Archers dramatic Hollywood-themed reboot kicked off in media res: The image of a bloody Sterling, floating face-down in a pool, loomed over the season like a tuxedoed ghost. ’Deadly Velvet, Part II,’ the season finale, brings us back to the scene of the crime, but withholds the identity of the bloody corpse until the final seconds. The suspense is, if you’re willing to overlook a series of uninspired explanations, worth the wait.
Sterling winds up at Veronica Deane’s poolside after the aging star charms her way out of getting fingerprinted at the police station for the murder of Ellis Crane. As she repeatedly offers up her flimsy “3 in the afternoon” excuse, there’s little doubt Deane’s got blood on her hands — which she makes sure to wash off. But Sterling, lovestruck and pissed at Lana, can’t seem to accept the truth. It isn’t until Deane asks Sterling to flee with her to Mexico and informs him of her plan to frame Lana — “that enormous woman” — that he’s confronted with the hard facts: Deane is a total nut job, and the mother of his child could actually end up in prison.
Meanwhile, the rest of the crew is busy pointing fingers, prompting Krieger to concoct a plan to keep Lana out of jail that involves — surprise! — robot clones, which Krieger clearly has in abundance. It isn’t until the sorrowful death of his breastmilk-vending cyborg twin (“That’ll do, Milkly, that’ll do”) that we realize their weakness: They don’t exactly pass the Turing Test, collapsing into an explosive frenzy of short circuitry when faced with such questions as “What is love?” But when the crew is scooted off to jail by the still-suspicious cops Harris and Dietrich, Archer’s got no choice but to recruit his own robot clone to pull off his plan to keep Lana out of jail — but still maybe dance naked on a Mexican beach with Deane.
And so we re-enter familiar territory: The maybe-cops by the mansion poolside, trading gay porn-star names, the bloody corpse. The difference is that we’ve now seen Deane gun down one Sterling into the pool — and shoot the other in the gut, injuring him, but not incapacitating him, which is how he manages to soothe his wailing mother when she arrives on the scene (“She hasn’t cried like that since Prohibition!”). This was, presumably, his plan all along. But just as Sterling, now bleeding profusely, gets down on bended knee in front of Lana, he — it? — short circuits into spastic oblivion. Which can only mean one thing: Sterling is actually dead.
But of course he’s not; until FX officially renews season 8, there will be plenty of Sherlock-style theories about how exactly Sterling survived — which Reed, if this season is any indication, should seriously consider mining for creativity. Fans can only hope that his explanation is more imaginative than the disappointingly banal way the series tied up the Longwater plot; after all, Hollywood insurance scams are, no matter how glamorous the people involved are, still insurance scams. And after all the suspense surrounding Krieger’s complete set of robot clones, it seemed like a waste to use only Sterling’s in the end. The lack of follow-through on the show’s more ambitious story arcs weighed this season down, resulting, unfortunately, in a series of Macguffins and red herrings that would have been even more annoying, if the final payoff wasn’t so great.