The seventh season of Archer started and ended with Sterling Archer apparently dead in a swimming pool. But when the (now) FXX spy comedy returns on Wednesday evening (April 5), it’ll apparently leave the ramifications of that story arc behind.
In the show’s eighth season, dubbed “Archer: Dreamland,” its main characters find themselves in 1947, as detectives. While the timeframe is a departure from the current day (where the show had operated until now), the adjusted scenery may actually lend to a return to the group’s original spy work — which was the crux of seasons one through four.
Never content with keeping things as is, Archer creator Adam Reed has tweaked the formula every year since. Season Five was “Archer: Vice,” where the gang was dealing drugs in Miami. Season six brought them back to some sort of spy work as CIA contractors. Then season seven moved them out to Los Angeles, where they reformed as the Figgis Agency, handling private investigation.
All we really know about “Dreamland” so far is that Sterling’s in a coma after the events of last season. The action will all take place in his head from there. But what does that ultimately mean?
With so much unknown, here are some of our biggest questions before “Archer: Dreamland” begins:
How much time are we getting with current-day Archer and Co.?
When speaking with ScreenerTV, executive producer Matt Thompson said that once we’re in his head, that’s it. So how much lead time does that give us?
Obviously the events of last season, and his near-death (and current comatose status) affected the members of the Figgis Agency to varying degrees. How will those emotions be shared with the audience, if at all, before we head to Sterling’s imagined 1947 reality?
Where does Baby AJ fit into this storyline?
Since her birth at the end of season five, Abbiejean Kane-Archer has gone back and forth between a primary plot point and an extraneous detail written out of episodes at a time. She only truly appeared in one episode last year, which makes her chances of even showing up in this season 50-50 at best. Her appearance (or lack thereof) could also yield clues into Archer’s subconscious as a father — a role he’s struggled with since it was first introduced.
How will the show say goodbye to Woodhouse in the end?
Thompson’s already stated that this entire season and its setting in 1947 are a bit of a tribute to the late George Coe, who played Woodhouse, Archer’s valet. But eventually, they will be giving the character (and Coe) a formal farewell. How much does that goodbye have to do with the overall plot of “Dreamland?” Will we be waiting for it until the finale? Will Woodhouse’s absence have a visible affect on Sterling’s character in this season?
These character changes seem pretty extreme, right?
Archer is still who he is, but from the trailers alone, that may be the only consistency from the previous timeline we’re familiar with. Pam is a gender-neutral detective. Cheryl is definitely a different character altogether. Even Mallory, Sterling’s mother, appears to fill a completely off-character role as a mob boss (rather than being related to Sterling).
The show’s done this before, to an extent. “Archer: Vice” featured some character behavior and appearance changes, though most of them weren’t lasting. Pam, with easy access to cocaine, was a thinner version of herself. Cheryl was a country music singer. But they all sort of acknowledged that these altered traits were a result of the change of scenery — save Lana’s pregnancy, which concluded with a birth in the finale.
For “Dreamland,” they’re different people altogether in many cases, which could make initial dynamics seem strange. (They’re not the same coworkers, after all.) That said, the setting in Archer’s own mind could gloss over those details with relative ease.
Is this the show resigning itself to the zero character growth model?
Related to the above, with the characters acting as alternative versions of themselves, they don’t really need to change or grow in any way. This has become a staple of the series, despite its periodic attempts to show some course correction on the part of Sterling. As AV Club’s William Hughes pointed out when reviewing last year’s season finale:
“At this point, that lack of growth feels intentional, with all the lampshades hung this year on Archer’s absolute refusal to learn from the events of his life. Archer could change, but he hasn’t, and he doesn’t want to, because he’s clearly having too much fun fucking with people and making jokes.”
Season six and seven would always take a partial look in the mirror, but never buy into what they saw looking back. With this sort of dream concept, that’s no longer a concern for the show (if it ever was one to begin with).
The answers to the above will likely reveal themselves over the course of what should be an interesting season of “Archer: Dreamland.” It returns Wednesday night on (new network) FXX at 10 p.m. ET/PT.