Frank Anderson is the head movie writer at The Renaissance Fan.
Archer is a unique show in that its world can be exploded every couple of years without having to change what the show is fundamentally about. Archer stays fresh while retaining the relationships and chemistry of its characters. Now in its seventh season, Archer could easily coast on the loyalty of its fans and the strength of its assembled voice talent, but creator Adam Reed and his staff insist upon creating new conditions for the team formerly known as Isis, creating an intoxicating combination of familiar and fresh.
Archer’s seventh season finds the old crew once again exiled from the world of international espionage, having botched their Fantastic Voyage operation of last season’s finale spectacularly. As with season five, aka Archer Vice, Mallory Archer and her subordinates have been forced to find other, less glamorous, far more unseemly work. They are now the private detectives of The Figgis Agency. The company name excites. The gang have picked up stakes and moved to California, a state in which only Cyril qualifies for a PI license, meaning Sterling, Lana, Ray, Pam, Cheryl, Mallory, and Krieger are now his employees, a circumstance ripe for disaster, as demonstrated by his tenure as President of San Marcos, Cyril does not wield power well.
The nature of private detective work, or at least the nature of TV private detective work, is a natural fit for Archer and his cohorts. The show maintains its penchant and potential for comedic action set pieces while tapping into a vast new supply of pop culture references from which to draw, the framing device for the season is a reference to Sunset Boulevard and the twist at the end of “The Figgis Agency” is drawn from Chinatown. We can be sure there are myriad references to classic noir and 80’s private eye shows yet to come.
The most major change over the course of Archer’s run has been the (welcome) softening of Archer as a character. Where in the show’s first seasons, Archer was definitively a prick, redeemed in part due to his bravery and the incredible likability of H. Jon Benjamin’s voice. Now he is, yes, still mostly a prick but with a newfound sweetness born of fatherhood and his recent dedication to monogamy. During the premier’s daring break-in, Archer gives Lana a loving kiss before she makes her escape with Ray, and even finds it in himself to admit that Ray’s cybernetic legs are pretty handy. And let’s not forget Archer’s confession last season that he and Pam are “best friends”. This is a warmer, kinder Archer, and the show is the better for it.
As with all the best season premiers “The Figgis Agency” is full of promise. Expectations are heighted from the opening scene, with our man bloodied, floating face down in a movie star’s swimming pool, Sunset Boulevard-style, with detectives voiced by J.K. Simmons and Keegan-Michael Key looking on in disinterest. Guest talent has always been one of Archer’s strength’s. Featuring Simmons and Key’s wry team of detectives, coupled with Patton Oswalt’s brief (with surely more to come) work as attorney Alan Shapiro, almost seems like showing off. While Sterling Archer may struggle to make his way in the world of private investigation, Archer, just one episode into it, is going gangbusters. Archer P.I. has arrived!
Archer – “The Figgis Agency” – Season 7, Episode 1. FX
Format: Half-hour comedy
Creator: Adam Reed
Starring: H. Jon Benjamin, Judy Greer, Jessica Walters, Amber Nash, Lucky Yates, Aisha Tyler, Chris Parnell