TV Review: ‘ARCHER – STRANGE PILOT’ (Episode 1)

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Connor Bynum // Film Critic

ARCHER: DANGER ISLAND – “STRANGE PILOT”

Season 9, Ep. 1
aired on FXX on Apr. 25, 2018

Writer: Adam Reed
Voice cast: H. Jon BenjaminEugene CorderoJudy GreerAmber NashChris ParnellAdam ReedAisha Tyler and Jessica Walter

ARCHER has changed quite a bit over the years. After changing gears at the start of its fifth season (by changing the gang at Isis from spies to drug dealers), the show has been shifting in tone with every season since. With the start of Season 9, subtitled DANGER ISLAND, the events of last year’s DREAMLAND seem to have been completely ignored. No longer taking place post-WWII in a noir driven mystery, DANGER ISLAND finds our heroes running a hotel on a tropical paradise in the 1930s. Whether or not this is still all taking place inside of Archer’s head after the events of Season 7 is yet to be seen.

Being the first episode of what is essentially another reboot, nearly all of the running time of this rather short episode (barely over 18 minutes) is spent establishing the new roles/altered names our characters now possess. Sterling Archer (H. Jon Benjamin), who now has only one eye, is still a womanizing selfish jerk who remorselessly sleeps with Cheryl/Charlotte (Judy Greer) while she is in the midst of her honeymoon with Whitley Stratton IV (guest star Jon Daly). Charlotte is especially shrieky this time around and borders on intolerable during this episode. Hopefully she becomes more endearing this season as she often does.

ARCHER — “Season 9, Episode 1 — Pictured (l-r): Pam Poovey (voice of Amber Nash), Princess Lanaluakalani (voice of Aisha Tyler), Siegbert Fuchs (voice of Chris Parnell), Sterling Archer (voice of H. Jon Benjamin). CR: FXX

Dr. Kreiger (Lucky Yates) is now a talking parrot. That’s right. In wink to the audience that gets one of the biggest laughs of the episode, Archer simply says, “He talks, that’s just how it is. Don’t make a big thing out of it.” Pam Poovey (Amber Nash) is back to being 100% female after her odd turn as a guy last season. However, she’s not quite back to the Pam we know and love as she is now incredibly muscular. Thankfully, her trademarked vulgarity is very much intact.

Malory (Jessica Walter) mostly stands in the background so far as the manager of the hotel, but I have hopes for her to get a satisfying B-plot once the season takes off. Ray (series creator Adam Reed) is now a French police captain with a laughably exaggerated French accent who seems to be in cohorts with Malory as she runs an illegal casino in the hotel, which, at this point, is only referenced. Aisha Tyler plays Princess Lanaluakalani, a native to the island accompanied by Cyril (Chris Parnell), who is referred to only as Fuchs. (And yes, it’s pronounced exactly as it looks.)

Obligatory character introductions aside, there are still a great handful of laughs to be had in this episode as well as clever nods to elements of Season 3, such as Archer’s plane being named Lucy Goosey. Yet overall, the episode is essentially a pilot for a new series with characters we are mostly familiar with by now. There’s still no telling whether or not the change of scenery will be for the better, but as Archer pointed out: That’s the way things are now. Deal with it.

Grade: B-

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.