Season nine of Archer, now up to its fourth episode, once again reinvents the show with a new premise, and not only do we have a fresh setting, but perhaps for the first time, a slightly new take on the titular character. One-eyed pilot Archer feels like a calmer, mellower action man than we’re used to, and for once he seems like a (somewhat) regular dude doing his best in adverse circumstances, which is unusual for someone who’s normally only screwed over by his own arrogance. With Pam and Crackers around, he’s almost taking a back seat in his own story, but then remember, this is still a coma dream. This is probably just what life looks like to him: a world in which Archer is brave, competent and looks out for his friends, but is foiled by others’ clumsiness, let down by inferior airplanes, and even farted on by his best buddy. (You know present-day Archer would have taken Cyril’s parachute in a heartbeat.)
So far, Charlotte van der Tunt has once again been corralled into a separate B-plot –at least until the end of this episode, which for me is a good sign. Maybe I’m oversensitive, but I’m glad to see an end to the arc of Malory pimping her out. Archer has always taken a pretty nihilistic attitude to sex (as has Cheryl), but a plot about a mentally unstable woman becoming a literal sex slave is pretty brutal even by this show’s standards – if admittedly probably not Malory’s. (Although she may have gotten the idea from Charlotte’s husband calling her a “pander” in episode 1.) Charlotte spent most of the last season as a hostage too, and while her (and Judy Greer’s) tetchy naivety is always entertaining, I’m looking forward to her having opportunities to be wild and crazy in ways that don’t involve constantly being stepped on. The old unhinged, sharp-tongued, power-hungry pervert we used to know could do a lot on this island in the two weeks before the next plane arrives. I wish the same could be said for Lana, who so far hasn’t really had anything to do besides swoon over Cyril’s lange schlange – a reference which, to be fair, hasn’t come up in a while, but which has limited mileage (if you will).
I’m ready to call it for Crackers as the breakout character of the series. A parrot almost seems like part of the background on a tropical island, making Crackers a perfect little Greek chorus, able to dip in and out of the foreground, snipe at people when they think he’s not listening, and disappear when needed. It also means he can be hilariously deadpan without resorting to old Krieger jokes, and for once we also get to see a whole new range of animations. His unblinking reaction shots, casual preening, awkward wing gestures and breezy little jazz dance are a breath of fresh air in a show that’s normally light on body language. (We’ve also been treated to two viewings of him in a tiny chef hat, which is just precious.)
Speaking of animation, the CGI’s now reached a point where it no longer seems incongruous and blends in with the house art style. But I think it’s fair to say the show is becoming a lot more reliant on action scenes, and while that’s not a problem per se, I wonder if that new-found ability is missing the point of what made Archer great to begin with. The essential premise (or core concept, if you will) of the early seasons was a group of bored, sardonic misanthropes with too much money, tech and alcohol, and not enough to do besides bicker, screw, and argue with the toaster-bot. Now the HR tedium and obscure literary references have been replaced with dogfights, giant anacondas, man-eating lizards and plane crashes, and I hope the show doesn’t lose sight of its petty office-comedy roots as it goes on. But if and when the action does get a little unironically Bond-esque, at least they can still follow it up with triumphantly pointless dialogue like “What the hell’s la rue?” “I think it’s like a base for sauces. You know, like, for gravy or whatever?”
- “Best I can tell, it’s about an Irishman learning about cunnilingus.”
- Naming one of the German airmen Schnell is such an elegant little gag, I can’t believe I hadn’t heard it before.
- “Stop saying Kringle!”
- Is this the first time we’ve seen subtitles? I kinda used to enjoy the odd joke sailing over my head in a language I don’t know.
- “If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a merry Christmas.” “Awww.”
- Danger Island is apparently set in 1939, and Archer seems to have first crossed paths with Sigler in 1937. Is Sigler the new Barry? The Other Other Barry?
FOOTNOTE: I’m starting at episode four, so apologies if this write-up is a bit scattershot. I also have no idea whether anyone’s reading, but if anyone is, I’d be happy to keep them up, start posting them on Thursdays, and maybe get a more consistent style.