Written By | Danielle Turchiano
In its ninth season, the animated “Archer” is delivering a lighter story in “Danger Island” than the recent past.
“The one thing that I would never personally do is set ‘Archer’ in the right now, dealing with real life things. I spend so much time writing ‘Archer’ that I like it to be an escape,” series creator Adam Reed tells Variety.
Last season’s “Dreamland” not only started the long-running comedy’s run on FXX (it originally launched on FX) but also but also a new anthology storytelling format. Gone are the days of telling spy tales that take place part in the field and part in the office. Starting with season 5, the show dove into much more serialized — and stylized — storytelling, first with “Archer: Vice” in the vein of “Miami Vice.” But the anthology format really came alive in the eighth season, when the show launched the characters — and viewers by extension — into the titular character’s subconscious in a season entitled “Dreamland” that saw new settings and new relationship dynamics (Mallory wasn’t even Archer’s mother). Now, season 9 launches “Danger Island,” a season that is set right before World War II on a South Pacific Island full of monkeys, lizards, quicksand, a talking parrot and a Nazi.
“Last season, we loved it, but things got really, really dark, and we wanted to just lighten things up greatly,” executive producer Matt Thompson says of the approach to season 9. “The original starting point was just ‘How do we be lighter?’ We wanted to just tell jokes and be really silly. You’re not only escaping Trump and what’s going on in the news today but also the past baggage from our other seasons.”
Thompson and co-executive producer Casey Willis say they wanted the season to look lighter, too.
“In season 8 we tried to keep everything in that same era of noir feel — all the fashions, the cars, the weapons, even some of the streets and stuff. This season it’s a little looser in regards to how detailed the costumes and the settings and everything [are],” says Willis. “Archer’s airplane is still the correct type of airplane, but monkeys suddenly appear on the island, and there’s a joke about it — ‘Wait, aren’t howler monkeys only in Central and South America?’ And then they kind of blow it off.”
Wanting to focus on crafting an adventure tale, Thompson and Reed talked about “an old school ‘Indiana Jones’ serial” for the season. Entering the story from this angle allowed them to play with new characters for core players like Lana (voiced by Aisha Tyler), Cyril (voiced by Chris Parnell) and Krieger (voiced by Lucky Yates).
Lana and Archer (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin) will still have “some sort of love relationship” between them this season, Thompson teases, but they also have very different goals and are not working alongside each other as they have in seasons past. Cyril is a “bloodthirsty, drug-addicted, murderous Nazi,” Thompson adds, while Krieger is the aforementioned talking parrot.
“If we think about this as seasons that are in Archer’s subconscious as he’s dreaming about it, there’s kind of two aspects of Lana,” Willis explains. “One is he loses his cool around [her] and just is like a little sheepish boy because he’s so infatuated with her, but also, there’s always something he’s been worried about because she always ends up double-crossing him or being something that she’s not. That’s something he’s always worried about and that prevents him from having a successful relationship with her in the real ‘Archer’ world.”
While who the characters appear as are very different from one of these subsconscious-set seasons to the next, it is important to the team behind the show that their personalities always fit into the archetypes of who they were this whole time. So while Cyril is a Nazi, he’s still Archer’s antagonist, as he was back when they worked in the spy agency together, Reed points out.
And unlike how the first subsconscious season removed the “rich history” of having Mallory (voiced by Jessica Walter) as Archer’s mother, “Danger Island” returns them to their original dysfunctional dynamic.
“After last season was over we got a comment from one of our amazing actors, Jessica Walter, [who] rightly pointed out to us that she missed the relationship,” Thompson says. “She did it with love, [saying] ‘The relationship is better between these two people if I am his mother and all of the baggage that comes with it. And she was right.”
Pam (voiced by Amber Nash) and Archer’s relationship will also be closely connected this season.
“They’re paired up every episode and you really get to see how they work together as buddies, and I think it’s just a reflection of how much Archer cares about Pam and how well he gets along with her,” Willis says.
“Danger Island” will break the fourth wall from time to time, which is something the show has never done before. Part of the fun of resetting the show was to be able to break some of the rules.
“I would put this season of ‘Danger Island’ as if it’s one giant Barry rule,” Willis says, citing the character of Barry (voiced by Dave Willis), who as a cyborg represents the level of technology that does not yet exist but is still made to be believable within the “Archer” universe. “This island can be defined as ‘Maaaaybe?’ as opposed to ‘That couldn’t be possible.’ We’ve much more embraced our inner Barry.”