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Archer: Season 2

Fox // Unrated // December 27, 2011
List Price: $39.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted January 4, 2012 | E-mail the Author
There's...I don't know, there's a word I'm looking for here -- one word that tells you everything you need to know about the second season of Archer without having to slog through a whole long, rambling review. I think it goes something like:

You were supposed to click the 'Play' button on that, by the way. Just making sure.

It looks like no one here at DVD Talk got around to reviewing the first season of Archer on Blu-ray, so I guess I'm supposed to write some kind of overview here. If you've never tuned in before, Archer is basically a workplace sitcom, only instead of being set at a paper company or whatever, it swirls around the action and intrigue of an elite, globetrotting intelligence and security agency. Well, okay, "elite" is pushing it. ISIS is more like the K-Mart KGB: underfunded, understaffed, and desperate for whatever the next paycheck might be. I mean, their secret HQ shares a first floor with some dingy laundromat, and the place is staffed just about wall-to-wall with sociopaths and fuck-ups. ...and then
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there's Sterling Archer. The world's most dangerous spy. James Bond in a black turtleneck. And...well, a sociopath and a fuck-up.

The first season of Archer was right in my wheelhouse...basic cable Methadone to get me through a stretch when The Venture Bros. was off the air. There's kind of a lot of the same DNA in both of those series: using vintage genre spoofs as a springboard to something a hell of a lot greater, devastatingly witty senses of humor, the smart kind of vulgarity, an ensemble cast of characters that wind up being shockingly compelling the more you tune in, and an eye for worldbuilding. They're the kinds of shows that reward obsessive viewing. ...and, yeah, the same as with The Venture Bros., I liked the first season of Archer a lot, but season two wound up being a whole other thing completely. Hand to God, Archer might be my single favorite series on television right now. I can't think of another comedy that can make me laugh this hard, this often, and still kill me even the second or third time through.

Archer's sophomore season builds off the strengths of those first ten episodes and improves upon them in pretty much every conceivable way. The pacing is more manic. It's a hell of a lot funnier. The high-octane action sequences -- sharing a snowmobile with topless heiress jailbait while fending off a half-battalion of armed-to-the-teeth kidnappers, chasing down millions of dollars on the streets of Monaco during the Grand Prix, or a breast cancer-riddled Archer going on a rampage against Irish mobsters after being duped into paying for Zima-and-sucrose "medicine" for months on end -- are bigger in scope and more awesomely ridiculous than ever. One of the fascinating things about the first season of Archer was looking on in horror as the layers were peeled back on the working stiffs in the ISIS offices, revealing the sticky, depraved creme filling that was lurking inside. Those characters -- such as
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nympho accountant Cyril Figgis, Blutarsky-with-lady-parts H.R. punching bag Pam, Cheryl the psychotic secretary, and unapologetically gay and genuinely competent superspy Ray Gillette -- graduate to being part of an actual ensemble. Rather than just coasting off of what was setup with that bunch in the first few episodes, Archer constantly heaps on new, demented angles for each of them, and every last bit of that becomes a lasting part of the series' mythology. It's a lot like Arrested Development in that sense, and I'm not just saying that because Jessica Walter is showcased in every episode and Jeffrey Tambor has a recurring role. Archer is constantly building off itself, and while it's pretty accessible to anyone tuning in for the first time, the series works on a whole other level for obsessively loyal viewers. The writing is half-past genius. Archer is a series that'll have a guy forcibly pumped up with heroin and repeatedly raped in a bathroom one minute, and then there'll be an extended Six Million Dollar Man homage in another, and that'll be followed up with a reference to Sweet Lou Dunbar or Elisha Otis. It's as comfortable making an offhand reference to an ancient Celtic warrior queen as it is to sneaking in Bel Biv Devoe. "Wee baby Seamus" is the new "fuckin' Catalina Wine Mixer". I love the way that the show can be so absurd and so raunchy, and yet there's a lot of genuine characterization and moments that actually matter. Oh, and as brilliantly crafted a series as Archer is on every level, it wouldn't be nearly as effective if not for the cast that brings it all to life: seasoned comedians like H. Jon Benjamin, Aisha Tyler, Chris Parnell, and Judy Greer.

If you're going in completely blind, the second season of Archer is a pretty friendly jumping-on point, although I think you'd ultimately get more out of it if you've watched the first season beforehand. The show's still finding its footing in those early episodes and is kind of uneven, but the foundation it lays ought to give the uninitiated a much greater appreciation for what's to come. Whatever you wind up deciding to do, just make it a point to pick up this second season of Archer on Blu-ray. Every last one of its thirteen episodes are pure, unadultered genius, making for a series that's in the running as the single best comedy on television. Very, very Highly Recommended.

Well, obviously it's perfect. The animation in Archer is ridiculously sharp and well-defined in 1080p, and this Blu-ray set really sets itself apart from anything DVD could deliver when the camera eases back and everything's still all crystal clear. The series' streamlined-but-super-gorgeously-designed visual style is reproduced flawlessly, veering away from any digital artifacting, stairstepping, edge enhancement, or all those other things I guess I'm supposed to complain about when I see 'em. Black levels are deep and inky, and its colors all look spot-on to me. I mean, this isn't the sort of Blu-ray set you'll grab off the shelf just to show off your overpriced HDTV or anything, but this presentation is absolutely flawless just the same.

The second season of Archer is dished out on a pair of dual-layer Blu-ray discs. All thirteen episodes are presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 -- the same way you saw 'em on FX-HD -- and have been encoded with AVC.

The same as the first season Blu-ray set before it, this run of Archer is lugging around 24-bit, six-channel DTS-HD Master Audio. It's technically 5.1, yeah, but it's more like stereo-and-then-some. There's a really strong sense of
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separation across the front channels, but not a whole lot is going on in the surrounds. Sometimes they're used very subtly to flesh out a sense of atmosphere, such as a touch of reverb in a ritzy hotel bathroom or phones ringing somewhere off in the distance at ISIS HQ. That's preeeeeetty much it, though. Despite the whole spy action deal, I think one misfired bullet late in the season is the closest thing you get to gunplay in the rear channels. Bass response is reasonably solid, going more for tight, quick, and punchy surgical strikes rather than trying to rattle the room. The sound design isn't really aimed at the home theater crowd, and that's kinda understandable what with dialogue and delivery being such a focal point of Archer and all. Geez, though, that's where the lossless audio really shines. The voice acting is dazzlingly clean and clear, completely eclipsing what I've gotten used to catching on cable. All of the sound effects come through perfectly too. I mean, I've never heard a blown airboat engine sound this incredible! On the strictly technical end of things, the lossless audio here is without fault. Just gotta go in knowing that you're not going to get a bunch of split-surround effects whizzing around, foundation-rattling bass, or anything like that.

No dubs, downmixes, or commentaries this time around. The only other audio options are -- hey! -- subtitles: English (SDH), French, and Spanish.

There's not a lot in the way of extras, but pretty much all of it is new animation, and that's kind of a lot better than just another standard issue making-of featurette. I'm pretty sure the way the show's produced hasn't really changed since the first season DVD set came out anyway, so what'd be the point? I could've gone for some audio commentaries, but whatever.
  • Archersaurus - Self Extinction (3 min.; HD): The rise and fall of Archersaurus is charted in this E! True Hollywood Story-style mini-doc. If you haven't gone through all the extras on the first season DVD/Blu-ray set, you're not gonna get pretty much any of this.

  • L'espion Mal Fait (5 min.; HD): ...and if you were wondering if they were gonna top the just about universally reviled unaired pilot from the previous season set, here you go. This is pretty much a one-joke thing too that I'm not going to give away, but, yeah, I kind of love it. It's a little inside baseball-ish, so if you're not super-familiar with the voice talent behind Archer, you might want to watch the Comic-Con panel elsewhere on the disc first.

  • Ask Archer (5 min.; HD): Sterling Archer fields questions from viewers like you, such as who he'd cast in a live-action ISIS flick and how to get, um, protein stains out of cashmere.

  • Semper Fi (2 min.; HD): Sterling sends a very special shout-out to SPC Andrew
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    Buckman, and...oh, I guess he's gonna make it back home alright. Cool.

  • ISIS Infiltrates Comic-Con (14 min.; HD): The only not-so-animated extra on this Blu-ray set is the Archer panel from the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con. High sheriff Adam Reed and most of the cast field questions from a packed house in Hall H, dropping a few hints about what'll happen in season three and pointing out the real-life location of Whore Island...stuff like that. Not a lot of penetrating insight into the series or anything but more than a little bit of fun anyway.

The second season of Archer also has a BD Live gateway thingie, but for right now at least, the only thing all that Archer-centric on there is the "Ask Archer" extra that's already on this set.

The Final Word
Yuuuup! Highly Recommended.

Oh, and that's totally an Archer reference and not a Storage Wars thing because, seriously, fuck that show.
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Highly Recommended

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