The Buzz: ‘Archer Danger Island’ another look into the psyche of Sterling Archer
The first episode of Archer Danger Island is more or less the same as we got during the Archer Dreamland season. Sterling Archer is still deep in a coma and what we see in this episode is nothing more than what Archer dreams up. While Archer Dreamland put the Archer cast into a 1940’s noir setting with a grittier feel, Archer Danger Island places the characters into the 1930’s and is back to Archer’s more fun and adventurous roots. This version of Sterling Archer is a one-eyed pilot who lives rent free at his mother’s hotel. He still drinks and sleeps around, and Pam is still the closest thing he has to a friend. While much of the character dynamics remain the same, it’s the settings and the characters’ professions that have changed the most.
The biggest and most interesting change by far is the decision to turn Krieger into a talking parrot named Crackers. Krieger is one of the most entertaining and quotable characters on the show outside of Archer himself, but despite this he has remained one of the least fleshed out characters. Archer’s sad past and constant abuse from his mother is the reason why Archer is who he is, and what motivates him to act out as he does. Over the seasons we’ve even come to understand Lana, Cyril, Pam, Cheryl and even Ray through spotlight episodes that explore their pasts. Krieger though, remains one of the only characters out of the main cast that we know very little of his background. The few spotlight episodes he has had, end up raising more questions than answers. With that in mind, it seems the creators sometimes have a hard time including him in plots as his role in the group is the least defined. Outside of Krieger’s abilities as a scientist, what is there to him? Most of his character seems to revolve around his odd behavior and random humorous outbursts. So what better way is there than to insert this character into Danger Island than to make him a talking animal sidekick. At first, I felt bad that such a fun character was seemingly demoted from a human to an animal, but as a bird he looks bound to gain more screen time than ever before. As Crackers Krieger is no longer the creepy friend that just shows up at random, now he has an actual role in the group dynamic. Crackers even manages to allow Krieger to be adorable as he was when he was dancing or when he was wrapped up in a blanket, something that never would have been possible pre-bird form.
Despite all of the characters retaining their core personalities, or at least the core personality Archer views them as having, to set this all up you’d think there’d need to be a lot of exposition. For once I was genuinely pleased with how the exposition was dealt out. Not everything was explicitly made clear and the information that did need explaining was done so in a natural way. For example, Archer owning an airline was made known to the viewers when Malory argued with Archer over money and how she’d like to see her investment pay her back. This was extremely in character for her to hold money over Archer’s head because he lives with her rent free and causes her a lot of headaches. Pam’s relationship as Archer’s best friend, while not explicitly stated, was easily inferred by how frankly they spoke to each other and how Archer put her safety above his own when it looked like their plane might crash. These are little things that could be missed on a first viewing, but its small details like this that give audiences necessary information without having to overly explain it and ruin the pacing.
Unfortunately, any fans wondering what is going on with the real Sterling Archer will be soundly disappointed as this episode solely takes place with the Danger Island version of Archer. The beginning of the episode does lead the audience to believe we are at first seeing coma Archer, but this is nothing more than a fake out. Despite the fun that can come from being free of the normal limitations of the characters and setting, many will still crave an update on the real Archer we’ve followed since season one. One season in the dream world was fun, but continued dream seasons rob the show of consequence. Knowing that all the relationships and growth these characters will go through this season will all reset by the next season may be somewhat disappointing. While Archer’s comedy is the forefront of the show, there have been plenty of dramatic moments and points that have carried on from season to season. One can’t help, but want to see Archer return to his loved ones, especially Lana, who Archer’s love for is constantly being manifested in his dream world.
The one interesting ongoing point that might transition on from the dream world is Archer’s feelings for all his friends and family. Despite everything being a dream, this is Archer’s dream and that means everything we’re seeing is coming from his subconscious. Every character is expressed by how Archer sees them. Lana is always Archer’s true love. Cyril is always a loser. Pam is always Archer’s best friend and Krieger is well…Krieger is just there. It’s interesting to see how Archer views each of his friends and family and how each is portrayed in his mind. These unfiltered dream versions are how Archer truly sees them and may explain why he treats them the way he does when he’s conscious. Despite seemingly caring enough to envision Krieger in his dream, the fact that Archer dreams him up as a pet, goes a long way when you remember how flippant Archer is to him in the real world. If nothing more, this and the last season serve as an interesting character study on the psyche of Sterling Archer.
The most important aspect to Archer though is its humor. Archer Dreamland, while still funny, didn’t seem to have as many laughs as a usual Archer season would. With Archer being a comedy foremost, whether the show is funny or not, is by far the most important factor in deciding whether an episode worked or not. Archer Danger Island was full of many great witty lines and even some fun visual gags. However, it wasn’t the funniest episode ever. It needed time to set up the world, but viewing it as another pilot episode, it was pretty good all things considered. The characters were amusing and the new island setting seems full of danger and potential. Therefore, it seems Archer Danger Island is off to a solid start. Like Dreamland before it, Danger Island will only run for eight episodes total. Hopefully by the end we’ll finally see Archer transition back to his original world and to characters we know and love. For now, Archer Danger Island looks to be a fun distraction until the creators come back for the tenth and expected final season.