This season of Archer has been a pleasant surprise, after three years of coma / fantasy seasons showrunner Adam Reed left the series (bar writing one episode this year) and few were that optimistic that the show would be that good without him at the helm. Sure, it’s not the show at its very, very best but the hit rate has so far been impressive, with only the second episode really disappointing.
That’s largely because it has stayed away from the tired old routine of the gang going on a mission and arguing with each other, there’s still been an element of that, which is why the second episode was such a disappointment, but most of the time they’ve shaken things up a fair bit, especially when it comes to Archer struggling to return to his physical peak after being in a coma for so long. But they’ve also had him interact with other characters rather than the usual gang, with his growing friendship with the new, non-evil Barry last week being a great example of how fun the show can be when it moves away from Archer only arguing with the regular bunch.
Of course Archer’s still going to make the odd bitchy comment, but seeing the character genuinely happy is something the series hasn’t done much of, and which is why this fifth episode was so refreshing as he meets Aleister (Simon Pegg, almost unrecognisable, and superb), the new valet that Mallory and co found for him last week, and a bromance ensues. Initially sceptical of him and certain he can’t replace his beloved former valet Woodhouse (with the show’s love and respect to that character being another endearing factor as to why I’m enjoying this season so much), soon Aleister proves himself to Archer and the duo’s chemistry was undeniable, and led to a lot of cute lines and visual gags. Alas with a guest star like Pegg the character was never going to be a full time addition, but the twist as to why he was there and how that played out was a fun one, and it allowed the show to explore the dynamic between Archer and Cyril in an involving manner too.
Also a boon was the return of Ray (voiced by Adam Reed), who it initially looked like the show might be killing off as he was on a mission on his own and in desperate trouble, with no one bothered about rescuing him. But after Lana offered to help she and Krieger headed off to save him, along with a stowawayed Pam and Cheryl, and it gave the show a chance to explore the state of Lana’s marriage, and have Cheryl being all kinds of weird again, and that’s something I never tire of in the slightest.
When a show’s been going on for this long I tend to find myself ending a review with a caveat, something along the lines of “Well it was great this week but I still don’t trust it, so it might be poor next time around” but right now I’m cautiously optimistic that it won’t be, that Reed leaving the series has actually been a good thing as it has found a second wind, and if the show can continue being fresh and original like it mostly has then this season could well be one of the best of its entire run.