WarningMight contain spoilers.

The sequence and music that open the season are top notch: not a spoof, as they aren’t mocking anything but simply conveying the magnitude of saving the world and its rewards. The first episode itself is underwhelming and the third is mediocre, but the season as a whole makes good on the promise of the opening. It’s constantly fun and darkly, absurdly humorous, in true Archer fashion—‘Shots’ involves nerve gas, introspection, and the entire team unambiguously being terrible people… that winds up being a great episode because no one changes. Only on Archer, too, would a character angrily curse someone who saves their life.

The IIA makes for an excellent antagonist, particularly its leader, voiced with relish by the returning Kayvan Novak. It’s been obvious for a while that he’s a versatile actor with a flair for voices and accents, but roles like this one really let him cut loose. I didn’t even notice Harvey Guillén in his fairly small role early on, though. Meanwhile, (Other) Barry is always a welcome presence.

Krieger is my favourite throughout the season. Colt runs a close second—the sheer amount of humour mined from Eric André’s heroically restrained performance is astonishing, and the decision to explain as little as possible about him is a major part of that.[1] Pam and Carol are a great duo; I don’t know which is better in ‘London Time’, their attempts to act British or how they eventually stopped trying. Cyril is less interesting than usual here.

‘Dingo, Baby, et Cetera’ is an important episode. Sterling Archer didn’t need an explanation of his transformation from neglected and mishandled child to dysfunctional adult, and the 12th season is a curious place for it. On the other hand, it makes for a thoroughly enjoyable episode. Of course Archer falls for Reiko, and while her being the Dingo is telegraphed, the story is engrossing. It’s entirely understandable that Archer’s experience with McGinley (Bruce Campbell!) shapes him, too—the agent is a good character and a good partner who maintains his sense of humour to his dying breath (I had something for this). It’s also important that Archer is neither mawkish nor saccharine but a believable mix of the spy we know and an impressionable young man with good intentions. In addition, I can’t think of a trio from the cast whom I would rather focus on than Archer, Lana, and a Krieger who practically has me falling over laughing every time he’s onscreen.

When the story flashes back to Cheryl and the others in their underwear at the office in ‘Photo Op’, it’s easy to forget for a moment that this isn’t Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma. Lana certainly hears a lot of uncomfortable truths this time around, whether it’s being mocked for having no feeling for Africa or being told she’s turning into Archer.

It’s sweet how Barry struggles against Other Barry during that brutal beating because he genuinely sees Archer as a friend. It’s only to be expected that Archer would have to break into IIA after having escaped to rescue his would-be rescuers. Carol sure knows how to burn a building down throw a party.

The ending is sad to watch: Lana gives up on her marriage, Archer comes home to an empty house, and IIA buys and shuts down ‘The Agency’. And, most importantly, Mallory makes her unavoidable exit. I’m glad her final scene is one of peace and contentment, but no one can fill the void she leaves after 12 years of the late, great Jessica Walters’ perfect performance. I was dull enough not to realize that’s Ron Cadillac, voiced by her own late husband Ron Leibman, sitting next to her; finding out left me on the verge of tears.

Archer can never be the same… and maybe the poignant ending was necessary to prepare for whatever comes next. I have no idea what to expect.

  1. It’s funny that he resembles his actor.