“Archer” is a show full of surprises. With a long tenure on FX, the show has managed to stay both popular and well-received. Each episode of the new, eleventh season is crafted in line with the show’s successful formula, but adds new, interesting elements that keep the audience on its toes and wanting more. Still, we never lose sight of the small band of lovable characters that made the show what it is. 

Star agent Sterling Archer (H. Jon Benjamin, “Bob’s Burgers”) awakens from his coma to the familiar world of fancy parties, car chases and gunfighting. Despite the extra sentimentality in more recent seasons between star agent Archer and his co-workers, and especially with his longtime love interest, Lana Kane (Aisha Tyler, “Criminal Minds”), all of it is squashed within the first few minutes of Season 11. None of Archer’s friends greet him as he returns. Even Lana has moved on, marrying an officious billionaire inspired by Sy Ableman from the Coen brothers “A Serious Man.” The group dynamics have also changed drastically in Archer’s absence. Archer is no longer the point guard of the Agency. Instead, the once mild mannered Cyril Figgis (Chris Parnell, “Rick and Morty”) has become the new star agent. Ever the childish narcissist, Archer spends the season bouncing between missions and life, trying to return to the center of attention.

This latest season of “Archer” manages to remain as funny and irreverent as ever. Each scene is imbued with an electric sense of humor due to the narrow focus on the central characters of the show. This is further boosted by the great performances from the voice actors of each character. Where “Archer” stands out compared to other shows is its unrelenting focus creating fresh character dynamics to its main players that give new life to the show. Furthermore, the dialogue of the show never feels out of place or unfocused. Each line is built on humor and is driven by the plot. Throughout its 11-season run, the show has remained consistently thoughtful and carefully made.

When the show first aired in 2009, it was amid a resurgence of the “spy” genre. This was the time of movies like “007” and “Mission Imposible”: movies that featured a charming, extremely knowledgeable male hero immersed in lots of stunts and sex. “Archer” brilliantly satirized many of the tropes of a classic James Bond film and exaggerated Bond’s seemingly charming characteristics. Archer himself is an incurable alcoholic and sex-addict, with a childish glee for explosives and car-chases. The show skillfully unravels familiar “sexy spy” tropes to depict the humourous reality behind the glamorous facade, asking: Are spies actually the sharp heroes we make them out to be or incompetent, narcissistic toddlers?

For the last few years, very few new spy thrillers have debuted and garnered the same enthusiasm as in 2009, partly due to the success of the superhero genre. Despite this, “Archer” manages to stick to its central themes through excellent writing, acting and characterization, staying as relevant and entertaining as ever.

Daily Arts Writer Joshua Thomas can be reached at realjt@umich.edu

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