The following contains spoilers for Archer season 11 episode 4.
Archer season 11 has been a strong return to form and has, in many ways, reinvigorated the series. This new season largely revolves around the changes that have happened during Archer’s coma absence and whether he’s able to persevere through these transitions. Previous episodes have all examined how Archer’s return has effected those that are closest to him, but the season’s newest installment, “Robot Factory,” explores this from the perspective of Archer’s greatest rival, the robotic Barry.
“Robot Factory” might be the most satisfying episode of the season yet. It doesn’t just dig into Archer’s emotional evolution, but also threatens the world with a robot apocalypse and dozens of deadly threats that need to be extinguished. Yet somehow, maniacal metal menaces can still feel like business as usual for Archer. Casey Willis, Archer’s executive producer, continues to break down this season as he unpacks Cyril’s sugar backslide, what the future holds for Barry, and if Archer is still secretly in a coma (he’s not).
Archer Season 11 Episode 4 – “Robot Factory”
“Archer and the gang team up with Barry to stop an army of Barrys from turning the world into Barrys.”
Den of Geek: I’m honestly surprised that you guys have never really done an homage to Terminator before. Was this something you had been looking to do for a while, or a story that just kind of came together when breaking a new Barry narrative?
Casey Willis: We’ve touched on some Terminator aspects of Barry in the past. The “Edie’s Wedding” episode comes to mind. In this episode, we became enamored with the idea of the Barry factory and just kept having more and more fun with the idea. Barry being part of the team felt like a natural fit given what happened in season 7
Barry is definitely my favorite recurring character in the series and it was great to see the large role he had in Archer: 1999. Was it a priority to try to give some closure to that story this year?
Barry is a fantastic character and we are always happy when we can use him in a season. As with a lot of the characters this season, it was important for us to discover how Barry was affected by Archer’s coma and what had happened to him during the three years that passed. The last time we saw Barry in the real world was back in season 7, so we wanted to know what happened to him since then. Barry tells us that Archer helping him find his birth mother was a real turning point for him and the rest of the crew seems to really love him.
The whole candy bar gag with Cyril initially just feels like a fun joke, but it really culminates in the character backsliding and regressing in some major ways. Talk a little bit about that.
Cyril’s transformation throughout this season has been a fun thing to explore. Some of the changes, like his diet in this episode, have an easy visual component. It also harkens back to the “Blood Test” episode in Season 2 when we see Cyril eating candy in bed with Trinette. Later in the season we will explore even more changes with Cyril as he is one of the people most affected by Archer’s return.
During the whole valet subplot there’s still evidence that Pam understands Archer better than anyone else. Should we read this as more of the developing friendship between Archer and Pam this season?
Pam and Archer’s relationship has been something we’ve been exploring for the past few seasons. Seasons 8 and 9 really showed off their friendship and how they are kindred spirits. We also often refer to Pam as the best person on the show. She’s got a big heart and she wants to see all her friends be happy and healthy. We also think that besides Malory, she probably missed Archer the most over the past few years.
It’s a nice surprise to see Archer’s valet problem actually become a full plot in this episode. Was it always the plan from the start of the season for this to become a running storyline?
Yes, we had planned on the valet story being something that is sprinkled throughout the season. We are really excited for everyone to see the next episode as it deals a lot with the valet story. I don’t want to say much more as to not spoil anything, but there are some great surprises!
The final fight against the hordes of different Barrys is incredible and that giant mechanical spider Barry is a clear highlight. Were there any other absurd Barry designs that ultimately didn’t make the cut?
Oh yes! There were so many Barrys and we tried to sneak as many as we could into the episode. Shannon Manor and the Character Design team really went above and beyond. Some of the Barrys we specifically mentioned in the script (i.e. Chef Barry), but a lot of them were just the team having a lot of fun. We put a ton of the Barrys in, but I’m sure there are some on the cutting room floor.
Many of the Barrys became stationary because trying to draw animatable versions of all those Barrys would have been too difficult. However, even the animation team had some fun and managed to make Mime Barry pull himself along an invisible rope. It makes me laugh every time.
The ending of this episode and the bonding that Archer and Barry experience is really quite emotional. Was this always the ending that was in mind for this episode, or did you consider possibly making Barry evil or actually killing him off in the end for good?
CWe never entertained killing Barry off for good, he’s just too much fun to have around. We did want the emotional connection and we also wanted to hear H. Jon Benjamin sing in Spanish. So, it was a win-win.
There have already been several references through the season that this could all still be another one of Archer’s coma dreams. Are you hoping to have some audiences debate whether he’s still actually in a coma or not?
Our main goal with jokes like that are to explore Archer’s perspective on the events. So many of the situations the team gets into are unbelievable and are just as strange as Archer’s coma dreams. Plus, those coma dreams felt pretty real to him, so how can he ever be certain he’s not still dreaming? (He’s not.)
Reggie the lemur returns from a lengthy hiatus! The previous episode also returned to the glorious fake voicemail running joke and there have been more cutaway gags, too. Has there been a careful effort to try and revive some of the running jokes and elements from the earliest seasons to try and tie things closer to the spy seasons?
Like with a lot of ideas this season, our goal was to explore what the past few years have been like for the people in Archer’s life and how they deal with his return as well as how Archer deals with his reintroduction. Along the way we had many jokes and ideas that we were curious how they would evolve without Archer. Additionally, how do some jokes fair when Archer tries them again after three years, but the rest of the crew had already moved on.
Also, the Reggie idea was partially based on a childhood experience of a crab in an aquarium we had. One morning we noticed the crab was gone. We assumed a fish must have eaten it only to find it years later when we moved our TV (it was the 80’s and TV’s were giant and heavy). Behind the TV, the crab was perfectly preserved in the most menacing “claws out” pose you could imagine.
This Archer season 11 post-mortem will resume with the season’s eighth episode, its finale
Archer season 11 airs Wednesdays at 10pm (ET) on FXX.