Join suave super-spy Sterling Archer and his fellow covert government operatives for more irreverent adventures across the globe. With an overabundance of cocaine at their disposal, the team forms a cartel and sets out to sell the drug. As this dubious new venture speeds into hilarious motion, the team deals with addiction, Cheryl's turn as a country singer, an FBI bust, an open marriage, Kenny Loggins, a South American dictator, and an announcement Archer couldn't have imagined in his murkiest, tequila-influenced haze. Loaded with sexy, animated fun and all 13 outrageous episodes, the 5th action-packed season of Archer comes with a cool stash of classified extras.
As TV shows get older and their original premises begin to run their course, there's always a risk that things will start to grow stale. With that in mind, some showrunners like to shake things up every now and then by adding a "game-changing" twist. For its fifth season, the writers of 'Archer' have decided to go this route, literally blowing up the show's initial foundation in the premiere's opening moments. And with the status quo now reduced to rubble, the creators go wild, taking the characters on an outrageous mission that sees the former spies become… drug smugglers. As seemingly random as this new direction is, it turns out that espionage and cocaine trafficking are surprisingly similar -- at least when this dysfunctional group is involved -- resulting in another raunchy, smart, and utterly hilarious batch of episodes.
Rebranded 'Archer: Vice,' season five of the animated comedy sees the International Secret Intelligence Service disbanded by the FBI. Now out of a job, Sterling Archer (H. Jon Benjamin) and the gang are forced to seek a new line of work. And when it's revealed that the team happens to be sitting on a ton of cocaine, drug smuggling becomes the obvious next course of action. But unloading hundreds of pounds of coke proves to be a rather daunting and dangerous task. With the former secret agents seemingly in over their heads, Archer and his amateur cartel attempt to sell off their goods while combating rival criminals, the government, South American dictators, and their own growing incompetence.
Tossing away the spy missions that defined the show's previous four seasons, the writers offer a creative reboot of sorts here, placing the characters in uncharted (and often foreign, crocodile filled) waters. And while several episodes include self-contained plots, they all serve as a smaller piece in a season long drug trafficking mission. But just how well does this new direction work? Is this still the 'Archer' that fans know and love? The answer, thankfully, is a resounding yes! And also no.
You see, the cocaine smuggling plotline does allow the writers to inject (or is it snort?) some amusing new life into the series, but at the same time, these character remain the same irreverent, bickering group of crazy people that they've always been. Whether going undercover to stop terrorists or braving South American jungles to sell drugs, the show's mixture of dialogue driven humor and explosive action remains the same. Incessant arguments between the lovably dysfunctional team, vulgar word play, and violent sight gags once again fuel most of the humor, retaining the style of comedy that the series is known for. With that said, leaving the espionage world behind does lead to some rather inspired plotlines.
Highlights of the "A-Team meets Scarface" premise include a showdown with the Yakuza, a special performance by Kenny Loggins, Krieger clones, a South American rebel uprising, Cheryl's attempts to become a country music superstar, and Pam's increasing addiction to cocaine. That latter plot point is especially twisted and proves to be one of the season's funniest running gags. All of these disparate storylines end up connecting surprisingly well, and a recurring subplot involving Lana's pregnancy adds some good character moments here and there that remind us that these crazy people really do love each other deep down. Very, very deep down.
The regular cast -- including the great H. Jon Benjamin, Judy Greer, Amber Nash, Chris Parnell, Aisha Tyler, Jessica Walter, Adam Reed, and Lucky Yates -- all continue to do exceptional work. While the writing itself is both sharp and outrageous, so much of the humor relies on the performers' delivery and timing, and the actors all do a great job. This season is also home to a fantastic assortment of guest stars, including memorable turns from Fred Armisen, Gary Cole, Lauren Cohan, Ron Perlman, Thomas Lennon, the aforementioned Kenny Loggins, and Christian Slater. Likewise, the show's distinct animation style continues to complement the dialogue perfectly, and the artists seem to have a lot fun with the new premise and settings.
'Archer: Vice' results in a hilarious creative reboot that adheres to the show's trademark sense of humor while also taking the series in an entirely new direction. While the recently premiered sixth season seemingly takes the show back to its espionage roots, this 13-episode excursion into cocaine smuggling proves that Archer and his team can be just as funny in the drug game as they are in the spy game. Action-packed and marked by a twisted sense of witty humor, the series remains a darkly hilarious and decidedly addictive experience, always leaving viewers wanting more and more and more…
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
20th Century Fox presents 'Archer: The Complete Season Five' in a 2-Disc set. Two BD-50 discs are housed in a keepcase with a cardboard slipcover -- and in a playful little addition, the slipcover features a Velcro attachment that allows Archer's face to swing open and reveal another image of the character, complete with a removable sticky of his sunglasses. After some skippable trailers, the discs transition to standard menus. The packaging indicates that the release is region A coded.
The show is provided with a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer in the 1.78:1 ratio. Like previous season's, this is a bright and colorful image that supports the show's art style well.
Clarity is strong, offering crisp lines and sharp details within the series' trademark animation style. The plot's new direction leads to some exotic settings, including a few South American locals that provide a varied palette of vivid colors and a few cool CG flourishes that blend well with the otherwise 2D aesthetic. Contrast is also impressive, with bright whites and deep, consistent black levels. Unfortunately, I did detect a bit more artifacting here than I did in the previous season's transfer, resulting in some occasional shimmering/aliasing and flicker. Thankfully, these technical hiccups remain very minor.
Though not quite as clean and pristine as last season's video, the picture here remains very impressive, bringing some nice pop to the show's drug smuggling action.
The series is presented with an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 track along with optional English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles. Much like the video, the audio is about on par with previous seasons, leading to an engaging but slightly front-loaded experience.
Dialogue remains the show's emphasis, and all of the profanity laden bickering is clear and full-bodied throughout with no balance issues to report. Of course, the show still retains a heavy action component as well, and the front soundstage is aggressive and spacious, spreading gunshots and explosions throughout the center, left, and right with smooth imaging. Likewise, speech is directionally placed when appropriate. Surrounds do chime in every now and then with subtle ambiance and a few key effects, but by-and-large the rear soundstage is often neglected, lessening some of the track's sense of immersion. Thankfully, dynamic range is wide and distortion free, and low frequencies pack some decent punch during all of the chaos.
The audio is thankfully free from any technical issues and features lively effects work. The subdued surround presence does hinder the mix's overall scope, but I found the experience to be a little more enveloping than the previous season's.
20th Century Fox has put together a disappointingly slim but still amusing trio of supplements. All of the special features are presented in 1080p with Dolby Digital 1.0 sound and no subtitle options unless noted otherwise.
'Archer: The Complete Season Five' takes the show in an entirely new direction, trading in the series' espionage thrills for a hilarious excursion into drug smuggling. Marked by the same irreverent style of witty bickering and twisted gags, the animated show remains just as funny as ever. The video and audio are both strong, highlighting the series' distinct style. Supplements are disappointingly slim, but the included extras are fairly amusing. Despite the rebooted premise, fans should find a lot to like here and this season also serves as a solid jumping on point for new viewers. Recommended.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.