Spoilers: If you haven’t seen the Archer season eight finale yet, you should probably do that before reading on.
Following changes of setting and task in past seasons, the descent into a ’40s noir-inspired Dreamland/coma concoction seemed almost par for the course for Archer in its eighth season. But while many likely assumed that the visit into Archer’s mind would be wrapped up in the season finale, that clearly wasn’t the case, opening up questions about the fate of certain characters and where the show goes from here.
In pursuit of answers, we checked in with Archer showrunner Adam Reed and asked whether he feels obligated to return to the present day and resolve Archer’s coma, what went into the decision to close on that unexpected scene, and whether he’ll ever be able to really give Archer the long goodbye.
When was the Dreamland story concocted and can you take me through the decision to use Woodhouse’s death and George Coe’s absence as the spark that motivated Archer this season?
We came up with this season while trying to come up with season seven. We hadn’t really addressed George Coe’s passing or the fact that we didn’t really see Woodhouse anymore on the show. But to spend the time that I wanted to with that, it was sort of too late to do that in season seven. So, the reason that season seven… a lot of the action took place, you know, on a film noir movie set, was to start laying the groundwork for a new season. So, the whole time I was working on season seven, I was scribbling notes for season eight.
I have to know, the German that Krieger whispered to the dogs at the end, what was he saying?
Oh. [Laughs.] That was a line from Where The Red Fern Grows. He was saying, now both my dogs are dead, which is from the Wilson Rawls novel and then the movie.
I’m curious about the philosophy behind it. I love comedy that makes you have to search.
Well that one, in particular, I put in the script. Normally we either do or sometimes we have to put translation subtitles on. And that one I said, “Don’t subtitle this. Let people figure out what it is.” [Laughs.]
Or cheat, like I am.
I’m sure some German speaker on Reddit will have cracked that within 30 seconds of it airing.
Can you talk a little about that operating philosophy? You guys don’t make it easy on people in terms of references. You’re not afraid to make people search their minds and obviously, there’s a trend sometimes in comedy to dumb things down and you guys don’t do that.
I don’t know why that is. If it’s just sort of being intentionally withholding and like, they can figure things out on their own. But way back, Matt Thompson and I… this was, I don’t remember if it was on SeaLab… but we got into a pretty heated door-slamming serious argument about Calabash Seafood. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Calabash Seafood. You’re probably not.
So, Calabash Seafood is from a very, very geographically tiny area, like upstate South Carolina and maybe a tiny sliver of southern coastal North Carolina. It’s just a type of fried seafood and they call it calabash. It was a phrase that I grew up with and I thought it was universally known. And Matt was like, “What is this?” And I was like, “Dude, Calabash Seafood! Everybody knows this.” And he was like, “No they don’t.” And we got into a huge argument. And at the time, there were maybe five guys that worked at the company and I called a team meeting and I was like, “Okay, we’re going down the line. Who here knows about Calabash Seafood.” And nobody did and like, I stormed out of the house and had to go for a walk. But we left it in there and then nobody, of course, knew what it was.
I think some of it might just be that: I’m gonna put in this goofy thing that nobody else knows about.
You gotta entertain yourself first and foremost, right?
Yeah. Not just me. When we were five guys working in a really dirty house we tried to make ourselves laugh and now we try to make the animators laugh and I think they try to make us laugh. When we get the first animation back on an episode they will have put in sight gags that were nowhere in the script. Everybody wants to make themselves and their coworkers laugh first because you have to watch it like 800 times before it goes on television and make it only seem like once. I think a lot of it is self-entertainment. And I don’t know whether that’s the best thing or not but that’s how we’ve always done it.
Pam’s back tattoo was a poem I had to memorize in the tenth grade with Coach Townsend, our English teacher, and it always stuck with me. He was a really good English teacher and that poem really stuck with me. But I thought I was the only person in the world that knew that for whatever dumb reason. I’m sure plenty of people are familiar with Byron’s work. But yeah, a lot of it is self-entertainment. You can always balance that weird esoteric English major stuff with somebody getting kicked in the groin. It’s easy to bring it back to something that everybody can relate to.
It was interesting that you ended on Pam. Obviously, you’re dodging the cliche there. What was behind the decision to kind of zig there?
That sort of happened early on. I got so charmed by Pam’s imaginary world with these Chinese women and their future together as a family with kids and grandkids that kind of became the heart of the whole season and I kept finding myself making excuses to climb into her head to see her imaginary future.
We looked at swapping it around so that it wasn’t the very end but it wasn’t as satisfying, I guess. So we had that be the end. I’m sure it might seem strange but I got so caught up in that story. It really resonated with me for whatever reason, so I wanted to end on that.
We see Lana die and we see Barry/Dutch get ripped apart — are there going to be any reverberations in the future? Is Aisha Tyler going to be back? Are we going to see those characters again?
I don’t know… I don’t know. We’ll see. You know, it does take place in Archer’s head but I don’t know that we’re going to necessarily come back in season nine and instantly be back in the present.
So, it still could take some time in the Dreamland world?
Or in a different world.
Do you feel a responsibility to go back to the present day or are you just having fun exploring?
I don’t feel a responsibility to come back to the present day. And now that FX has let us open this can of worms, I’m excited to see where else we can go.
Do you feel satisfied with where the story wraps up in the present or that you could say things in these worlds?
Not necessarily, but I’m terrible about sort of toddling off in another direction without properly wrapping up things that I was supposed to. I would say that that’s a pretty big fault of mine as a writer. Even in episodes or scenes, I will know in my head what I wanted to achieve and I will assume that it’s been achieved when a lot of times it hasn’t been.
A lot of my script notes from FX are like, “So hey, this story is totally not resolved.” [Laughs.] And I’m like, “Oh, but then this happened,” and they’re like, “Well you should put that in the script because nobody else knows that.” And I’m like, “That’s a good point.”
I’m terrible about doing that. I guess, season seven ended and Archer was in a coma… I don’t necessarily feel like we have to go back and see him wake up or die from that particular hospital bed. But yeah, I guess I have an obligation to do that, but I don’t feel the obligation — if that makes sense. I know I should do it, but I don’t know that I will do it.
Back last year, you had hinted that season ten was a good stopping point in your mind. Is that still the case or is that still an evolving question?
So far it is. I don’t want to overstay our welcome. I think that we have two interesting seasons to come. Matt Thompson has sort of come up with what I think is a really exciting framework for season nine and I’m working on an outline for that now. Season ten has been slowly percolating in my head. Yeah, I think that would be a good stopping point. I really don’t want to be like, the last guy at the bar and they’re like, “You have to go home now.”
Do you have the last scene in your mind already?
Yes, and it has been there for a couple of years. For like two years, I’ve been picturing that.
I wouldn’t imagine you’ve put any real thought into this, but nothing dies with television now. Everything comes back around in five or ten years. With that final scene in mind, do you ever envision truly saying goodbye to Archer or is this a character that you might have the itch to come back to way down the road after it’s done?
You know, I don’t think that I’ll ever be able to fully get these people out of my head. I still… It’s less now than it was ten years ago. But sometimes, a snippet of a Frisky Dingo scene that was never actually written will pop into my head and I’ll think, “Oh, I should write that down” and then, you know, “Oh, there’s no reason to do that.”
But with Archer, I think it’s going to be a long, long time before these people stop talking to me in my head when I’m trying to do something else. So, I think that the sort of, TV being able to come back and pick up where it left off five or ten years ago — I think that’s a fantastic thing. And I would love, down the road, to come out and do a special, whatever, very limited Archer thing or a movie or something like that. If nothing else, it would be good to work with all these talented folks again.
Well, luckily you’ve got two more years still before anything like that — luckily we all have two more years before we get any distance, I guess.
Hopefully. If we don’t get canceled.
I don’t think that will happen. I hope that won’t happen.
I hope it won’t either. But we’ve been picked up through season ten, so that’s great. And hopefully, people will keep watching.
Archer is set to return for season nine… at some point.