Wednesday 29 May 2019

Archer: Danger Island ★★★★☆

Archer: Danger Island is the ninth season of the absurdist animation, taking place in the mind of the man himself. Archer’s coma dreams give creator Adam Reed a clean slate to change the setting and rejig the characters, retaining some of the humour despite a distinct genre shift. 

Archer (H. Jon Benjamin) imagines himself to be a seaplane pilot in 1938, wasting his days away in French Polynesia. He’s eventually dragged into an adventure to find a golden idol, although the story plays second fiddle to the many puns and constant jokes that have become a staple of the show. On the other hand, some things never change, and the gang spend the majority of their time trying to raise funds on The Danger Island.

A variety of familiar faces return, as Archer’s subconscious works overtime to make sense of his current state. He’ll never be able to escape from his mother, and he’s still under the thumb of Malory (Jessica Walter) despite being in the middle of nowhere. His former colleagues also appear although they’re muddled in Archer’s mind. For example, Lana Kane is reimagined as Princess Lanaluakalani, while Pam works with Archer as a mechanic on his seaplane. Cyril makes an appearance as the ‘suspicious German’ Siegbert Fuchs, while Krieger isn’t even human anymore. Swapping nationalities and even species allow for a new approach and rejigged conversations (as well as unexpected friendships), but most of the cast keep their personality intact to a degree. Archer is still Archer, just one who seems slightly more at peace with himself. 

The South Pacific setting hasn’t been to everyone’s liking, but the genre shift helps to breathe new life into the show. Just like Archer Vice, the series is a homage to the era, and everything from the new intro to the vibrant jungle backgrounds are great to look at. The animation is as rich and detailed as it’s ever been, and nine seasons of callbacks and in-jokes make it worth watching if you’ve kept up with the fun the writers have with “phrasing”. There’s a chance to learn a thing or two because of the cleverness of it all, and Archer’s never far from the danger zone. Stakes are inevitably raised despite the fictional setting, and there’s a volcano, nazis, and various problems to be solved during the short 8-episode run.

Online reviews suggest that a portion of the audience is growing tired with the animation, while Reed has seemingly confirmed that the next season of Archer will also be the last. If you’re more worried about present-day continuation, you’ll have to wait until the last LotR inspired episode of Danger Island to see where he ends up next. The journey is better than the destination, and it doesn’t really matter if it takes place in ‘reality’ or not. The lighter tone matches the source material, without spoiling the dialogue and surrealism that make the show so unique. 

James Millin-Ashmore

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