'Archer' Season 11 Premiere Review: Sterling confronts an all-new status quo as series returns to its spy roots
Archer's recovery from his coma is a wake-up call in more ways than one as he discovers how the world moved on without him
Spoilers for 'Archer' Season 11, Episodes 1 and 2: 'The Orpheus Gambit' and 'Bloodsploosh'
'Archer' has given us three seasons of mind-bending alternate realities, giving us our favorite characters wrapped in all new genres, but with Season 11, things are back to the status quo - although everything has changed. After three years, Sterling Archer (H. Jon Benjamin) has finally woken up from his coma, only to find that in the three years that he's been gone, everyone in his life have moved on without him. To add insult to injury, not only have they moved on from Archer, it appears that their lives were better off with him having been gone - to the extent that some of them are not entirely uncomfortable with admitting that they wish it could be 'coma o'clock' once again.
The show, however, has returned to its spy roots, with two missions that illustrate the all-new status quo and how badly Archer is adjusting to all of it. Lana (Aisha Tyler) continues to be the most level-headed and competent agent on the field, and she's perhaps made the most of her Archer-less life, having found herself a new husband. Malor Archer (Jessica Walter) runs a tighter ship, running the as-yet-unnamed spy operation with something approaching professionalism for the first time. Cheryl Tunt (Judy Greer) has transformed herself in to a New, Better Cheryl...who is only a step away from the old Cheryl, but at least she's trying. Not least, Cyril Figgis (Chris Parnell) has muscled up, and has a newfound self-esteem as the team's resident action hero badass.
It's not the first time Archer has had to confront the idea that he's a genuinely bad influence on the people in his life, but this may be the first time it's been proven so clearly. It's no longer theoretical - Archer was effectively dead for three years, and in that time, the lives of everyone who knew him significantly improved. It's a harsh lesson for anyone to take, but Archer does his best to accept his new support role instead of gunning to be the head of the team. He's far from turned over a new leaf, however, and it's not long before he's throwing wrenches left and right Malory's well-oiled spy machine.
The series is as fun as ever, and though it's been three years since it's told spy-themed stories, it hasn't missed a step. Masking Archer's obvious pain and everyone discomfort at his arrival with a ton of jokes, foiled plans and wildly chaotic action, it's a season that manages to shake up the formula while still being familiar for those longing the spy-gone days of yore. It's a strong, fun-filled return, and though there's going to be an adjustment period, everything still manages to work out in the end...more or less.
The next episode of 'Archer' airs September 24, on FXX.