In the very first episode of Archer, an FX original animated comedy series, the show’s widely-revered (and reviled) main character Sterling Archer grabbed my attention right away— and I’ve been a loyal viewer ever since. While I could write an extensive thesis about all the reasons why this show is so hysterically enthralling, I will instead specifically address the one question that has always been the proverbial “elephant in the room”: Why do we love a character as deplorable as Archer? I think that the answer lies in the glaring similarities between our fictional American spy and Ian Fleming’s world-renowned character and Vegas “poster boy” James Bond; both men have chiseled good looks, classic vices and chauvinistic character flaws — but with Archer, those faults are magnified tenfold.
Archer is a Lush
Archer loves his liquor and drinks constantly, which seems to be a habit that he picked up at an early age from his mother Malory (who owns and runs ISIS). As one of many examples, the season 1 finale (“Dial M for Mother”) opens with Archer arriving at his spy agency (ironically named “ISIS”) gripping a glass of dark liquor on the rocks, which one can only assume was his breakfast. His drinking intensifies throughout the episode after he discovers that the head of the KGB, Nikolai Jakov, might be his father. After being ejected from a local watering hole in a drunken stupor, Archer is easily subdued by Russian operatives who end up drilling a mind-controlling microchip into his brain at Jakov’s bidding.
I hate to admit it, but my favorite moment of Archer inebriation appears in “Stage Two” (S2, Ep.8) when a plastered Archer convinces the curvaceous Lana (his aggrieved ex-girlfriend and ISIS co-worker) to have “pity sex” with him due to his recent breast cancer diagnosis.Like a true gentleman, Archer later describes the event (in front of Lana and many others)as inconsequential “cancer sex”.
Archer Bets it All – Recklessly
Archer loves to play the high roller – particularly with other people’s hard-earned money.And he feels absolutely no shame about it!For example, in “Jeu Monégasque” (S2, Ep.11), Archer recklessly wagers the collective 401(k)s of all his ISIS co-workers while on a mission in Monte Carlo. I should mention that one of the charming things about the show is that it is sometimes difficult to figure out exactly what year it is in the Archer dimension. However, regardless of Archer’s surroundings, we can be confident that he will always find a way to play a hand, whether it be in an old-time, smoky, backroom parlor in the USA (or world for that matter) or by using his latest tech to log on to 888 Poker.
Archer is a Rampant Womanizer
If you too are a devout Archer fan, then I’m sure that you’ve been waiting for me to mention Archer’s sexist, womanizing lechery (to put it mildly). Episodes frequently open with scenes of him passed out nude in bed with his most recent sexual conquest,whether they be a stewardess (when he’s home) or a bevy of local harlots (when he’s away); and alcohol and sex paraphernalia — including the recurring ping-pong paddle —are always strewn about the room like a scene from Caligula.
Through a series of flashbacks, we also know that Archer has had countless, meaningless one-night stands with his masochistic co-worker Cheryl(whom Archer calls Carol), which have often resulted in Archer tossing all her clothes into his hallway, onto the street or over his balcony. In short, he’s a monster. Through other flashbacks, we’ve also learned the many ways in which he’s horribly mistreated the one woman whom he loves (Lana), including one incorrigible incident when he answered a phone call from his mother during coital relations.
Archer is Beyond Selfish
The show also gives us deep insight into Archer’s narcissism. One of the most illustrative examples occurs in the episode “Stage Two”(mentioned above) when Archer persuades his faithful (and constantly victimized)lifetime caretaker, Woodhouse, to forego a long-awaited Las Vegas trip with his brother Dicky.Even though Woodhouse had asked for his vacation days one year prior,Archer once again exploits his cancer diagnosis to convince his loyal manservant to let him take his place on the prepaid Sin City extravaganza. As if that weren’t bad enough, Archer and Dicky end up getting arrested because of their Vegas shenanigans and Archer frames Cyril Figgis (his office nemesis and Lana’s most recent boyfriend) for his crimes, resulting in Cyril being extradited to Mexico and worked over by the local police! What a guy, huh?
It seems that Lana is the only person who can consistently extract some semblance of humanity from our antihero.My theory is that because Archer is so clueless about his own imperfections and unfailing depravity, we end up reluctantly admiring the purity of it. So, when he demonstrates even the slightest glimpse of benevolence, we tend to forgive his prior transgressions. In any case, love him or hate him, we all hope that Archer will continue to entertain us with his offensive antics for at least for a few more seasons.