Archer is the rare comedy that’s still going strong after seven seasons. It’s willingness to adapt, shift genre and maintain continuity keep it surprisingly fresh for a show that relies on shock humor and parody tropes. But what makes Archer a show I still happily revisit over and over again is the incredible characters. Each new season brings developments to the ensemble and world that retroactively make earlier episodes even stronger, while building up anticipation for the future. As we wait for Archer’s eighth season, which looks to be yet another clever anachronistic genre bend, fans can find solace in revisiting Archer’s fantastic 85 episode run. I’ve taken the liberty of narrowing that list down to a top 25.
25. 4.11, “The Papal Chase”
Krieger: Jazz hands!
Malory: Should’ve never taken him to see “The Wiz.”
Lana: The Broadway show or the movie?
Flashback to Krieger doing jazz hands at a Broadway show and a movie theater.
This makes the cut for the sheer audacity to do an episode about kidnapping the Pope in a pre-The Young Pope world.
24. 3.10, “Crossing Over”
Archer: Bloody Mary, full of vodka, blessed are you among cocktails. Pray for me now and at the hour of my death, which I hope is soon. Amen.
To be honest, I am biased by my fondness for Archer and Pam’s brief affair. They’re both such shameless hedonists that bouncing them off each other is a delight. It’s also nice to see characters have a secret fling that never has any disastrous consequences—unless you count Archer missing his last chance to possibly connect with his possible father. But, you know, I’ve never been that invested in that plot line. Still, pour one out for Nikolai Jakov, head of the KGB.
23. 2.07, “Movie Star”
Cheryl: Just say the right stuff and they just send you to a mental hospital for 10 months.
Gillette: I just this second realized why you do macrame instead of knitting.
Cheryl: Yeah, no sharp objects on the ward. They were super strict about that.
The ISIS office is thrown into chaos when movie star Rona Thorne wants to shadow Lana for research. Archer and Lana’s love/hate dynamic is in top form as they do everything they can to undermine each other and still end the episode with Archer’s face on Lana’s crotch. Meanwhile, Pam, Cheryl and Gillette bond over stealing Rona Thorne’s journal. Each of them tells a horrifying anecdote that is met with limited to no judgment, which really highlights what a fantastic ensemble of amoral weirdos the show has. This episode is Ah-maz-ing!
22. 3.05, “El Contador”
Ray: Oh god, it tastes worse than it smells!
Pam: If I had a nickel for every time I heard a guy say that…I’d have eight nickels!
Archer and Lana have to team up to take Cyril on his first field mission where he proves himself both as an agent and as a comedic character. While the Archer/Lana/Cyril love triangle was never especially compelling the three bounce off each other incredibly well. Cyril asking himself in every situation, “What would Lana do?” is great advice for all of us.
21. 7.04, “Motherless Child”
Barry: Samuel Johnson tells us puns are the lowest form of comedy, but for me, it’s murder.
Barry Dylan’s always been a great villain, or at least since he became a cyborg. But the last time he appeared we got a bit of insight on what makes that crazy cyborg brain tick. It was fairly terrifying. As was Malory, who’s spectacular this episode as she singlehandedly saves herself and breaks out of a bunker.
20. 4.03, “Legs”
Archer: I basically just lurch from one fireable offense to the next.
The magic bullet gag in this episode, where Archer tries to find which room and floor Brett managed to get shot on, is phenomenal. The actual plot is pretty weak—everyone gets distracted trying to leave the building—but a lot of running gags are paid off: Archer’s hatred of robots and cyborgs, Ray’s on again off again paralysis, Archer’s tinnitus and Cheryl’s admittedly creepy sexual arousal at physical and emotional violence. Pam and Krieger teaming up is just a bonus.
19. 1.02, “Training Day”
Cyril: I just assumed that if anything bad happened-
Archer: No! Do not say the Chekhov gun, Cyril. That, sir, is a facile argument.
Woodhouse: And also woefully esoteric.
Archer has to train Cyril to be an effective field agent, which gives us a window into his methods and perspective on being a spy; his lessons devolve into murdering a call girl as quickly as you’d expect. The real threat is Lana finding out what they’re up to. It’s hard to capture in print how funny it is to watch Lana flip open a switchblade while asking poor Scatterbrained Jane if she’s “getting [herself] a tampon?” but it is one of the comedic peaks of television as a medium.
18. 4.02, “The Wind Cries Mary”
Lucas Troy: Dude, that is such a relief, I was worried they turned you against me.
Archer: Are you kidding? Dude, bros before apparent threats to national security.
This is a dark one. Archer finds out his old friend from spy training, Lucas Troy, has died. His fellow ISIS employees take this as a cue to make a lot of jokes about 1) Archer not having any friends, and 2) Lucas being in love with him. Both of these assessments turn out to be mostly true. Is there something to be said about Archer’s inability to build a friendship with another person without an underlying sexual element? Probably a lot, yeah. Anyway, Timothy Olyphant’s voice work is great and there are also some amazing, unexpected Frisky Dingo references.
17. 7.07, “Double Indecency”
Cheryl: Do you have change for 10—let me finish—drams of vole’s blood?
With both Archer and Lana officially off the market, the Figgis Agency needs to determine who the new sexiest single spies in the office are. This results in a lot of makeovers, a lot of betting and a lot of fun. What this episode lacks in depth it makes up for in drams of vole’s blood.
16. 3.08, “Lo Scandalo”
Archer: I bet I’ll never be able to have sex again without thinking about this! I bet I won’t even be able to eat spaghetti and meatballs! Oh my God. I could eat. I mean, not necessarily spaghetti and meatballs, but not necessarily not spaghetti and meatballs. I mean I really like spaghetti and meatballs. Man, if I don’t get some spaghetti and meatballs I may literally die.
This is by far the best episode about the gang being invited over to Malory’s for a dinner party and then having to cover up a murder. Malory needs Archer and Lana’s help after the Italian prime minister is murdered in her apartment with an eggplant sized dildo inside him. Of course she killed him, but the narrative she spins makes a rather compelling whodunnit and a fun [Cheryl Tunt voice] “elegant dinner party.”
15. 3.04, “The Man from Jupiter”
Pam: I swear to god, you could drown a toddler in my panties right now. I mean, not that you would.
Burt Reynolds lays down some hard truths during an incredible car chase. What else could you possibly need to know?
14. 5.08, “Archer Vice: The Rules of Extraction”
Ray: How long will it take you, Archer, to admit that you dick around every time we’re in danger, just to screw with everybody, because of your complete—no, your utter contempt for your own mortality?!
Archer: I mean, yeah. Duh.
Lana, Pam and Cherlene put together a spa day for Malory and also discuss how they’ve pretty much all had sex with each other over the series. Meanwhile Archer and Gillette bond over not taking Cyril seriously. There’s an oddly heartwarming moment where Gillette reveals he faked being paralyzed just to get Archer to admit he’s a selfish asshole. You know, because they’re all selfish assholes. It also has my favorite elaborate voice message prank with the impromptu rave in the Tunt mansion.
13. 5.13, “Archer Vice: Arrival/Departure”
Krieger: Huh. Should I be in there? I feel like I should. I mean, I am a doctor.
Gillette & Cyril: No, you’re not.
Krieger: Well, no, but… a student of life.
I dare you to watch the scene where Archer meets his daughter, Abbiejean, for the first time, without tearing up. You can’t.