Spoilers Ahead: If you haven’t watched the Archer: Danger Island season finale, then you may want to turn back.
Some shows are slavishly dedicated to inches-thick creative bibles that lay out every move for the life of the show — Archer is not one of those. Absolute in its embrace of change, Archer has taken fans on a journey across different settings, throwing characters into a plethora of situations on both sides of the law and the divide between reality and dream state. It’s a style that clearly plays well with series co-creator/executive producer Adam Reed’s sensibilities because, as he happily admits, sometimes he just doesn’t know where things are going. But with an endgame for the show approaching (next season is supposedly its last), one would imagine that might change things. Or maybe not.
In this interview with Reed, we touch on the just-concluded Danger Island season, Reed’s reasoning behind killing Sterling Archer in the final moments (but not for really real), and whether the season finale’s final scene — showcasing the gang on a spaceship — will be tied to the main Archer storyline. Reed also talks about the reality of crafting an eventual series finale that he knows won’t please everyone and the possibility of an Archer movie and/or the show continuing on without him beyond that suggested endpoint.
Why was it important that Sterling died at the end of Danger Island? For the series… the overall show.
Adam Reed: For the overall story, I don’t know. It seemed like a good way to put, I guess, an exclamation point, sort of, on the end of that chapter of Archer. I don’t know that it was necessarily important to the overall story. I guess maybe in one sense it sort of, you know, there is going to be another season of Archer and [when] he dies, maybe it sort of lets you know that boundaries aren’t as finite as they once were… maybe? But I think, really, it was probably just trying to make a noise as a writer and surprise viewers.
Do these events, these dream sequences, matter to the overall story or are they self-contained? Or is it a mix? Are you still working that out?
[Laughs] I would like to say that it’s a perfectly balanced mix, but I’m always flailing around so hard just to… like, I couldn’t remember from one episode that came before who was still alive and who had been killed. I’m just treading water so it would be dishonest to say it’s a grand scheme. But, I think there is a balance and we talk about it sort of like if something in these later seasons is outside or beside the established logic of Archer… you know, Cyril is a Nazi, and well, why is he a Nazi? Well if this is in Archer’s subconscious, you know, he’s going to project all sorts of bad stuff on Cyril ’cause he hates him.
I think we probably use that as a crutch, or I do, to get out of logic jams. Which is, on one level, extremely lazy, but it’s also pretty liberating, you know? And it’s nice to be able to… and I know everybody doesn’t agree with it, and some people, you know, I’ve read comments and they’re like, “well this means that nothing that came before it mattered if you’re just gonna start going crazy.” But I don’t feel that that’s the case, really. The main goal for me, is to make each season, even if you’re starting with a new reality and our old characters are in new roles, ideally, it should feel as important to a viewer as the five seasons of Archer Prime. Or Archer One. And if that isn’t the case, I haven’t done my job as well.
As a writer, I am just as caught up in what’s going on. Invested, you know? And I’m scared for them and hope they get out of trouble. So, maybe that was another sub-conscious, like, you know, “hey, we’ll kill Archer in this one. And maybe that’ll scare some folks.” You can’t let them get complacent. The actors, I mean.
Creators, writers, it’s usually rare for someone to say “I don’t know.” And I appreciate the honesty when you offer that answer. I really do. Because it’s so endemic to the process. People should say that more often because you know that they don’t know.