Archer is an animated comedy about the International Secret Intelligence Service, or ISIS. Malory Archer owns and manages ISIS, which employs her son, Sterling Archer, one of their top agents. In the first three seasons, we've seen Lana in and out of bed with both Archer and another agent, Cyril Figgis. We've seen Malory date various heads of international spy agencies, as well as Burt Reynolds. And we've watched the office under siege from terrorists and drug lords.
Season four is just as funny, just as entertaining as the best episodes of the series. Creator Adam Reed and his team of writers are finding new stories to tell and continuing to deepen the characters who love to hate each other. That's the beauty of Archer: Most of the humor comes from the brutal teasing and insults the co-workers shoot at each other. These characters say all the things you wish you could say to your own colleagues, but can't without being escorted out of the building.
Refreshingly, the first four episodes don't focus on Archer's womanizing ways. That's not to say his conquests aren't referred to, but taking a break from Archer trying to catch or running from a woman with an accent gives the show more time for character development and a wider variety of scenes.
Archer is one of the few primetime cartoons that has continuity. Characters remember past story developments instead of starting fresh at the beginning of every episode. Ray Gillette, voiced by creator Adam Reed, is at the center of one of those stories. After getting shot in "Heart of Archness, Part II," he pretended to be paralyzed and used a wheelchair for six months. But in "Space Race, Part II" he became paralyzed for real after Archer crashed the space shuttle. In season four's "Legs," amazing things happen for Ray Gillette.
This season, Sterling and the other ISIS agents are saved from a small portion of Malory's vitriol, which she spews at her new husband, Ron Cadillac (played by Jessica Walter's real-life husband, Ron Leibman). But as the season progresses, we find out there's more under the hood of Mr. Cadillac than Malory knows.
A new recurring character is introduced this season. Rodney (or as Pam calls him the "mustache on a penis") is the head of the ISIS armory. He keeps a tight reign on their weapons and supplies, much to everyone's chagrin. He's a smart guy, installing plenty of automatic locking doors and bullet-and-explosion-proof glass to protect himself and the armory from the violent tempers of the ISIS employees.
Another fun development is the relationship between Pam and Cheryl. These two gal Fridays are becoming besties, hitting the spa together and swapping stories during break time. In very early episodes, Pam and Cheryl were only heard from as the targets of insults or occasional one-liners. Pam and Cheryl are played by such talented actresses (Amber Nash and Judy Greer, respectively), it would be a sin to leave them in the background.
Timothy Olyphant joins the fray as Archer's former training buddy and BFF, Lucas Troy, in the second episode titled "The Wind Cries Mary." Archer becomes the butt of multiple jokes about his close relationship with Luke, who left ISIS right after training and joined ODIN, an ISIS competitor. When Luke is accused of traitorous behavior, it's up to Archer to clear his name.
The only character spinning her wheels so far is Lana. At least, in the first four episodes of season four, Lana has little to do but deal out cutting insults and tag along on Archer's missions. Could a new love interest be on the horizon? Or is her ticking biological clock still bringing her down? Hopefully the writers will give Lana (and actress Aisha Tyler) more to do in the rest of the season.
Fun in "Fugues and Riffs"
Skip this section if you want to be surprised by the fourth season premiere. You've been warned!
The season four premiere, "Fugues and Riffs," opens with Sterling at the grill of his burger joint, surrounded by his wife, Linda, and their three kids. Wait a minute, where have I seen this before? Oh, yeah! Bob's Burgers! Already I'm laughing at the bizarro world that puts actor H. Jon Benjamin, who does the voice of both Sterling Archer and Bob Belcher, at the center of this mind-bending axis. Then I'm wondering, how will they make this work? How far will they go? Unexpectedly, this opening scene isn't a throw away joke, but the consequences of Archer's mental state that becomes the central storyline for the episode.