‘Archer’ Producers on That Big Finale Twist: ‘Archer May Be Dead’
The seventh season of Archer ended not with a whimper or a bang, but a huge gasp.
We’ve seen Sterling Archer, the former ISIS agent turned renegade cartel leader turned private eye, be shot, stabbed, and tortured dozens of times over, but in “Deadly Velvet: Part II,” the last we see of the square-jawed superspy is him lying facedown in Veronica Deane’s swimming pool, blood spilling out of the bullet holes in his chest.
Since FX has yet to renew the animated spy series for an eighth season—which creator Adam Reed and executive producers Matt Thompson and Casey Willis knew going into this one—did they purposely leave the finale open-ended in case the show was canceled?
“Yup,” Thompson tells The Daily Beast. “How’s that for an answer? You know, FX hasn’t picked the show up yet. We don’t know. Archer might be dead. We have some ideas, but you know, it’s very much sitting right there. That could be it.”
That could be it. While the critical reviews for Archer are overwhelmingly positive, its TV ratings haven’t exactly been through the roof. “Deadly Velvet: Part I,” for example, averaged just 0.76 million live viewers. The issue, it seems, is that the very dedicated fan base for the show skews young, so the lion’s share of its viewership consumes the show via Netflix, DVR, or through more illicit means.
Still, the show’s quality hasn’t diminished much and remains a must-see. Last year, it took home its first Emmy and has won the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Animated Series four times in a row. This season was one of its strongest, with a perfectly book-ended story arc right out of a ’70s film noir.
“Adam knew two things when he started writing this season: 1) He wanted to start with a Sunset Boulevard shot of Archer dead in a pool; and 2) he wanted to make everybody think that that actually wasn’t Archer,” says Thompson. “For a long time, he thought he’d do rubber masks like in Mission: Impossible, so you’d take the mask off and it wasn’t Archer, but then what he knew is that he wanted that to be Archer, and to fake the viewer out. We saw the online comments and everybody was saying, ‘Well, that’s how they’re going to do it! That’s obviously a Krieger robot there,’ and we were sitting there watching those comments with glee, like, yes, yes, come to me, because that was definitely planned to make everybody think that they figured it out.”
As for the Season 8 renewal, well, it’s not official yet.
“We’re talking about it, just nothing’s set in stone yet,” says Thompson. “They like to really control that message, too, so we’ll probably find out when everybody else finds out,” adds Willis. “We’re going ahead and forming ideas and getting ready for whatever happens, so if it happens, we’ll be ready, and if not, we’ll have a bunch of ideas that we’ll probably throw out on the internet!”
While the Archer creative team may be preparing for the worst, sources close to the production tell The Daily Beast that a renewal looks promising—and that the Archer gang will be attending this year’s San Diego Comic-Con in July where they’ll potentially debut some never-before-seen footage.
“We have a definite plan and definite ideas of where we’re going to go from here. We are scheduled to be at Comic-Con, and I feel we’ll know by then,” says Willis. “But I can say 100 percent positive that Archer would be a private eye in the next season.”
As far as the seventh season goes, the producers of the show are proud of the two-part “Bel Panto” episode, in which Archer and the gang are trapped in a fancy Hollywood mansion by a gang of robber clowns headed by Mr. Rompers, voiced Randy Havens—a local Atlanta fella that Thompson and Reed have “known forever.” And they’re particularly proud of that slo-mo shot at the end of the two-parter of the SWAT team unloading on everyone with bean bags.
“The final slo-mo was a favorite, and the second episode of that starts with this gigantic, 360-degree pan of a room that almost killed us,” remembers Willis. “Whenever you do that 360-degree move, there’s a certain amount of buzzing that happens, and we worked on that shot for days and days, and did the best we could.
“It was a combination of all the parts that make up Archer,” he continues. “We of course had our illustrator in Adobe After Effects that we normally use to animate it, but we also added Harmony animation, which is another program that we use, and there’s a lot of 3-D in there. It was all meshed together, and I think was pretty seamless in the execution.
The producers do feel they could’ve done a better job of setting up Veronica Deane’s scam-reveal, as well as bringing back the deliciously sinister Mr. Rompers for a bit of cheeky misdirection.
“I think that in the middle episodes we could’ve strung in a little more Stratton-Whitney talk,” says Thompson. “We got a little bogged in the middle of the season, and Veronica just mentions it very quickly in the end about how they made the stock deal and how they made millions from those idiots at Stratton-Whitney, and I would’ve liked to pull those strings through a little harder.”
“Some people have already postulated on the internet that Mr. Rompers had something to do with the finale and the sabotage on set,” adds Willis. “I’m not saying that’s what we should’ve done, but maybe we should have had him come back, or on set lurking around and peeking around corners to give another false flag to people.”
One “false flag” that Thompson and Willis really got a kick out of was the finale proposal that wasn’t, wherein Archer takes a knee in front of Lana and all his co-workers. “Lana Kane,” he says… only to malfunction and reveal himself to be a Krieger-bot.
“I can’t get enough of Archer getting down on one knee to Lana and me knowing what’s going to happen as he starts to malfunction as a robot,” chuckles Thompson. “To know what the real fans of Archer are thinking during that moment before it explodes, I love it.”