Oh, what a pleasure it is to fall into the universe that is Archer. This is a series that is so much more than it seems on the outside. It is more than an animation, with it’s unique, realistic, pop art style, Archer stands apart from the multitude of shows that we typically see. It’s more than a sitcom, with high adventure and soap opera ongoing storyline, Archer isn’t a show you jump into, it’s an investment. The series is even often defined by its brilliant star, but it is so much more than just another H. Jon Benjamin comedy. Archer is an amalgamation of so many ideas and styles executed with the highest of talent and skill.
Going into Archer’s tenth season, there were many questions in the air. For one, we were aware of going forward that Sterling and team were headed to space. What that meant could have been a multitude of things. There are literally an infinite amount of possibilities when you enter the genre of science fiction. Expectations were difficult to assess. Though, by the time we had our first look at what Archer in Space would look like, it was clear that we weren’t in for that much of a stretch. Despite the outrageous setting, the art style and humour allowed us to settle in without adjustment. And, as much of a shift as it was, it never once felt unnatural.
Beyond changing the setting, the new dynamic opened the doors for the show to take on new stories. One of the big themes we saw going through each episode weekly was the science fiction clichés. The episode “The Leftovers” was a clear homage to Alien, and the subject of having a dangerous creature cause havoc on an isolated space ship. “Happy Borthday” had the crew in a gladiator-style battlefield much like we recently witnessed in Thor: Ragnorak. And, even the two-part finale had Archer losing his mind with some sort of space crazy. Touching on these classic themes, but doing it in their unique way not only helped to elevate the show but bring in some things that they couldn’t have done before.
While we’re on the topic, we should touch on the ongoing storyline involved in Archer: 1999. To be honest, this may be the one area where the show deviated the most from its typical formula. And, it could be considered the biggest flaw, or strength of the season depending on how you look at it. The series that carries a heavy soap opera feel with significant changes causing ongoing issues for all the characters took a step back this year. Only the beginning and conclusion of the season even touched on the fact that there was an ongoing 10-year story happening. The remainder of the episodes put that stuff away to focus on the plots that space adventures presented. If you aren’t invested in knowing about Lana’s baby or other show plots, then this season was a breath of fresh air. Less of concern about the drama, and much more of the fun. Though, I respect and agree that we have waited long enough to know where Archer and Lana are going to end up.
Aside from the entertaining plots, the new setting also gave us a new redesign. Obviously, the most prominent character redesign was with Pam, who was suddenly illustrated as some alien beast. But, there were also subtle changes to other characters that helped the season in significant ways. Krieger was now a synthetic robot, which seems like a natural choice. Barry was reimagined as a robot, a bold move that worked well to make the enemy a little more sinister. Though, the most exciting change to see was with Cheryl. She didn’t go through much differences in illustration, but more with her character traits. She went from being an assistant to being a badass yet reluctant starfighter. Honestly, Cheryl went from being a character that added minimal amounts to the series, to becoming a standout in this season.
The other big question that we had going into this season was around show creator, Adam Reed. Reed was very open that this would be his final year involved with the series. The mastermind behind it all was going to hang up his hat. So, that left most of us wondering what that meant for the future of Archer. Would their final season be explored in the stars? Thankfully, we now know that another season will be developed, and Reed has even agreed to be involved, if only in a minimal aspect. This is great news, not only because what would we do without the show, but that Reed’s influence and creative input will still be making an impact.
Though, we know where things stand for the next season, that still meant that Reed would be handing over the reins. This season was his goodbye to the fans and the show that has been his baby for a decade. I think one thing that is evident was that he enjoyed it through and through. The fun the staff must have had to bring their characters to space pours out on the screen. But, that doesn’t mean that he didn’t get to have a bit of emotion in there. The final episode “Robert Di Niro” offers a whole few-minute montage of some of the highlights from the previous seasons. It was a beautiful moment that not only showed us the best of what the show had to offer but the journey that we and Reed had been through. It was a meaningful ending to a dynamic run that not many creators get the chance to share.
I think we all knew when we heard that Archer was going to go to space that this was going to be a good season. But, I don’t know if any of us could have expected what we got. Archer: 1999 exceeded expectations and will go down as one of the best things that the series has ever done. That is a significant accomplishment for any show that has been running for a decade. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but there is a chance that when I look back at all of Archer, the tenth season will stand out as the best. Maybe I am just a sucker for science fiction, but there is that feeling that everyone that works on this show was letting loose and having fun. Only this show could go through such drastic changes and still be itself and step up their game. I may miss Archer and crew traveling the stars, and I would be so down for an Archer: 1999-2, or Archer: 2000? Either way, it would be brilliant.