What’s this? Sterling Archer actually grows as a person in the latest season of the FX spy series? Okay, maybe he doesn’t exactly “grow,” but lessons are kind of learned and emotions are felt in the wake of his fiancee’s death at the end of season two.
The third season of Adam Reed’s animated series kicks off with the three-part “Heart of Archness,” where our hero, recovering from the heartbreak of his Soviet spy fiancee’s murder at the hands of cyborg Barry consoles himself in only the most psychologically messy way he knows how: by keeping himself drunk and banging married ladies on their wedding nights. Patrick Warburton and David Cross guest-star in this mini-season which lead into the third season proper, which sees our hero back at work (or “work”) meeting his idol Burt Reynolds, going down South to help Ray’s hillbilly brother with a corrupt cop problem, and heading out into space for a two-part finale featuring Bryan Cranston as a megalomaniacal astronaut. “Lo Scandalo,” which sees Mallory enlisting Archer and Lana’s help to dispose of a dead body, is maybe one of the finest half hours of comedy from last year, dragging the entire Isis team into a killing that involves sex, jealousy, and pasta.
It’s not just enough that “Archer” is one of the funniest shows on TV right now, it’s also one of the most technically excellent. Not necessarily from an animation standpoint (“Archer” uses the same lo-fi, hinge-style movements for its characters as predecessor “Frisky Dingo”), but it’s edited to within an inch of its life and is the better for it. Series creator Adam Reed serves as director on many of the episodes which feature just exquisite timing as he cross-cuts between dialog call-backs and line echoes in a way that still feels fresh into its third season. The jokes all land thanks to a uniformly excellent voice cast (H. Jon Benhamin, Aisha Tyler, Jennifer Walter, and pretty much everyone else) and whip-crack timing as each episode careens between plots and subplots.
The most surprising thing is how effectively Reed and company flesh out motley crew at Isis this season, in particular Pam who has an unexpected turn in her relationship with Archer, Ray, who has a surprisingly white trash origin story, and the man himself, Archer, whose forced to acknowledge his shrewish mother as a person with needs and (worse still for him) as a sexual being, while learning to let go of his anger for the good of others (kind of). These developments wouldn’t matter so much if the previous two seasons didn’t at least seed the possibility that these characters were more than just gag delivery systems.
Smartly-written, expertly performed, and perfectly structured, season three of “Archer” ups the series’ game substantially.
Special features and presentation
– “Heart of Archness” Trilogy Enhanced (58:29): Although the three-part mini-season is included on the first disc, it’s also available on the second as a merged, one-hour feature. It’s useful if you want to avoid the opening credits, perhaps?
– Book-on-Tape Fail (02:09): An extended promo for the “How to Archer” book with Archer struggling to perform a reading of his own how-to book.
– Cooking With Archer (03:14): Another promo for the book, this one featuring the character joined by chef Alton Brown to serve up some cooking tips.
– Gator 2 – Trailer (02:20): Archer abuses poor Woodhouse for his homemade trailer for the Burt Reynolds action flick sequel. He’s still looking for backers, by the way.
– “Archer” Season 3 At Comic-Con 2012 (02:37): The full promo from Comic-Con for the series’ fourth season airing on FX.
“Archer: The Complete Season Three” is available now on DVD and Blu-ray from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.