As the season-five premiere, "White Elephant," opens, show creator Adam Reed creates a perfect visual metaphor. Life for the ISIS team is comfortable and serene, like many TV shows entering their fifth season. But Reed is not going to coast and continue to give viewers the same old show, evidenced by the ISIS offices getting blown up before the episode's opening credits.
Turns out Malory (Jessica Walters) never got sanctioned by the U.S. government to conduct espionage operations, making the adventures of the past four seasons even funnier without altering them, and they get hauled in by the FBI. She finagles their release on the condition they get out of the spy business. While the gang wonders what the future holds, they end up breaking bad and forming a drug cartel since Malory has “literally, not figuratively, a ton of cocaine” which would go wholesale for about $50 or $60 million.
The next episode, "A Kiss While Dying," sets up the main storylines of the season. After wearing a body cast made out of cocaine in order to transport it, Pam (Amber Nash) becomes severely (and, to no surprise in the Archer universe, ridiculously) addicted, which leads to her losing a lot of weight, as first seen in "House Call". Once she overcomes her anxiety, thanks to an implant form Krieger (Lucky Yates), Cheryl (Judy Greer) becomes a country singer named Cherlene (vocals by Jessy Lynn Martens). She is managed by Malory and sets her sights on becoming the Queen of Outlaw Country. Both are drawn progressively sexier as the season progresses, leading Lana (Aisha Tyler) to no longer be the hottest gal in the group, though she has a slight disadvantage Lana since she is now pregnant from an anonymous sperm donation.
Sterling (H, Jon Benjamin) leads the efforts to sell the cocaine throughout the season, but in inimitable Archer style, things frequently go wrong, especially when his fellow ISIS members get in their own way, like Pam upsetting the Yakuza by buying amphetamines with counterfeit money in "A Debt of Honor."
The last third of the season finds them all in the Central American country of San Marcos, led by President Gustavo Calderon (Fred Arminsen). He is fighting against a rebellion and is a huge fan of Charlene. Things get wildly, and wonderfully, out of hand when one member of the gang takes over the country and another has a major identity crisis. They also have to deal with the launch of a deadly nerve gas rocket and the birth of Lana's child.
Reed's writing is impressive. He, along with the entire cast of talented actors, create authentic, consistent characters, who say and do very funny things. In fact, the dialogue is so dense with humor, its easy to miss a joke while laughing at the previous one, and there are many callbacks for those paying attention. The characters form an extremely dysfunctional family, as one would expect considering how many of them have had sex with one another thoughout the series. They frequently treat each other horribly in both word and deed, but also care for each other in their sweet, odd ways, especially Sterling and Lana, no matter what they say.
Guest voices this season include the return of Thomas Lennon and Ron Pearlman as Charles and Ramon Limon from the Season One episode "Honeypot," and George Takei as Mr Moto from Season Three's "Drift Problem." Also appearing are Gary Cole as Agent Hawley, Christian Slater as an arms dealer named Slater, Clancy Brown, and Kenny Loggins who naturally sings "Danger Zone".
The Blu-ray video has been given a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVE encoded transfer. As usual with this series, the colors are bright and vibrant. Blacks are inky, especially the thick lines that define objects. The CG effects used for major action scenes continue with each season to blend better with other items on screen.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is satisfying. Dialogue is always clear. Music and effects fill the surrounds and objects are positioned through the channels. The explosion at ISIS HQ demosntrates the width of the dynamic range as the loud boom, supported by the LFE, is followed by the shop tinkling of shattered glass windows
The extras are few, unfortunately nothing from their annual San Diego Comic Con visit. 'Midnight Blues' Music Video by Cherlene Tunt" (HD, 4 min) finds the gang in a funny C+W music video. "Cherlene Tunt Interview on Wake Up Country" (HD, 2 min) where she promotes her album in one of the worst morning-show interviews. "Old Pam Poovey" (HD, 3 min) finds Pam putting her take on an old children's classic for Lana's baby.
With season five, Archer continued to be one of the funniest shows going, but then I have a twisted sense of humor, so those who don't like their comedy dark and as adult (both language and situations) as it can get on basic cable should be cautioned. Those who do, should enjoy the 13 episodes collected here.