Archer: Dreamland took the beloved cult animated sitcom into bold new territory, but not without some controversy. Archer debuted in 2009 and follows the title character, a handsome, dashing spy who also happens to be an alcoholic, womanizing jerk. The first few seasons follow Archer's struggles with his overbearing mother Mallory and the gang of misfits he works with, including ex-flame Lana.
Archer quickly attracted a fanbase due to the great voice cast, including H. Jon Benjamin and Jessica Walter (Arrested Development), filthy humor and spot-on parody of old spy adventures like the Roger Moore era James Bond movies. Archer Season 5 marked a change of format for the series, with the main characters instead moving into crime after their spy agency is disbanded. Fans really enjoyed this break from formula, but Archer season 6 found the gang back as spies.
Archer season 7 ended with the titular character riddled with bullets and floating in a swimming pool, which allowed season 8 to once again get experimental. Archer: Dreamland reveals the boozy spy is in a coma, so the entire season takes viewers inside his mind. Dreamland transforms the show into a 1940's noir detective story, where Archer imagines himself as a private detective trying to solve the mystery of his partner Woodhouse's death.
It's a unique set-up for the season and allows showrunner Adam Reed to play around. Archer: Dreamland takes established characters like Mallory and Pam and reimagines them in a noir setting. It also allows the show to have a visual makeover, with Dreamland often impressing with its recreation of smoky film noir movies. Most of the character interplay remains the same, but season 8 offers just enough of a twist on familiar tropes to make it feel fresh. Archer's own mental state and insecurity play a role in the unfolding narrative, of course, and the series ends with Archer visiting Woodhouse's grave to get closure over his passing.
While Archer: Dreamland was the shakeup the series needed, the overall response was mixed. Some felt it was too short and didn't reach its comic potential, while others loved how it remixed the formula. The premise behind Dreamland - the fact it's literally all a dream - lessened the impact of the season for some, and this element remains a point of contention. The following seasons, Archer Danger Island and Archer: 1999, still take place in Archer's head, and some fans have grown impatient with this plot device.
They want a resolution to the Archer coma story, and not another drastic reinvention like Dreamland introduced. This is a valid point, and hopefully, 1999 will finally feature Archer waking up. That said, Archer: Dreamland was the sort of bold, surprising evolution a long-running show needs from time to time, and on that level, season 8 was a total success.