ARCHER DREAMLAND quickly reached its bizarre finale this past May. The final episode came across as more confusing than thrilling. The season began by revealing that Sterling Archer survived being shot by Veronica Dean in the season 7 finale. Still, no matter what Archer may think, he is no Superman. Due to his wounds, he is in a coma for the duration of Season 8. As a result, the season takes place within Archer’s dream, hence the name “Dreamland.”

Overall, fans are pretty divided over DREAMLAND. Some praise the season for its references to previous seasons and its bitter cynicism. On the other hand, some feel that the ambiguous finale felt unsatisfying. Others are waiting to see how this season fits in context with the final two seasons yet to be aired.

In any case, most fans agree that Season 8 was different than previous seasons. Let’s take a look at what parts of DREAMLAND worked for the better and which parts fell flat.

What Worked

While the season finale is the main point of debate among fans, the rest of the season still has many good points. The show still maintained its comedic qualities but wasn’t afraid to experiment with different tones and the different level of consciousness.

A Shift In Tone

DREAMLAND has a significantly more serious tone than ARCHER’s previous seasons. In the dream, Archer finds himself in 1947 noir-esque Los Angeles working as a low-income “semi-private” detective. The events in his dream are prompted by his mother’s conversation in reality: Woodhouse has passed away. As a result, Archer ‘the private eye’ goes on a mission to uncover the murder of his beloved partner.

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Even before we dive into Archer’s dream, the world outside of his dream is pretty grim. The first scene is of Archer bleeding out into the pool Gatsby-style and the second scene is of Woodhouse’s funeral. Granted, the joke there is that we are led to believe it is Archer’s funeral, but the punchline is still a somber reality.

Back in Dreamland, Archer makes no jokes about Woodhouse’s death and is hell-bent on avenging him. While the first episode still features long-standing jokes like Archer cuckolding Cyril for the umpteenth time, the season seems to be a lot more seriously plot-centric. To find his partner’s killer, Archer helps out “Mother,” a mafia boss based on his actual mother, and gets into much deeper trouble than he anticipated.

Surprisingly, it is not Archer’s half-assery that gets him in trouble on the job, but his PTSD war flashbacks. Even though things still continuously go south, it is pretty satisfying to see Archer take his role for once even if we initially fell in love with his phenomenal idiocy.

Psychoanalyzing Archer 

Not that Freud would not have a field day with the previous seasons, but ARCHER DREAMLAND is ripe for psychoanalysis since it is a close-up of Archer’s mind. Viewers can safely assume that all the events in Season 8 indicate some deeper problem, opinion, or belief of Archer because it is his dream. For example, Archer’s reaction to Woodhouse’s death shows just how much he cares for him. Despite the fact that he has treated Woodhouse like crap, he has a deep emotional bond with him.

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Why So Serious?

The funny side of this is that the toned down atmosphere implies Archer takes himself way more seriously than he is. He likes to believe himself as a serious, yet a troubled crime-solving agent dealing with frustrating and maybe unwanted partners (sounds a lot like Lana doesn’t it). He also seems to take his coworkers a little more seriously, too. While he still hassles Cyril and Pam, Cyril does not come across as the lame, floundering loser.

Cyril, a cop in Archer’s dreamworld, is portrayed as slightly more aggressive with more authority. This may be because recently, Cyril was the only source of legitimate employment for Archer and the rest of the cast. As the only one with a law degree, Cyril was able to provide them with detective work, the closest thing to secret agent work. This could mean Archer respects Cyril slightly more than he lets on.

Lana Kane, Femme Fatale

Speaking of which, it seems that Archer is also much more into Lana than he lets on. We may all already know this, but watching his jaw drop at seeing Lana “for the first time” in Dreamland confirms that he is head-over-heels into her.

However, she is not all over him, even in his dreams. When Archer tries to chat her up, there is no trace of his suave bravado. He comes across as desperate and tongue-tied. This could be why he tries to undermine her as often as possible in real life.

What Flopped

Unfortunately, the psychoanalytic angle does not hold up. While this aspect is probably the most exciting part of getting an inside look to Archer’s “Dreamland,” a lot of what happens in the plot makes for confusing implications, if they are meant to imply anything at all. For example, Archer’s mother is suspiciously unrelated to him in his dream. She is “Mother” in the sense that she’s a Mafia leader, but Archer dreams up no biological connection between them. This led fans to consider the potential Freudian implications, but the joke was never addressed in the show.

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Other points like the discovery of Woodhouse’s murderer, Lana’s “death,” and Pam’s relationship with the Chinese slaves are confusing at best. Their psychological implications, if at all present, are incredibly subtle and come across as loose, or shoddily tied ends. This could be something easily remedied in Seasons 9 and 10, but still, leaves Season 8 lukewarm and wanting.

Woodhouse Cast Aside

The reveal of Woodhouse’s murderer turns out to be pretty anticlimactic. In the first episode, Archer discovers a folder Woodhouse left behind in the event of his death. Unfortunately, someone ransacks Archer’s office, taking the folder. However, it seems the folder wasn’t necessary to find Woodhouse’s killer since Barry admits he murdered Woodhouse on a whim. In the end, no one knows what was in the folder. Archer speculates it may have been Woodhouse’s will, but ultimately, casts it aside.

Some fans enjoy this cynical side to the story. Barry murdering Woodhouse for nothing is very characteristic of the sadistic cyborg in all universes, and death isn’t always meaningful. This is in line with the contents of the folder remaining ambiguous. We don’t know what was in there, and maybe it doesn’t matter what was in there. Still, despite all this deep analytical speculation, the way the season concludes Woodhouse’s murder mystery feels pretty unsatisfying.

Lana’s “Death”

Woodhouse’s end wasn’t the only confusing death. While we know Woodhouse dies in Archer’s Dreamland because Archer heard he had passed away in reality, why the heck does Lana get shot to death? Many are puzzled about his statement to Pam that no one could survive several gunshot wounds, not even “in a parallel universe.”

Some guess that this means Lana may have died in real life, and maybe Archer, in his comatose state, heard something. Lana’s death could also symbolize Archer’s fears over losing Lana in any sense. Emotionally or otherwise. Either way, nothing is sure until next season. Her death might be a meaningful twist, but in the current context, it seems like a random event for confused laughs.

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Pam and the Chinese Slaves?

Another confusing aspect of the Season 8 finale was Pam’s relationship with the Chinese slaves she rescued from Len Trexler. Over the season, Pam’s harem and fantasized future with the Chinese women became a running joke but didn’t necessarily prepare viewers for the strange conclusion. At the end of the finale, Pam reads a letter from the Chinese women thanking her and announcing their departure.

Pam bursts into tears and the scene is more heartbreaking than hilarious. Furthermore, this is within Archer’s comatose dream. Why would he construct this whole narrative in the first place? Again, did he overhear something from Pam’s visit or does it have to do with his opinion of Pam? The most amusing part of this is that Archer seems to dream that Pam is a man, for all intents and purposes. Other than that, this part of the plot seems pretty tangential.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, it’s up to the next seasons to clarify the ambiguous aspects of ARCHER: DREAMLAND; even if Seasons 9 and 10 address these loose ends, Season 8 in itself is mildly disappointing. That does not mean it is not a good season. The comedic film noir angle and the dream aspect both work well together as the setting for Archer’s mind. Many of the choices the writers made are in line with how Archer might think subconsciously

As someone who binged all the seasons recently, Season 8 was differently a weird change of pace. Like many fans, I was waiting for the episode where Archer wakes up from his coma, WIZARD OF OZ style. I also wondered how the writers could keep this up for an entire season (clearly the answer was to make it short). Still, being an ARCHER fan, I accepted the new direction the story was going in. Now, I’m looking to see how this fits in with the final two seasons coming up.

While it is not difficult to argue for or against this season as a whole, it is undeniable that ARCHER DREAMLAND suited the series overall while introducing interesting stylistic changes. It is possible for fans to take issue with one season or another but still stay dedicated to the series as a whole.

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