Review: Archer Season 8 | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Review: Archer Season 8

Digital Editor Alex McDonald reviews Archer: Dreamland, the latest season of the animated show obsessed with reinventing itself

Archer is a show that is constantly reinventing itself: After the unfortunate coincidence of its spy agency being named ISIS, series creator Adam Reed and his writers left the spy genre behind and set their comedic sights elsewhere. Season 5, a Narcos-esque drug running romp, was the perfect detour and the shot of adrenaline the show needed. Season 6 was disappointing because it felt too familiar to what had come before, just under the friendlier banner of the CIA. Season 7 once again took the show off-road and fashioned itself as a Private Detective comedy. With its biggest rebrand yet, will Archer Season 8, adequately titled “Dreamland,” sink or swim?  

Much of Archer's usual free-flowing banter is left by the way side

With Archer seemingly dead at the end of Season 7, floating face down in a pool and riddled with bullets, Dreamland is just that: Archer’s coma dream. We’re transported back into 1947. Archer is once again a private eye, Figgis and Poovey (of indeterminate gender in this season) are crooked cops, Lana is a singer in Mallory’s (who goes by “Mother” to aid a smooth transition) jazz club, Krieger is a bar tender-come-mad scientist and Cheryl is once again rich and stupid. When Archer’s partner Woodhouse is murdered, he goes on a mission to track down his killer but there a more than a few hoops he has to jump through first.

If that introduction to this season and the characters seemed lengthy and cumbersome, it is probably because that is Archer’s biggest flaw with Dreamland. These are all characters we know and love, and while they are the same at heart, the first few episodes go to great lengths to reintroduce the crowd in their new roles. The flow of the series gets bogged down with these initial interactions and a lot of personal history is lost which leaves much of Archer’s usual free-flowing banter by the way side. 

Archer: Dreamland will benefit greatly when it goes onto Netflix and allows fans to binge the whole season in less than three hours

However, credit must be given to Reed and his team for stretching their creative muscles. While they by no means reinvent the noir genre, they definitely have a lot of fun within its confinements. The jokes don’t come quite as thick and fast but when they land, they land hard (unfortunately when they fall, they fall harder, too). Dreamland is a surprisingly compelling and tightly woven mystery. Unlike previous seasons, which have had overarching plots on the back of episodic stories, Archer Season 8 does away with the episodes in favour of one-long consistent storyline. 

Dreamland is a surprisingly compelling and tightly woven mystery

While this long form of story-telling does make for a more satisfying season overall, it does suffer with regards to its week-to-week viewing. Dreamland will benefit greatly when it goes onto Netflix and allows fans to binge the whole season in less than three hours. Yet it does lose its power from episode to episode. The effectiveness of cliff-hangers wears dangerously thin when episodes are only twenty minutes long and there is barely any sense of problems being resolved; the wheels just keep turning towards the finale, which will either be a raucous success or an uninspired conclusion depending on your predilections. For me, it walked a line somewhere in the middle in a way that only Archer can. It was neither particularly jaw-dropping but with the still the right amount of ridiculous charm.

Ultimately, Archer: Dreamland was a mixed bag. While it will do little to convert casual viewers, hardcore fans like myself definitely will not be turned off. The running gags work well, the voice acting is once again top grade and the animation is second-to-none. But these are things that you come to expect from Archer so it certainly is not breaking any new ground. The noir style was an admirable experiment but not one that I am particularly anxious to see continue given that the ending offers no insight into Season 9. While my time was not wasted in Dreamland, it’s probably time for Archer to wake up and do something else.

Falls somewhere between Arnold Schwarzenegger and the ant from A Bug's Life on the action hero scale. (@AlexMc2104)


12th June 2017 at 9:00 am

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