Mild Spoilers Follow
Following on from the end of the previous instalment; episode three, titled ‘Jane Doe’, resumes from where we left off, with Archer’s quest to use a poorly disguised body to fake the death of faux-fatality and accomplice, Cheryl Tunt. Despite their best efforts, however, the plan doesn’t go accordingly thanks to the crooked-cop duo of Cyril Figgis and Pam Poovey (played by Chris Parnell and Amber Nash respectively), showing up unannounced – confirming Cheryl’s suspicions from the last episode that they were, in fact, being followed. Still unknowing of Pam and Archer’s involvement in the matter, but realising that he can make amends for the shipment of Chinese whores he lost in the first episode, Cyril decides to abduct Cheryl with the intention of giving her to the Mafia boss Len Drexler as repayment for his error. Before too long, both Archer and Cheryl are locked up at the police station, with the episode gaining its name from the ‘Jane Doe’ moniker given to Cheryl in order to mask her identity while in custody.
Archer, now separated from Cheryl, is soon joined by four new cell mates – one of whom will be familiar to fans of the series as Ray Gillette, played by series creator Adam Reed. Whilst Ray and his Dreamland Band’s inclusion in this episode could have been solely for the purpose of helping Archer escape from his cell, their involvement turns into more than just that. The group’s dialogue confronts many areas of contention of the times, and incidentally becomes a social commentary on hot topic issues such as race, drugs and World War II veterans of different ethnicity. As a show, Archer has always been great at simultaneously hitting you with hilarious one-liners as well as hard hitting information that forces you to think, and it’s great to see that continue on in this season.
This is only exemplified by the episode’s secondary narrative, as juxtaposing the events at the prison, Lana Kane, played by Aisha Tyler, is left to entertain the Dreamland night club without the help of her band. Refusing to let this hinder her, Lana decides to hit the stage with an impromptu comedy act that, while remarkably unsuccessful, brings to light two more of the era’s big problems; Syphilis, and how women were perceived as entertainers. While her jokes may have been purposefully unfunny, the commentary on the rampant development of Syphilis is just as poignant as the dialogue over at the prison. And while not spoken by, but rather, directed at Lana, the heckling she receives from the crowd, paired with the backhanded comments made my Malory, do a great job at showing the misogyny that women, especially female entertainers, suffered through in this time period.
The biggest problem that I have with this episode, is that, alike to the previous one, we had little to no movement in the overall narrative. While I am fine with secondary stories taking prevalence now and then, I also want to feel as if the main story is moving forward rather than just remaining at a standstill.
With all that being said, the end of this episode neatly tied up the past three episode’s mini-narrative whilst pushing the main ark forward ever so slightly; ‘Jane Doe’ does a great job at giving us a proper introduction to series regulars Lana and Ray, as well as highlighting the shows excellent use of the time period to inject topical yet risque dialogue into the mix. Great character moments and era-specific discourse aside, I hope that we take a large step forward in the overall narrative of Dreamland with each coming episode, as the mystery of who killed Woodhouse is at risk of becoming a forgotten plot point when it should be the main driving force of the entire season.
Episode Score: 9
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