Generally speaking, Archer is the antithesis of most shows: the more outrageous it gets, the funnier it is. "White Nights" is insane. And it is hilarious.
There's a lot of wild stuff going on here, as Archer travels to Russia in order to confront KGB boss Nikolai Jakov, one of his potential fathers. There's skydiving, running, shooting (a whole lot of shooting)...plenty of action, even for an Archer episode. It's an example of one of the benefits of animation. If this was a live-action show, somebody would be cringing at the expense of all those bullets. Not to mention having to create all those Russian backdrops.
But "White Nights" also illustrates what makes Archer successful. It's an outrageous episode - I'm tempted to bill Adam Reed for the therapy I'll need after a glimpse at Malory's sex life two weeks in a row - but it's not gratuitous. It tells a coherent story. (I love you, Family Guy, but you do go a bit heavy on the cutaway gags.) And it rests on some great characters and relationships that the show has created over the last two seasons - Archer & Ray, Archer & Barry, Malory & Jakov, as well as the probably-never-to-be-answered question of who Archer's father is.
The entire opening sequence is brilliant. As I've said before, I love the character of Ray Gillette and am happy anytime that he appears; this week his entire opening monologue basically tells us everything we need to know, and it comes out in spectacular Ray fashion, including a pretty neat impression of Malory. It's not a total surprise that Archer was there the entire time, but Archer punching him in the face was still a laugh-out-loud moment. And then Archer goes on another ridiculous monologue? So very Archer. Even the little exchange by the crewmembers on the plane was funny. I knew from then on this was going to be a fun episode.
Archer's ongoing struggle with ODIN agent Barry, and Barry's ongoing obsession with Lana, have always been good for laughs and this episode is no exception. Archer has always found new ways to ruin Barry's life (somewhat like Homer Simpson did to Frank Grimes on The Simpsons), and now the poor guy has a leg amputated. The show is going to run out of horrible things to do to Barry sometime. Or maybe he could get a replacement leg, then team up with Conway Stern, whenever Conway comes back with that robot hand of his.
Then there's Malory, Jakov and the ongoing daddy drama. Their exchanges have always been ridiculous but this one takes the cake. I don't think anyone wanted to see the two of them naked in the middle of a sexual encounter. I know we didn't see anything explicit, but the inferences create another uncomfortable mental image, don't they? (Then again, not to harp on Family Guy, but seeing Peter Griffin naked is a little cringe-inducing, too.)
I'll even buy what's essentially a deus ex machina at episode's end if only because it, too, was pretty funny. Archer just so happens to be rescued by a buxom rogue KGB agent? Snicker-inducing. Right up there with one-liners like, "What is this? A broken glass factory?" Really, there were a lot of quotable lines in this episode. I've never heard before, and I don't think I ever will again, the phrase "nesting dolls of my penis."
To top it all off, there was a nice little bit of continuity, in how the Russian torture sequence was pretty much like the fake Russian torture sequence from the pilot episode.
I had only one worry: I missed Krieger!
Otherwise, "White Nights" was spot on. I'd call it my favorite episode of the season, except for that I know I've said it about other episodes, and I don't want to seem like I'm repeating myself. The honest truth is that Archer has a lot of episodes that could be "best episodes" this season. This show is truly epic.