Season Five’s Archer Vice was, without a doubt, a daring experiment and diversion, frequently yielding its own uniquely hilarious pleasures. But while it’s often a natural instinct to remove characters from their comfort zone in order to keep things fresh for the audience (as well as the creatives and talent behind the show), it’s difficult to not feel as though one of the funniest shows on television—past or present—prematurely slammed on the “change of venue” button. Prior to last season, Archer remained as strong as it had ever been—which is about as perfect an endorsement as they come.
Leaving behind the spying business and its four seasons of un-exhausted goodwill for the drug-running business was admirably bold, sure, but diverting an entire season’s worth of episodes away from all the still-energetic running jokes and unforced character development (yes, these rapid joke-conveyance vehicles have shown legitimate growth over the years!) could also have been considered by many—myself included, naturally—to be extraordinarily hasty… maybe even a bit self-indulgent on behalf of showrunner Adam Reed and the other writers. Thankfully, at the close of last season, the seeds for a return to the setting in which Archer built (and, astonishingly, sustained) an immaculate streak of its hysterically profane mixture of high and low comedy, were planted.
Thus, while the agency of ISIS may be gone (hey, if they had to get rid of the unfortunate association, the timing couldn’t be better, show continuity-wise), Season Six has the full cast (minus poor Brett; may he finally find bulletproof peace in the afterlife) back where they did their best work, even if they always figured out how to accomplish it in the most horribly unprofessional ways. While they may now ultimately answer to their new bosses at the CIA, the old power dynamics shuffle the crew back into their places, and it’s damn great to see. (Frankly, it was difficult understanding how any of these people stuck with Malory outside of a work environment last season, co-dependent relationships or no.)
Yes, the episode itself will be quite familiar to existing fans: Sterling embarks on a solo espionage mission at the behest of his mother, and as a way to evade responsibility born of situations he’s at least had a hand in creating. In this case: a baby with Lana. (Side note: I’m already giddy with anticipation thinking of the ways the writers are going to have fun with the show’s regulars hating baby Abijean’s name.) The old habits of petty office hijinks and bickering reassert, and Sterling acknowledges the lesson he’s clearly supposed to have learned, before casually and arrogantly disregarding it. Again, the structure of the episode is wholly familiar to regular viewers, so there isn’t much point recapping the episode’s plot, involving the titular Archer’s encounter on a remote jungle island with a man-out-of-time Japanese soldier, Ken, who Sterling has to catch up on 70-plus years of history (and obscure TV references, of course).
But while they say familiarity breeds contempt, it also recreates a place where a narcissistic, alcoholic man-whore superspy can exclaim, “Thanks, jungle! Eat a buffet of dicks,” and it will be even funnier than in its earlier permutations. In other words: Holy shitsnacks, it’s so good to have you back, Archer.
Scott Wold is a Chicago-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter, if you must.