‘Archer’ Season 9 ‘Danger Island’ Takes Series Further Into ‘Total Recall’ Lunacy

Archer - Danger Island
Pam Poovey, Princess Lanaluakalani, Siegbert Fuchs and Sterling Archer in Archer: Danger Island. FXX

Archer: Danger Island, the show’s ninth season, premieres Wednesday, April 25 at 10 p.m. on FXX.

Archer, which once focused on a semi-legit spy organization known as ISIS, has turned into a sprawling, multi-genre adventure show in its past few seasons, as Sterling Archer and the rest of the ensemble take on pulp genres ranging from 60s sci-fi to 40s noir.

In Danger Island, Archer (H. Jon Benjamin) is no longer a spy or a private eye, but, as a press release for the upcoming season describes him, a “semi-functioning alcoholic seaplane pilot.” As the Second World War looms, Archer plays lounge lizard on the fictional South Pacific island of Mitimotu.

It wouldn’t be Archer without the show’s expansive ensemble, who have also been reimagined for the new world of Danger Island. Pam (Amber Nash) is now Archer’s co-pilot; Malory Archer (Jessica Walter) a resort owner; Lana Kane (Aisha Tyler) is Princess Lanaluakalani; Cheryl Tunt (Judy Greer) the stranded heiress Charlotte Vandertunt; Cyril (Chris Parnell) a German spy; Ray Gillette (Adam Reed) a French Capitaine and, in the strangest transformation of all, Dr. Krieger (Lucky Yates) is a parrot named “Crackers.”

Expect “quicksand, cannibals, super-intelligent monkeys, poison darts” and, of course, pirates.

But while it’s easy to see the vibe Archer: Danger Island is going for, particularly since the island-hopping, seaplane milieu was central to the Archer Season 3 three-parter “Heart of Archness,” almost more interesting than the radical reskin of the series and its characters is how the show will justify the transformation.

Starting with Season 5, Archer Vice, the show began tackling genres outside of the spy pastiche and James Bond riffs that had defined Archer since its premiere. After Vice ’s drug-running adventure, Season 7 transplanted the characters from New York to Los Angeles, where they opened a private detective agency. The genre changed, but the characters were still themselves. That evolved again with the latest season of Archer, Dreamland, which dropped characters in 1947 for a serial noir adventure inspired by Chinatown, The Big Sleep and L.A. Confidential — ostensibly the fevered coma-dream of Sterling Archer, who was shot, drowned and left for dead at the end of Season 6.

So what will the rationalization be for transmogrifying the characters into tan-shirted and leather-jacketed adventurers?

In Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 classic Total Recall, Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is offered a red pill, “a symbol of your desire to return to reality.” There’s no way for Quaid to know, to really know, whether he’s actually a Martian revolutionary or just a working schlub trapped in a malfunctioning fantasy machine. “You’ll be stuck in permanent psychosis,” a supposed doctor tells Quaid. “The walls of reality will come crashing down. One minute you’ll be the savior of the rebel cause and the next thing you’ll know you’ll be Cohaagen’s bosom buddy. You’ll even have fantasies about alien civilizations, as you requested, but in the end, back on Earth, you’ll be lobotomized.”

total-recall-red-pill1 Never take the red pill, Archer. TriStar Pictures

Could Archer be similarly adrift in time and space, lost completely in his own subjectivity, living out his fantasies in endless iterations and reconfigurations? He already suffers that sense of dislocation in Archer Dreamland. Danger Island could take him even further away from himself.

Or maybe no answer will be offered at all; a bold move in an era where fans obsess over continuity and attempt to assemble systematic understandings of fragmented, multi-layered shows like Rick and Morty. Whatever rationalization Archer offers up up, it’s sure to be flimsy and mainly an excuse for the show’s well-established ensemble to tackle new genres.