H. Jon Benjamin leads the hilarious 14th season of the FX spy comedy as it returns to its espionage roots.
PLOT: The Agency teams up with Interpol to take down a highly organized ring of jewel thieves. Archer’s skeptical as their Interpol contact seems to be treating the mission as more of an audition…but for which side? Written by Mark Ganek.
REVIEW: Fourteen years ago, Archer debuted on FX and introduced the world to the best spy comedy on television. Led by H. Jon Benjamin’s pitch-perfect vocal performance, Archer skewered everything from James Bond to Mad Men and more over its decade and a half on the air. Adam Reed’s series has been consistently hilarious, with multiple forays into genres like noir, science fiction, and an homage to Miami Vice. Now, the final season of Archer is here, and it is thankfully just as great as the thirteen that came before it. Rather than spending time rehashing and reflecting on jokes and plots from prior years, the finals season of Archer opens with only the aim to be funny and original.
The first four episodes of Archer‘s final season were made available for this review. They are all solid entries into the long-running series, boasting classic characters returning and new characters. Picking up from the end of last season, the spy crew has regained ownership of Malory Archer’s (Jessica Walter) former agency from Fabian (Kayvan Novak) and IIA. Lana (Aisha Tyler) has claimed the top seat in running the agency after her divorce from Robert (Stephen Tobolowsky). With the main crew back together, they set out to make their spy agency a beacon of transparency and positive business practices. That lasts for less than an episode but does allow the team to recruit a new spy, Zara Khan (Natalie Dew). A former Interpol agent, Zara is a top-notch spy and Archer’s equal in every respect. This makes her the ideal foil in the field while Lana is running things back in New York.
From the outset, Archer’s fourteenth season returns to the format of the early seasons when the crew worked for the unfortunately named Isis. The workplace humor is back with Pam (Amber Nash) back in charge of HR while still wanting to be back in the field as she has over the last few seasons. Cyril (Chris Parnell) is still an active operative while leveraging his financial acumen for the agency. Ray, voiced by series creator Adam Reed, pops in and out of the four episodes but takes a back seat compared to Cheryl (Judy Greer) and Krieger (Lucky Yates), who get just as much zany screentime as usual. The opening episodes have a loose narrative connection focused on Zara joining the team, the burgeoning success of the new agency, and the return of everyone’s favorite antagonist, Barry (Dave Willis).
Because the series has been on as long as it has, the formula of these stories has taken root. While the mission narratives and the expected office humor generate new spins on jokes we have seen for years, Archer never ceases to be funny. The dynamic between Sterling Archer and his colleagues never stops being funny as we know Pam will say something weirdly sexual, Cheryl will misread the room, Krieger will have a weird experiment going on, Lana will be mocked for her height, Ray will be vaguely bad at his job, and Archer will mock Cyril without abandon. The format is tried and true, and it works. Natalie Dew enters the mix to inject some energy, fitting in better than any cast addition over this series’ long run. Archer works because the actors are all brilliant comedians, and the writing staff knows how to exploit their talents.
Archer has always been a critical darling and fan favorite. Still, when the series took some surreal alternate reality/dream forays during seasons eight through ten, the tone and style shift resulted in less favorable reviews. The last few seasons have provided solid laughs despite a quarter fewer episodes than the first years it was on the air. These recent eight-episode seasons have not been more focused, but they have allowed the voice cast to work on this series and others. I would love to have this series stay on the air forever, even with the shortened seasons, but eventually, you run out of quality stories to tell. Could Archer return years down the line as a revival or a reboot? The possibilities are endless, but it may be time for this series to end on a high note after recovering the critical acclaim it garnered when it first debuted.
It is too soon to say if Archer will send the spy squad out with a memorable finale or if the series will end with room for a revival down the line. So many seasons of this series could have been the end that I would not be surprised if Adam Reed delivered an explosive final episode. I would not be surprised if the finale wrapped this season and called it a day. Either way, Archer has been a highlight of the last decade and a half and remains one of the most quotable and entertaining animated series ever. I hope the long-rumored live-action movie happens and Jon Hamm enters the title role. Archer has always been an homage and spoof of the spy genre but has become something original unto itself. This fourteenth season begins with laughs and memorable adventures and shows no signs of age. I hope the rest of the season lives up to the bar set by these opening chapters.
Archer: The Final Season premieres on August 30th on FXX.