An underwater, undercover mission, big time danger and even bigger time revelations make the Archer Season 4 finale one to remember.
What a total bait and switch!
The closing moments of last week’s “Sea Tunt Part One” hinted at the promise of some BIG-SCALE action, as deranged Captain Murphy, commander of Cecil Tunt’s Sealab was threatening to let loose nerve gas-tipped missiles on major cities across us US, with only the ISIS crew to stop him. It seemed like we were in for a big confrontation, possibly bigger than last season’s space station battle. Instead, we got a wonderful character-driven episode this week, with some major reveals and steps forward for our two main agents’ burgeoning romance, and a brilliant callback by Adam Reed to his first big series.
With the threat of missile attack imminent, Sterling devises a plan to infiltrate Sealab as a news crew, in order to isolate Murphy from his four (score) crew and neutralize the threat. Archer, Lana, Cyril and Ray pose as the crew and get on board Sealab, as Sterling chides Ray for not “looking gayer” after shaving his mustache for his disguise, and harassing Lana for her irritability, as she seems more on edge than ever.
Once on board, the ISIS team quickly realizes Murphy may not be the threat he set himself up to be– Cecil ran out of money during the Sealab project (despite Murphy’sizeable $600k salary), leaving the Captain the sole inhabitant of the undersea fortress. And his missiles?… Not a real thing either. This comes out during a standoff, which leads to Archer firing his gun at Murphy, an action that leads to Sealab’s hull being breached, and just as quickly as the initial threat de-escalated… suddenly all five people on board are dealing with being flooded unless they can make it back to the submarine.
As they attempt to make their escape, they pass through the break room and, in a truly inspired callback to one of Sealab 2021‘s best episodes, Murphy is crushed to death under a soda machine. I loved this bit– like the inclusion of the Captain himself in the Archer universe, his death scene was such a brilliant nod back to the episode of Sealab that best showed that Captain Murphy’s unhinged mental state.
I’ll miss the Archer version of Captain Murphy, especially since he provided such a great counter-point to Lana’s own environmentalist agenda. In a season where we’ve seen ISIS compromise their integrity for a buck time and again, here we see Murphy crusading to protect the ocean, with his ludicrously over-the-top demands (no fishing at all for six months). He’s kind of the polar opposite of Mallory, who would trade in her morals for a quick dollar at any opportunity– he takes the ethical crusader angle to such a crazy extreme that Mallory’s ethical indiscretions seem to pale in comparison.
Speaking of Mallory, she and the office gals, along with Cecil and Tiffy, are still on board the Tuntmore. They don’t have too much to do, but Cecil delivers a heartfelt apology to Cheryl for trying to rob her of her inheritance, and admits that his multitude of humanitarian initiatives have left him broke. It’s a great punchline, and like Murphy’s arc shows that the altruism sorely lacking in most of the ISIS team doesn’t necessarily make anyone’s life better. I’m hoping we see Cecil turn up again in the future– I like his character and more Eugene Merman is good for everybody.
Back at Sealab, the dying Murphy instructs the ISIS agents on how to get back to their submarine (going through Pod 6, in another 2021 name drop). The problem is, with the pods flooded, they’ll need to swim… and there’s only three oxygen tanks. The agents realize one of them will have to drown, and hopefully be resuscitated when they get back to the sub. Cyril establishes himself as an expert swimmer (he’s finally good at something, yay!) and Ray has his bionic legs, so that means it’s up to Sterling or Lana to be the one to drown. Lana finally reveals why she’s been so moody– she’s pregnant, and as soon as that bombshell drops Sterling instantly takes it on himself to be the one to drown.
I can’t say it’s uncharacteristic for Archer to be so incredibly selfless– we’ve seen him take up the hero role in the past and he does a damn good job in that role. But this feels different, as we’ve seen he and Lana circle each other throughout this season. As the water erupts in and Sterling lets go, he admits to Lana that he loves her, in a remarkably sweet scene that’s more emotionally heartfelt than anything I can recall from this show in the past.
Of course, Sterling is revived after making the sacrifice, and of course, neither he or Lana address the confession of love as they make their way back to the surface as Sealab implodes. Clearly these two love each other deeply, and this season has gone out of its way to prove that they’re kind of perfect for one another. I’m hoping the x-factor of Lana’s child will be the anchor it takes to bring the two idiots together for real… but I guess part of that depends on who the father turns out to be (it’s not Cyril… but is it Archer?…).
But those are threads for next season– for now, the recovered Sterling horses around with Ray, leading to an accident with the wet floor of the sub and the still-active defibrillator… which ends up frying the circuits of Ray’s bionic legs, leaving him once again paralyzed. This is the one callback that didn’t work for me– I get that Adam Reed’s sense of comedy revolves around circular gags, and in that respect sending Ray back to his wheelchair for a THIRD TIME is pretty funny. But after we saw what an impact this had on his life earlier this season in the fantastic “Legs,” I’m hoping that they won’t even bother showing Krieger re-activating his circuitry.
This was a great season for Archer, and “Sea Tunt” proved to be a fantastic ending, packing in lots of laughs, some excellent callbacks to the show that made Adam Reed famous, and a surprisingly sweet culmination of the Sterling/ Lana romance that has been slowly building all year long. We’re getting a Season Five, so we’ll know soon how things play out… personally I’m hoping they bring back the miniseries concept, delivering three episodes this Fall to bridge the two season, like “Hearts of Archness” did two years ago. You closed the book on Sealab and opened another one on Sterling and Lana’s relationship, Adam Reed… I can’t wait to see where this goes next.