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Blu-ray Review: Archer – Season Two

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Archer is an animated series on the FX Network that revolves around Sterling Archer – the world’s sexiest and perhaps most oblivious spy – and his team at the spy agency ISIS. Voice talent includes H. Jon Benjamin, Chris Parnell, Aisha Tyler and Arrested Development alums Jessica Walter and Judy Greer.

The Season

The humor of Archer is offensive, inappropriate and just plain crass. In fact, if it was any more over the line it would need to contact Kenny Loggins because it would definitely be in the danger zone. It’s also hilarious, and smart, and helpful (telling us exactly how we can avoid getting ants). So it’s not for kids, but it is for really old kids who wonder – wisely – why airboat driving isn’t an Olympic sport.

Sterling Archer is, for some unknown reason, the world’s most deadly secret agent. He’s also an egotistical, borderline alcoholic who spends more time on missions chasing tail than he does bad guys. And the rest of the agents and staff at ISIS aren’t much better. Their currency is innuendo and their medication is near constant. Season one spent quite a bit of time setting up this dysfunctional world. Now with season two, there are less sly jokes to explain and more badassery to perform on the enemy. The humor and one-liners are kept fast and smart, with a style that is much more Arrested Development than it is Adult Swim.

If there’s any weakness to this second season, it’s that most of the episodes are so good that they make the weaker ones stand out more dramatically. “Movie Star”, as well as the two-part finale episodes simply can’t keep pace with more outstanding examples around them. None of them are bad, but the high points are so high as to leave the also-ran moments in the dust. However, some of the new mini story arcs that the season explores (such as the Wee Baby Seamus, Sterling’s cancer, and his Russian spy fiance) show that things will be just fine as Archer expands its stories and characters.

Video/Audio

The animation of Archer is more stylized than it is complicated. Most of the episodes revolve around talking head scenes with minimal body movements and facial changes, with only occasional spy work and action scenes. But still, high definition certainly suits the style and the picture quality here is very impressive. Not only is it much easier to read Pam’s back tattoos, but the colors and shading of the characters and sets really pop and show excellent edge work. Having seen the previous season on upconverted DVD, the improvement here is definitely noticeable.

Although understated when compared to most films on Blu-ray, the audio for Archer is surprisingly good. Although the front stereo mix is where most of the action takes place, the show frequently takes advantage of the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. The token fight scenes and shootouts are where channel separation is most noticeable, but even more subtle use with music and the frequent off-camera exclamations are both clearer and more creatively spaced than they came across on broadcast television. It’s not a showcase track by any means, but it’s certainly an appreciated upgrade.

Bonus Material

It’s almost easier to note what season two of Archer doesn’t contain than what it does. Commentary tracks? Nope. Deleted scenes? Sorry. The actual video for “Terms Of Enrampagement”? That would have been so classic Archer. But the good news is that the bonus items are at least better than they were for season one. “Archersauras – Self Extraction” (HD, 3:09) is a follow-up of sorts to the “unaired pilot” from season one’s extras. “Ask Archer” (HD, 4:58) is a brief but excellent short where Archer answers fan questions while enjoying several glasses of quality scotch (I’m assuming they’re of quality). “Semper Fi” (HD, 1:47) is a brief clip of Archer trying to send an appropriate shout-out to some troops overseas. “L’espion Mal Fait” (HD, 5:19) is an excellent and tongue-in-cheek short where Archer’s surgery gets botched and he ends up looking suspiciously like the person who voices him. Finally, “ISIS Infiltrates Comic-Con” (HD, 13:39) is a round table discussion featuring the creator and the voice cast of the show.

Conclusion

Although light on extras, the second season Blu-ray for Archer is completely solid. The animation looks fantastic in high-definition, and the show’s writing – with the exception of only a couple of episodes – really finds its stride, and is able to more fully develop its own canon of humor. Definitely a strong recommendation for either fans of the show or animation fans in general. Or Burt Reynolds.

About David R Perry