Written by Josh Brewer, May 31, 2017, at 10:30 p.m. Tweet to: @theJWBrewer
Warning: This contains spoilers for season 7 of Archer!
With Archer relocating to FXX for its last three seasons, you did have to wonder if there would be changes to the long running comedy series. With series creator Adam Reed never shying away from reinventing the series, I imagined that Archer would be in good hands. And I was right.
Archer always finds a way to keep itself fresh, mostly at the behest of Reed and his team of excellent voice actors. Over the past several seasons, Archer has abandoned its monster-of-the-week style format, focusing instead on a more narrative driven plot. While Seasons 1 and 2 never featured more than two back-to-back, arc based episodes, Seasons 3 and 4 have their fair share of two- and three- parters, while Archer: Vice has two separate mulit-episode runs. None of that compares to Archer: Dreamland, an eight episode romp through Archer’s subconscious. And boy what a ride it is.
The end of Season 7 – hell, the beginning too – left us with Archer fading out into a starlet’s pool.
As Mallory and Lana wait by his bedside, the comatose Archer imagines himself as a private detective circa 1945. With his trusty partner murdered – a nod to George Coe who passed in 2015 – Archer sets off to find the killer. The gang’s all here, with Cyril and Pam as a pair of crooked cops, Mallory as a mob boss with Lana and Ray holding positions in her band, and Krieger as Mallory’s bartender who happens to be an escaped Nazi scientist. Heck, they even get to toss a few returning characters into the mix, with Archer’s nemesis Barry Dylan becoming a main cast member and the returns of Cecil Tunt, Len Trexler, and Trinette. The cast has always been one of Archer’s selling points and Dreamland shows why. The cast rocks.
If Archer: Dreamland is similar to anything, it’s Archer: Vice, the season five story line that found the team becoming both drug kingpins and arms dealers. And while I found Vice an alright continuation of the Archer cannon, Dreamland stands a good head above it. Here, the recasting of the Archer team seems as flawless- my favorite has to be the interpretation of Pam as a crooked detective with a heart of gold, no discernible gender, and a crew of women rescued from slavery living in the kitchen – and the only drawbacks come from the fact that we can’t get more time with each of these people.
There’s plenty that Dreamland gets right,
Though the tonal shift might take a bit to get used to for long time viewers. I’m not saying that I didn’t dig it – I did – but Dreamland takes a more serious tone than its predecessors, crafting a Noir infused mystery / kidnapping yarn that, for the most part, doesn’t disappoint. If it means anything, there are fewer laughs. Not to say Archer: Dreamland ain’t funny – a few gags rock and the Archer style throwbacks that define the series still thrive – but it doesn’t mind holding off on a joke or two to keep the story going.
And few TV series go for the throat when it comes to mayhem and dead bodies – not for a lack of trying Santa Clarita Diet – the way that Archer does. Sure, Dreamland takes it to the next level in terms of violence and mayhem, but it’s at its best when the team is together, riffing on whatever level of crazy the day has brought them.
The few things that don’t work seem minor in comparison. A few of the mainstays don’t show up nearly as often. Ray falls victim to this most, though Lana seems a touch underutilized as well. That allows for more time with Archer and whoever gets to put up with him at the time. I think my biggest complaint falls to the run time. Consisting of eight episodes, Archer: Dreamland could have easily supported another pair of episodes, with the finale seeming especially rushed. And while I’m all about the narrative, the finale doesn’t quite live up to the rest of the season.
That aside, Archer: Dreamland does what Archer does best: provide an amusingly creative way to reinvent the show all while giving Archer and Co. the freedom to be themselves. In that, Dreamland is a massive success.