It may be still ongoing, with possibly three more seasons in sight, but that has not stopped its impact. Archer has become an icon of TV over the last few years, inspiring many people and cementing itself as one of the best.
Boasting a unique art style, phenomenally timely dialogue and pop culture references, it’s a show for the ages. That doesn’t mean that every season is a home run, and it definitely had its share of pitfalls.
Seasons 1, 2 and 3 – Lightning in a Bottle
By the pilot episode, Archer creates three main recurring elements that became fan favorites of the series. Firstly, it cements Archer’s (the main character) misogynistic, self infallible blimp sized ego. Secondly, references, long running gags, pop culture and extremely out there jokes delivered with perfection by the cast. Thirdly, consistent usages of profanity, sexuality and self referential humor.
As said before, these are staples that are taken for granted in the series today, but back then this was not that common. Sure, we had really nerdy humor shows like Futurama, self referential ones like South Park/Family Guy. But until Archer came along, no one had really married that idea together.
This show really did kinda break new ground with its style of humor and storytelling. Best exemplified in Seasons 1 – 3 which includes classics like: Diversity Hire, Skytanic, Swiss Miss and Lo Scandalo. Chock full of laugh out loud moments and incredible usage of the long running gag and referential humor mentioned before. Archer quickly became a crowd favorite, for very good reasons.
Maybe it was a case of right place right time, or maybe Adam Reed just saw an opportunity to capitalize on his Frisky Dingo cult success. Which, by the way, if you have not seen Frisky Dingo but loved Archer, you owe it to yourself to watch it!
Seasons 4 and 5 – Cracks in the Paint
Season 4 was really more of the same, it had a couple of hits like The Wind Cries Mary and Sea Tunt. But honestly, outside of that, it just felt like the writers were struggling to really create a cohesive original plan. Like they couldn’t decide how to keep creating Archer missions, so they did what they thought best, remove the spy aspect portion of the show.
In season 5 Archer Vice aired it’s first episode. After the FBI seizes the ISIS (yes, it was before THAT ISIS) headquarters, our cast finds themselves in a lot of legal trouble. When Mallory successfully gets them out of it, they become drug dealers trying to sell millions of dollars of cocaine.
What follows is just subsequent episodes that follow one theme and one theme only: Archer has a plan, Archer ruins said plan, Archer makes a joke, moves on to the next episode. Sounds pretty tedious right? Yeah we agree, because it absolutely was.
We will say this for Archer Vice, the finale almost makes up for it. Between Krieger’s clone side plot, the Cyril arc, Lana’s pregnancy reveal and the CIA reveal. It’s a finale that totally would have fit Archer and its brand, it was just set up so poorly by the previous episodes.
Season 6 and 7 – A Return to Form
In season 6, we saw ISIS get reinstated by the CIA as a secondary outsourcing program for various missions. Introducing Slater as a recurring character, bringing Lana and Archer into higher conflict and bringing back the ‘mission of the week’ style. Felt like Archer was back on top once again.
Honestly, when you watch episodes from Season 6 like The Archer Sanction and Vision Quest, this appears to be the case. Season 6 was just a phenomenal entry into the show overall and it was the season where the animation quality drastically improved.
Following up to such a return to form was not going to be easy. Not only that, but this was going to mark the second time that Archer tried a different kind of storytelling. After ruining every mission the CIA gave them, ISIS is disbanded and has to cope with a different world.
Our characters form a private detective agency with the help of Cyril, and sign on to investigate a celebrity crime. What follows is some of the series’s best episodes, funniest moments and a truly shocking finale.
Seasons 8 to Now – Archer’s Coma, Dips in Quality
Starting with Season 8, this was really a huge step in a different direction for Archer. Sure, the off brand humor, obscure pop culture and timely jokes were still there, but it was very different.
See, after season 7, Archer is in a coma. The following three seasons take place in his head as he imagines the characters in different scenarios. Beginning in season 8, it takes place in the prohibition 1950’s and sees Cyril as the villain. Matter of fact, he’s the villain in every subsequent season, which is hilarious to me.
Honestly, the coma seasons are pretty hit and miss. For the first two seasons, it goes between rock solid and just middling. Dreamland does a few things well in the pop culture department, but lags in story and character development. Danger Island manages to be pretty rock solid all around, with a stronger emphasis on humor. However, Archer 1999 is honestly the worst that the show has ever been.
In the third coma season, titled Archer 1999, it takes place aboard a space vessel. Archer and Lana fight each other for command while taking on various scifi missions. Now, I don’t know is this was just a sign of Disney trying something different (yes, Disney owns Fox and Hulu) and Fox letting them in. But, whatever or whoever the decision maker was, this season just straight up sucked.
Humor? Practically nonexistent. Pop culture and referential humor with long running gags? Again, practically nonexistent. Only thing worth watching this season was the finale that saw Archer waking up, and learning some distressing news.
Summing it All Up
While the initial seasons may seem like the strongest, the story only gets better with the following seasons. When Archer goes into a coma was FX’s first real attempt at telling a mature story with Archer. They had tried it in the past with Vice, the Detective Agency and more, but never quite stuck the progression.
They could always stick to the finale, so maybe that explains the coma episodes. It allowed them to try new things, put them in different places and timelines, while knowing they could stick the landing. Archer has always toed that fine line between extremely obscure and mature humor with an undercurrent of mysterious story telling. What timeline are we in? How much of this happens back to back? Who is Archer’s father? There really are plenty of reasons outside of the jokes to watch it, but the jokes are where it shines.
We’ll say this for creator Adam Reed, he knows his humor, and he is remarkably good at executing on it. While this show stumbles, and receives less praise for the latest seasons, it’s well worth the investment.
With the exception of Vice, seasons 1 – 6 are legitimately some of comedy TV’s greatest outings of all time. The humor is amazing, the characters are memorable, the animation is stellar, and it’s so freaking quotable.