The Archer crew may have fresh digs and new jobs, but some things never change: In “Motherless Child,” Season 7’s fourth episode, Sterling faces off with an old foe — the endlessly unkillable, homicidal cyborg Barry (Dave Willis). And together, they confront their deep-seated mommy issues. Barry, who literally lost his face after Sterling (H. Jon Benjamin) blew him up in a grain elevator last season, is back and on the hunt for his birth mother; he coerces the Figgis Agency into finding her by holding Malory (Jessica Walter) hostage in a suffocating dungeon. Sterling, mortified at the prospect of losing his own mom, begrudgingly helps, although Malory barely needs his assistance, making a solo badass escape just as the crew uncovers Barry’s mother in the California archives.
In this episode, heavy on jokes and light on action compared to the gunshot-peppered season openers, it’s up to Malory to bring the excitement as her bumbling team pores over computer printouts of adoption agencies. And she sure as hell delivers: By handcuffing her to a chair in an empty, soundless chamber, Barry thinks he’s pulled a fast one on Ms. Archer, but to the seasoned spy vet, it’s all rote. She’s been in worse situations; “At least this time you’re not hooked up to a car battery or up to your ankles in camel’s blood,” she mutters as she shakes out her curlers, methodically knocks her chair over and unlocks her cuffs. Her nonchalance is reminiscent of The Bride in Kill Bill: Volume II as she coolly punches her way out of her coffin. One step at a time. And then, utter revenge (and a stiff drink).
Lately, Malory’s been reminding us that she’s more than capable in the field; earlier this season, she led the attack on the leather-bound bikers threatening to kill her son, and later in “Motherless Child”, she throat-punches a trucker after he expresses his penchant for silver foxes. Like Sterling, who’s learning to contend with middle age, maybe Malory is figuring out how to deal with the banality of grandmotherhood and life in L.A. Or maybe she’s just bored. Private investigation is a “grubby” business, after all.
Because it tread such familiar territory, this standalone episode felt like a return to O.G. Archer: No Hollywood starlets, no millionaire lawyers — just crazy old Barry (“a robot mummy who’s got… no mommy!”) and Sterling butting heads, like old times. Even the classic tin foil swan, which we haven’t seen since season two, makes a reappearance (alas, “bok bok” does not).
By taking a break from exploring the Figgis Agency’s new role, the show made time to revisit comfortable tropes, like Cheryl’s fetishes (“Barry’s about to violate the first law of robotics…on my vagina.”) and Krieger’s relentlessly creepy research, revealed this time around in the cabinet full of literal faces he’s stashed away. The lapse into timelessness was pleasant. Rather than feeling like show creator Adam Reed reneged on his revamp, the episode was a welcome reminder that the endless jackassery at the heart of the show remains intact.