Lots of spoilers here.
Season 11 of Archer has been over for a while now, but a recent video from Wisecrack discussing the downside of the "coma seasons" got me thinking about it again. (For the record, I thought the coma seasons were generally fun, interesting "what if" anthologies that I understood helped break up creator Adam Reed's creative block. But I was happy to see them in the rear view mirror.)
This latest season? Fun in the moment-to-moment. But on the whole? I was left feeling apathetic.
I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the team becoming better without him, while he was in a coma. I mean, I loved the better people they became. Especially Cyril. It was like they all evolved in their ultimate forms.
And I know, deep down, that "backsliding" is where the plot of the show HAS to go. Their transformation is the setup, and Archer being the reason they were held back is the punchline.
I understand that. But it also brings a great deal of personal frustration.
I found myself thoroughly enjoying the new, improved ISIS. And I kind of hoped the show was going to subvert my expectations. Instead of resetting everyone to their pre-coma semi-incompetency (they weren't technically shitty agents before; just... distracted... and held back), let's explore the a new normal. One where Archer turns his back on his friends, because he feels betrayed. And they no longer need him to be the agent of chaos 'glue' to keep them successful.
For a while, I seriously believed they were going to do this.The various clues I picked up on almost seemed to suggest Sterling might basically say "fuck it" and start recruiting for his own, competing spy agency. And maybe we'd see future seasons dip into that awkward, jealous rivalry. It certainly looked like Sterling was beginning to accumulate a series of friends who actually LIKED him, for a while there. Aleister, Barry, Hands. Hell, maybe even steal Pam. A competing agency of people who actually appreciate him, and maybe work better with him around? Now that's an interesting premise to explore for a while.
But... it didn't go there.
Instead it was, apparently, just business as usual? Instead, Lana's marriage begins to fall apart. Cyril relapses into his "beta" position. And the rest follow suit, with the whole show reset back to Archer being the cause of, and solution to all of their problems.
And that's a letdown. The season felt like it was building this arc in the background... but it wasn't. It was just my imagination. The show was just backsliding. Like the characters themselves.
And now with Sterling seeing coma illusions in the finale, I don't know if this is a fake-out and he's still in the coma. Or is this some new psychosis?
I... just don't care...🤔
As a massive fan of the show for a very long time, that genuinely hurts to admit.
Don't get me wrong, the show is still fun, if a bit tired. But it just feels completely aimless in the larger view. And that's on them: they introduced the season-long arc concept back when the show took a hard turn into Archer:Vice. And now, many seasons later, a viewer can't be blamed for looking for that to continue... trying to find a thread interlinking the episodes... and feeling kind of empty when nothing of consequence is there.
Though, the coma illusion stuff in the finale feels like wanting your cake and eating it. But I guess we'll see what happens next season for that thread. If there WAS anything anything TO it.
So yeah. I really don't know what the hell they're doing at this point.
There was a predictable vibe to the show that was it's meat and potatoes in prior years that is hard to accept returning to. Those jokes and tropes made the show what we love. But increasingly Archer feels like a show that knows that it has to change, tries for a bit, but then gets cold feet about commitment and swings the steering wheel back onto the main road. Sterling's daughter was the last straw of my patience for that kind of thing: it felt like we could finally see even a sliver of permanent character development for him, but instead AJ just becomes another delivery system for TWO finger-raised-while-drinking jokes, and, this season, a kidnapping plot point.
Maybe it was better to just leave Sterling in the coma and leave the future to our imagination. 🤔