Archer - The Complete Season Three
This FX series, an outrageous animated spoof of the spy genre, enjoys a well deserved reputation for snappy writing, crude humor, and surprisingly developed characters. The overall result is part family drama, part workplace comedy and part action-adventure.
However brilliantly conceived "Archer" might be, in execution this third season falls short of the standard set by the inspired first and second seasons and ends up largely so-so. The title character, voiced by H. Jon Benjamin, retains his world-class fighting skills and his 16-year-old mentality, which limits the ways in which he can grow and develop. We don't get a deeper or smarter Archer; instead, we get more of the same familiar shtick. Archer doesn't get more mature, though he does get tinnitus after one too many nearby grenade explosions.
None of the characters develop, in fact, although the cast is stellar. Archer's mother Malory (Jessica Walter), the spy agency's director, is still a man-eater with a drink perpetually clutched in her hand.
Lana (Aisha Tyler), Archer's ex and the only competent human being on the staff, remains the cast foil. (The residual sexual tension between Archer and Lana is grotesquely similar to the Oedipal relationship in which Archer is moored with his mother.)
Agency accountant Cyril ends up promoted to field operative in the course of the season, which makes for some comic opportunity, while gay agent Ray (Adam Reed) ends up in a wheelchair -- though, snap! He still holds on to his catty wit. Nymphomaniacal HR director Pam (Amber Nash), bat-shit-crazy secretary Cheryl (Judy Greer) and crazed lab wonk Krieger (Lucky Yates) round out the cast.
Character stasis is a sitcom staple, but the best comedies know how to mine laughs from the ways in which people do not change (however much they ought to). "Archer" chooses a different route, offering tastier man-treats to Malory (Burt Reynolds guests in one episode) and ever more unlikely revelations about the core characters (wing nut Cheryl turns out to own a railway). If coupled with funnier material, this strategy would be genius, but in this case it feels like treading water.
What saves these episodes isn't the constancy of its players, but the consistency of its tone: Always dry and deadpan, season three of "Archer" may not have the zing to make whole episodes interesting (much less the tedious three-parter that kicks off the season or the two-part mission to space that closes it out), but it does offer absolutely brilliant one-liners.
This is the set for the "Archer" completist who has everything else, or for the casual fan looking to catch up. Special features include an "enhanced" single-episode presentation of the "Heart of Archness" trilogy, as well as a slate of short subjects: "Book-On-Tape Fail," "Cooking With Archer," and "Gator 2 Trailer" all dovetail nicely with the regular season episodes, while "Archer Season 3 at Comic-Con 2012" is a cheeky bit of meta-publicity.