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Archer - Season 8 Roundtable Review

Welcome to the Roundtable Review for the Season 8 of Archer, the most recent season of the Animation Comedy on FX. In case this is your first Roundtable this is how they work.
I’m going to ask a series of questions about Season 8 or the whole series overall to three reviewers: Prpleight, Abi Baker and Laura Markus, who were kind enough to dedicate some of their time to this review to voice their opinion on the show and this past season. A most sincerely thank you to all three of them for the time and the effort they’ve put in. I’ve since added my answers too, just to give you guys and even more wider range of reactions for the Show.

Q: The show has been rebooting itself every year since the end of Season 4, going into Season 8, what did you think of the idea of yet another reboot, this time with the characters in another setting entirely?

PRPLEIGHT: I have always caught Archer in haphazard stops and starts. I don’t believe I have ever seen a full season in order, until season 8. I’m all for any show that finds a way to keep their stories fresh. The ‘alternate universe dream’ story has been done a lot over the years I found this approach a lot of fun.

ABI BAKER: I think at this point the show has to reboot itself so we're not seeing the same things over and over. Sometimes the reboots have been a bit of a miss for me (I thought season 7 was a bit of a letdown compared to season 6) but I like that the show tries to reinvent itself and it does so in a way that's really creative. Ever since we've had the super serialised standalone seasons we've seen concepts that are vastly different season to season, and it's always fun to see how they can change up the settings and how the characters might be different within those settings.

LAURA MARKUS: I was completely open to the idea of a reboot, especially one of this nature. One of my favourite video games of all time, L.A. Noire, took place in 1940's L.A., so I was already a fan of this time period. And I figured the art style would be to my liking, but I had no idea it was going to be that beautiful!

LUCA PENNISI: I’ll admit I wasn’t thrilled. I LOVED the show the first 4 seasons, I still think Season 2 was one of the best season of a Comedy that I’ve ever seen in my life and the idea of them going once again to distant themselves from that bothered me a bit. I was curious about the specific setting that they chose though, it’s a pretty uncommon decade to depict in today’s TV landscape and thought it had potential.

Q: Unlike Season 6 and 7, "Archer Dreamland" brought the character in a different timeline, with different locations and different personalities, just like it had already did in Season 5 with "Archer Vice". What were your thoughts about that season?


ABI BAKER: If we're comparing Archer: Vice and Archer: Dreamland, then sorry, but Archer Vice wins out for me. I loved the concept of Archer: Dreamland because I'm a totally sucker for noir and neo-noir settings, but I think the execution was a bit lacking. Archer Vice was more of a fun season whereas Archer: Dreamland was way more sombre. I think it was a good way to pay tribute to Woodhouse, and to get around the corner the put themselves in with the season 7 finale, but I think the promos raised my expectations to a point where I felt a little disappointed after finishing Dreamland.

LAURA MARKUS: Archer Vice was a pretty fun season with a lot of great action scenes and story beats. Some of the individual episodes weren’t too extraordinary, but the season as a whole worked for me.

LUCA PENNISI: In hindsight “Vice” was a good season of Comedy, but at the time it felt like a bit of a letdown after the amazing things they had done in Season 4. I understood the necessity of moving away of the “ISIS” image, since that name had been taken over by the well known terroristic organization, but they probably could’ve handled that differently.

Q: Were you happy when the show kind of came back a little in its usual footing with Season 6 and Season 7, despite having a different premise than the first four but a similar style?


ABI BAKER: I don't think the show really has returned to what the first four seasons were. Maybe it's been too long since I watched the earlier seasons, but I don't remember them being this serialised. This was definitely a follow up to season 7 if you think about the show tonally and the nature in which events are unfolding before us, so I don't think it is easy to compare it to even the previous six seasons. I honestly have hopes that season 9 will be more like season 6 and just go full out with it's witty comedic ridiculousness. The show is at it's best when it's like that.

LAURA MARKUS: Yes, I was very happy to have the show back to its roots in those seasons. Season 7 wasn’t my favourite, but I thought Season 6 had a lot of great ideas and outings.

LUCA PENNISI: I was thrilled. That’s the Archer I know and love, and they were going to do more of that? Hell yes, sign me up. Season 6 was a pretty great season, ISIS was still gone, so it was still a departure from the show of before, with the characters now working for the CIA, but that didn’t stop the show from achieving greatness with some of the best episode of the series run like the “bottle episode style” one that takes place entirely in an elevator. Season 7 wasn’t as good, trying again the season-long arc after “Vice” but falling a bit short in the comedic department. It felt forced at times and the overall plot wasn’t good enough to deserve that much effort. I also didn’t really love the whole P.I. feeling and the move to Los Angeles. They wanted to try something different, with the cliffhanger at the end and the whole puzzle-like plot with twists and turns, I just didn’t think they were as good with that as they were with the show simply telling crazy and unbelievable (literally) stories in a 20 minutes (40 tops) timespan.

Q: "Archer Dreamland" marked also a major departure in terms of locations and props design. Did you like the new aesthetics?

PRPLEIGHT: I thought they did a fantastic job. The Art Deco sets were beautifully done. They also nailed the costumes, cars, etc.

ABI BAKER: Yes. Yes yes yes. I can't describe how much I love everything about the setting of Dreamland. The cars, the costume design, the slight changes in language, the building design, even the lighting of the animation made it seem realistic and beautiful. Artistically it's probably one of my favourite seasons, though I do kind of miss the confusion over the time period in which Archer is set that we had in previous seasons.

LAURA MARKUS: YES! I absolutely adored the new art styles and animations. I think that was the strongest thing the season had to offer. The new theme song, in particular, was my favourite thing to watch in each episode. The use of colours, too, was so striking. They captured the feel quite well and they really improved in character models too

LUCA PENNISI: I did. I think the aesthetic aspect of it was the best thing about the season. The shorter run must have allowed them to spend more money on the production values because they were through the roof, and the show probably has never looked as good as it did this season. The level of detail was amazing and everything about it seemed perfect for the new setting.

Q: While Archer mostly remained the same, despite a different backstory, basically all of the other character went through some changes. Some (like Pam becoming a man for example) more drastic than others. Did you enjoy this new version of the characters or did you miss the old ones?

PRPLEIGHT: The freedom to play with the characters like this was hugely successful. It seemed like the writers were having a lot of fun. I think the only character that fell flat for me was Lana. She just didn’t feel like she was affecting the story the way the other characters did.

ABI BAKER: I'd like to point out that Pam didn't become a man, they were non-binary in this season which is different to becoming a man, but I felt some of the character changes worked and some didn't. I think that Poovey (Pam) felt like they had had a bit of a personality transplant at times, especially with them closing out the season crying. That just didn't fit what we've seen from them in past seasons. I wasn't overly keen on Lana being a singer, just because it felt like she was in the background way too much, though I suppose that has to do with Aisha being on three other shows as well. Ray, Cyril, Cheryl, and Krieger seemed mostly the same to me, but again, characters like Ray and Cheryl seemed to be in the background too much and that's one of my worries going forward.

LAURA MARKUS: Pam being gender neutral was a great move, I really enjoyed this aspect of her character. They were my favourite character to watch this season, and I think they’re the character they got the most right. Cyril, Cheryl, Mother, and Archer seemed to be utilized well as well. However, the most disappointing thing about this season was how they utterly wasted Lana and Ray, two of my most favourite characters. Lana barely did anything this season, and I know fans of the Lana/Archer pairing had to be upset with what this season gave them. When they finally gave Lana some characterization it seemed to be too little too late for me. And don’t get me started on Ray with his band and basically being background noise for the entire season. “Jane Doe” was my favourite episode of the season because they gave pretty well equal screen time to every character, especially Ray and his bandmates. Their backstory and Archer finally learning something in this regard was so refreshing to see. It’s a shame there was really no more of that for the rest of the time.

LUCA PENNISI: I was a huge fan of Pam back when they utilized her more sparingly, but since her role was increased so much I can’t say I’ve loved her, but in spite of that (or maybe because of that) I liked what they did with her character this season, just as I liked Mother (which really wasn’t that different) and Cheryl. I didn’t like Cyril, he has always been one of the best written character of the show but in this version he was too one dimensional. Ray and Lana weren’t given much to do, in the latter case until the last couple of episodes. Finally, I will admit that Krieger is probably my favorite character in the whole show, I always laugh my ass off at his bits and enjoy very much the little time they give him (and in his case is a good thing, it’s a character best utilized in little doses) but just like Cyril he was too one dimensional this season, which was probably the biggest letdown for me of the whole season, me being unable to enjoy his screentime.

Q: Season 8 was definitely a lot more plot-oriented than previous seasons. The show has been a "case of the week" type of show for the longest time, but this time there was just no space for that, the whole season was basically a 4-hours movie split into eight parts. It was also the shortest season to date. Did you like these choices?

PRPLEIGHT: It’s kind of odd for me to think of Dreamland as a plot-oriented season because the stated plot “Who killed Woodhouse?” was never really what the season was about. It’s what Archer said he was doing but, he never did one moment of investigation. He was immediately diverted by assignments from Mother. The season was mostly about these side quests and the solution was handed to him in a throw away line of dialog in the season finale.
I still think the decision to play with their format was a good one. Some of the story choices weren’t as successful for me, but there was a lot of fun to be had.

ABI BAKER: Honestly, yes and no. I think the season could have been written better and could have been a bit more fast paced, but that's just a personal preference. It might be that I'm so used to things happening in Archer at a seemingly breakneck speed compared to Dreamland which is why I didn't like it as much, but I think we could have had a better B plot and just had a little more substance. I don't think there was enough going on in the season that I really enjoyed.

LAURA MARKUS: I was totally fine with the serialized feel before I actually watched the season. I don’t think they made the right choices with the story beats. A lot of episodes had the Archer/Woodhouse mystery take a backseat in favour of the Mother/Cheryl/Trexler stuff, which was far less interesting to me. It seems as though it wasn’t as cohesive as they perhaps wanted it to be. It reminded me of the latest seasons of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Daredevil. I think a more synergistic feel would benefit the show moving forward, if they choose to do a more serialized approach again.

LUCA PENNISI: No. I really loathe the whole “it’s a X-hours movie” trend that has recently taken over in TV’s landscape. It’s damn hard to pull it off and when you don’t the show just becomes too slow, and of course that’s what happened with Archer. There wasn’t enough meat on the bones of the story for it to be stretched out as much as it did, and the episodes lacked identity. If you ask me what episode 2 was about I couldn’t tell you. I remember the overall plot of the season, but it’s almost impossible for me to pinpoint what happened in any given episode. That’s sad, the episodic style is one of the elements that make TV shows so great for me, the feeling that, if not for the plot, at least thematically, a story has a beginning and an ending within a single outing. It’s not how most of the streaming shows work, because binge-watching is now the biggest thing and that way of enjoying a show allows you this kind of stunt. But as I’ve said it’s a damn hard thing to pull off and I hoped that Archer wouldn’t fall for it. The shorter run was a good thing if it allowed them to spend more money and time on the artistic side of the show, but the writing clearly suffered from it.

Q: What are your thoughts on "Archer Dreamland" as a whole? Did you like the plot and how they solved the big mistery?

PRPLEIGHT: I thought the setup and much of the initial insanity was hysterical (Poovey ending up with a bunch of Chinese women dependent on her; Cheryl…just being there) but the during the final couple of episodes I felt like the writers were running out of gas and that gags tended to take over and go on too long. For example: I would have been happy if Cyborg Dude’s (apologies for not knowing character names) murderous rampage had been a little shorter. Additionally, I really wish Lana had more to do. Once she revealed herself as an agent she should have had something to do that drove the story toward its conclusion.

ABI BAKER: I really didn't like how the season just...ended. The reveal of who killed Woodhouse just seemed incredibly obvious and I wasn't satisfied at all with the answer. Again, pacing was a problem this season for me and I don't like that we didn't really get closure. Yes, Woodhouse's killer was found and he was laid to rest and Archer was able to say goodbye, but this season is essentially a coma dream, so what state is Archer actually in outside of Dreamland. We don't know and that bugged me a little bit. It just seemed to come to a bit of an abrupt end. I think a lot of the characters didn't have enough to do, which is a shame because Archer is always better when it's an ensemble show and we get to see the characters bouncing lines off each other. Great concept, but not so great execution.

LAURA MARKUS: The killer was a good choice and the ending scene with Archer at Woodhouse’s grave was masterfuly done. I already mentioned my favourite offering, that of “Jane Doe”, but other than that, I was pretty disappointed with the season. Maybe my expectations were a bit high when I heard of the time period, but I did expect more. They could’ve done a lot better work on characters and side plots, but the main plot for the most part was enjoyable.

LUCA PENNISI: For the first time ever with Archer I don’t think I could honestly say that I liked this season. As I’ve said in the previous answer there wasn’t enough story and that showed a lot when after the red hot start of the first couple of episodes they had to slow things down almost to a crawl in the second half of the season to be able to get to the point where they wanted to end thing. The big reveal felt way too predictable and the decision to completely ignore Archer’s coma situation from Season 7 left me speechless in the wrong kind of way. While I liked some of the stuff they did, in the end I think that the bad outweighed the good. And that’s a damn shame for a show that used to be this good.

Q: Where would you rank Season 8 when compared to the previous seasons of the show?


ABI BAKER: Good question. I think if we're looking at just the reboot seasons, I'd rank it 6 > 5 > 8 > 7. It's been a long time since I watched seasons 1-4 but I did really enjoy them.

LAURA MARKUS: I’ve only seen each episode of the show once, so this is going based off of a distant memory.
6 > 2 > 5 > 1 > 8 > 3 > 7 > 4

LUCA PENNISI: As I think it’s abundantly clear by now, it was my least favorite of the bunch. With Season 2 being my favorite of them all, Season 4 and 6 are just a little behind that, and then all the way down to Season 7, Vice and Dreamland at the bottom of my chart.

Q: We now have two more seasons (and a measly 16 episodes) left until the show wraps up for good. What are your hopes regarding Season 9 and Season 10?
[When we all answered this question, news hadn’t yet broke about “Archer Danger Island” and the setting of Season 9]

PRPLEIGHT: I just want more insanity. It just occurred to much fun would it be to watch Archer dealing with a rebellious teenaged daughter (i.e. the daughter he deserves) Watching him contend with the craziness he’s spent season dishing out to everyone around him.

ABI BAKER: I'm hoping the fact we have shorter seasons now, and that these seasons should be highly serialised again means that the writing will be fresh and the jokes will be really funny and land 9 times out of 10. I just need the show to be ridiculous and push the boat with the kind of comedic content they deliver. I want it to be so unbelievable that it's hilarious. Maybe we can get an Archer clone on the show or something and see everyone struggle dealing with two of them, including Archer himself. I think some sort of sci-fi satire might actually work for the show. Just anything that could connect to previous seasons but isn't something they've properly done before.

LAURA MARKUS: I hope they do revisit the serialized approach, but I hope this means that Archer will awake from his coma and they will go back to doing what they do best. Longer cases back at the Figgis Agency. We need the characters that we know and love getting the appropriate screen time that they all deserve. We need satisfying conclusions for them all. Most of all, I want Ray to end the show being happy. That’s pretty much my bottom line.

LUCA PENNISI: First of all they should resolve Season 7 cliffhanger, and then move on to new things. This was the dream season and I think that one of that is enough, I want to see again Archer and the rest of the team being incapable spies (or even something else for that matter) and just crazy and different things every week, while leading up to an even crazier finale where Archer will once again not learn his lesson.

That’s a wrap. Thanks again to Prpleight, Abi Baker and Laura Markus for their amazing insights, and thanks to whoever got to this point after reading all these great stuff about a little known comedy animation from FX’s little sibling channel that airs at 10 on weeknights. This was hysterical and I hope another chance of doing a roundtable comes up sooner or later.

Sound off in the comments with everything and anything you’d like to say about the show!


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