Archer’s second episode, “The Handoff,” kicks off the latter half of the seventh season’s opening story arc: The real Veronica Deane, Hollywood’s silver fox, needs the gang’s help recovering a disc holding some “sensitive” information — which is pretty much what they did last week, only for some sunglassed imposter.
Cyril (Chris Parnell) — along with the rest of the guys in the crew — is crippled by his mental (and probably physical) boner, threatening to spill the beans to their new client, who’s paying them a sweet $200,000 to get it back. Their failed attempt — shady lawyer Shapiro (a fast-talking Patton Oswalt) can’t actually pay up — puts a naked Archer (H. Jon Benjamin) in the hands of a gang of leather-vested bikers; the rest of the crew, led by a gun-wielding Mallory (Jessica Walter), pull up at the last minute to save the day.
They get there just as a pantsless Archer is about to get his bare ass kicked by a one-eyed biker. But it’s his fault they’re late: In the best reprise of the voicemail hoax to date, Mallory and the crew sit through hours of what they think is another one of Sterling’s elaborate voicemails. A succession of gun shots, threats, and the thud of a car trunk ensue, followed by a chirp-punctuated emptiness; “My god, he actually trained crickets,” Mallory sighs, pouring herself another drink. But no, the crickets are real — as is Archer’s uncharacteristic silence.
Mallory, all too accustomed to her son’s jackassery, is the one who didn’t want to call in the first place. But for an inebriated old minx, she mobilizes quickly, leading the charge into the leather den with the laser aim of her gun at a biker head, claiming “I already got dibs.” In characteristic Oedipal fashion, Archer is begrudgingly grateful but avoids phrasing (which is officially back, by the way), saying “Thank you mother, for arriving.”
Mallory has always been the real — perhaps the only — brains behind this operation. She’s the one covering up for Cyril as he inadvertently blabs to the real Deane about their botched case, chalking up his intel to his idiot savant’s photographic memory (“Many of the world’s greatest detectives were on the spectrum!”). When an emasculated Cyril, asserting his control of the agency, tells Lana (Aisha Tyler), “Youre no longer on Mallorys teat,” we all know it’s a lie — the whole crew’s been sucking at mother’s milk for years, and she absolutely loves it.
Still, like all disappointed parents, she can’t help but wish she’d cultivated less moronic dependents. The Figgis Agency — really, the seventh season altogether — is the crew’s opportunity for a total rebrand. They’ve been given new roles and a new city, and most importantly, nobody knows who they are. “Which means you can reinvent yourself,” she says. “You can be anyone you want. So why would you keep being you?” Her advice is met with silence, punctuated by the creak of spinning office chairs. Like all disappointed parents, Mallory’s stuck with what she’s got.
Until now, Mallory’s always plotted from behind a desk or beneath a man, but her gun-pointing stint in this episode hints that we might be seeing her take a more active role in the missions. We still don’t know who tricked the Figgis Agency into stealing Veronica Deane’s private disc, and we’re still wondering how Archer’s corpse ends up face-down in a pool. But between Ray’s (Adam Reed) bondage-inspired attempt at going stealth and Archer’s sprouting hard-ons for geriatrics, it’s obvious the team hasn’t gotten any smarter — and could definitely use a bit of help from mom.