This Archer review contains spoilers
Archer Season 8 Episode 8
Archer: Dreamland’s finale, “Auflösung” isn’t the funniest episode of Archer this season. It is, however, the coolest.
We’ve talked a lot about the animation improvements throughout this season of Archer and it’s been more than warranted. Just look at that syreengrab up there. It’s beautiful. The details on Archer’s face are consistent with the show’s style yet somehow he looks more human and straight-up deranged than ever before. Look at the depth of color behind him. It’s just remarkable.
The animation this season and in the finale in particular is just…cool.
So is the story, so is the dialogue and so is the entire 1940s detective noir vibe. This season of Archer has been nothing but cool. The feeling of storytelling and visual confidence we’ve seen from Dreamland strikes me as positively comic book-like.
I’ve come to an interest in comic books relatively late in life. I never read any comics when I was growing up as I had this glowing box in the living room that had every Malcolm in the Middle rerun and live baseball broadcasts I needed. It’s only now that I’ve begun to pick up some of the classics – a Watchmen here, a Frank Miller Batman there.
Something I realized as I experience comic books as a medium for the first time is that often their appeal cannot be explained in the expansive lexicon critical commentators like to use. The appeal of comic books is quite simply that they’re cool. That’s not to be reductive of the legitimately genius and often progressive storytelling that comes from comic books. It’s just that when good storytelling is married with even more impressive art, “cool” is really the only appropriate way that it can be described.
That’s how I’ve felt about this season of Archer. Much like the best comic books: it’s just cool as hell. It’s cool to see Archer back in control of his destiny after spending so much of the season “up his own ass” by his own admission. Poovey tries to start the episode with the same line as the previous two with a “So uh….” to which Archer points a gun at his/her head and says “shut up.” Cool. He ties up the occupants of the car and then puts some socks in their mouth when they won’t stop talking.
It’s cool to see Archer at the absolute end of his rope. The tail-end of any good detective/hero/comic book story is always better when it looks like the hero possibly can’t take any more punishment but the number of pages or minutes left indicate that he’ll undoubtedly have to.
“Have you lost your mind?” Mother says when she sees Archer in the Dreamland dining room with Poovey, Cyril, Len and Lana tied up around him.
“Actually maybe. I don’t know. I haven’t slept for a week and I’ve been eating dexedrine like candy.”
Equally cool is that the entire cast is gathered up again for a clearly climactic finale save for the newly betrothed Cecil Van der Tunt and Trinette and Ray….holy shit we haven’t seen Ray for like five episodes! And I didn’t even realize it until right now. This really is a good season of Archer. Of course Krieger is there as well because we cannot have our “Auflosung”* without our ex-Nazi mad scientist. “Double double toil and trouble. Although if I’m being honest, it’s no trouble. I really love my work,” he says.
*”Auflösung” is German for “resolution.”
With all the pieces in place and all the truth on the table (we think), there’s only one thing the finale is missing. Oh and here that missing thing comes, robotic limbs and all.
“Phew. Hey gang,” Barry says upon breaking down a wall to enter Dreamland.
How are you still alive?” Archer yells.
“I don’t know. Clean living!”
Maybe I’m just overly invested in the idea of Barry as a villain because physically he looks like Archer’s perfect foil. Maybe I just like the way Barry combines folksy phrases like “Phew! Hey gang” with a bloodthirsty penchant for murder. Or maybe my inner storytelling self just cries out for any story to have both a yin and a yang regardless of how low-stakes or silly it is. Whatever the reason, I love Barry and I can scarcely believe how perfectly Dreamland has used him.
Barry’s previous appearances in the last few seasons of Archer have been appreciated but they’ve always come midseason and been more of a “Rickety Cricket” style cameo. Let’s check in with Cricket/Barry to see how bad things have gotten. By giving Barry a legitimate season-long villain arc, Dreamland turns the final battle between Archer and Dutch Dylan into something special
Archer and Barry’s final confrontation in Dreamland is legitimately amazing. To borrow a comic book metaphor again it must be what seeing Superman and Batman fight as a kid must have felt like (provided you were reading it in a comic and not watching it in Dawn of Justice). It’s just flat out cool – much cooler than any show this bizarre and silly should be able to pull off. Still, it does.
Not only is the sight of Barry throwing Archer into walls and coldly breaking his arm cool and interesting, it provides an emotional depth one wouldn’t except from the conclusion of this coma dream. Barry reveals to Archer that he in fact was the one to kill Woodhouse, not Mother and not Len. Was it over an unpaid heroin bill? Of course not, this is Dutch Dylan: he dissolves people in acid.
“I did it just to see his light go out,” he says. Plus he cut me off in traffic.”
Archer struggles with Barry a little bit longer and then the saga of Barry Dylan ends the way it was always destined to: with a vicious mauling from two cyborg dogs. Poor Krieger just wants Barry to use his new powers for good.
“Yeah I could but I was a murderer before you turned me into a freak so I don’t know why you thought this would have a happy ending,” Barry responds.
So Krieger utters his fateful command of “Accion” and the cyborg dogs tear him apart.
“Auflösung” stumbles a bit after this, with its greatest villain dispatched and it’s ultimate mystery solved. Mother’s goon Mr. Zurk has to defeat the dogs, which is again hilariously graphic but also seems a little tacked on. Then Archer and the rest discover that there was never any Van Der Tunt money in the bag in the first place – just some tasteful German light incest erotica.
Lana is killed by accidental fire from Archer’s gun being mishandled by Mother and then Poovey. This is certainly funny but it would have been nice if Archer’s gun’s hair-trigger had been established beforehand. Also, since Archer never makes it out of his coma it’s not entirely clear what the ultimately imaginary Lana’s death is supposed to mean.
Yes, in the end Archer doesn’t wake up from his coma. It’s not that he dies, the show just literally never cuts back to the real Archer in his hospital bed. Instead we end on a dour note with Archer visiting Woodhouse’s grave and Poovey returning home to find that her Chinese ladies have left.
Some logic and Lana issues aside, I’m fine with this lack of real world resolution. The refusal to cut back to the “real” Archer suggests to me that the show is fine leaving him behind. There are two more seasons of the show to come before Adam Reed has indicated that he’ll end the series. Should they both exist in “Dreamlands” of they’re own: great. The Archer of Sterling Archer’s unconscious is a far more interesting and complex hero than the one in that hospital bed. I hope we spend more time with him regardless of the setting and I hope it’s as cool as Dreamland.