This Archer Season 10 review contains no spoilers
“Because welcome to the freak show…”
There are very few television shows that see as crazy of a transformation as Archer has over its past few seasons. It’s hard to believe that at one point in time Archer was actually a show about spies, yet it’s slowly morphed into stories about hard-boiled detectives, drug runners, or now, the crew of a space shuttle. The series has sprawled far beyond its original premise and its characters have even turned into various species at this point.
However, none of that matters. This is a show about a narcissistic asshole named Sterling Archer and how he manages to consistently throw his friends into danger, but then save their asses. As long as the show can still deliver in that regard and have fun while it’s doing it, then it deserves to live on and Archer Season 10 (titled: Archer: 1999) definitely has the most fun that the series has had in some time.
Back in the finale of Archer: Danger Island, the series teased this new narrative pivot, but now the show is officially…in…space! And even though we’re still technically in coma land, the show reveals that it’s June 28th, 1999 in this universe (for what it’s worth, there’s nothing important that happened on this date in history). Archer and the rest of the crew of the M/V Seamus salvage ship wake up prematurely from their cryo-sleep as they face an unwelcome surprise that continues to spiral out of control.
Speaking of surprises, there’s plenty that’s radically new in Archer: 1999, like how Malory is now a ball of energy, Krieger is an android, and Pam is a freaking rock monster now. These transformations are a lot of fun, but there are also some dynamics, like those between Archer, Lana, and Cyril, that are beginning to feel stale.
It arguably would have been a lot more interesting if Lana was the rock monster instead of Pam, to at least add some kind of wrinkle to her character. There are some returning familiar faces and some great old foes that get worked back into the fray, albeit in new contexts. However, there are a slew of new ridiculous characters that fit in well with this cast, such as Bort the Garj (Sam Richardson), a duplicitous, yet adorable, alien, or the horrifying Funbeak, a killer robot bird. He’s one of many outlandish enemies that Archer and the crew of the M/V Seamus are up against.
Taking the series to outer space can be a tough playground to jump into, especially when other animated comedies like Rick and Morty, Futurama, or even Final Space have a very strong grip on the territory. When Archer decided to turn itself into a film noir or a ‘50s adventure serial, they were one of a kind in those departments. Space and science fiction is a particularly bloated genre at the moment, so you better have something original to say in that department. Archer: 1999 slightly struggles in that respect, but they still try to get as much as possible out of this new reboot and they get creative with the genre.
When it comes to this space setting, the areas that this season decides to explore include aliens, bounty hunters, space cannibals, and parasites. Most importantly, Archer: 1999 finds ways to twist these ideas that are entrenched in the genre and subvert them in order to put a sardonic Archer spin on them all. This season simultaneously puts a lot of loving thought into the science of space and finds clever ways to incorporate beloved sci-fi film parodies (there’s a lot ofAlien and Star Trek going on), but then it also totally treats its premise like a joke and will simply insert the word “space” in front of regular words (like “space phrasing”) to reflect their new surroundings.
Ten seasons in, the show feels fairly fearless in many regards and that there isn’t much trepidation over the territory of where their jokes will go. For instance, there are several moments this season where Pam breaks the fourth wall and feels like she’s apart of some space three-camera sitcom. It’s one of the more bizarre gags that the show has done, but it’s one that works and speaks to this newfound freeness. There’s also some particularly disturbing business that Krieger gets himself caught up in. Between rampant space murder and absurd, enormous Lovecraftian aliens, there’s a healthy dose of horror present in this sci-fi makeover.
The animation in the series continues to be one of its biggest selling points. Each new season continues to up its game in this regard and Archer: 1999 is no exception. In fact, this season really gets to push the limits of the show’s aesthetic as the cosmic recesses of space and chaotic interstellar dog fights go down and it all looks truly stunning. This season also hops across a number of planets, each with their own ecosystems and species, and the series jumps at the opportunity to really give these new worlds vibrant life. The show’s impressive look is such a satisfying counterpart to the hilarious scripts and loving performances. The newest synth-heavy rendition of the show’s theme song also kicks serious ass.
Archer: 1999 is an exciting addition to the series and it seems like it has more energy to it than Archer: Danger Island. That being said, it also feels like it might be time to put this show and these characters into cryo-sleep for good. The series can maybe handle one more wild genre reboot, but that’s probably about it.
There have been rumors and speculation that Archer’s tenth season would be its last, but there’s nothing in the first half of Archer: 1999 that gives off that impression or that it has plans to return to the prime timeline (Archer’s dead! Get over it!). Even when the series gets the luxury of an entirely freshpremise and universe to play with, it still falls into old patterns and repetition sets in. Archer: 1999 is a lot of fun, but it should head into the final frontier soon before there’s nothing new left to explore.
Now go and enjoy a Moscow Moose.
This review is based on the first four episodes of Archer: 1999’s nine-episode tenth season.
Daniel Kurland is a published writer, comedian, and critic whose work can be read on Den of Geek, Vulture, Bloody Disgusting, and ScreenRant. Daniel knows that the owls are not what they seem, that Psycho II is better than the original, and he’s always game to discuss Space Dandy. His perma-neurotic thought process can be followed at @DanielKurlansky.