Review: Sterling Archer is the asshole fratboy of my dreams

So a lot of years ago, a then-boyfriend said to me “… okay you do that, I’m going to watch Archer.” I had no idea what he meant but as I found out on my return home, Archer is a TV show with a deep-voiced, slick-haired spy who makes insane wisecracks at the expense of everybody. We watched a couple of episodes together and I got a good giggle or two, but it didn’t stick with me as something I needed to devour. So I promptly forgot about Mr Sterling Mallory Archer when then-boyfriend became ex-boyfriend, and it was a couple of years before I even heard the word Archer again.

Last year, a friend I’ve known for 20 years and I started a new phase of friendship, whereby we have now become an old married couple (no sex, we only see each other when we can stand it, and most of the words we speak to each other are love-laced vitriol). Said friend is fucking obsessed with Archer. I think he thinks he’s as good with women as Archer is, but really, it’s just that they share the same immature and offensive sense of humour.

Regularly, Husbriend and I will bounce all of our weird and awful thoughts about the opposite sex off each other, and more recently, when I need advice, he will spout something Archer-esque. This comes from a binge-watching session he had a few months ago, that I was live-text witness to. Having only seen a handful of episodes from the first season, he made me join him to watch the rest of those episodes, and made me promise to watch the following seasons the minutes I got home. I didn’t do that. So I got to the end of 2014 still only having seen the first season, and still not certain I was committed to the next four.

As something of a NY Resolution (*vomit*) I decided that this year I wanted to spend more time reading books I already own, watching movies and shows I already have stored in my house, and in general, being better at enjoying what I’ve got. Part of the deal is to systematically view everything that is on my small hard drive, so I can delete shit off it to make way for other things from the big hard drive. There’s a lot to go through. Obviously, alphabetically speaking, Archer was high on the priority list.

To give you an idea on what I think of this show: I have watched two and a half seasons in a fortnight. Currently, mid-season four. Need to find and devour season five before six kicks off this month. There’s still time, right? THERE’S STILL TIME!

Faux-panic aside, this show is actually really great. Horribly offensive almost every second, I find myself laughing at some jokes out of sheer indignation, but a lot of other jokes out of a sick part of my brain that totally loves assholes (phrasing, boom!) – should I say, men who are assholes. Mostly though, Archer is the animated version of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, but with spies and boobs. Which is basically the best thing I’ve ever heard in my life tbh.

I enjoy the fact that Sterling is an asshole whose favourite phrase is “read a book!”, and that Lana is badass as fuck but totally in love with her cheating ex-boyfriend. I love that Pam is kind of foul and Carol/Cheryl is batshit crazy, and that Ray and Cyril and Krieger are basically useless. I like what Archer does for gender roles, and for pointing out things that are wrong with society – albeit sometimes in the form of serious character flaws. It’s satire at its… well not best, but pretty fucking good-est at least.

What bothers me about the series is that – especially during a marathon – some of the running jokes become tired. I can’t tell you how bored I am with the “Lana. Lana? LANA. LAANAAAAAAAAAAAA!” bit. I think it was way overused in season two, and now it’s not nearly as funny as it would be if spaced out. I’ve also found it disappointing to start two consecutive seasons with an “Archer’s missing!” premise. Especially for the fourth season (although the crossover was sheer PERFECTION) when there was nothing in the finale to suggest it? Perhaps that’s me missing/ignoring some sort of joke, but I honestly went back to the finale of season three because I thought I missed something that explained the season 4 opener.

What’s great about Archer is that each episode is contained, so you could bounce back and forth between different seasons, and while some backstory is pretty key, in general terms, you could watch whatever you wanted whenever and not really be out of the loop. This isn’t LOST, you can miss four minutes and still know what’s happening. There are also helpful flashbacks, but nothing that treats the viewer like an idiot, and no ridiculous intros recapping previous episodes.

UPDATE: I have now caught up with every single episode, and I have to say, I’m not certain how I feel. I still love Archer for what it is – a crass and offensive offering that makes me cry with laughter – but my vague moral compass (Ms Lana Kane) did something in Vice that really rocked my world, in the uncool way. While every character in this show has approximately 4742687243 fatal flaws, I could generally rely on Lana quite a bit for some sort of grounding in reality. She kicked ass, she was emotionally relatable, and sometimes she even shared my views on an important issue. Lana was the anchor that held Archer to the earth for me.

And then she did the thing. She did the totally insane, immoral and illegal thing without talking to anybody except Mallory about it. And that is just fuuuuucked up yo. And you know, somewhere in my heart, I knew that it was going to be to do with Archer. It was always going to happen.

But why in the world go about it that way? I thought there’d be some sort of drunken flashback revelation. But not this. Not my Lana doing something THAT batshit. Ugh.

I’m really interested to see what season 6 gives us, because I’m keeping up, but it just seems like the new character was an entirely pointless exercise at this point? I’m sure something important will occur, but if I’ve come to expect anything from this show, it’s not to have any expectations at all. So we’ll see I guess what happens now, and how it can build. Because I think Archer‘s starting to plateau a little. We aren’t even seeing missions anymore – the last two episodes have taken place all in the building or in Archer’s apartment, and I’m really nervous that this show has taken a nosedive.
Also if Barry doesn’t fucking die this season, I will cut a bitch.

Anyway, I guess I still love this show because it knows exactly what it is. Crude, sexist, offensive and genuinely fucked up. But there’s something interesting about watching this bunch of horrible, horrible people spend their lives together. Archer is also insanely funny in spite of all the shit I have raged about. And despite his exhausting and frustrating man-boy attitude and playboy lifestyle, there is something about Sterling Mallory Archer that makes me weak at the knees. And believe me, even I hate that I love him.

God damn those suits and that confidence. 8.5 Black Mexicans for seasons 1-5. Still hedging my bets on 6.


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