Archer: Heart of Archness

Archer’s back! It’s one of the best comedies on air at the moment and something that everyone should be watching. I’m still amazed that Channel 5’s offshoot 5* picked up this American FX animated series, but actually 5* does have quite a lot of American hit shows hidden away in their schedules. The third season just finished in the US but we can see it now in the UK on Wednesday nights.

So the 3rd series started with a three-parter, ‘Heart of Archness’, also known as the pirate mini-season that was shown in September in the America, and now the rest of the season is continuing (this week was the Burt Reynolds episode – literally).

Archer follows the exploits of a group of international spies who work at ISIS. Their head is the alcoholic man-eater Malory Archer (played by Jessica Walter,  aka Lucille Bluth from Arrested Development) and the titular figure is her son – Sterling Archer (played by H. Jon Benjamin). Not the brightest tool in the box, also a bit of an alcoholic and womaniser, and yet somehow an incredibly successful spy who doesn’t know who his father is.

Other characters include Lana Kane (Aisha Tyler), a black, sassy, competent spy who once had a relationship with Archer. Ray Gillette, an effeminate gay spy from the South. Pam, a nymphomaniac, who can handle her drink and who works in HR. Cheryl (Judy Greer), an incredibly stupid young woman who is Malory’s secretary. Cyril works in accounts. There’s Archer’s English butler Woodhouse. And there’s the clever scientist Krieger who has a virtual reality Japanese anime girlfriend he created.

The second season ended with Archer’s Russian fiancee, Katya, being killed by the bionic Barry and so this three-parter starts with Archer missing. Malory employs former lover and ISIS employee Rip Riley to find him (on an island in the South Pacific) and bring him back. Archer doesn’t want to go back to ISIS and after their plane runs out of fuel because they left it on autopilot too long [“Is this a ruse?”], they crashland into the sea and are captured by pirates, after Archer had achieved his personal best of number of sharks shot in the head (one). [“I didn’t know that pirates were still a real thing!” “Not one of these guys has a beard!” “Plank!”]

After Archer pretends that Rip Riley is his butler called ‘Jerkins’, and yells the Go word ‘Dickhead’, he manages to kill the captain pirate (Jet Li) using the services of his incredible watch. Sure he gets some mild tinnitus, but he’s used to it. And once the other pirates surrender to him and he sees the women on the pirate island it’s clear where Archer’s journey lies. “Of course I’m not going to be a pirate. I’m going to be a Pirate King!”

As Archer settles in as Pirate King with the help of anthropology doctoral candidate pirate-slave Noah (David Cross aka Tobias Funke from Arrested Development), Lana and Ray have been sent by Malory to rescue him. And although Archer sets up a lacrosse league, the pirates are discontented. They also don’t understand Archer’s idioms (they’re colloquial metaphors don’t you know) when he makes Noah translate him (“Lend me your ears” particularly confused them apparently). The potential mutiny upgrades to incipient mutiny and then mutiny in progress. And although Archer uses a fishing net like a lacrosse stick to catch and throw back grenades, Archer, Rip and Noah are eventually forced down into the prison dungeon.

The pirates also capture Ray and Lana who are brought to their prison. Due to an earlier accident caused by Lana, Ray has one eye bandaged up and Archer asks if he came in disguise as a pirate. [“Relax, Nick Furious.”] And while Archer works out how to plan an escape, Cyril and Pam are getting drunk, having sex and embezzling ISIS money. Meanwhile Cheryl has to sleep at her desk over night in case anyone rings and when Malory berates her for wearing man’s pyjamas – “Where’s your pride?” – her answer “In my work?” amuses everyone. [“Duh!”]

The good thing about Archer is that though it has lots of running jokes [figuratively, not literally] and continuing storylines, I think it’s quite easy to watch out of order (although I haven’t tried). Archer may seem thick sometimes but he does know that Karl Landsteiner is the discoverer of blood groups (sidenote: how is it that Americans always seem to know their blood groups? Is it something they just know from their birth from their parents and always retain that knowledge?). Of course they escape the pirate island at the end and Archer does generally achieve his missions even if there are lots of explosions and mishaps along the way. It has visual and aural punchline after another and constantly makes me laugh. [“They’re not ghosts, they’re just white.” “Racist.”] I forget that it’s an animated series when I watch it, as I have a general aversion to animated comedies, and it’s my favourite comedy show on at the moment.

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