H. Jon Benjamin has such a commanding voice, he is never asked to disguise it when he gets hired for voiceover work. Unlike many actors who enhance or otherwise tweak their natural sounds in order to create unique cartoon characters, Benjamin is just utterly himself. So maybe it was only a matter of time before one of his shows referenced his other. FX and Adam Reed’s Archer takes full advantage of Benjamin in this way, poking fun at Bob’s Burgers in the season four premiere, but smartly, it is not simply a case of Sterling undercover.
In “Fuge and Riffs,” Sterling has fled ISIS once again after witnessing another trauma at the hands of his mother Malory (Jessica Walter), and we find him flipping burgers at the shore with his wife Linda and three kids when a bunch of KGB agents bust in on him and attempt to kill him. Resorting to his natural instincts, despite insisting his name really is Bob, not Sterling, he is able to spray them with bullets right back, and then he flees again. The rest of the ISIS agents catch onto where he is and track him, using Lana (Aisha Tyler) as a kind of bait, to coax his true inner Sterling out again.
We cannot say enough good things about Archer, and this season premiere certainly lives up to such hype. Once again, Reed proves himself witty with zingers, even if this episode is limited on other pop culture references than most. We’ll give it the benefit of the doubt since Sterling has amnesia, and he’s the one usually making such memorable remarks. “Fuge and Riffs” keeps all of its characters consistent while playing off the new dynamic set up by learning that Cheryl (Judy Greer) is actually rich and therefore a much more valuable employee than as most of ISIS wants to treat her. It delivers strong action, clever bleed-over lines from scene to scene, and perhaps most importantly, a set up for a “big bad” arc outside of the usual Odin and/or KGB problems.
Reed certainly isn’t resting on his laurels, even though this is a fourth season show. Maybe it’s partially because we missed Archer so much in the hiatus, but everything from digs at Malory’s age to Cheryl’s drug use to Krieger’s (Lucky Yates) experiments seem revitalized. He has found the perfect combination of delivering classic themes and Sterling humor with new locations and higher stakes in order to make each episode feel fresh and completely unique. Reed’s specific spy formula should be sold to other, lesser writers.
Archer returns to FX for season four on January 17th 2013 at 10 p.m.
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