getting his foot cut off by a falling piece of glass is particularly hard to watch. The violence works in juxtaposing how ludicrously dangerous the job is against just how little these people care.

There is a lot of good in the two-parter. The animation is extremely crisp, the voice performances are excellent, and many of the jokes still land.  However, the absence of Reed’s guiding hand can be felt in the writing. It simply isn’t as sharp as it was at its height and relies on recycling some of the same gags it’s pulled out for years. There are only so many times the audience can be expected to laugh at sploosh and phrasing.  Still, there is plenty to like and the wheels haven’t fallen off yet which is remarkable for any show that has been on as long as Archer has. Both Archer and to some extent his show’s fans must come to terms with getting older but that doesn’t mean there isn’t still a lot of good moments to left to enjoy. 

 

 

Best Lines

– I would like expensive whiskey.

We only have beer and wine.

What am I, 12?

 

-He was doing a fundraiser for kids with cancer.

Oldest trick in the book.

What book?

 

-Well, thank you, Onan the Barbarian.

Thar she blows you mobey dicks.

 

-The recently decomafied brain is a complete mystery to science like dark matter or why squirrels get so enraged when they see me naked.


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Supergirl

Chicago Med Review – So Many Things We’ve Kept Buried (6×10)

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Chicago Med Review So Many Things We've Kept Buried Season 6 Episode 10

Sometimes, procedures on the fly are the best way to treat a patient. 

They may pose a bigger threat, but the payoff is worth it in the end.

Marcel dealt with a patient who had much more in common with him than he initially thought. 

The father, who was shot, was very adamant about not being treated due to the high cost of a hospital. He kept scolding his son in Farsi, which led me to believe that Crockett understood every single thing he said. 

And turns out, he did. After initially performing the surgery and not being able to locate the bullet, he realized that the bullet moved to a different part of the body. 

Not wanting to open up the man a second time, Crockett listened to Michael about using a new tool “off-label” to try to pull the bullet out. It didn’t work, but it was a valiant attempt.

It led to a riskier surgery, but it all worked out in the end. Crockett’s bonding moment with the patient also revealed a little bit about his Persian background. Eventually, he told Natalie during their date night that his real name is Darioush. 

And I have to say, there’s nothing hotter than Crockett speaking Farsi. 

After he connected with the patient, he also gave Sharon some useful advice about being proud of her son. Michael may overstep sometimes, but his motivations are in the right place.

Choi and Halstead butted heads with their patient, which isn’t new. A rivalry between the two, especially as they’re both interested in Sabina, has been brewing for the past few episodes. 

In this case, however, Dr. Halstead was right in doing everything they could to save the patient. 

Ever since taking on his new position, Choi has been playing it safe, but it’s clear that sometimes taking the risk is worth the payoff. 

It wasn’t even Halstead that ignored Choi’s advice either — Maggie’s instinct told her to allow the mother to make her own decision and she’s the one that stood in his way. 

And Choi might blame Halstead for questioning his authority, but Halstead was convinced to do so by Sabina.

I don’t know if I fully trust Sabina because she’s been flirting it up with both Choi and Halstead. It’s almost as if she wants to stir up a feud between them. 

Choi is in charge, which means Halstead should listen to him, but Choi should also acknowledge Halstead’s ideas and suggestions.

Chicago Med Review So Many Things We've Kept Buried Season 6 Episode 10

CHICAGO MED — “So Many Things We’ve Kept Buried” Episode 610 — Pictured: Torrey DeVitto as Natalie Manning — (Photo by: Elizabeth Sisson/NBC)

Manning and Charles teamed to help a patient who claimed to have been mugged. 

If you’re an avid watcher of the series, you knew that there was something strange about her not wanting to talk about the incident. 

As Charles said, the story wasn’t adding up. 

I initially assumed it was because she was either cheating on her husband or he was the one that was abusive, but it was a nice twist that it was neither. Instead, the husband who just returned from Afghanistan was going through PSTD nightmares, which resulted in him injuring his wife without him knowing. 

She was lying about the incidents to protect him, but eventually, she came clean and he got the necessary help. 

In a subplot, April helped save a man who was injured in a construction accident. 

And though she did her best to stop the bleeding, Lanik gave her unnecessary grief for it. 

Following the surgery, he apologized and admitted that she definitely saved the man’s life and should’ve considered being a surgeon, which makes me think maybe April will rethink career paths? 

While the episode was entertaining on its own, it was very disconnected from previous episodes. Where was Dean Asher? 

Where was the psych patient who was obsessed with Charles? 

Chicago Med is usually the #OneChicago show that does well in terms of continuity, but this episode lacked it completely. 

What did you think of the episode? Let us know in the comments below! 


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Utopia

Utopia Season 1 Review – A Pale Imitation of the Original

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Utopia Season One Review

*Warning. Spoilers ahead.

Full disclosure here: I am a massive fan of the UK version of Utopia that first aired on Channel 4. I would go so far as to say that the first season of the original series might be my favorite season of any television show, going toe-to-toe with the best from prestige television like The Sopranos and Breaking Bad. The combination of whip-smart writing, eye-popping visuals, and memorable score come together beautifully in the British version and it was truly a shame that it never got the recognition it deserved. That is why when I came across the trailer for this Amazon remake written by Gillian Flynn of Gone Girl fame and executive produced by Dennis Kelly, the original creator, I assumed it was a can’t miss prospect. After all, when you match such superb source material with someone who has an impeccable track record like Flynn, how could you go wrong? The answer, after watching Amazon’s Utopia, is apparently quite easily with one baffling decision after another.

Adapting a British series that is critically beloved for American audiences has been done successfully in the past with shows like The Office, Shameless, and Veep. These shows have even arguably surpassed their British counterparts. Utopia is not one of those examples. The season kicks off with a different spin on Utopia’s comic book origins. We start with a happily engaged couple moving into their new house left to them by one of their grandfathers. They stumble onto a manuscript with bizarre artwork titled Dystopia and the couple believes they can get some serious cash by putting it up for auction at a local comic book convention. 

The post goes live kickstarting the plot into motion as we meet this series’ version of Becky, Ian, Wilson Wilson, and Grant as well as a new character made for the show named Samantha. (On an unrelated note, I did get a kick out of the cosplayers in the first episode especially the man wearing pigtails as he was my improv coach here in Chicago. ) The show plods, not for the last time, from scene to scene slowly introducing the rest of the main cast. There are some highlights here as John Cusack and Rainn Wilson, playing Dr. Christie and Michael respectively, manage to wring some tension out of the script whenever they are on screen. There are some lowlights, however, in the show’s versions of Arby and Jessica Hyde. Arby, paired with his accomplice Rod, play as low-rent versions of Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd. It is hard to see this version of Arby taking a sympathetic turn as the original did. Jessica Hyde is even worse. Her character isn’t so much pragmatic as she is bloodthirsty which makes you wonder if she isn’t the real villain of the show.

It was hard not to compare these versions of the characters to their British counterparts. Mostly for the fact that for much of the season, they just simply aren’t fleshed out and rarely rise from being one-dimensional pieces being moved from set-piece to the next. The most interesting of the friend group is Samantha, who is an idealist despite living in a cold, uncaring world. I was very excited to see what new dynamic she would bring to the show, so of course, she was gunned down in what was perhaps the worst scene in the entire show by Jessica Hyde.

 In the original series, Hyde is a pragmatic survivalist who has spent her entire life away from normal society but still had recognizable humanity that we get glimpses of beneath her cold exterior. Here, Hyde kills Samantha for no better reason than “a group can’t have two leaders.” It is a moment that makes this version of Hyde instantly unsympathetic and the friend group is briefly alarmed before nonchalantly going about their business.  It’s just one of many examples of characters never behaving like actual humans. 

The tone is also all over the place as well. You get the sense Flynn was trying to go for a darkly comic take on the conspiracy but almost every one of the jokes falls flat. For example, the sequence where Wilson Wilson tries to take the wheel while half-blind and gets bit by Hyde wouldn’t feel out of place in a CBS sitcom airing at 7 P.M. on a Tuesday. The original was able to mine the absurdity out of the mundane moments in-between the action while here every serious moment gets undercut by some character behaving unnaturally or attempting some lame one-liner. 

In fact, the dialogue might be one of the worst aspects of the remake. In every conversation, characters love saying exactly how they feel and rattling off plot-points to each other. Not a single moment of subtlety can’t be explained away immediately. I’m reminded of the bit in Futurama that goes “You can’t just have your characters announce how they feel! That makes me feel angry!”

The show also has the misfortune of releasing during a pandemic. It’s hard to watch the show, based around a government conspiracy around vaccines for a flu-like virus, and not think about the real-life parallels to a conspiratorial fringe in our own country. Just another misfire in a show filled with them.

For anyone who was a fan of the original, there’s nothing in this new season that improves on the original conceit. For new viewers, I would recommend just finding the UK version and skipping out on this version altogether. It is simply not worth your time.  


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Television Shows

Archer Review – Archer’s Got a Brand New Suit (11×03)

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Archer Archer's Got a Brand New Suit Review

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. 

 

Favorite Lines

-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.


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