Sagittarius debuted in 2009 as a sort of animated merger between James Bond and The office. Adam Reed's FX show reported the setbacks of Titular Superspy Sterling Archer (narrated by H. Jon Benjamin) while dealing with secret international missions and, most importantly, HR, accounting and working for his mother at ISIS, the International Secret Intelligence Service.
But when real events are over Sagittarius and being an ISIS agent was no longer a laugh, Reed reinvented the show. The writers largely left the office environment in favor of a series of themed seasons that became stranger after Sterling was brought into a coma at the end of a 7-season plot in honor of the 1950 film-noir classic Sunset Boulevard.
Since then, the show has apparently taken place in his subconscious, with his cast of grumpy characters transported to a classic noir and a pulp adventure. Their newest outing, Archer: 1999, the craziest thing is, reforming the characters like the crew of a salvage spaceship and largely the traditional season-long conspiracy in favor of an episodic romp through science fiction clichés.
The best way to get out of the focus shifts of the show is the way Sagittarius can now reinvent the main characters every season, while still maintaining dysfunctional dynamics. The most improved this season is Cheryl Tunt (Judy Greer), originally the incompetent, neurotic personal assistant to Sterling & # 39; s mother, Malory Archer (narrated by Jessica Walter, with all the contempt and pride she brought to Arrested development). Reed has consistently tried to make the character extra comic by salting her with a hodgepodge of traits. She is an ultra-rich heiress with a pet ocelot. She sniffs glue. She likes being choked. She spontaneously decided to become a country singer. But while her one-time counterpart Pam Poovey (Amber Nash) managed to develop from a puppet-bearing HR director in a drag race, badass and Sterling's best friend fight, Cheryl never really came into its own.
That has finally changed this season: she plays a bait pilot in the form of Battlestar Galactica& # 39; S Starbuck. "I have to keep doing stupid fighter pilot missions, and they're so boring because I'm so good," she nags as she makes pros and cons about whether to save the crew from the esophagus of a giant space squid in episode four, " Dining with the Zarglorp. " Her reluctant power can even be funnier than her past bliss. Sterling is occasionally sober and serious enough to show that he is smart and capable of handing out exactly action-star violence, has been a source of humor for many seasons of the show. Another character without impulse control that needs to be persuaded to do the work they are very good at, simply adds to the fun, rather than undermining the piece.
Cheryl is still regularly accompanied by Pam, described by Nash as Chewbacca to Sterling & # 39; s Han Solo last season when the two co-pilots were from a cargo ship. That has gone a step further this season: Pam is now a giant rock monster that is even harder and rougher than normal. There is a weird joke in the scripts from Reed for the first two episodes where she is regularly mosquito netting in front of the camera and is accompanied by a smile trail as if she is a favorite with a sitcom. Fortunately, later episodes that trade in favor of better, but also bizarre, make jokes like the fact that people can smell when Pam's kind is raised.
Doctor Krieger (Lucky Yates) started as a version of Star Trek: The Next Generation& # 39; s divine deceiver Q, who constantly developed troubling side projects. But he has steadily become a member of the main cast. He was particularly enjoyable as the troubling Sterling parrot cracker during season 9, also known as Archer: Danger Island. But he gets his technical roots back Archer: 1999 as Algernop Krieger, an artificial man who constantly quotes the laws of robotics from Isaac Asimov and is beaten by the rest of the crew because he wants to be a real boy. Ethical programming still doesn't stop him from doing anything good, and a side plot in "Dining with the Zarglorp" of which none of the other characters know is one of the funniest things in the first half of the nine-episode season.
Not all changes in season 10 also work. Reed agrees with Ray Gillette, who started as another spy and a more benign foil for Sterling. The boy's nice attitude faded over time, but he was never vengeful enough to compete with the characters who started each other's throats. He was barely in season 8, and he didn't have much to do as a French colonial officer in season 9. He is even more useless this season as a space-consuming courtesan, a parody of FireflyInara. It's a good joke, but the writers don't seem to have a way to support it.
The rest of the crew has not changed much, despite the new setting. Lana Kane (Aisha Tyler) was Sterling & # 39; s ultra-competent spy ex-girlfriend in the original run, and here she is his ex-wife, who shares control of the ship thanks to a joint custody agreement. As always, her job is to keep a cool head and keep everything running smoothly while punishing Sterling for wasting fuel and ammunition, and generally being irresponsible in the name of looking cool. Malory Archer is also in its usual role of command and control. Although, here, it inexplicably has the capacity to become an energy ball that can hold machines. She is still a bitter alcoholic who only cares about herself and Sterling. Cyril Figgis (Chris Parnell), the ship's chief mate, remains Sterling & # 39; s hated rival for Lana & # 39; s affection.
There is a lot of potential in this new, wild scenario, but season 10 begins relatively slowly, with a two-part episode where the crew tries to get paid for saving an alien nobleman and gets ready in the clutches of the eternal series of villain Barry Dillon ( Dave Willis). Plots related to the spy-turned-crazy cyborg wore thin in the original plot, and they were not helped when he turned into a cyborg gangster in season 8. He is a droid in the model of Star Wars& # 39; IG-88 here, but that shift is not enough to make it feel fresher when it hurts Sterling. Those episodes are much better when they are dedicated to the rest of the crew to solve their problems after being forced to perform gladiator fights, or when Reed uses the new setting to get meta with "space phrasing", the attempt by the show to come back the constant vocations of the dialogue with insinuations, which was a major component of the early seasons.
The Tick writer Mark Ganek picks up things in episode 3, "The Leftovers", a compelling mashup of Stranger, Star Trek& # 39; S "The Trouble with Tribbles," and Cowboy Bebop& # 39; S "Mushroom Samba." The episode delivers a number of phenomenal jokes and character development while the famished characters resort to eating alien eggs that unleash their buried desires. The episode also shows off Sagittarius& # 39; s animation chops with a mix of silly sight gags and sequences meant to evoke Ridley Scott & # 39; s alternately exciting and grotesque space horror. The animators have always been fantastic in alternating large action sets and offering humor by showing the facial expressions of the characters while they are arguing. And they have shown much more in the last two seasons, with Archer: Danger IslandLush tropical landscapes and Archer: 1999Weird aliens and big space battles.
Reed said it is planning to leave Sagittarius after season 10. As fun as the seasons were with the theme, it would be a shame if the series ended before it solved the Sterling coma. Fortunately, after 10 seasons and a large number of institutions, Reed has provided a strong template if FXX decides to hire someone to take over the reins, either to Sagittarius back to his roots or to give a new twist to the characters, possibly in a whole new genre.
SagittariusThe 10th season, Archer: 1999, debuts on May 29 at 22:00 ET on FXX.