Archer Review: “A Kiss Before Dying” (Episode 5.02)

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<i>Archer</i> Review: &#8220;A Kiss Before Dying&#8221; (Episode 5.02)

Last week’s premiere of Archer acted as a set-up episode for the new Archer Vice angle of season 5. This week, we reunited with Ramon, Rudy and Charles from season 1’s “Honeypot,” as Malory sent Archer, Lana and Pam to Miami for their first drug deal. Ramon turned out to be Malory’s mysterious middle man for the deal, or so it seemed.

Meanwhile, back at Tunt mansion, the new ISIS headquarters (the original having been seized by the government, along with Archer’s penthouse), we got a look at how the other characters were occupying their time. Malory asked Cyril to take up laundering the incoming money from their cocaine deals, while Cheryl began her road to becoming a country singer with help from her new voice coach, Ray. Even though she couldn’t sing at first (“God, how I envy the deaf,” says Malory), Cheryl showcases an entirely different side when she thinks nobody’s listening. Of course, we know this thanks to Krieger (“I’ve got the whole house wired up—bedrooms, bathrooms, bathrooms, other … bathrooms…”), who shows Cyril and Malory live footage of Cheryl singing alone in a room.

Most of the episode, however, follows Archer, Lana, Pam and Ramon. I like the decision to bring back Ramon, including the continued sexual tension between him and Archer, topped off by Archer providing Ramon with his “dying” wish of a kiss.

Near the end, right before a “bloody” shoot-out, Charles says something to Ramon about “you-know-who” and “you-know-what,” alluding to a bigger player. As I mentioned in last week’s review, this season looks to be forming lengthier storylines that will span multiple episodes and potentially all season. This “you-know-who” will surely come up again at some point, hopefully sooner rather than later.

So, after thinking Ramon was on their side the whole time, the set-up left them with a briefcase of counterfeit money and a cocaine-addicted Pam as their only rewards for their first cocaine deal. I imagine they’ll succeed at some point, but Reed and company made a good choice to have them fail miserably in their first attempt. It only heightens anticipation for future episodes.

While there were a few funny moments, “A Kiss Before Dying” certainly stood out more for its story than its laughs. As a first proper episode of this new Archer Vice style, the writers were right to focus on putting together a solid story that proved this show hasn’t really changed as much as it would seem. These characters have all been given a fresh start, but they’re still the same characters we’ve been laughing at for four full seasons. Archer can’t always focus on laughs, and past seasons have had mixes of episodes that were lighter or heavier on comedy or story. I have faith in the show to mix things up and get funnier as the season progresses and storylines build.

The improved animation stood out in the premiere last week, but even more this week. The shots of sunny skylines, palm trees and neon lights not only looked great, but also made it really feel like Miami. The episode was a bit of a visual feast, noticeably better-looking than past episodes, a trend I hope continues throughout the season.

After a relatively (by their high standards) slow start to season 5 of Archer, we at least have a better idea of what the new season will hold. Although the old ISIS crew’s first cocaine operation ended as a disaster, expect them to come back guns blazing next week hoping to make amends.

Carlo Sobral is a Winnipeg-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste.