There comes a time in every Netflix critic's life when he must revisit a series that he has already written a review for. And whether that time happens once, thrice, or as many times as Bob's Burgers airs a new season, the critic must be ready, whatever the sacrifice, to rise to the challenge.
But such an effort cannot be expended on any ordinary show. Only a work of great nuance and sophistication can merit such an honor.
And that's why this review is for Archer, Season 7.
For those who haven't read my Archer review, or who have trouble remembering it, let me begin by saying that Archer is one of the most sharply written and well balanced comedies on television.
Let me also reiterate (for the millionth time) that being an animated show does not in any way mean that it is appropriate for children.
The brilliance of the show comes from the precision with which the cast of regular characters is played off each other. This is an ensemble comedy where none of the heroes is utterly inept and, likewise, none of them really have their lives in order. It is the same kind of writing that made The Office so successful, except it works even better here because the situations the characters find themselves in are a lot more interesting.
And, more importantly, it pokes fun at all the stuffed shirts you find in most espionage dramas.
Previously, on Archer...
When we left our heroes, they were stranded on the side of a highway in the middle of the Nevada desert.
Blacklisted by the CIA, the group can never work as spies again, and are faced with the harsh reality that they have zero other employable skills. But Archer has a crazy plan to save what remains of the shattered spy agency, and it has everything to do with a little place called Los Angeles.
The season opens with the group's fortunes somewhat improved. They are all fed and clothed, at least, with a roof over their heads and comfortable furniture in the land of swimming pools and movie stars.
That roof, however, is owned by Cyril.
Archer's plan for the team to reinvent themselves as private detectives leaves him at the mercy of the nerd he has bullied for his entire career. And if that was the worst of his problems, then he might still come out on top.
But a lot of strange things are happening in LA, with a mysterious disk that the agency keeps getting hired to steal from various people---over and over again---as well as the reappearance of Archer's psychotic archnemesis Barry the cyborg. To top it off, Lana is trying to get their daughter admitted to a top notch preschool and is not cool with the idea of Archer pursuing other women.
The group doesn't know it yet, but they've just stumbled into a criminal web of international dimensions, and SOMEONE. WILL. DIE.
Krieger may even die multiple times.
The Character Development
Strangely enough, the character who changes most over the course of this season is Barry the killer cyborg, and he's only in one episode.
But his growth is largely irrelevant to the overall plot, so we have to give props instead to Archer himself, who is a little lost without the assistance of his trusty butler Wodehouse, who does not appear in this season. Archer spends this year getting a little humbled and a lot humanized, with depictions of how he was bullied (not just teased, mind you, but all-out, sent-to-the-emergency-room abused) as a child giving us deeper insight into his character and making us feel for him, just a little.
Aside from that, these are the same characters you know and love.
Cheryl is still an entitled ditz.
Lana is more of a sourpuss than ever.
Mallory is still Cruella De Vil's evil(er) twin.
But none of these people is well adapted to detective work. Season 7 is very much a fish out of water story, keeping the show fresh by sending the characters into situations they've never dealt with before. If season 7 does one thing spectacularly well, it demonstrates how dealing with huge, international problems does not prepare you to handle the small but equally dangerous problems of a few petty criminals.
Season 7 lands a few more laughs than its predecessors, largely due to the fact that it is more concentrated. It is only ten episodes long, making it the shortest season since the first, and in many ways it only serves as a placeholder for the upcoming season 8, though I can't tell you why without massive spoilers.
Suffice it to say that these characters being thrown out of their element makes it even harder for them to get along, and it's all played up for laughs in the best possible way. If you have like any episodes of Archer up to this point, season 7 will get a physical reaction out of you, and the zingers are as sharp as ever.
Archer, season 7, is an excellent addition to the series and may be the funniest of them all, if a little short on the story side. It scratches that itch you may have been feeling since the last season ended and will prepare you for the madness that season 8 promises to be.
If you like animated comedies with adult humor, then it's unmissable.
Previous entries in the Netflixing series: