Archer (Season 8)
Created by: Adam Reed
Starring: H. Jon Benjamin, Judy Greer, Aisha Tyer, Lucky Yates, Chris Parnell
Following the events of season 7, Archer 's eighth season, aptly titled Dreamland, shows Sterling Archer as a 1940s private detective in a dreamworld created by him as he lies in a coma. In true Wizard of Oz style, all of the usual faces return with a part to play; Lana as a glamorous barroom singer, Malory Archer as a ruthless crime boss, Figgis as a neurotic and morally questionable detective with Pam, now a man named Poovey, as his equally morally questionable partner. Dreamland takes us and these new characters on a roller-coaster ride of drugs, kidnapping and gross misuse of corpses.
Season 8 is built on the usual Archer skeleton, but it takes time for it to build its muscles, the season only beginning to build momentum after a few episodes, perhaps due to Dreamland being as far out of Archer’s comfort zone as the show has ever been. This is evident from the get-go; Dreamland starts slow, obviously less sure of itself than in its earlier seasons. Where Archer’s confidence has been measurably building season to season, the unfamiliarity of season 8 seems to have tripped it. The humour initially feels forced uncomfortably into the dialogue, something which was far more fluid in the show’s youth, relying a little too heavily on stereotypes and physical comedy. Fortunately, Archer’s trademark running jokes are back in full swing, and are fully welcome, carrying the show through its first half before the confident Archer of old bleeds through and the show regains its swagger. The final 2 or 3 episodes are by far the strongest, accelerating the pace and daring to push comedic boundaries again, its propensity for dark comedy being one of the shows sharpest tools.
Visually, Archer has come a long way, now boasting top-of-the-range animation, while still holding on to its iconic look. The scenery and background art is fantastic and a delight to watch, the detail and texture providing a perfect contrast to the minimalist style of the characters, a look which has been continually honed and polished. It looks vibrant, and the background and characters are much more malleable, allowing the show to express and manifest far more than it could in its early years. Archer is possibly one of the leading animations for style.
Worthy of mention is the handling of the passing of George Coe in 2015, the voice actor for Archer’s beloved man servant/heroin addict, Woodhouse. Season 8’s driving subplot is Archer’s hunt to find the killer of his late partner, Woodhouse, and the season ends with a speech from Archer at Woodhouse’s grave, in a clear but delicate homage to the actor's contribution to the show. It is a touching end to the season, a moment of tenderness in an otherwise brutal episode, but one which still holds onto Archer’s signature humour.
Archer’s success is borne from its combination of quick-fire dark comedy and its self-awareness, and now has stellar visuals to match. This winning trio is present in Dreamland but takes a while for it to find its footing and reach its full potential. A change of direction for season 8 was a brave move, one intent on bringing something fresh to the show. This certainly was a risk, one which appears to be miscalculated during season 8's beginning, but one which pays off by its end.