Written By: Mathew “JJ” Simoes
So, alongside iZombie I will also be doing reviews for Archer’s eighth season, which premiered last week. Like my first iZombie review this is coming a little late (a week’s not much in the grand scheme of the universe. Anyway, following this review, I will make sure to provide our readership (all two of you) with regular reviews of Archer’s latest batch of episodes the day following their airing on television.
The eighth season opened with one of the most heart wrenching moments in the series thus far, as I am sad to inform you all that Woodhouse has died. His funeral is briefly seen, but the conversation between Lana and Malory is enough to pull the old heartstrings of this reviewer. It is a little disappointing that we won’t get to see Archer’s reaction to Woodhouse’s death just yet, but at least his subconscious is reflecting some of it. Cause if you didn’t already know…this year it’s Archer noir (this is spoiler-ish so you should know).
Yes, Archer has fully given in to it’s anachronistic style by taking viewers back to the 1940’s; a time of dames, bullets, smoking, drinking and a lot of inner monologue (at least in film). Archer’s comma caused, noir influenced fantasy takes us back to the glory days of crime fiction and as a film noir fan this makes me very giddy. While this is probably the biggest format change, the series has ever done, it still feels very natural to the show and may be the most successful format change Archer’s ever had (though the others were pretty good). As stated a mere two sentences ago, Archer was always a show that existed in between time periods, and this was one of the most enjoyable aspects of the show. A such it always had a retro aesthetic, and since last year’s season recast the characters as Private detectives, the format change feels like a logical place to take the series.
All our favourite characters are reimagined to fit into this noir gangster world, but they never stray too far from the loveable screw-ups we’ve gotten to know over the past few years. Cyril’s still a failure (and possibly corrupt), Malory’s still an overbearing boss (and continues her oedipal complex with Archer), Krieger’s into illicit substances and Cheryl still enjoys physical abuse. The only drastic change is making Pam’s gender ambiguous, though I’m pretty sure she’s a dude for this season. Archer himself is still an obnoxious dick (and we here at talkies hope that never changes), but he also presents more heroic and caring qualities in this episode than previously shown is the series. This is compounded by Archer imagining himself as a war hero with PTSD. The fact that this is how he imagines himself is hopefully speaking to where his character development is at this point in the series. Archer’s detective counterpart’s relationship with Woodhouse is also interesting as it runs contrary to how Archer treats him throughout the series. This may lead to a great pay off in the finale when, or if, he awakes from his coma. Hopefully these plot threads will somehow add to Archer’s slow, but effective, character growth. In fact, searching for Woodhouse’s killer may in fact be Archer searching for something within himself. As stated earlier Archer was never kind to Woodhouse, but at the same time Woodhouse raised Archer like his own son. Hopefully Archer’s fantasy is reflecting on this complicated servant/parent relationship. Luckily Archer’s still himself, seeing as the show is at it’s best when the main protagonist is at his worst.
Archer is of course a comedy, and this season premiere had many excellent nods to various running gags from previous seasons. Lana mentioned the gypsy woman, who Cheryl frequently went to for her own future and that of her wo-workers. Archer shows his established love of animals this episode, as he mentions his spirit animal would be an ocelot. His inner monologue to the dog is a nice callback to a prior episode and makes a fun little joke at the noir genre’s expense. And finally, barely is severely injured again, which is always a treat. I feel like Archer’s subconscious wanted to watch him suffer due to hatred outside of the ‘Dreamland’. Pam’s reaction to this is fear, possibly Archer acknowledging how frightening darker aspects of his personality can be, as he tends to be quite vindictive.
The musical score is very old school, 1940’s crime film and adds to the ambiance created by the background art, which on its own is incredible. The backgrounds used this season are not retreads of prior work, but are all new to reflect the world Archer’s created in his mind. The use of darker lighting creates the right atmosphere for the story Reed’s telling, and frankly it’s stunning. Even the character animation impresses, as Archer has really developed from the series early days. The action has become more fluid and the character’s motions far more human.
All in all, it was a fantastic series premiere that gives viewers the first chapter of what will hopefully prove to be one of Archer’s best seasons yet.
Mathew’s Rating – 8/10