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

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.