After six seasons of intrigue, espionage and a brief stint drug dealing, the Archer crew returns to cause just as much mayhem ever. The seventh season sees the team returned to their old ways under the new guise of The Figgis Agency, following the dissolution of all previous business attempts. Now full time – but unqualified – private dicks, begrudgingly working underneath Cyril, they embark upon a season-long mystery that takes them into the circles of movie stars and the clutches of murderous clowns.
The first episode begins with Sterling Archer himself floating face down in a mansion pool, watched over by two gormless cops who are more preoccupied with their imaginary gay porn names than in solving the murder. It throws back to six months earlier and uses all ten episodes to return to the soiled pool.
The season, looking back, raises more questions than it answers. But it is one hell of a ride.
Throwing the whole team into each new mission, it makes the most of every character and their relationships with those around them in a way that is both hilarious and clever.
Tension gathers in the first half of the season and the show really comes into its own in the last three or four episodes. As everything knits together, it feels like even the comic timing and overall quality improves, building up to a killer cliffhanger that will fester in the imagination until the next season – which producers insist will happen – comes along to assuage the sense of mystery.
Until then, we can pass the time ruminating on the best bits of the most recent season.
1. What Malory did to the Prime Minister of Italy.
Frustrated at being subordinates in the Figgis Agency and having to clock 2,000 hours of detective work before they can rebrand, the show opens on the team squabbling. Less than five minutes into the new season, Archer reminds everyone – in graphic detail – of what Malory did to the Prime Minister of Italy. So early on, it promises the new season is as committed to the dark, gruesome humour that has become a staple of the show.
And you have to hand it to them for their creativity in disposing of a corpse. They have certainly done a better job with the Prime Minister of Italy than Archer and Cyril did with that hooker way back in the first season.
2. Inexplicably naked Krieger.
Doctor Algernop Krieger has been perhaps one of the most elusive mysteries in the show from day one. This has not changed in season seven and he is causing confusion from the first moment he graces the screen, showing up wearing nothing but an apron. This is not an isolated incidient.
Having always been an enigma of a Hitler clone, what we learn about Krieger throughout the new series only makes him more puzzling. His nudity aside, we are treated to a glimpse into his old lady fetish, the kind of clothes he considers likely to attract women and the true extent of his ambition to play God.
3. Falls, explosions, cyborgs and beanbags.
This may seem like more than one thing, but ultimately what makes all of these things so compelling is the way they show how far the animation has come. It has steadily improved over the seasons as the show’s budget has swelled. This becomes truly apparent when you see Archer tumble, repeatedly, down cliffsides, beanbags knock jaws and testicles out of place and cyborgs malfunction on such explosive levels that they can only be stopped with a gunshot to the eye, much to Krieger’s distress.
Whatever function they serve in the story, these brief sequences dotted throughout the season are a joy to behold.
4. Archer gets dunked.
For all his incredible spy work, Starling Archer is an undeniable douchebag. He’s not the kind of guy you’d actually want to be friends with. Maybe he made one too many misogynistic comments for your tastes or maybe it’s starting to grate how much he neglects his baby, but we’ve all at one point or other taken a little pleasure in his failure.
In Episode 3, Deadly Prep, we meet two of Archer’s high school bullies are treated to a flashback of him receiving the mother of all swirlies. Knowing that he makes it out alive enough to survive until adulthood, this gives us all the chance to indulge that side that wants to see him get his comeuppance.
5. Getting into everyone’s heads.
From Archer’s bullies and Krieger’s fetishes to Cyril’s Silence of the Lambs murder fantasy, this season gets deep into the heads of the all main characters, revealing more than we ever needed to know about them. It even devotes a whole episode – Episode 4, Motherless Child – to lending a sympathetic side to Barry.
This glimpse into Barry’s humanity is beautifully ironic, allowing us to see a scared little orphan boy who only wants to meet his mother, cowering inside the robot mummy titanium cyborg that Barry is today.
6. Cheryl’s wilful ignorance.
Temperamental, mercurial, as determined sometimes as she is apathetic others, Cheryl’s capability for destruction reaches an all new depth in this season. Sucking up glue, giving purposely misleading information to her colleagues and favouring wearing out sprockets on spinny chairs to doing her job, it feels as if Cheryl should seem beyond the point of ridiculousness now. But she’s not.
Maybe we know her so well that she can’t shock us any more. But she does. Whatever she’s doing, it’s insane and it’s working.
7. Archer vs. Lana vs. Pam, dressed as clowns.
We’ve all thought about it before – who would win if The Figgis Agency were pitted against each other in a fight to the death? Some would get picked off fairly quickly. Well, Cyril. Others would last longer, with each character’s specific skill set leaving a winner likely down to pure chance.
In Episode 6, Bel Panto: Part II, the team are in the middle of a hostage situation ruled by a team of gun toting clowns. Separately, Archer, Lana and Pam disarm and take the place of three. None of them aware of the others’ actions, they end up tussling in a mansion gymnasium, in one of the most violent and terrifying fight scenes in the show’s history.
8. Whatever the hell Krieger is up to.
Seeing more of Krieger does not mean understanding more of Krieger. The man – if, indeed, he can be called a man – has been an increasingly important part of show since the early seasons when he began life as a handful of throwaway jokes.
His personal projects become a bigger part of the show in this season and are even instrumental in the climax. Happily getting on with his own business, the way his story and his secrets unfold becoming a gripping subplot that we never see enough of to ever have a proper grasp on.
9. The diversity of insults.
Some feel like the kind of things any of us could hurl at a friend with equally dark and insulting taste. Others, with a sense of self-awareness, are shrugged off by their very speakers as a dud, but it will do. There are handful that are pure, unblemished gold.
One of the most memorable is a cruel but wonderful speech from Malory to Cyril as early as Episode 2, The Handoff:
“Cyril, you have been given the opportunity of a lifetime. A new job, a new city where no one knows you, which means you can reinvent yourself. You can be anyone you want. So why would you keep being you?”
10. Seeing what Malory is capable of.
In amongst sexting tyrants and drinking her weight in champage daily, it’s easy to forget that Malory Archer is a force to be reckoned with. Her tongue, certainly, is as sharp as ever, with cutting insults dropping from it like Wodehouse dropped heroin, before he disappeared. But you can lose sight of the factt that she was once a formidable secret agent herself, that she gave birth in a war zone, that she is not a frail old lady who needs taking care of and likely never will be.
This season, she is not in charge and she finds every other way she can to assert her dominance. She is manipulative and she is resilient and she stabs Krieger with a stiletto because Malory Archer doesn’t take crap from anyone, even if they were potentially created from the cells of the 20th century’s most horrific genocidal dictator.