The third season of Archer once again delivered. "The Limited" had everything you could possibly want in a half-hour of television. It featured an incredibly fast paced spy story/spoof, a half a dozen of our favorite complex and engaging characters perfectly woven into the narrative, and about as many jokes as you can possibly spout in that short amount of time. The episode also features my new favourite (with a 'u' since we're Canadian) guest stars in Robb Wells or 'Ricky' from Trailer Park Boys. I'm not exactly sure how Adam Reed pulls it off week after week, especially as the creator and sole writer on the FX animated series, but I'm very thankful to have a ticket to ride.
Instead of the usual dual setting - the ISIS offices and wherever the mission happens to take the field agents - this week's "The Limited" puts the entire cast on a train owned by those crazy Tunts. Basically every character on the show finds their way onto the train and we also get the return of Baboo (from "El Secuestro") as well as the Trailer Park Boys three main stars (Robb Wells, John Paul Tremblay and Mike Smith). Robb 'Ricky' Wells gets to take the lead as Canadian terrorist/freedom fighter Kenny Bilko, the reason that everyone's all aboard the "The Limited."
"Because, pretty much my whole life I've wanted to fight some guys on the roof of a speeding train."
Bilko's a prisoner that ISIS has been commissioned to transport north of the border and deliver to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Or RCMP. Or Mounties. Bilko is a member of the New Scotland Front and allegedly bombed a doughnut shop in support of the Free Nova Scotia movement. Of course, this joke is even better for us Canadians who are well aware of our long separatist history since, well, every province has tried to abandon ship at some point. The episode opens with Bilko screaming "extraordinary rendition" as the ISIS team waits on the platform to depart for Ottawa. And in the opening two minutes Adam Reed does a brilliant job setting up all of the narrative tangents that will take place on the train.
Lana and field agent 'noob' Cyril try and focus on the transport of of the Canuck fugitive with Archer arriving late and drunk. Malory is also going on the trip, hoping that a successful transport will turn into more work from the RCMP in the future. She gets into a Driving Mrs. Daisy (minus the redeeming lesson) situation with George, the train's porter and, as it turns out, employee of Cheryl who is hanging out in her private cars and awaiting Pam. However, at this point Reed only hints that Pam's up to something (perhaps stowing away like she did in "Skytanic") and we don't learn of Cheryl's pursuit of the record run to Ottawa or her pet ocelot until later. For now, Archer shows up for the assignment drunk but nothing a few bloody mary's or Irish coffee's won't cure.
"Oh, well, maybe they're together. Although, I doubt it. Baboo's kind of a loner. Like Paul Newman in Hud. If Paul Newman had constantly sprayed piss all over um, what was her uh, oh man, uh, what was her name... Patricia Neal. Who I hate."
The rest of the episode unfolds at a breakneck pace, one might say about 80 miles an hour. Malory continues to be contentious with George, treating him like her personal slave and (purposefully) letting racial slurs slips. Eventually, fed up with her tiny accommodations, Malory discovers that Pam is indeed aboard the train and relaxing in one of Cheryl's luxury private cars - another of which is inhabited by Ray, who wheels in to make a few handicap jokes and does little else in the episode. Oh, and Baboo's in the private cars as well projectile pissing up a storm.
Archer and Lana soon join the party and of course, he immediately joins Baboo and is thrilled to find that the ocelot remembers him. Of course, this means that Bilko is in the hands of Cyril and the looks like a smart guy doesn't do himself a smart guy favor and instead allows the prisoner to escape. Since he couldn't have left the train, the ISIS field agents start to hunt him down, well, Lana and Cyril hunt for Bilko while Archer looks for the now on the loose ocelot and accidentally shoots a nice cut of beef. Bilko thinks Sterling shot George, which fuels a great running gag of the terrorist constantly and kind of passive aggressively accusing him of racism.
Cyril ends up being the one to discover Bilko hiding out in the washroom but since he's obviously never played hockey, he's clearly no match for the advanced Canadian fighting move as 'the jersey.' This puts Lana and Archer alone together and the forced confines of the train works wonders for their banter. It's always amusing to watch him get under her skin and the fact that they are going 80 miles an hour doesn't only trap the terrorist and the ocelot on the train but also Lana with Archer. At least until the real and the fake Mounties show up and all hell breaks loose, first with two Mexican standoffs and then with Archer pulling out the show stopping grenade. "Woo-hoo!"
"All I want is to fight on the top of a train, is that too much to ask?"
Meanwhile Bilko is in the Tunt cars looking for a hostage but preferably one who can, you know, run around and stuff (screw Ray, not like he volunteered). Archer soon arrives and the episodes takes to the roof for what is quite possibly the best sequence the show has ever produced. Not only mocking the spy flick convention of train roof showdowns (even if you have a helicopter) but the two voice actors have incredible chemistry and provide a hilarious back and forth (dick, superdick and ultradick). And as if two men fighting on the roof of a train isn't ridiculous enough, soon both the legit and crooked "Dudley Douchebags" are up there too, oh, as well as Baboo pissing everywhere. Lana teaches Cyril a valuable lesson and simply yanks the brake. Problem solved, prisoner delivered and complete disaster most certainly not averted.
"The Limited" not only makes the show three for three on the year but I think it's also one of the best episodes of the entire series. You can call it Canadian bias but the final sequence, beginning with Archer's pursuit of Bilko to the top of the train, is the hardest I have ever laughed while watching the show. I also really liked the show's callbacks and how Adam Reed is continuing to build jokes across episodes because it makes the show very dense and rewarding (à la Arrested Development). And on top of the tears and busted guts, the entire episode was also supremely structured and plotted, without a moment wasted.
Reed has managed to craft the ultimate parody of the spy genre, churning out engaging and impeccably written narratives that irreverently spoof the genre's well worn conventions and have a genuinely funny joke as every line of dialogue. Archer just might be the best written half-hour comedy on television. "Yes, all of it you fox eared asshole!"
Archer Season 3 returns January 19 at 10p.m. ET on FX. It stars H. Jon Benjamin, Aisha Tyler, Jessica Walters, Judy Greer, Chris Parnell and Amber Nash. It was created by Adam Reed.