Cult US TV animation 'Archer' is honestly quite ridiculous. It's also quite brilliant. And hence criminally underrated. The series follows the team of ISIS, a secret spy organisation, and their run-ins with terrorists, fellow clandestine organisations and more closely, between members of the team.
The main conflict is between Sterling Archer (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin) and Mallory Archer (Jessica Walter), the mother-and-son duo at the top of ISIS. But the whole team shares some kind of antagonism with one another, thanks to failed relationships, full-blown insecurities, and gossip-mongering. Think 'The Office' but far more dysfunctional. And with much more action.
'Archer' is very much an homage (but also a parody) to spy films and series like 'James Bond' and 'Man From U.N.C.L.E' - taking in the usual tropes of elaborate vehicles, enemies who have terrible aim and sex, sex, and more sex. There are plenty of other jokes however, often in quite shocking terms as with the trivialisation of rape in 'Blood Test', but generally the humour is of a more care-free disposition.
For those new to this TV series, they may be confused by the juxtaposition of modern technology (mobile phones etc) with the retro animation and the period style. Equally baffling may be the fact that the members of this intelligence service appear regularly appear to show alarming stupidity - the self-centred Archer revealing he is a secret agent is a running joke. Yet thanks to the witty writing, these contradictions fall into place perfectly.
Season two consists of thirteen twenty minute episodes, which disappointingly has no main season arc - one of my few criticisms of the series. Although this perhaps reflects the same structure as the James Bond films, where they generally have little relation to one another. Regardless, there are frequent callbacks and references to previous episodes and a couple of overlying plotlines, including the continuing search for Archer's father and Archer as a father.
Over the course of the season, we discover that Archer indeed can be quite pleasant, concerned for the well-being of others, and in the season finale ('Double Trouble') even capable of love. Similarly, other characters are fleshed out, elevating them from their standing as simple comic oddities. We learn more about many of the characters' origin while woodhouse (George Coe), is even given his own flashback episode 'The Double Deuce'.
'Archer''s animated style may be relatively crude but it is effective, and allows the writing to come to the fore. These words are impressively translated by all the voice actors, particularly H. Jon Benjamin and the feisty Aisha Tyler (fellow ISIS agent, Lana Kant). The final result is a season that will further satisy previous fans as well as encouraging a whole legion of new fans to this genre spoof. Quirky, insane, hilarious, and more simply, a joy to watch.
★★★★½ (4.5/5)- Archersaurus - Self-Extinction
- Ask Archer
- Semper Fi
- L'espion Mal Fait
- ISIS Infiltrates Comic-con
The DVD extras continue the batshit insanity of some of the TV show, with a dinosaur version of Archer entitled Archersaurus as well as Archer transformed into his voice actor H. Jon Benjamin in 'L'espion Mal Fait'. The 'Ask Archer' segment is undoubtedly the highlight, while seeing the voice actors in their Comic-con panel provides a new perspective.
'Archer: The Complete Season 2' is out on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK now.