Recap/Review – Archer Season Premiere

It’s that time of year again, folks. For the better part of a decade, sometime by spring, the crew over at FX churns out another season of Archer for the rabid fans. The kind of people who shout out “Holy Shit Snacks!” when surprised or who can’t help saying “phrasing” then giggling when someone mentions how “hard” a task is. This year, in the eighth season, the show finds itself shifted over to FXX for a change. Other than that, the other major shakeup is that this time around, 99% of the show takes place in a coma – in Archer’s three-months-to-date ongoing coma that we found him in at the start of last week’s season premiere.

In the waking world, Lana & Mallory, the two most important women in Archer’s life had a brief chat after Woodhouse’s funeral, reflecting on Archer’s fate and bringing us up to date on the situation via rather snappy exposition. Mallory wondered what dreams he must be having, and presto blammo, we sank into Archer: Dreamland, as the newest season is branded. Woodhouse’s death was something we knew had to happen, as the legendary George Coe who provided his voice passed away in 2015. They worked around that issue last year by simply having him be missing the whole time, but this year we finally got closure. And we learned what happened after Archer got shot and left to drown in a pool at the end of season seven.

Jump with me for more.

They redid the opening sequence and music to reflect the new season’s branding, similar to how they treated their cocaine-addled season five: Archer Vice. And as the curtains rose in the dream world, we found amazingly Private Investigator Sterling Archer was dealing with his partner, Woodhouse’s, death. But the synchronicity mostly ended there. For one thing, we’re in the late 1940s in a still growing Los Angeles. The next thing you have to adjust to is the way the various characters are reinvented. Mallory is a crime boss and owner of swanky nightclub, “Dreamland.” Ray, Krieger, & Lana all work for her at the club. Ray is a horn player, Krieger is a heroin-dealing bartender, and Lana is a singer.

I have to ask if I was the only one who cringed to hear Lana crooning the song “Fever”? It was a subtle instance of racial humor, referring to the on-again/off-again love Archer & Lana share. A black woman and a white man. “Jungle Fever”… I repeat my cringe.

Pam is a gender-ambiguous detective who works under Captain Cyril Figgis. Len Trexler is a rival gangster “whose hobby is dissolving people in acid,” and Barry Dylan is his righthand man. After threatening Krieger for info on how Woodhouse died, Mallory had Archer brought in for a meeting. She told him to refer to her by the codename “Mother.” I almost cringed to this too but decided to let it slide. By the time they got to this meeting, I had noticed something magical about this new coma format. In abandoning the well-established ways the characters feel about each other, they are able to go back to pure witty dialogue based off wordplay, not just the quirks of the existing character dynamics.

Archer then found that Woodhouse left him a package of clues to investigate, should he turn up dead. But instead Archer locked the envelope in his safe and went on orders from “Mother” to investigate what Trexler was smuggling. Horribly enough, it turned out to be Asian women, in a human-trafficking operation. Poovey caught him spying on the scene and was convinced to help after a brief argument over which phrase was more racist: “white slavery” or “yellow slavery.”

During his surveillance and then again in the attack they made on the departing truck of bound women, Archer started to experience flashbacks to WWII, in which he was a highly decorated soldier. Somehow the flashbacks, which should have distracted him, instead helped him to unleash a “world’s best spy”-flavored can of whup-ass as his memories and present started to synchronize. It was almost as if they were sending up Assassin’s Creed; if not, then this glitch in the dreamscape may turn out to be a bigger plot point later in the season.

The last scene and last reinvention of a character is Cheryl as Charlotte Vandertunt, heiress of a great fortune, who wanted to hire Archer to kill her. Now that sounds like Cheryl! Put that weirdness on top of the fact that the safe got raided while he was out, and this rendition of the show is going strong right out of the gate.

Sadly, this season will only last 8 episodes, so it’s gonna go fast. Hold on to your fedoras, people. It’s going to be both exciting and hilarious! New episodes air tonight and each week on Wednesdays on FXX at 10/9c.

– Phoebe

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