Archer reaches its ninth (and penultimate) season, once again retooling the series' set-up and taking place within an elaborate fantasy within the comatose Archer's brain. After the noir-styled detective antics of season eight, this run relocates the action to the fictional Pacific island of Mitimotu in the year 1938 (for the first time ever we have a definitive dating for an Archer series!) The island is occupied by the French but is a haven for drop-outs of all nationalities, and soon ends up swarming with Nazis getting ready for WWII.
Danger Island isn't short on adventure cliches, with cannibalistic natives, a legendary idol, stormtroopers and Komodo dragons all appearing. Oh, and quicksand. I've missed quicksand. With Archer reconceived as an alcoholic charter pilot (and former US Army air commander), who co-pilots with Pam. A lot of people will see Indiana Jones in all this, but it's mostly inspired by its TV brother Tales of the Golden Monkey which came out soon after. Creator Adam Reed has confirmed that this was one of his favourite series (I don't think it's been aired in years, at least not in the UK), and the set-up is pretty much identical. Although, in Golden Monkey, it was the dog who wore an eye patch, not the hero. (You know what else was based on Golden Monkey? Disney's TaleSpin. Really.)
One thing I really like about Danger Island is the Archer-Pam relationship. There's a nice moment in an earlier season where they realise they're pretty much best friends and despite all their bitching at each other, they've always got each other's backs. That's the case here, with Pam and Archer being long-time partners and coming to the same conclusion in about six episodes. The other characters are re-jigged to a similar extent as the previous season, although some go to more ludicrous extremes. Cyril is the villain again, now the evil Nazi Fuchs (later to become UberFuchs in the story's most over-the-top development), on the island to secure the legendary idol for the Reich. Lana has gone from being African American/mixed race to now apparently being a Pacific Islander, princess of the island and determined to free her people from the French Empire even if it means siding with the Germans. Malory runs a hotel on the island, is still Archer's mother again and is basically the same character as always. Ray is refashioned as a French gendarme, a role he is perfectly suited for. No Jeffrey Tambor this year, unsurprisingly.
Judy Greer's character is, this time, Charlotte VanderTunt, on the island for her honeymoon before Archer seduces her and wrecks her life. She's as batshit crazy but for once it's actually in response to some pretty traumatic experiences instead of her inbred genes and glue habit. to be honest, as brilliant as Greer is and as funny as some of Charlotte's moments are, I'm really not a fan of what happens to the character. Archer has never been afraid to cross the line when it comes to good taste, but a lot of what happens to Charlotte is pretty horrible and too tragic to be funny.
Bizarrely, Krieger is not brought back as one of the Nazis, in spite of his legendary status as a clone of Adolf Hitler. Instead, Lucky Yates voices a macaw named Crackers, who is somehow possessed of human intelligence and acts as Archer and Pam's sidekick. One of the better running jokes is that no one can understand how a bird can act like this but it's never even vaguely explained, beyond Archer handwaving it away as "he's a parrot." Anyway, Crackers gets a lot of the best lines, and some of the best scenes involve Archer, Pam and Crackers adventuring together.
The adventure stuff is generally pretty fun, but, just like with Dreamland, there's a real drop in the quality of the comedy. Archer just isn't as funny as it used to be, and, while the new setting seems like a real winner (albeit one that's going to piss off Germans and Pacific Islanders alike), it just doesn't seem to lend itself to comedy the same way as previous years. That, or perhaps the show's just running out of steam. Nine years is a long time to keep something with a pretty thin premise going, and while the new format of changing the setting every year is helping keep it fresh, it's starting to strain. Still, I'm looking for to next year's Archer in space, something I've been asking for for years. Although I had hoped more for Archer Trek than Archer meets Alien, but still, here's hoping the final season sends it out with a bang.