Netflixing: Archer

Dec 22, 2016 | Netflixing, TV, Writing

This post was originally published at my account on


He’s the coolest, sexiest secret agent since…well, any of the others, really.

This is Archer.

Archer is an animated sitcom revolving around the life and adventures of the eponymous hero and international man of mystery, Sterling Archer.

An obvious send-up to James Bond (but with the exception that he is American, not British) Archer is much like any other Bond ripoff: chasing women, drinking himself silly, and extraordinarily dangerous to everyone around him. Except that, unlike Bond, the writers fully explain his contempt for women and devil-may-care attitude by adding one simple element to his backstory.

Namely, the fact that he works for his mother.

Malory Archer is anything but motherly. As head of the International Secret Intelligence Service (which spells “ISIS”, in an unfortunate reminder that this show premiered before the current troubles in the Middle East) she bosses all the other characters around. And as long as he has been alive, Malory has psychologically tormented her son, grinding his self-esteem down to keep him from ever loving anyone else.

She’s like Judge Frollo, except not nearly as nice.

But as harrowing as their relationship is, it’s all played up for laughs, speaking of which…

The Comedy

There isn’t much story to speak of in this show.

Oh, it has plots. Lots of them. Most of them last for one or two episodes. Some of them get revisited after a long break. And the show starts dabbling in season-long arcs beginning with season 5.

Furthermore, the show doesn’t skimp on continuity. If a life-changing event happens in episode 18, the consequences of that event continue from episode 19 and onward, and the characters frequently reminisce about previous outings which, if you have a good memory, you will recall.

But the plot isn’t why people watch Archer. People watch Archer for the humor.

And it is spot on.

This show throws zingers left and right. It parodies spy movies, sure, but mostly its humor is in the same vein as The Office, in that it shows a bunch of dysfunctional adults trying to work together, except that, in this case, “work” involves killing people.

The key to the humor is the eclectic cast, who are all terrible people.

Which is not to say that any of them are unlikable. Archer strikes the perfect balance with all its players, because each of them is played off the other. Every character shares some of the blame for the company’s misfortunes, and each one is both a victim and a perpetrator, depending on the situation.

Cheryl hurts Lana but is hurt by Malory.

Krieger hurts Ray and Malory but is hurt by Archer.

Lana and Cyril hurt each other.

Pam hurts everyone, including herself.

And all these interactions, which give all the characters their own triumphs and losses, honestly hones the show into a flavor that is both complex and brilliant.

But It’s Not for Children

The humor can be extremely raunchy, especially in the first season, though it never quite abandons risque laughs, even as the seasons come and go.

Needless to say, but this show is not for children. I wouldn’t even recommend it to the more enlightened teenagers. This is strictly an adult affair. Because it airs on traditional cable TV, there are certain things Archer cannot get away with, but it does get away with everything else.

The Animation

A special mention needs to be made for Archer‘s animation style. It may well be the secret to the show’s success, as it allows for highly detailed renderings of characters, props and backgrounds without breaking the bank.

At first glance, it appears that the entire thing is done with flat, Flash-style animation. But upon closer inspection it is easy to see that the models are actually rendered in 3D, then flattened after the fact to give a 2D look. The effect is quite pleasing, if a little stiff and mechanical, though that improves as the series progresses, and is hardly noticeable while you’re laughing yourself to suffocation.

Special Mentions

I can’t list all the characters, and explain everything I love about them, without making this review 10 miles long. Instead, I will give you a small taste of my favorites.


The product of a childhood on a dairy farm, Pam is unafraid of anything. And unashamed of anything too. Which is good for her, since she is the most irreverent part of the cast.

Her favorite pastimes include hurting people, blabbing classified information to anyone who will listen, and making already-awkward situations super weird.


Archer’s unpaid manservant. He meekly endures whatever agonizing punishment Archer chooses to inflict upon him, for the most spurious of reasons.

A heroin addict, he probably should have died hundreds of times over. The only pleasure he gets comes from occasionally knocking his master unconscious with a fire hydrant, then spending an evening to feed his addiction.


The agency’s resident mad scientist—the kind that makes illegal gun mods while coked up and drunk.

Whenever he’s not busy irradiating pigs or holding a wedding for lab mice, he’s fighting it out with his holographic “wife”: an anime girl who perpetually wears a wedding dress and speaks in broken Engrish.

My Judgment

Archer is a hoot. If your funny bone has even the smallest bit of naughtiness in it, you will love the show. The humor is fast and furious, the stories, while secondary, are interesting enough to hold your interest, and the character balance is simply flawless.

The series calls the FX channel its home, but the first six seasons can be found on Netflix. The seventh season will probably make the transfer soon enough. And the creator says he plans to quit after the 10th season, so it looks like there will be plenty more to come.

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