Jumping Right Into This. From episode 2 onwards, every episode of Season 8: Archer Dreamland begins with a variation of "jumping right into this". There are several possible explanations for the use of this device.
The Do 'What' Now?
The complete opening line is set up thus:
Episode 2 - Berenice
- Archer (A): "So what are we doing? Are we just - jumping right into this? Or...?"
- [to Charlotte (and audience) / trails off]
The first re-iteration is verbatim, the last reducing to only 2 words. Variations of the opening line are used thus:
Episode 3 - Jane Doe
- Poovey (B): "So, uh, what are we doing? Are we just jumping right into this?"
- [to Figgis / interrupted by Archer]
Episode 4 - Ladyfingers
- Archer (A): "So, uh, what are we doing? Are we just - ?"
- [to Mother / interrupted by Mother]
Episode 5 - Sleeper's Wake
Episode 6 - Waxing Gibbous
- Archer (A): "So what are we doing? Are we just - jumping right into this? Or...urggghhh"
- [to Mother / throttled by Zirk]
Episode 7 - Gramercy, Halberd!
- Dutch (C): "So, uhhh, what are we -"
- [to Archer, Lana, Poovey, Figgis, Cecil and Trinette / interrupted by Archer]
Episode 8 - Auflösung
- Poovey (B): "So, uh -"
- [to Archer, Lana, Figgis and Len / gun cocked to head]
The call-response scheme for the iterations is unexpected and deliberately jarring, with Archer subconsciously set up to deliver the final iteration: Archer calls with Poovey and Dutch alternately responding, followed by a surpise Pam wham! when we were primed for Archer:
Actual sequence: A, B, A, C, A, C, B
Expected sequence: A, B, A, C, A, C, [A]
Law of diminishing returns
Due to the law of diminishing returns, Reed (most probably) realised that if he was to use the line in it's entirety, each iteration would be too repetitive, too lazy and too easy to predict. ('Diminishing returns' is shouted out in Sleeper's Wake, after the drum roll joke, so we know Reed is not only familiar with the notion but referred to it directly in episode 5!) In short, it would be hacky. By changing the context, sure, the line would mean something subtley different, but that is not enough. By subverting the law - changing each iteration slightly by having the base sentence shorten or degrade due to a variety of interruptions - the returns are enhanced, or at least, diminished less. Expectations for the line are set up in the first 3 episodes, with gradual degradation leading to the last instance where only the first 2 words are used: "So, uh -" Instead of self-sameness (exact copying) you have self-similarity (fractal copying).
The Message in the Medium
To "jump right in" to a situation means to go balls-deep, as-you-are, with no expectations, without asking too many questions, to get involved, to see what happens, to boldy go... The invocation of this trope and it's use by different characters throughout means the line is coming directly from (word of god) Reed himself in order to convey a number of messages to the audience, through the characters:
- it is a reference to both the audience's abrupt arrival in Dreamland - and our need to jump right in to the story without asking too many questions - as well as to Archer being hurled into a serialised plot with strange dream personas, and no apparent backstory. What are we doing? Who knows. So let's jump right in;
- it is a framing device used to introduce each episode, which helps to create continuity in an otherwise discontinuous story line. As the Dreamland narrative has broken away from the 'real world' timeline/narrative with the time period visibly changed - Archer dreams in film noir - the familiar tropes and characters are now unfamiliar, and so it is a way to settle the unsettling experience which is to follow;
- it introduces the film noir motifs of the 'protagonist as cynical investigator' who is 'working the case' whilst 'narrating to the audience', who are simultaneously attempting to work out the new characters, agendas and narratives of the dream personas.
In other words, we the audience are being asked to suspend disbelief and go with the flow, forget the 'real world' for now and jump right in to this blackest of black sci-fi-noir-horror story - which borrows heavily from Krieger's real world persona to create a backstory for his dream persona that feeds Archer's subconscious creating his (and our) worst Nazi-cyborg nightmares.