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‘Archer’ Season Premiere Review: “White Elephant”

Archer Season 5 Vice Premiere Review White Elephant
FX

Archer’ season 5 adds a bit of ‘Vice’ in its premiere episode “White Element,” as the ISIS crew finds themselves on the wrong side of the FBI, while Malory makes a deal that could forever change the team’s line of work.

Last year’s ‘Archer’ finale “Sea Tunt: Part 2” saw the quest to stop the villainous Captain Murphy (‘Mad Men‘s Jon Hamm) quickly falling apart, forcing Archer to make a deadly choice to save Lana’s life, so does “White Elephant” start things off on the right foot?  Is ‘Archer’ season 5 already going off the rails?

Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Archer’ season 5 episode 1, season premiere “White Elephant!”

Archer arrives to ISIS headquarters on a blissful morning with roses for his mother’s birthday, before an explosion of flashbangs quickly disorients everyone. A tactical team quickly launches a deadly shootout through the offices, finally killing poor Brett as Archer attempts to recall the name of Beaker’s boss, before an errant shot knocks over one of the invading agents to reveal three letters embroidered on his back: FBI!

Aghast over the mistaken identity shootout. FBI Special Agent Holly (Gary Cole) introduces himself, placing the entire ISIS team under arrest for treason, Malory having operated the agency for years without any kind of license or authority whatsoever. Malory urges the team to say nothing in their interrogations, lest she find a way out for all of them, but they bristle at the thought of listening any further.

During the actual interrogations, the groups quickly decide to give up ISIS’ past crimes in exchange for immunity, though Archer and Lana manage to escape their interrogators by faking an argument, and quickly turning the tables on the G-men. Archer suggests they might get married and live with her baby under new identities, but Lana rejects the idea, and sets about recovering the other ISIS crew from their own interrogations. By the time they reach Malory however, she has done as she claimed, negotiating all charges against them dropped in exchange for the total shutdown of ISIS.

Sharing a last drink in Malory’s office, the group considers what jobs they might take next, Cheryl opting for country singer, while Cyril resolves to return to his defense attorney career, despite no one remembering he had another job before his accountant position. Suddenly, Malory produces a brickton of cocaine hidden behind her office wall, approximately $50-60 million for them to set up their own drug cartel.

Considering the future, Archer flashes through scenes from the upcoming season that include the Yakuza, Cheryl’s singing career, a pet tiger, and all manner of action and shootouts, before Archer returns to the present and whispers to himself “Archer: Vice…”

OUR REVIEW:

We can only find so much to say about tonight’s ‘Archer’ premiere, which we’ve known for some time would entirely upend the premise of the series in a rare, but refreshing move for an animated series. That sense of commitment to telling original stories will get quite a bit of mileage from the ‘Vice’ setting of our former ISIS players opening up a drug cartel, though “White Elephant” itself can only set up so much in a limited run time.

It certainly pays off the recurring gag of Malory’s moral bankruptcy to learn that none of ISIS ever operated with consideration for the American government, forcing the characters to scramble off in different directions for employment, even as their cocaine store keeps everyone tethered together for the moment. Mostly, the installment only pays off in Archer’s meta vision of the future, a reward of sorts for viewers who come to the inevitable conclusion that very little actually happened tonight.

ISIS was illegal, and shut down after a shootout that finally claimed poor Brett. The gang was arrested, and briefly escaped, though the charges were dropped in exchange for ISIS disbanding. Lana’s still pregnant. Also, cocaine. Don’t get us wrong, there’s plenty to love about “White Elephant” and the multiple callback gags within (Archer himself seems to be growing a heart, no?), though at least one episode had to figuratively bite the bullet in order to set up the more out-there adventures in the weeks to come.

Well, what say you? Did you get your fill of spy-spoofing ‘Archer’ action? What was your favorite gag from “White Elephant?” Tell us if you’re on board for ‘Vice,’ and join us next week for all-new ‘Archer’ recap of “A Kiss While Dying” on FX!

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