In film, there are several ways in which you can lead an audience from one scene to the next. There’s the standard “cut,” perhaps the most commonly used, which abruptly ends one scene and starts another. Then there’s the “fade,” which dissolves one scene into the next. There’s also the “wipe,” (loved by George Lucas) which essentially raises the curtain from one scene and opens to another.

In this, the fifth season of Archer, series creator and writer Adam Reed makes a transition for the entire series, using what could best be described as the “morph,” in which familiar objects are changed before our eyes into something different altogether.

Reed recently said he had played out the espionage antics after four (glorious) seasons and wanted to shake up the Etch-a-Sketch. In White Elephant, the season opener, ISIS is blown to bits and all who work within are apprehended by the FBI and ultimately let go under the condition they can no longer operate as a spy agency ever again.

Consider that Etch-a-Sketch blank.

The group (Sterling, Mallory, Lana, Cyril, Pam, Cheryl, Ray, and Dr. Krieger) find themselves in the shelled-out office, reflecting on the years of outrageous adventures, positing their next career moves. An office wall opens to reveal an Everest-scale mountain of blow, and they reach the only logical (for Archer) conclusion: start a Mexican drug cartel.

The rest of the episode plays out like an extended preview of the season to come: more Burt Reynolds-influenced madness, a pet tiger perhaps for Sterling (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin), a country singing career for Cheryl (voiced by Judy Greer), a pregnant Lana (voice by Aisha Tyler), and just about a million other possibilities (or, it could very well be all in Sterling’s head, as this was just what he was envisioning they could do with the drugs).

Yes, it plays like a “greatest hits” for the past four seasons as well as a “trailer” for the season ahead, but dammit if I’m not ready to dive in their future filthy adventures, whether it’s in an office space or in a sketchy dirt road in a Trans-Am packed with coke.

Some have moaned about the final minutes of this episode giving away too much, but has anyone really been able to guess just where “Archer’s” spray of comedic bullets may land?

The re-watchability of White Elephant may not rank as highly as Season 1’s Diversity Hire, Season 2’s El Secuestro or Season 3’s The Man from Jupiter, but it appears re-charged and ready to venture off into even more fitfully fantastical and potentially profane adventures that have made it one of the strongest series on television today.

Episode 1 Rating: B (for narrative), A (for potential)

Episode 2 – A Kiss While Dying

Those who were left wondering last week if Archer can pull off the dramatic switch from super spies to drug runners, your fears were assuaged with A Kiss While Dying, this season’s second episode (and actually the first that really cemented the characters in their new career path).

With ISIS disintegrated, the team rallies in the museum-like Tunt estate of Cheryl’s (voiced by Judy Greer) family, though one that seems rather ocelot free. They quickly start establishing their roles, as Mallory (voiced by Jessica Walter) send Sterling (H. Jon Benjamin), a pregnant Lana (Aisha Tyler) and a skittish Pam (Amber Nash) to Miami for their first drug deal with some old acquaintances.

Things immediately go south figuratively as well as literally when the cocaine is molded into a full-body cast worn by Pam, and the drug immediately begins to take effect through contact with her skin. They ultimately reach their connection, which turns out to be Ramon (Ron Perlman), the gay target-turned-confidant-turned-lover(?) of Sterling in the first season’s brilliant Honeypot episode.

But, in typical Archer fashion, it all falls apart, ending with the novice pushers holding a briefcase of counterfeit money, and without a large chunk of their drugs — between what was in the deal and what Pam had consumed.

Meanwhile, Cheryl is painfully following her country music star dreams, with beleaguered Ray (voiced by series creator Adam Reed) as her voice coach, and a more-confident Cyrill (Chris Parnell) settling in to become the group’s lawyer. Dr. Krieger (Lucky Yates)? Well, let’s just say he’s still lurking within the shadows.

What’s markedly different in this episode is the further attention to visual detail. There’s a more fluid look to many of the action sequences and by plopping the group in Miami, Reed and company bathe the episode in brilliant neon hues not seen since the early days of Michael Mann.

But the standout of this episode is Pam. Pam’s descent is the show’s rise. From her sweaty beginnings as a “drug mule” to her trampling around the background like a coked-out rhino, she is cause for laughter at every single scene she is featured.

There’s plenty of throwbacks (Ramon, Ray chugging scotch) mixed with a slew of running gags and new catchphrases that will continue to garner steam in our collective consciousness (the A-Team meets Scarface mash-up is particular genius). The episode, A Kiss While Dying demonstrates that the core cast of the show can be thrown into virtually any set-up, and as long as their petulant, vitriolic, loathsome … and thoroughly hilarious character traits are able to shine through, Archer will thrive.

Favorite lines:
“Oh… you were serious?” — everyone to Mallory
“God how I envy the deaf!” — Mallory
“Smells like a skunk ape!” — Sterling
“Smells like a kennel, but for dogs that are poor” — Sterling
“Potato… po-treason! Whatever!” — Sterling
“It’s the A-Team meets Scarface.. that makes me… “‘Hannibal Montana?” — Sterling and Lana
“The coke’s in the shape of a Pop-n-Fresh costume and kinda taint sweaty” — Charles (Thomas Lennon)

Episode 2 Rating: A-

Episode 3 – A Debt of Honor

Three episodes in to this season, and Archer is firing on all cylinders, from a writing perspective. This one is going to be mined for quotes for ages. A mix of furiously fast and funny wordplay, “A Debt of Honor” represents everything right about Archer’s wrongness.
The gang, still stinging from last week’s bungled drug deal that left them sitting on a stack of counterfeit cash, is back to the drawing board, but in the process leave the newly addicted coke fiend Pam alone with both the drugs and money.

In her quest to satiate her ravenous new habit, she phones the yakuza, hands them the fake money and makes off with a bag of amphetamines.

Set almost entirely in Cheryl’s hospital-sized home, Pam’s continual fall into addiction is one of the best things going for the show at the moment and it will be a shame to see this tangent turn around, but the episode was marked by a number of standout moments for the gang. Archer and Mallory continue to tussle, Cyril still gains strength in his character, and Cheryl sneaks in and cuts a scene like a comedic shiv to the gut.

It’s only three episodes in and already feels like a season highlight, but “A Debt of Honor” is a virtual goldmine of one-liners, shout-outs and insanely dark hilarity that makes it a go-to source for menacingly dark mayhem and mirth.

Standouts include:

● Archer: “Somewhere in this house there has to be a Scrooge McDuck-ian vault.”
● The re-occuring “Price is Right” “losing” sound machine.
● Babou the ocelot is alive and wandering around somewhere in the apartment.
Mallory: “Ron, take me to lunch.”
Ron: It’s 8:30 in the morning!
Mallory: A bar then! Whatever!”

Episode 3 Rating: A

Episode 4 – House Call

You might want to practice the art of not blinking before watching House Calls, the fourth episode of this season’s Archer Vice. For I can say that if by chance your lids were to flutter, you may miss a half dozen jokes, asides, entendres, or general dark inanity that dwells within.

In this episode, Pam’s (voiced by Amber Nash) addiction to coke is fully realized, but it seems as though its sole creator/writer Adam Reed that has been infused with the substance to such a degree it’s hard for fans to catch a breath. Her penchant for the powder has reduced her to placing it in yogurt cups and simply spooning it up in social settings. It’s cause for concern for most of the former ISIS crew. I say most because certain members — mainly Archer (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin) and Cyril (voiced by Chris Parnell) seem to have taken a shine to the fact that its lead to dramatic weight loss that has left her quite curvaceous.

Their plans for an intervention are thwarted when an unexpected guest pays a visit to the Tunt castle in which they currently dwell.

As with most great episodes, the less detail going into this one, the better. I will say that even after last week’s solid episode, this one feels even more complete for its glimpses of heart in its often-soulless settings. Archer and Lana (voiced by Aisha Tyler), show that beneath the bickering a flame still burns, and even though wheelchair-bound Ray (voiced by Reed) has been neglected to stew in his own filth, there is hope that he will be walking again.

After weeks of establishing their new lots in life, this episode feels like it’s the one to send them on their first real adventures to rid themselves of the remaining stash of drugs that have yet to be consumed by Pam’s voracious appetite.

It left me equally hungry for what’s in store.

Favorite lines and standouts:
“Thank you, Yoda’s dad” (to the aged butler Woodhouse)

“I learned it from you!” (Archer to his mother about drugs)

“And they sell this to kids?” (When Archer finds out Pam’s “yogurt” cup is cocaine laced.
Cyril known about, and is into, boob bondage porn

“Gout mumps”

“My girlfriend’s not equal parts the internet, a tube of Kentucky jelly, self-loathing and sock!” (Archer to Cyril).

Episode 4 rating: A

Episode 5 – Southbound and Down

The Archer gang takes its “show” on the road in “Southbound and Down,” as they head to Texas to further the musical career or Cheryl.. sorry, I mere Cherlene, but of course Sterling views it as a golden opportunity to live out a Burt Reynolds fantasy and dons his best “Smokey and Bandit” duds (complete with Reynolds’ ‘70s-era porn moustache).
And despite the distance the group has to travel, this episode feels like it does the shortest distance this season. There’s still much merriment to be had, but its clearly the weakest entry thus far in what is still shaping up to be one of its sharpest seasons.

Having been booked on a local PBS music show, Cherlene and company take a tour bus to hit the stage, with Sterling and Pam in a blocker car, which is obviously a black 1978 Pontiac Trans Am Firebird. There’s not much that truly transpires plot-wise or development-wise, save for two important factors:

1) The animation in this episode is the best yet, with car chases that are actually quite thrilling, and…

2) The time in the car between Pam and Archer is well spent, from her giving herself the CB handle “Snowball” (for reasons true Archer fans might easily guess), to Archer’s plea to her to be her old self again and kick the cocaine habit. It runs from hilariously disgusting to heartfelt within minutes.

That said, the Cherlene creation has already run its course and her prima donna act is getting a little wearisome. Also, Dr. Krieger and Ray are left behind, contributing only two scenes to the entire episode. This must be rectified immediately!

Like the Bandit films themselves, the episode is light, breezy does its source material and the series just the right amount of justice. Buford T. Justice, that is.

Episode 5 rating: B+

Episode 6 – Baby Shower

This season of Archer seems hell-bent on nailing the coffins of all the former catchphrases, on-going gags and shout-outs. We’ve seen the death of “phrasing!”, most likely the ultimate enactment of Sterling Archer’s Burt Reynolds fetishism, and in “Baby Shower,” we are finally brought into the “Danger Zone.”

For the uninitiated, the famous cheese-ball 80s wuss-rock anthem from “Top Gun” has served as Sterling’s go-to retort when sexual tension got real between him and fellow spy Lana. So when the gang decides to throw a baby shower for her, it’s only logical Sterling (with a still coke-hungry Pam at his side) attempt to nab Kenny Loggins to perform.

The two head to Madison Square Garden, where Loggins happens to be headlining (this is a fantasy world, after all), and the seemingly harmless lite-rock icon appears to be involved in either plutonium smuggling or what Archer calls “a Faustian pact” which involves a suitcase irradiating either a highly dangerous chemical or a human soul.

Loggins (or K-Log, as he wants to be called from now on) is the show’s highlight by a country mile. And speaking of country, Cherlene’s career is still in the making, with a great opening that features Sterling playing the jug. But by the end, she and Loggins are duet-ing “Danger Zone” in perhaps the best possible way.

It’s a fast and loose episode that may not further anyone or anything, but feels a lot more fun and carefree than last week’s “Southbound and Down.” One hopes that as we lurch closer to the season’s end we will start to resolve some of the issues of the gang’s mountain of cocaine and diminishing funds, as well as give Dr. Krieger and Ray more time in the spotlight, but overall the episode is time well spent with the group.

Favorite lines and standouts:

* Archer playing the jug in the opening, and Woodhouse on drums

* “Krieger-rans” (the name of currency the mad doctor is using as bitcoins)

* “These taste like calluses” Sterling says of Branjos breakfast cereal.

* “Ricky! Bad touch!” Kenny Loggins to his bodyguard when Pam assaults him.

Episode 6 rating: A-

Episode 7 – Smugglers’ Blues

It’s another road trip this week for the Archer:Vice gang, but this time we finally get a chance to spend more time with Ray (voiced by creator Adam Reed), who has pretty much been relegated to a filthy wheelchair for much of this season. And while both he and Cyril (Chris Parnell) are more prominently featured than they have since the ISIS shakeup, this episode is the fairly standard (and no less hysterical) setup that it seems creator Reed could do in his sleep.
What is noticeable about this episode is the character depth we get out of Malory, if only for a split second. When Sterling and the boys are trying to unload a bunch of their cocaine cache in Columbia, mama Malory is faced with the very real truth that she may lose her son to a ruthless cartel. She pleads to save him with a tear welling up in her eye.
Then, cut to the next scene.

For any other series, this would be but a mere radar blip, but for Archer, which has been criticized for its borderline-nihilistic attitudes sometimes, this particular scene resonates loudly, as we realize how far this woman who was once the head of an international spy agency has fallen since the start of the season: her building, her job, her husband, and now, potentially, her son.

Each episode has been marked by these sudden flashes of humanity by its leads and it’s actually refreshing to see, especially from someone as icy as Malory. It’s also a two-parter, at which, as fans from previous episodes know, Archer excels (like Sea Tunt from last season, or Space Race from Season 3.

The only real issue at this point is the need to resolve Pam’s cocaine addiction, which was once humorous, but has now become a tired running gag that features her, Pac Man-like, just gobbling as many puffs of powder as possible.

Favorite Lines and Standouts:

* Woodhouse, who’s getting into his role on the GILF cam.

* “Here’s to you, Hal Needham!” : Sterling after throwing himself through a bar window.

* Krieger calling his ISIS co-workers “The Gang That Couldn’t Sell Coke Straight.”

* Did anyone notice Pam’s name spraypainted on the door of that seedy Columbian dive bar?

* Archer saying, “Can we reconsider entering ‘phrasing’ back into rotation?” (Yes. We should.)

Episode 7 rating: A-

Episode 8 – The Rules of Extraction

Picking up from last week’s “Smuggler’s Blues,” this week’s episode, “Rules of Extraction,” finds us still in South America with Sterling, Cyril and Ray trying to rid themselves of the excess cocaine in their possession. And, as mentioned in last week’s review, if there is one thing that the series knows, it’s how to stick the landing of a two-part episode.

It’s not only the most emotionally resonant episode in the series thus far (Ray earns Sterling’s respect, Mallory continues to fret over her incommunicado son, the gals sense Mallory’s tension and plan — in their own unique way — to help her feel better), but it marks more of a camaraderie between it’s characters than we’ve ever seen.

Also, Sterling is called out in a big way on his laissez-faire approach to each and every life-jeopardizing mission he’s ever been on…by Ray of all people.

After escaping the clutches of corrupt South American cops (in a pretty hellacious car accident), the boys are forced to head up a croc-infested river to civilization. Cyril and Ray freak out, but Sterling does what is needed and remains strangely calm throughout. When the trio comes face-to-face with yet another gang of gun-toting smugglers, Sterling chuckles throughout and seems stuck on the fact that no one wants to use his “phrasing” catchphrase anymore.

Fed up, Ray (who is voiced by the series creator Adam Reed) screams to Archer, “I resent that you never take anything seriously because you always assume everything is going to work out for you!” Then, Ray lands the final blow of: “ How long will it take you, Archer, to admit that you dick around every time we’re in danger just to screw with everybody, because of your complete—no, your utter contempt for your own mortality?!”
And Sterling admits it.

It may seem like a throwaway line, but in the “Archer” universe, this is a bold step. It was this confrontation (plus the fact that Ray confessed to faking that he couldn’t walk) that was an oddly cohesive one and felt like a major turning point for the two to mutual respect and understanding.

And speaking of coming together, the ladies — Pam, Lana, Charlene and Mallory — are all brought a little closer through a concern of the mental health of over their beast-of-a-boss. It’s wholly wrong and disturbing, but the intentions were good.

There was not a single misstep with “Extraction,” (though it could have benefited from more Dr. Krieger) — it was thrilling, hilarious, genuine and completely insane for all the right reasons.

Favorite Lines and Standouts

Archer: “Eat a dick, jungle!”

Archer: “What was that? Probably a jaguar excited about being magnificent and corpuscular.”

Archer: “Fear is their Bacon Bits!”

Pam: “It was like seeing my dad cry.”

Lana: “Crying, because?”

Pam: “Name it! He is a gigantic pussy! Oh my god, when my mom died…!”

Archer, giving Cyril a stick instead of trusting him with a gun: “The only limit is your imagination.”

Episode 8 rating: A

Episode 9 – On the Carpet

For the first time this season, Archer: Vice has made an episode that feels almost completely like filler. The gang spins wheels after a few episodes of making small steps toward character development that edged them ever closer toward some sort of strangely touching dysfunctional bond, but On the Carpet, which essentially takes place in just one room, doesn’t get its groove on until the final scenes.

We last left Sterling, Cyril and Ray in Columbia as they struggle their way out of an action-packed drug-deal-gone-bad with Sterling’s mom back in New York fretting over her son’s potential demise. But Carpet opens with matron Mallory icily gripping a drink, awaiting an explanation from the battered, bruised trio explaining how they made their great escape — minus any of the group’s cocaine or compensatory cash.

The rest of the episode is told predominantly through flashbacks as we watch them land the plane to meet up with operational leader “Slater” (guest voiced by Christian Slater). The encounter carries none of the carefree fun that Timothy Olyphant did as Sterling’s old spy buddy Lucas last season and ends on a whimper instead of a bang.

It does hint that the gang is headed back toward familiar territory next season, with the crew stumbling into a CIA arms-for-drugs deal with a shady dictator, thus giving them an upper hand to get their old jobs back. And in the final minutes Mallory confesses that she and Ron are making strides toward reconciliation, but unlike this season’s first episode, which breathlessly previewed the ensuing chaos of “Archer: VIce,” this one feels merely like a lurching set up for the final four episodes.

There will undoubtedly be many turns in store for our heroes and for us, but there is little here that couldn’t be handled by an end-of-the-episode coming attraction. It’s not without a few zingers, but the rapidity was diminished greatly on “Carpet.” And yes, Pam’s addicted to cocaine, we get it. Can we please stop finding her new ways to ingest it. It was a wonderful gag, but can we drop it in favor of welcoming back “phrasing”?

Favorite lines and Standouts:

Mallory (to Cherlene): And why are you dressed as the whore the rest of the trailer park finally decided they had to stone to death?

Pam (to Cyril): Dude! Your balls are made of pussies!

Archer: “Cyril, don’t panic, just jump! You have nothing to live for.”

Episode 9 rating: B

Episode 10 – Palace Intrigue – Part I

Archer: Vice begins its takeoff this week for landing its final episodes in Palace Intrigue, Part 1 and to paraphrase Margo Channing famous line: Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

I mean that in all the best Archer-esque ways, too. We meet up with the gang en route to the palace of San Marco dictator Gustavo Calderon (guest voiced by “Portlandia’s” Fred Armisen) to trade drugs for cash. We can see the former ISIS spies are deeply involved in the task at hand, as they are debating just which of the “Breakfast Club” characters they most closely resemble.

Upon touching down, Calderon makes several curious observations: the first is a particular interest in Dr. Krieger, (which is only slightly revealed later in the episode, but in enticing in its setup and potential), and the worship he lavishes on Cherlene for her country music career (this, despite the fact that her album has only been recently released).

Once settled into the estate, Sterling does what he does best — beds a sexy maid (guest voiced by “The Walking Dead’s” Lauren Cohan). It’s an act that comes as an expected disappointment to Lana, to whom Sterling was just confessing abstention from his wicked ways in hopes of becoming her unborn child’s godfather.

The episode itself is almost all setup in another two-parter (one wishes the series would just go ahead and have the flexibility to air hour-long episodes once in a while). But the scenarios presented are fitfully fun and intriguing. Krieger realizes he’s not the only mad scientist locked away in a lab (quite literally, as we encounter multiple clones). Archer’s bed-bounce with the “maid” turns out to be the dictator’s wife. And could it be that Pam has magically kicked her cocaine habit for good.

“Palace Intrigue” is another strong entry, if only for its promise of things to come. I eagerly await a world with more Dr. Krigers (even though that world may be rather short-lived). I am hoping the result of this Cherlene idolatry will somehow result in bringing back the old Cheryl, as I miss her wicked ways. And even though I admit to tiring of Pam’s obsessive smack habit, I do hope the series finds a creative way to resolve it.

Most importantly, the show added to the complexity of the Sterling-Lana narrative. It’s been a treacherous tango from the first season, and with the impending birth of her child, it has the potential of having a real impact on their relationship.

Favorite lines and standouts:

* The entire “Breakfast Club opening is priceless and classic “Archer” style.
* Sterling: “Apache!…Helicopter! …” (to the tune of the famous Sugar Hill Gang tune).
* The triumphant return of “Phrasing.”
* Lana (to Sterling): “Woah, back-up. What is your definition of anonymous sex?
Sterling: I don’t know, bird masks? Or a woman you literally bump into on a train, or the ferry, or in a porta-john at the Preakness that one time, but not somebody who works directly for a president, I can tell you that.

Episode 10 Rating: A-

Episode 11 – Palace Intrigue – Part II

Continuing its momentum-building ascent this season, “Palace Intrigue, Part II” wildly tosses things to the wall, sticking more than not. It’s a show that is not afraid to take all of its characters, have them lose evening, and make them drug smugglers for an entire season.

So when not one, but two, characters are shot and presumed dead, it does give one pause to think that it may perhaps be the last we might see of them.

This second installment of “Palace Intrigue” continues the story of the gang’s visit to third-world dictator Gustavo Calderon (again voiced by Fred Armisen) as they try to make the most of a very poorly planned drug deal. The dictator and his wife are in the midst of a full-blown “War of the Roses”-like marital meltdown, with Gustavo doggedly pursuing Cherlene, purchasing millions of copies of her release, despite the fact that the majority of this citizens can’t even afford a device on which to play it. Meanwhile, his wife Juliana (voiced by Lauren Cohan), makes sure that Sterling leaves the palace with a “souvenir.”

The episode gives Cyril a chance to roll to the rescue, literally, as he selects a Sherman tank to break down the palace doors and rescue the gang…except for Dr. Krieger, who the gang all just assume is dead and shrug it off as a casualty of their newfound lifestyle.

Poor Dr. Krieger. He watches the group’s response on security cam, feeling rejected. Luckily he was in the company of his Krieger clones, who offer him solace with them and their creation, Frog-child.

Sadly, we are brought no closer to resolution as to why this surplus of Kriegers exist, but regardless we are thankful that they are there. Sterling is also no closer to emotional and relationship maturity, much to the frustration of Lana.

Oh, and Cherlene and Gustavo got married at the episode’s end, because… he said so.. and.. why not?
The episode sets up the group’s exit from the country and en route back home, and while it offered no real definitive hints at a conclusion to the series (which has only two more episodes left), it sure did pack its 23 minutes with a ton of good stuff, including shout-out to using the Bee Gees to help with CPR, Schoolhouse Rock, Citizen Kane, Meatballs and too many others to mention.

Favorite Lines and Stand-Outs:
● “Schoolhouse Rock” getting lots of love in this episode
● Mallory: “That’s a classic Honeypot!” (A reference to a classic Season 1 episode)
● Three bitchslap-fests, which are each hysterical
● “Michael Du-cock-less!”

Episode 11 Rating: A-

Episode 12 – Filibuster

By now, it’s no secret that “Archer” is ditching its series’ tangent into “Vice” territory and returning the gang back to ISIS. While for some this is welcomed news, I commend creator Adam Reed for his bold move to toss the crew out into the wild and attempt to force them out of their comfort zone. Overall, it’s been a blast of cool air that, for the majority, has paid off in its tangential tales, even if seeing them back in the comforts of old headquarters will be a nice narrative return to comfort zone from danger zone.

In the penultimate episode, “Filibuster,” the cast is still in its third-world South American setting, but there’s a new dictator in town, and his name is El Presidente Figgis. Cyril, of all people, has his moment to shine here, as the now-ruling throne-sitter, banishing Sterling to the dungeon in an act of sweet revenge for all his years as the spy’s punching bag.

Another long-running plot thread is finally addressed: Pam’s coke addiction, which has obviously taken its toll when she finds herself downing cocoa-leaf smoothies that taste like, as Cherlene describes it, “a fart from a fart.”

Because Cyril, of all people, is a dictator of his very own third world South American regime. It appears that all those hours of studying history (and playing World of Warcraft) has paid off with the reign of El Senor Presidente Figgis! Now, that is a platform so absurd that we all should vote for it! Even Archer, if it means he gets to spend time in the cell next to “Crazy Tits” (Pam’s words…which mean’s they’re also basically Archer’s).

It was an episode that felt necessary, tying fragments together while edging the group closer to heading back to what they consider “normalcy.” Ever the animal lover, Sterling makes a detour to the zoo to ogle a tiger (who he immediate names Shane), he and Cherlene uncover a plot in which a certain FBI agent and a certain smuggler are actually CIA operatives, and Dr. Krieger lays waste to his even-more-evil-minded clones (or does one of the clones win out?). And also, Lana’s water just broke.

It’s all leading to a wholly satisfying set-up to conclude a risky season that paid off for the better part of its run. By shaking the ISIS agency to its core and placing them in direct opposition to the lives the characters once shared was as bold as the jobs they performed. And they look to return with just enough ammunition in their clip for an interesting sixth season.

Notable quotes and shout-outs

Lana: But spoiler alert, Vader ends up killing Palpatine.
Cherlene: But only for three days, right? Then he moves the rock and comes out of his cave stronger than ever.
Pam: Then he shuts off a tractor beam, releasing the Jews from captivity.
Cyril: Dammit, Archer! You can’t even let me pretend to be magnanimous while inwardly gloating.
Sterling (after witnessing Shane the tiger mawl Calderon): “Guess a leopard can’t change its spots.”
Cherlene: “I don’t know that much about leopards.”
Sterling: “That’s actually a proverb.”
Cherlene: “That’s actually a tiger.”
Lana: It’s Archer time!
Pam: Dopple-Kriegers.
Cherlene:Outlaw Country!

Episode 12 Rating: A

Episode 13:  Arrival/Departure

Archer ends its run as Archer: Vice with Arrival/Departure, and its more than just a reference to its San Marcos Airport setting. For this episode we get a glimpse of Lana’s child, t the second-most famous baby of the series (Wee Baby Seamus, Sterling’s possible offspring with a prostitute, will always be number one).

While the episode may not carry the same frenetic pace as the episodes leading up to it, it realizes that the purpose is to bring this drug-smuggling detour to a close and logically return the gang to its superspy shenanigans at ISIS, which creator Adam Reed has said to do in season 6.

It also produced a show-changing development with Lana’s baby girl, which we learn, has a more profound impact on the group than we originally thought.

It is revealed that the whole “drug dealing” escapade was apparently a big ruse concocted by the CIA and Mallory to sell weapons to Iran…or is it Iraq? Agent Hawley (voiced by Gary Cole) can never get that right. Regardless, the stage is set to have the crew back to the familiar confines of the espionage game, albeit with many new unanswered developments. And while it was not a cliffhanger in the traditional sense, there are still some matters I’d like to see resolved:
● Pam’s cocaine addiction. It looked as though it had subsided in the last couple episodes, but was in full-force yet again here.
● Is Cyril still considered President of a small Columbian country even though he will presumably reside back in the US?
● Will Cherlene go back to Cheryl/Carol and give up on her country music pursuits?
● Krieger at times seems like the one we know and love, but is it our Krieger? Will it really matter?
● Did anyone check to see if Woodhouse made it out? Did anyone care?

I am sure that even if they are not all cleanly wrapped up by the next season, they will all provide fodder for countless call-backs in a show that is highly skilled in that art.

“Archer: VIce” was a bold departure that was a fast, furious jolt of energy in an already adrenaline-heavy series. In retrospect, it all works more as one long story arc than that of an episodic detour. Either way, it maintained its distinct “Archer”-ness throughout and created even more depth to a cast of bumbling sociopaths and narcissists that we love so dearly.

Notable Quotes and shout-outs

Archer (to a pregnant Lana): what’s your bishop score?
Lana: How do you know what a bishop score?
Archer: I got certified as a doula, which, turns out, is not that hard.

Hawley: Get that idiot Calderon on the phone
Archer: Wait. DId I mention a tiger ate him?
Cherlene: Well. Not “ate” ate.
Archer: Well, no, but… by now…

Cherlene clapping with joy when Lana gives Sterling a good choking.

Cyril: Damn, dawg! That was my B!

Another few literal smackdowns, this time delivered to Kreiger and Lana.

Mallory: Lana, you have known me for a long, long time … when have I ever been honest with Sterling?

Episode 13 Rating: A

Season 5 Review by Film Critic, Rob Rector,