Archer does a lot to set itself apart from other animated shows. Yes, it is an animated spy spoof, and yes, it is a show where eating LSD-laced Gummi bears can lead a character to hallucinate and see an ostrich, but that’s not why it’s one of the best: Archer is one of the few shows that will try to tell an overarching story, while other animated shows don’t show much interest in having any continuity throughout. This is particularly interesting to watch in an episode like “Fugue and Riffs,” as we return to the ISIS gang after a few months and by the end are asked to consider new mysteries and questions that didn’t even seem relevant at the beginning of the episode.
“Fugue and Riffs” also finally gives us the long-in-discussion Archer/Bob’s Burgers crossover. Archer has fallen into a fugue state of amnesia, leading him to grow a mustache, take up the name Bob, marry a woman named Linda—who has three kids named Gene, Louise and Tina—and start working flipping burgers at a restaurant of the shore called “Bob’s Burgers.” It’s slightly jarring to see the entire Bob’s Burgers cast in the Archer style of animation, but it works as a great way to combine H. Jon Benjamin’s two fantastic animated characters.
Bob/Archer pulls A History of Violence when a KGB hit squad comes into the restaurant to kill him. Of course, Bob/Archer—or as I will call him from here on out, Barcher—screams at them in Russian and murders them all, just as the entire family enter the room to discover the restaurant covered in blood. Barcher leaves the family to discover what happened, but first, he’s going to take a spa day. Even at his core, Barcher has the same lazy desires as Archer.
The ISIS team head to the spa to save Archer. Krieger says that they won’t be able to just hit him over the head with a frying pan to make him better, but instead should take a gradual approach to bringing him back to normal. Of course, when the KGB come to the spa, Archer gets hit over the head with a frying pan and becomes normal once again.
But before he turns back to normal, Barcher and Lana have some of their typically great arguments, leaving Barcher to steal Lana’s bra to use as a slingshot for Molotov cocktails and have a slight freak-out that makes him just constantly scream, “Bob” and “burgers,” over and over again, in the episode’s highlight.
The fourth season starts off by giving us the great character combinations that we’ve missed in their months-long absence. We get Cheryl and Pam hanging out at the spa, with Cheryl popping the LSD Gummis; Cyril, Gillette and Krieger pretending to be fake KGB members to help bring back Archer and Malory just insulting all of them. It’s never been bad having the entire crew go on their own expeditions outside the office, and it’s no different here. Just putting ISIS is a different environment and watching them bounce off each other could alone be worthy of an episode.
By the end, we discover answers to questions that at the beginning, we probably didn’t know that we had. First, the larger question, what happened to Archer to turn him into Barcher? Apparently two months prior, Malory had married Ron Cadillac, clearly a Cadillac dealer, which led Archer to go on a bender, steal their wedding limo and escape to become Barcher. The entire ISIS team seems to love Ron Cadillac, but if this man can lead Archer to run away in such a brazen fashion, it’ll be great to see how Archer and Ron will interact throughout the season.
The more surprising revelation here is when Lana points out that it is weird that the KGB was able to find Archer in two separate locations, even when Archer himself didn’t even know who he was. This leads to the reveal that Barry, still in his space station from the end of last season, is watching over Archer, trying to kill him, yet still failing. The idea of having Barry as a larger part of the fourth season as a constant villain is very promising, as the Archer/Barry conflict has always been a great one to check in on.
The fourth season of Archer has begun with a bang, featuring mistaken identities, show crossovers, surprise weddings, Cronenberg references and ostriches. This season has a lot of promise, and so far, each season of Archer had gotten progressively better. If the rest of the season is this great, that tradition seems like it’ll continue.