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‘Archer’ keeps momentum in fourth season

TV Review | 3 out of 5 stars

Published: Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, February 6, 2013 12:02

the fourth season of creator Adam Reed’s hilarious FX show “Archer.” Well, he wasn’t really back until fifteen minutes into the first episode of the new season, when he snapped out of his fugue state as Bob in a highly rewarding crossover between the two animated shows — “Archer” and “Bob’s Burgers” — in which H. Jon Benjamin voice-acts. “Archer” is known for its references and nods to movies and shows, and the new season is shaping up to be no exception.

When Archer — or at that moment, Bob — is attacked by KGB agents, he takes all of them out, with the class and efficiency Archer is known for. He then suddenly speaks in Russian, a slight nod to “A History of Violence” (2005). What keeps Archer distinct from from shows like “Family Guy,” which relies simply on pop culture references for cheap laughs, is its emphasis on characters. The characters have all developed in their own interesting ways over the course of the past three seasons.

The second episode of this season is a perfect example of a storyline driven by a character’s flaw, which Adam Reed somehow manages to turn into comedy. This episode, entitled “The Wind Cries Mary,” addresses Archer’s homophobia when he meets an old ISIS friend — Lucas Troy, voiced by Timothy Olyphant — in Vermont of all places. Through flashbacks, we come to understand the unusually bromantic relationship between these two friends; from ignored females in a ménage à trois, to fights in the locker room, all while Archer remained hilariously oblivious. Once in Vermont, Archer must come to terms with his denial of obvious signs that his friend isn’t really just a friend. The show also shines when it makes clear that it wasn’t just homophobia that blinded Archer but also his loneliness, which has been a recurring idea throughout the series. Numerous flashbacks show Archer as a child, alone at a birthday party, alone in his bedroom and also alone in the current timeline of the show. The audience never sees Archer interacting with his friends. It is this sort of character depth that keeps this show grounded in reality and, more importantly, keeps the viewer empathetic to one of the most sarcastic, conceited and egoistic protagonists on a television series.

The third episode of the season also includes a callback to a previous story arc, that of Archer’s deceased lover Katya, who Krieger brought back from the dead as a cyborg only for her to run off with Barry, Archer’s arch nemesis cyborg. Although the show isn’t very serialized and has hardly any season long arcs, it still makes an effort to insert callbacks that reward longtime viewers. This time around, in the aptly named episode “Legs,” Krieger is at it again, fixing Ray’s paralyzed lower body. Archer’s many repressed memories of Katya resurface as he attempts to thwart the operation.

Beneath all the craziness of fugue states, rogue spies in Vermont and cyborgs, “Archer” ultimately follows a man crippled by loneliness and a ridiculously over-protective mother who scared away any chance of him having a friend. His systematically repressed homophobia and the memories of a deceased, then resurrected, then escaped love, are what has driven the most recent three episodes. This show does a remarkable job of combining the emotion of “Parks and Recreation,” the ridiculous antics of “Workaholics,” the rewarding pop culture references of “Community” and the wit of callbacks and obscure jokes of “Arrested Development” (2003-2013). It is an amalgam of all that is great about modern sitcoms. It has proven to be one of the smartest shows on television, and the fourth season is shaping up promisingly.

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