Archer S9 E8 “A Discovery”

In which Archer discovers the concept of chronology. Perhaps inspired by too many smartasses asking about Archer’s willfully anachronistic timeline, Danger Island has fairly beaten viewers about the head with its historical accuracy – the Messerchmitt is new, the German army are strung out on Pervitin capsules, and Malory is into Trader Vic’s (est.1934 by the way). It’s 1938 (not 1939 as I said on an earlier episode) and while the cast normally have absurdly specific literary awareness, right now the whole world is crazy for The Hobbit. Archer’s up for reenacting the whole thing and even Lana’s into it (“Just like the ponies,” she rues, in one of her only jokes in the whole season), but mostly it’s just an excuse for everyone to dunk on Noah some more.

Which they do for the rest of the episode. At first it looks as though the show’s setting up a Goonies-style adventure in which every character has their own skill to offer. Reynaud finds switches through cowardice. Malory gets things open through the power of alcoholism. And of course Noah can read glyphs, which only makes the others mad at his perverse pleasure in translating unnecessary flavor text. (Ahem. But it’s endearing when I do it, right? Guys?) Six people are needed for the switches (which aren’t totem poles)… but then we’re more or less done Lara Crofting, since Fuchs arrives, and finally the whole cast are together for the first time since a brief moment in episode one.

We also get to see more of their old personality traits. Archer’s back to being a sex-hound who’s too busy chasing Lanaluakalani’s tail to even remember Charlotte’s name. Malory seems worried about Archer, even though she was going to let him die a couple of episodes ago (and she has to see him die again, which is always upsetting even knowing what a monster she is). Charlotte’s totally giddy with the death and chaos around her, and genuinely can’t decide whether or not she’s a goddess. And she’s less bothered at being under machine gun fire than she is by the fact that she has to take cover with Noah.

Pam’s the only other one ready and willing to get stuck into the action – which, with its shrinking platform surrounded by lava and the arena/temple setting so familiar from old-school first-person shooters, is looking more and more like a time-honored final boss fight. (Perhaps it’s a coincidence, but the moment Reynaud steps on a tile and the torches extinguish one by one is eerily reminiscent of a boss encounter from Unreal.) Her dogged attempts to use the tired old “we’ve got company” line where others would have just seethed “I had something for this” are admirable, but ultimately it’s how we end up in a classic cliffhanger that, in retrospect, has been inevitable since Archer noted that they were walking into an active volcano. And just as the laws of Hollywood always allow a hero to grab hold of something clearly beyond his reach, those same physics allow his enemy to grab him right back, and there’s no way for them not to both end up in the death soup. It’s a deft way of bringing the narrative to an end without ever actually resolving anything (which Adam Reed seems to be allergic to). Does Pam make it up from the ledge? Do any of them make it out of the now-crumbling temple? Does Charlotte stay? Will Crackers’ roasted tail feathers grow back? And on a scale of one to Blinky the fish, just exactly how radioactive is everyone currently?

Well it doesn’t really seem to matter one way or the other, since we’re immediately handed off to what we can only assume is the conceit for the tenth and final season: a futuristic spaceship that piles on the Alien references with a shovel: octagonal corridors, cryosleep chambers, actual goddamn lens flares and an AI called Mother – and all this coming after a death straight out of Alien 3, caused by a power loader from Aliens. At first I assumed this represented present-day Archer dying in his hospital bed, finally slipping away as he dreams of making his mother sorry and impressing Lana (was “and the idol makes three” a reference to Abbiejean?), even as he dies to save Pam. But then again, the snowglobe comment – which I assume is a St Elsewhere reference – implies that this was clone Archer’s dream all along. So who knows? It’s not like we’re going to find out anyway. And I think Adam Reed just set himself up for a dozen more over-considered questions at his next Comic Con.

Random Observations

  • “It’s not often you see a primitive civilization that understands the callback.” Noah did say the Mua Mua were assholes, but I can’t place what this is a callback to.
  • “Pfft, thrushes.” Aww, even racism’s kind of cute when Crackers does it. (And c’mon, ducks are jerks, we were all thinking it.)
  • Master Coconut – third strike, Archer. Nobody gets that!
  • “You know what I don’t get?”
    “The fact that you’re not really a goddess?”
    “I was going to say fractions.”
    I was going to say fractions!” Pretty harsh to Charlotte when Archer, who’s standing right there, is struggling with the concept of a 50/50 split.
  • The titles of the episodes in this season are taken from the chapter sub-titles in Herman Melville’s first book, Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life. Let me know if you know of any other references since to it in the show, since I haven’t read it. (Not a Melville crowd. He’s not an easy read.)

And that’s it for Archer: Danger Island. I hope people have enjoyed the write-ups, even if they’ve been a bit late, and unless someone else wants to, I’d be delighted to do them for the next season too. See you for the next one!