In the penultimate episode of Archer Dreamland we finally solve the mystery of Woodhouse’s murder. This hook had all but been abandoned throughout most of the series, as the main storyline involving Charlotte’s kidnapping and Dutch Dylan’s search for robotic revenge took center stage. However, at the conclusion of this episode all of that is set aside, having been reasonably concluded, and we return to the original hook.
Penultimate episodes for serial television series can often be muddled and overpacked. The writers need to conclude as much as possible, and tie everything together in a nice little package so that the final episode can deal with the conclusion of the main storyline. When a show fails to do this well two things can happen: the episode can be an incomprehensible hodgepodge, or the show can be a threadbare mess of loose ends unexplored.
But when a show does this well it can be the perfect combination of story, structure, and summation that this episode is.
As the episode opens Dutch Dylan has killed all of Len Trexler’s men and staged them in a grotesque caricature of the last supper.
This new version of Barry is a little bit of a miss for me. Although from a psychological perspective it would make sense that Archer’s coma induced dream world would make Barry a pure villain rather than the tortured hero-turned-villain through tragedy that he is in the main continuity. Every character in Archer Dreamland is a bit of a caricature of themselves, based upon Archer’s impressions of them.
But what makes sense psychologically might not necessarily be the best direction to take narratively. I suppose if I had seen this season of Archer first, without knowing the backstory of Barry and his fall from world-class secret agent to insane cyborg hell-bent on revenge, I wouldn’t feel as letdown about Barry’s narrative as I am.
This version of Barry/Dutch is essentially pure evil. Even before he was turned into a cyborg, he was already a hitman working for Len Trexler who dissolved people in acid. Although being turned into a cyborg against his will certainly traumatized Dutch just as it did to Barry, he was already a ruthless killer and thus his collapse into insanity is less tragic.
All of this, however, it’s just a nitpicky diversion. Dutch is still the same unstoppable psychopath hellbent on revenge, regardless of his new origin. The scenes where every character fires their guns uselessly at Dutch still work, even though it’s a trip that has been going on since the end of Season Two. One small easter egg is the seeming return of Brett in the form of Cecil. Cecil gets struck by three bullets, two in his arm and one in his leg. This is a delicious callback to the character of Brett, who was apparently a bullet magnet until he finally caught one in the head in the first episode of Archer: Vice.
Archer accidentally lets it slip that he was the one who crippled Dutch, which of course causes Dutch to backhand Archer across the table. While Dutch’s back is turned Archer rescues Trexler.
This is the only real plot hole in this episode, and honestly it’s the only real plot hole in this entire season. Keep in mind, Archer was only at Trexler’s house to retrieve the stolen ransom money. He has no reason to want to rescue Trexler, and in fact he has several reasons why letting Trexler be killed would be beneficial to him. Not only is Archer currently working for mother, who is at war with Trexler, but Trexler had just learned that Arthur was the one who stole Trexler’s shipment of Chinese prostitutes.
I suppose the explanation would be that Archer is a good-natured person, and doesn’t want to see an innocent (relatively speaking) person get killed. Except, that when Trexler promises to “call it even” if Archer helps him escape, Arthur informs Trexler that it would be more than even, because Trexler’s last thought would not to be what Archer’s gun taste like.
Regardless, Archer and Trexler make their escape, and Cyril, Poovey, Trinette and Cecil do the same while Lana holds off Dutch.
Dutch isn’t particularly interested in chasing them, however, as his primary targets are Archer and Trexler, Lana makes her escape, locking Dutch in the dining room by placing a halberd through the door handle. If you don’t get this reference, think back to Season Four Episode 11: The Papal Chase. When Archer, Lana, and Pam are sent to protect the Pope from an assassination attempt by the Swiss Guard, Archer doesn’t bring any guns because he assumes the Swiss Guard would be armed with halberds. When Laura asked him why with incredulity, archer correct himself and says, “Of course, halberds men were made obsolete with the arquebus.”
All of the main characters eventually make their escape, Archer inexplicably running upstairs then having to climb down the drain pipe which Dutch severs, causing Archer and Trexler to fall to the ground. This is a pretty good pay off for a joke that didn’t seem to go anywhere, when Trexler asks Archer why the two are going upstairs, Archer reveals that he hadn’t really thought their escape through that much. It’s a logical pay off, and it works.
Trinette and Cecil part ways with the rest of the group, while the the others ends up in Archer’s car trying to escape from Dutch. As far as chase scenes go, this is very well done. The digital animation that Archer uses allows them to perform some truly great cinematic tricks that would be expensive even in a Hollywood film.
The fight scene does not disappoint, with Archer eventually being the one to defeat Dutch. With a combination of driving skills and sheer ruthlessness, Dutch is left as a mere stain on the pavement.
After Dutch’s defeated Archer begins to grow morose. This entire adventure, from the Chinese girls to Charlotte’s kidnapping, has all been merely a distraction from Archer’s true purpose: to find out who murdered Woodhouse.
It is then that Trexler drops the episode’s biggest bombshell. “I don’t know how to tell you this kid, but Mother killed Woodhouse.”
As penultimate episodes go, this is one of the best for a serial story. It completes all the necessary storylines, and gives us one small piece of information that makes us both hooked into the next episode and brings the main premise (the death of Woodhouse) to the forefront.
This episode is just another installment in what is already the best season of Archer. It’s curious to think that Archer’s comatose dream would have his Mother be the person responsible for Woodhouse’s death. But, to be perfectly honest, looking back you can tell that this reveal was telegraphed even from episode one.
Next week should be the conclusion of the story, where we will hopefully discover the reason behind Mother’s murder of wood house, as well as tie up a few loose ends involving Charlotte, Lana, and crooked cops Cyril and Poovey.