We’re well into the revamped season of Archer, and so far the FX comedy has proven that private detectives can be just as funny as spies, albeit a bit darker on occasion. “Bel Panto” is Season 7’s first official two-parter – if you don’t count the fact that the two season-opening episodes basically went together – and it
Shapiro (Patton Oswalt) returns to begrudgingly ask The Figgis Agency to make sure that no one swipes an expensive necklace that Veronica Deane is wearing to an American Tinnitus Association fundraiser. Archer (H. Jon Benjamin) can get behind this, since he has tinnitus and also still wants to get in bed with Veronica – or any other woman he can land. No one else is paying any attention. Cheryl (Judy Greer), meanwhile, keeps yelling about being in Idaville, breaks a vase because she can and sickly burns Shapiro by calling him “Pocket Tony Montana.”
She actually ends up being involved in some of the best scenes in the episode – after Cyril reminds her not to mock his sex life because he slept with her on a blimp, she randomly wonders “What happened to blimps?” – but the plot doesn’t really kick into gear until the halfway point, when a bunch of villains dressed as clowns storm the fundraiser to rob the rich Hollywood socialites. (Because everyone hates clowns, especially evil clowns, so what could possibly be more appropriate.) The as-always-unprepared team has to find a way to foil the robbery and keep the necklace from falling into the wrong hands.
Archer is able to get the drop on one of the clowns and take his place, and audiences are left wondering what he’s going to do. Meanwhile, Archer the show cheats a bit by having Pam (Amber Nash) explain to Shapiro that the cops showed up and the clowns freed most of the hostages, thus creating a more manageable situation for next Thursday’s resolution to this two-parter.
As stand-alone episodes go, “Bel Panto” is not as funny as it could have been. Given the long-running joke about Archer’s tinnitus, it’s a letdown that the show doesn’t mine the cause of the fundraiser for more laughs. Most of the best material comes from Cheryl’s completely random behavior, like deciding she has Stockholm Syndrome an episode after she thought she was in love with Barry Dylan. But that’s the kind of stuff that we see in every episode of Archer; there’s nothing necessarily unique to this installment that scores.
Granted the audience has to concede that since this is part one of two, there’s a certain amount of time that’s about exposition and thus the real payoffs may come next week when there’s some Archer-on-clown violence and more of the Archer-Lana (Aisha Tyler) jealousy that’s reared its ugly head ever since the two got back together. But that’s something we’ll have to wait a week to find out. On its own, “Bel Panto” feels like the party is just getting started.
Archer airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on FX.