For all the TV shows that needed a reboot, “Archer” was the one that needed it least. While the show’s formula was not the most innovating thing out there, Adam Reed’s sharp writing and strong characterization made every episode hilarious and fantastic, no matter what the plot focused on. But now the show is throwing a lot away as it changes its aesthetic, premise and title in an impressive, ballsy move that is already paying off.
In the fifth season’s opener “White Elephant,” ISIS, the spy headquarters for Sterling Archer (H. Jon Benjamin) and his compatriots, is under attack. After grenades are thrown and bullets are exchanged, it turns out that the FBI is raiding the agency. For the past four seasons, ISIS has had no clearance from the federal government in dealing with espionage and other spy activities, thus making the whole agency guilty of treason. Eventually everyone, after ratting each other out, is let free through ISIS head Mallory Archer’s (Jessica Walter) connections, with the promise that ISIS is left dissolved.
So what’s the plan for the gang after their agency is shut down? Sell a literal ton of cocaine.
As the end of the episode concludes with a two-minute montage that previews the rest of the season, there are many reasons to be excited for the future of “Archer.” Pet tigers, Cheryl becoming a country singer, drug deals gone bad and Pam going berserk on amphetamines are all examples of why season five of “Archer” should be its best season yet. While the “Mad Men”-esque spy setting established the show early on, the cast of characters became the show’s strongest point. Now that they aren’t bound by the spy premise anymore, the show is bound to become a lot more ridiculous, and, in turn, a lot more funny.
While “White Elephant” is a sharp “Archer” episode in itself, it’s the perfect transition from old “Archer” to new “Archer,” now called “Archer Vice.” Creator Adam Reed is genius for this changeup. The gang in “Archer” were never the “good guys” anyway, and by making the move from spy agency to drug cartel, the show is able forgo any plot restriction they had before as well as explore much more new material. And the new ’80s aesthetic looks phenomenal, hitting that neo-’80s vibe like a cartoon version of “Burn Notice.”
Overall, while there’s plenty of great material in the season opener, “Archer” is about to become more dirty, wild and hilarious. Welcome to “Archer Vice.”