This week on “Motherless Child,” The Figgis Agency is taken hostage by the cyborg currently known as Barry. He’s on a mission to locate his birth mother – apparently he was adopted – and he needs the skills of LA’s most dysfunctional group of P.I.s to do it. While he initially asks for Archer’s help mostly on the up and up, he eventually has to resort to kidnapping Malory and threatening her life in order to extract the assistance of Archer and the gang.
Historically, in my opinion, Barry episodes fall somewhere between mediocre and not very good. I’ve never found his particular brand of comic villainy all that entertaining, and his rivalry with Archer often just makes me roll my eyes. This episode breaks that pattern, being probably the funniest one of the season so far, and definitely the best Barry-centric episode the show has ever produced.
Here’s what I think made it work. First, save for Malory, the entire crew is together for basically the entire affair. In my experience, having them all in one place creates the best opportunities for witty banter and quality zingers, which this installment was flush with. Second, Barry’s agenda here isn’t pointlessly sinister or just a petty attempt to annoy Archer, two motives which are usually the downfall of his episodes. Although he’s basically nothing but a metal endoskeleton at this point, he acts with a much more humanized set of aims here, and they’ve wisely toned down his cartoonish level of irrational villainy.
He’s still an a-hole, and he still gets an inordinate amount of pleasure out of berating Archer, of course, but his writing feels much more three dimensional, which brought the quality of his appearance up considerably. Most of the humorous gags of the piece don’t really translate well to written explanation, but I definitely laughed out loud when Barry called Cheryl – who develops a temporary crush on him – “Creepy Spice.” I also had to chuckle when Archer gets a through-and-through shot in the leg from Barry, and Lana has to prompt him about “phrasing” after he says something about both holes hurting.
Finally, watching Malory’s methodical process of escaping Barry’s entrapment also had a lot of entertainment value. While at first she is made out a bit of a damsel, pleading for help while blindfolded and cuffed to a chair underground, she eventually manages to break free on her own, using her formidable deductive reasoning and her previous skill-set as a former spy. Throughout most of the episode she seems more irate and frustrated with the tremendous inconvenience of the situation than truly frightened, and it is all so quintessentially Malory. For all her faults, and for all her hatred of getting her hands dirty, she’s certainly can rise to the occasion when necessary.