4.13- "Sea Tunt Pt. 2"
As I discussed last week, I’ve been looking forward to the “Sea Tunt” two-parter since I first saw the episode posting in early spring. Last week felt like a traditional in-season two-parter first episode, used primarily to set up the more dramatic conclusion. This week didn’t disappoint, and before I fawn over the Sealab details, I’d like to discuss the primary villain (voiced masterfully by television star and American treasure Jon Hamm), as well as the major plot developments in the episode.
“Sea Tunt” was structurally very similar to last year’s two-part adventure epic “Space Race,” which starred Hamm’s fellow AMC star and former FOX sitcom father Bryan Cranston as, well, an insane researcher in an exotic environment. Hamm voiced Captain Murphy, the commanding officer of both Cecil Tunt’s undersea research laboratory and the main character of Sealab 2021 (originally voiced by Harry Goz, who passed away in 2003).
While Archer’s iteration of Captain Murphy was similar to the character from the Adult Swim comedy, he was also a parody of primary Bond villains. He had a dark but nobly complex agenda and presented a threat with much higher stakes than most ISIS missions, which I felt was a good counterpart to many of the premises from season four. This year, the agents have mostly carried out Malory’s inane and corrupt agenda, rarely helping to protect others, so departing from this was a welcome change.
However, the danger fell away quickly as it became clear that Murphy was alone on Sealab, that he didn’t have any missiles at all, and his unreasonable demands, such as a worldwide ban on all fishing for 50 years, were so ridiculous that the only natural conclusion was that he was simply insane and that they needed to evacuate the expensive laboratory entirely.
Dropping the “Lana is pregnant” bomb sets up intriguing possibilities for next season. We know (or have been led to believe) that Cyril is not the father, and Lana later mumbles that she used a donor, but we have no way of really knowing what really happened, or what went into that decision, as it was a surprise. It was introduced in a way that I found humorous, as I actually thought last week when she said she wasn’t drinking she might be pregnant. This week, it was probably clear to most viewers that’s what was going on before the characters knew.
The season finale was a clash between two enduring season-long themes – higher stakes, and a revisiting of Lana and Archer’s relationship. The show has worked with suspense better this year than any prior season. Even though it seems like all of these characters are invincible, and we knew that Archer would survive his near-death drowning experience, the show has never really even attempted to put its characters in real danger before this year. I point to another example: in “The Honeymooners,” Lana falls off a building and there is a tense moment as Archer dives after her and saves her life. In “Papal Chase,” he gasps when Lana is shot in the arm.
I was surprised to a degree that Barry and Katya were left out of the season finale, although I must add that I’m glad they weren’t injected into what was a very solid episode. I’m not sure where they belong at this point, really. I like the idea of the always-present threat of Archer’s foil and ex-love, but it’s so hard to execute storylines that involve the pair of them without seeming forced. An earlier episode showed how hard it is to pull off.
I had a pretty great time geeking out over this episode. I spent the past week rewatching a lot of Sealab 2021 episodes. If you haven’t seen the show, it’s worth watching – each episode is about twelve minutes long, and even though some episodes are much weaker than others, it’s fun to see where Adam Reed and Matt Thompson started if you’re a fan of Archer. The moment that stood out to me, and honestly caught me by surprise, was the name Goz on the soda machine that killed Hamm’s version of Captain Murphy. I was impressed by the way that Hamm stayed true to the character while also making Murphy his own.
The significance of the soda machine was probably lost on many viewers, but in the first-season Sealab episode “All That Jazz,” Captain Murphy spends the entire duration of the show trapped under a jazz-themed vending machine that sells flavors like John Cola-Trane, Fizzy Gillespie, and Cab Colaway. Murphy was also famous for his beloved vehicle, the “Murph-mobile,” which he used to transport Archer, Lana, Ray, and Cyril from the underwater vehicle to the bridge. And finally, Sealab was destroyed at the end, which occurs at the end of most episodes of Sealab 2021.
Ben Wachtel likes baseball, the Boston Celtics, pancakes, tacos, and swam collegiately at Purdue University. You can follow him on Twitter at @benwachtel24.