Like many shows that get to eight seasons (or ten – and counting), Archer has managed to keep itself fresh by shaking up its formula. When the ‘60s espionage thing started to get stale, the show started doing season-long arcs that pay homage to classical film genres or pulp fiction magazines.
They’ve done an exotic adventure season, they’re doing a retro-futuristic science fiction season set in the ‘50s’ idea of the ‘90s, and in season 8, they did a season-long film noir. The subtitle of the season was “Dreamland” and it was filled with references to the classics of the genre. 10 Awesome References You Missed From Archer Season 8.
10 The Big Sleep
The film noir was born when the mystery stories written by the likes of Raymond Chandler were translated to the screen. That’s what makes The Big Sleep, Howard Hawks’ breathtakingly cinematic adaptation of Chandler’s finest novel, so important to the genre.
There’s a pivotal scene in The Big Sleep that’s set in a greenhouse, and in the Archer season 8 episode “Ladyfingers,” there’s also a pivotal scene that’s set in a greenhouse. The scenes are framed very similarly. The reference is foreshadowed in the previous scene when Archer says, “You can sleep when you’re dead!” It’s subtle, but it all ties together.
9 Full Metal Jacket
Full Metal Jacket may not be a film noir, but Stanley Kubrick’s darkly comic Vietnam movie is regarded as one of the greatest war films ever made, and Archer referenced it with a line of dialogue in season 8. There’s a scene in the movie in which Private Cowboy tells Private Joker, “Don’t s**t me, man!” and Joker replies, “I wouldn’t s**t you. You’re my favorite turd!”
The latter line is quoted verbatim by Pam in an episode of Archer season 8. It’s not the best-known quote from the movie, and as a result, a lot of fans missed it.
8 Granville Sharp
At one point in Archer season 8, the line “You’re a regular Granville Sharp!” is used to congratulate a white person for their race relations. Granville Sharp was one of the first ever English activists to campaign for the abolition of the slave trade.
He helped to settle freed black slaves in Sierra Leone and his efforts led to the establishment of the Province of Freedom, and later Freetown, in the country. The Jamaican village of Granville, which is known as a “free village,” was named after him. A lot of historical knowledge is needed to get the reference, but it’s pretty awesome.
7 Sunset Boulevard
This one technically came in season 7, but it was all a segue into the film noir theme of season 8 and it was recapped and carried through to the season 8 premiere, so it still counts.
The mysterious shot of Archer looking dead or passed out with bullet wounds in the swimming pool of a Hollywood celebrity is a pretty direct reference to the opening scene and framing narrative of Sunset Boulevard. Being released in 1950, Billy Wilder’s movie was at the back end of the noir craze, but it still manages to hold up as one of the genre’s greats.
6 Gold Diggers of 1933
When he calls Lana a “gold digger,” Archer says, “1933 called, they want their gold digger back.” This is a reference to Gold Diggers of 1933, which was the title of Mervyn LeRoy’s movie adaptation of Avery Hopwood’s stage play The Gold Diggers. The musical tells the story of four aspiring actresses.
The reason for the year being included in the title was that LeRoy recontextualized a lot of the play to reflect the Great Depression, which was ongoing at the time. It’s a pretty obscure movie to reference in Archer, but if you’re familiar with it, it’s pretty hilarious.
Since Archer’s eighth season followed the serialized “Dreamland” narrative, with Archer working to solve a case and each episode ending on a cliffhanger, there was a lot riding on the season finale. It had to tie up all the loose ends in a satisfactory way. Luckily, the season 8 finale “Auflösung” pulled it off.
The mystery of Woodhouse’s death was finally solved (and it was pretty harrowing) and we got some closure on the framing narrative of Archer’s coma, too, which led us into the “Danger Island” arc of season 9. One nice little touch that the writers threw in that a lot of people missed was the season finale title “Auflösung,” which is German for “resolution.”
Roman Polanski’s Chinatown is widely regarded to be one of the greatest movies ever made. It was produced in the ‘70s, long after the heyday of the film noir in the ‘30s and ‘40s, but it managed to play with the conventions of the genre in interesting ways, and modernize them without losing any of their magic.
Anyone who’s seen the movie will remember the plot twist where an incestuous sexual relationship is revealed to be at the heart of the mystery. Cheryl’s mention of a “semi-incestuous” relationship in her own family is a subtle reference to this twist.
3 The Vanderbilt family
Since the themed seasons of Archer put their characters in various different roles that they don’t normally fill, sometimes their names are changed. For example, secretary Cheryl Tunt became rich heiress Charlotte Vandertunt. The name Vandertunt is a pretty obvious reference to the real-life Vanderbilt family, who made their money in the railroad business.
The Vanderbilts became one of the wealthiest families in America, with family wealth that continues to grow even to this day. The best-known member of the Vanderbilt family today is James Vanderbilt, the screenwriter behind The Amazing Spider-Man and White House Down. The American dream is alive and well.
2 Citizen Kane
Orson Welles’ groundbreaking masterpiece Citizen Kane is generally regarded as the greatest film ever made. While any discussion of the greatest film ever made is naturally going to be fruitless, because there are so many films and so many factors to consider and it’s so subjective, the revolutions that Welles made to the art of filmmaking using deep focus and non-linear storytelling make Citizen Kane as good a candidate as any.
It’s not necessarily a film noir, but Archer season 8 did reference it in the episode “Ladyfingers” with a parody of the title character’s Xanadu estate from the movie.
1 The Maltese Falcon
The eighth season’s noir-ish plot about investigating the death of a partner is loosely inspired by the plot of The Maltese Falcon. But a more specific reference to John Huston’s 1941 classic is the interior design of Archer and Woodhouse’s office, which is clearly lifted almost entirely from the design of Humphrey Bogart’s private eye character Sam Spade’s office in the movie.
Funnily enough, in The Maltese Falcon, there’s a character named Archer, although the character is a woman and this is probably a coincidence as Archer had been a spy movie spoof for seven years before tackling the film noir.