Archer: Vice boasts an engaging cast of interesting and surprisingly complex characters.
This blog post will be an attempt to derive what drives the characters in Archer: Vice and what forms the basis for their interactions between each other. What follows is a description of the major players in the Archer universe as of season 5 of the show, so without any further ado lets get into it!
Casual viewers often assume that Sterling Archer, the title character of the show, is a masochistic selfish asshole. They aren’t wrong, but this view is too focused to surmise all of the character driven plot in Archer’s universe. The vast majority of conflict, and therefore episode plot, of the Archer series originates in decisions made by the leader of the now-defunct spy organization ISIS – Malory Archer. In earlier seasons of the show, Sterling is working for Malory, his mother, which on its own is a complicated mother-son situation. As the show progresses it becomes increasingly clear that Malory’s problems, notably alcoholism, are reflected in her son. These manifest themselves as ‘mommy problems’ of Sterling Archer and form the basis for one of the most common recurring gags in the show, especially in reference to Malory’s common flings with men (including a brief stint will Burt Reynolds, one of Archer’s heroes). Nevertheless Sterling is a product of his mother’s upbringing. He is fiercely loyal to his mother, despite her absence from almost every aspect of his upbringing. In my opinion Sterling takes out his abandonment issues on his personal butler, Woodhouse, who is often the subject of Archer’s derision. Sterling wants to be the most bad-ass, capable secret agent in the world – bedding the hottest women and pulling off the toughest jobs. However his family issues tend to interject themselves into his work, and are a point of contention between Archer and his fellow agents as they try to make his problems apparent.
The yin to archer’s yang, Lana Kane is the other top agent in the show. The two are almost always competing to prove who is a better agent, much to the hilarity of the show’s audience. These competitions often come down to preferential treatment Sterling gets from his mother, which is absolutely infuriating to Lana. Lana and Sterling used to be lovers, which is a recurring gag in the show as Archer will often underscore their conversations with sexual innuendos that Lana finds exasperating. In season 5 this relationship is being put under new stress due to Lana becoming pregnant by an unknown man. It isn’t Sterling, but we have seen an uncharacteristic amount of concern for Lana’s well-being during the process. Lana Kane is a woman who knows what she wants and knows how to get it, but is often thwarted by circumstances that are out of her control.
Alcoholic, bossy, a general pain in the ass. Malory Archer is a boss we’ve all had and hated every minute of it. Her motivations for pulling heists and jobs almost always revolve around bettering herself, and her constant sarcastic tone she takes with her agents (or drones as she calls them) is grinding and irritating to everyone involved. All she really wants is to be rich and retire which she has done through many methods: Stealing valuable objects, bedding rich men, operating an illegal espionage operation, and as of season 5, selling off a literal ton of cocaine as a de-facto cartel. She’s pretty much completely unfeeling except for moments that her son Sterling is in undeniable, potentially fatal danger – and she reverts to her normal caustic self when he proves ok. Her conflict with the other characters on the show almost always stems from her selfish interests or the favoritism she displays for her son, and honestly I can’t say I blame the other characters of the show for being pissed.
Once the much-abused, nosey PR rep for ISIS, Pam is now one of the most intriguing characters in the show. Her backstory (not counting the above image, heh) is incredibly diverse, including time spent within a Yakuza-run illicit gambling den. Whenever the show needs a character to have random information or ties to illicit organizations it normally turns to Pam to provide plot-driving information on the subject. In season 5, Pam ties in the crew with the Triads by double crossing them in a drug deal, and is nursing an insanely obsessive cocaine habit-eating pounds of it at a time. All Pam really wants is respect from her coworkers, which she is starting to receive, and cocaine. Lots of cocaine.
If there is one character in the show that gets under Sterling Archer’s skin it’s this guy. His voice, mannerisms, and the fact that he dated Lana after Archer all serve to annoy the head agent. Cyril is the downtrodden puppy of the team, and he has a serious self-esteem issue as a result. Recent episodes have had Cryil contributing more to the actual decision making process of the group, but he is undeniably the foil that everyone makes fun of over the course of each episode. Like Pam, Cyril wants the respect of his coworkers, but none is forthcoming. Maybe he should try dressing like less of a boring accountant these days.
So there you have it! These five characters drive most of the plot in Archer, but they also have their counterparts like Cheryl, Ray, and Dr. Krieger that all make important contributions to the direction of Archer: Vice. Keep an eye out for the next installment, and stay frosty.