When Archer left its cozy confines of ISIS at the end of Season Four en route to the drug dealing, Miami Vice feel of Season Five, I seemed to remember a bit of a backlash to this uprooting of the show's characters which I felt was a little unfair. Fans of the show seemed to dismiss the season almost immediately when the episodes weren't bad at all, so they returned to some of their covert ops roots in Season Six.
The animated show finds Sterling Archer (H. Jon Benjamin, Bob's Burgers) as the one who handles these operations, being joined at various points by his baby momma Lana (Aisha Tyler, Balls of Fury), her former boyfriend Cyril (Chris Parnell, 21 Jump Street), a brute of a woman named Pam (Amber Nash), a rich but crazy young woman in Cheryl (Judy Greer, Jurassic World), and a southern gentleman with cyborg legs in Ray (series creator Adam Reed). On occasion they are helped out by the ‘Q' of the bunch in Krieger (Lucky Yates) and their supervisor, Sterling's mother Mallory (Jessica Walter, Arrested Development). Under the auspices of working for the CIA in season six, the group perform missions to get back in the American spy business' good graces, with complicated, and comedic results.
For those who haven't seen Archer, picture Sterling Archer as Don Draper, except far more of a man-child and much more immaturity, despite a savant-like knack for performing a covert mission to general success. That's the Archer a lot of people know, or knew, coming into Season Six. But he seems to get his metaphorical shit together over the course of the season, so that he can be a better significant other to Lana, and a much better father to the child he has with her. It starts from the season premiere "The Holdout," where Archer finds a WWII-era Japanese soldier on a secluded island. The interactions between Archer and the soldier help set up an interesting character arc for Archer over the course of the season.
And just because Archer enjoys a pseudo-life epiphany of sorts means that the essence of the show goes away; it has a mix of various things going for it in Season Six. You've got the tribute to a much-adored 70s action film by Reed in The Archer Sanction (spoofing The Eiger Sanction), the trendy guest stars from other FX shows (Allison Tolman from the first season of Fargo plays Pam's sister, while Matthew Rhys of The Americans appears as a Welsh separatist, and was cited as an inspiration for a story). It checks off the requisite boxes like previous seasons of Archer, which rapid-fire yucks while paying an understated eye to multi-episode continuity details that Mitch Hurwitz could not in respect to. The characters sense the mythology, let the viewer in and play with you with it. Hard to accept for an animated show but it's my clunky description and I'll stick with it.
Season Six of Archer found Reed and the show going back to the roots of Seasons One through Four, with this season serving as a reboot first, last and mostly. But it's a touch kinder, a touch gentler and even a little poignant from the cartoon guy whose name is on the show. Archer is a fine show not only for the laughs and occasional moments of gross-out, but it does a nice job of broadening its characters in the process. It's funny, it's fun, but is that an emotional I see in the background?
Thirteen episodes of Season Six of Archer, all presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and all look good, with vivid color reproduction while minimizing saturation issues. No edge enhancement or haloing to speak of, and no noticeable added noise in the image, Fox has reproduced the look of the episodes well.
Dolby Digital 5.1 surround for Archer and has a nice dynamic punch to it from various explosions and gunfire, car chases that include good channel panning and directional effects during firefights that make for a decent level of immersion during the soundtrack. Dialogue is well-balanced in the front of the soundstage also and the overall result of the discs is fine work from Fox.
Quite light in fact, starting with "Conan and Archer Battle Russian Mobsters" (4:34), which sounds like it is, and is animated with Conan O'Brien as himself. "Slay J" (6:31) is a longer piece on an animated character within an animated show, while "Cooking With Milton" (3:42) is an infomercial that includes Krieger.
Sure, fans who love Archer love it, and this season is another in a solid group of them from Adam Reed and company. But there is a smaller, subtler layer going on underneath the gunfire and the ‘phrasing' that makes it a better show than people tend to give it credit for. Technically, the show looks and sounds great, but could use some work on the extras. For new fans, you may want to watch some episodes from earlier seasons to get your bearings and laugh at all the things everyone else does. But within the vacuum of these thirteen installments, Season Six of Archer brings the laughs and a little bit more than may persuade fans of the show to watch these again.