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Featured TV on DVD Review: Archer: Season Two

December 25th, 2011

Archer: Season Two - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Archer, the secret agent spoof animated series, was a surprisingly good program. It was surprisingly good, despite the fact that I had high expectations going in. So now that Season Two is coming out on DVD or Blu-ray, will it continue it's impressive start? Or will it slip in quality.

The Show

The season begins at ISIS, the spy agency led by Malory Archer. The company is in trouble. It's been hemorrhaging money for years and after Malory Archer lost her money in a Ponzi scheme, she has to sell ISIS. The first buyer is a German billionaire, but they have to protect his 16-year old daughter, Anka (the titular Swiss Miss of the episode), from kidnappers for her upcoming 17th birthday party. At first everyone thinks they will also have to protect Anka from Sterling Archer, ISIS's top agent and Malory's son (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin). (In his defense, when he made the sexual comments, he didn't know she was only 16.) But instead, he might need protection from her.

Amazingly, the potential sale of ISIS is not a storyline that is done for laughs once and then dumped. It's also the key driving force of the second episode, A Going Concern. This time the buyer is ODIN and Len Drexler. Len Drexler is interested in buying ISIS, and marrying Malory, mainly begin he thinks he's the father of Sterling Archer. (There's a one in three chance he is.) Of course, Archer won't stand for this and gets help from his fellow ISIS employees, Ray (voiced by the show's creator, Adam Reed); Cyril Figgis; Cheryl Tunt; Doctor Krieger (Lucky Yates); Pam Poovey (Amber Nash); and to a lesser extent, Lana Kane. (She originally supports the buyout, because she will get a promotion if it goes through and she sleeps with Barry Dylon, ODIN's top spy.) Continuity actually plays a part in this show a lot more than you would expect for a cartoon. For instance, Archer is accused of fathering a child with a hooker in Blood Test, and that child makes multiple appearances in the season. Archer is diagnosed with cancer, which actually turns him into a nice person, for two episodes, Stage Two and Placebo Effect . ... Well, parts of two episodes.

Other highlight episodes include Pipeline Fever, in which Archer and Lana have to battle an Eco-terrorist in the swamps. In Movie Star, Lana has to show the ropes to an actress, who will be playing a secret agent in an upcoming movie of hers. We learn the real identity of one of the employees of ISIS in El Secuestro when they become the target of a kidnapping plot. Archer discovers he has a gambling addiction in Jeu Monégasque, after losing more than $3 million dollars his mother had stolen from the employees and plans to use it to pay the blackmail to recover one of her sex tapes. What a family. The season ends with the two-part White Nights / Double Trouble, in which Archer travels to Russia to try and confront one of his possible fathers, but gets captured so Barry has to go in and rescue him.

I should point out, while those are the highlight episodes, every single one of the thirteen episodes on this two-disc set is excellent. Even the weakest one, The Double Deuce or maybe Tragical History, have several laugh out loud moments. The best episodes had times I had to pause the Blu-ray, so I wouldn't miss anything. I would argue that season two is even better than season one. Impressive.

The Extras

There are no extras on the first disc, not unless you count the BD-Live extras, and you shouldn't. (It's just the usual Fox site with nothing exclusive for the series.) Disc two has Achersaurus: Self-Extinction, which is nearly inexplicable. The first season DVD has an Unaired Pilot, which was just the pilot with a dinosaur in the lead. This is a four-minute look at what happened to that dinosaur after the DVD was released. Ask Archer is a five-minute featurette with Archer answering viewer questions. Semper Fi is a two-minute shout-out to some army guys. L'Espion Mal Fait is about... five minutes long, and is even harder to describe than Achersaurus: Self-Extinction. (After an explosion, Archer wakes up in the body of H. Jon Benjamin.) Finally, there's ISIS Infiltrates Comic-Con, a fourteen-minute Q&A session.

There are no exclusive extras on the Blu-ray, except the BD-Live functionality. The Blu-ray does look great, given its animation style. It's not what you would call a very detailed cartoon. It does have great colors and inky deep blacks, so that's a selling point. The audio is clear, but mostly uncomplicated. It does just cost 25% more than the DVD, which is a good deal for this type of release.

On the other hand, the Season One Blu-ray is too much to pay, especially since its is a double-dip and not a concurrent release.

The Verdict

Archer: Season Two is pick of the week material. It's as simple as that. The writing is great, the voice acting is pitch perfect, the animation is... well, it's actually pretty limited, but it serves its purpose. The Blu-ray doesn't offer much more than the DVD, but it looks great and the price is right.

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