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S9e4 archer awakens

Archer Awakens

Season 9: Danger Island is set in Archer's head or more accurately his mind; more precise still, his subconscious mind.  As such, we can expect to encounter many dream themes, symbols, motifs and resonances with the real-world, and the field of psychology in particular.

Interpretation vs Intention[]

It is unknown whether or not Reed intended for the coma dreams to be a psychoanalytic look at Archer's relationships, or for Archer to come to any sort of self-realisations. After all, that is just not Archer, or Archer. One critic assumes that Reed would only mine a psychoanalytic idea for laughs, as that is Archer's only "guiding philosophy".[1] He also disparages "those of you who think Adam Reed’s using these dream seasons to reflect on Archer’s real-world turmoils..."  Accordingly, you can make of Pam and Archer's new found dynamic "what you inevitably will".[2] (italics added)  Indeed, of Season 8: Dreamland he observed:

"There’s going to be a terrible temptation, throughout this season, to deconstruct these characters and these stories as Archer’s fantasies...But that urge to psychoanalyze also feels like a critic’s trap...the coma is less about tearing into our hero’s psyche, and more about serving as a tool to allow this particular story to be told."[3]

Whilst this may have been more noticeably the case for the private world conjured in Dreamland, it is not so clear-cut for the events of Danger Island: in an in-depth pre-release interview, executive producer Matt Thompson reveals something which contradicts the above critics interpretive claim. The following quote is not to be under-estimated:

"Until further notice, we are in Archer’s brain. It’s how Archer perceives reality, right? So for example we have... Noah played by David Cross, who’s back this season...he’s playing the same basic character... Our crew are people who’ve never met him, but he’s the same guy because he exists that way in Archer’s head. Pam this season is a 6'5" beast of muscle and Archer’s partner, but that’s how she exists in Archer’s mind. So if you read into it just a little bit more, it’s about how he sees those folks that we’ve come to know around him".

So, whilst the following entries may be seen as mere interpretation, and therefore speculative, it is at least consistent with the intention of the executive producers, and writer.

Reed clearly finds some humour in subverting psychoanalytic concepts, and in drawing our attention to how they inform his characters. Therefore we can expect there to be some hint of psychoanalysis, or humour-mining thereof, going on in Danger Island, sometimes layered behind the conceit of 'playing for laughs' and sometimes playing it straight. The psychoanalytic basis for the season is evidently justified as Reed uses the notion of 'displacement' (by way of a callback*) and refers to Archer's discomfort around his mother's sexuality in the first episode.* When a show gleefully exploits an Oedipal complex for the best part of a decade, it ought not be a surprise for such self-awareness to catch up with itself, especially when entire seasons are contained within the protagonist's subconscious. To do otherwise would be to disregard too large a factor in the narrative construction of Archer's character.

Even a writer conscious of his own modus operandii (to derive humour by any means necessary, including subconscious concepts) can still fall into a trap of his own subconscious' creation - without realising it - and unintentionally deliver an analysis of his character. Of course, it is impossible for a viewer to know what is intended, and what isn't, but it is reassuring to know that all presence of such concepts or ideas is not mere interpretation, and has support from the writer / executive producers. Defensiveness and denial that any psychoanalysis is at play (when it clearly is) is thankfully not involved here, and so a Lost scenario is deftly averted. Reed is clearly happiest when messing with his audience - whether his audience appreciate all the nuances or not - and so we can expect psychoanalysis to be played both straight and for laughs.  It is up to the viewer to determine which is which.

So with that in mind, take from the following what you inevitably will, and do so with a grain of salt and a slip of the tongue.

  • The instance of 'displacement for laughs' occurs thus: Whereas Archer destroys the landing gear of Rip's seaplane in Heart of Archness: Part I, he 'displaces' his own mistake onto Fuchs (Cyril's dream persona) whom he hates.
  • The Oedipal issue is referenced when Archer asks Manu to quit calling Malory "mum" (instead of "ma'am"). She quips "Why does it bother you so much?" Pam rolls her eyes, snickering and Archer replies "Seriously?!"

Archer's Relationship With Dream Personas[]

Archer's subconscious makes his dream persona out to be an heroic pilot.  His persona is 'the best version of himself' his subconscious could muster. Speculatively, those Archer most likes in real life attain a close relationship with his dream persona. Their closeness might be hinted at by their order of appearance:

  • Pam and Crackers are in the opening scene, along with Charlotte (with whom he has no quarrel - she is an easy lay).
  • Pam is his closest buddy, co-pilot, and Spanish Civil War comrade.  Their relationship is explored in (s9e5).
  • Krieger's mad science projects involving robots etc are something Archer dislikes, but he keeps him around in the form of a harmless (and potentially helpful) ally, Crackers, for the comic relief.
  • Malory's presence is immoveable - he cannot shake his connection with his mother, and still lives at home, rent-free.  She tolerates his antics, he puts up with her.  They are co-dependent as in "real life".
  • Reynaud is harmless enough, he keeps him close as it is good to have the law on side.
  • Lanaluakalani seems out of his league - an unattainable ideal (Princess) - and someone he is incapable of having a healthy relationship with.  (Perhaps he is incapable of having any healthy relationships due to his pathologised relationship with his mother?)
  • Fuchs is perhaps the least unlikeable character.  This reflects Archer's deep dislike/jealousy of his 'manhood', and (actual) intelligence / bureaucratic competence (he is the only one qualified to set up a Detective Agency in Season 7).  Archer's subconscious renders him as a creepy / rapey nymphomaniac and a Nazi  - two of Archer's (and the audience's) least favourite and sympathetic archetypes.

Dream Themes Overview (In progress)[]

  • Set in an era and location Archer idealises (and likely Reed).
  • Dream world (plot device)
  • Solipsism
    • All events occur in Archer's mind, and are projections of his psyche.
  • Lucid dreaming
    • Characters becoming aware of being in a dream.
  • Flashbacks
    • Dreams within a dream.
  • Breaking the fourth wall
    • More than usual, all characters at some point speak to the audience and seem to be self-aware
      • eg. "Its not a Gold Monkey" - Pam (s9e3) 
  • Language-shifting
    • Insults, slurs, puns, in other languages.
  • Projections
    • All dream personas are a projection of Archer's psyche, altering their characters to suit his own psychological needs - to prevent boredom in the dream state and/or mental degradation in the real world.  (see here).
  • Anachronistic references
    • More than usual; World War II era films and books produced post-war which Archer will have seen in his real-life and for them to be the basis of the dream world of Danger Island. The Star Wars reference is (s9e4) is an extreme example.
  • Improbability / Implausiblity / 'Luck'
    • The unlikely and extraordinary are more likely and ordinary. (Alice in Wonderland / dream logic).
  • Fears / phobias
    • Cannibals - a universal and primal human fear (and taboo).
      • Played for laughs and straight
    • Archer's well-documented fear of alligators is generalised to include reptiles:  giant snakes, lizards (Komodo dragons), poisonous frogs.
      • Played for laughs - plus he has a new list in his dreams (including scurvy, scabies)
    • Castration complex / eunuchs / emasculation (figurative and literal).
      • Played for laughs
  • Boon
    • The idol represents a (potential) boon, a powerful force for good, for which the hero ventures out and tries to attain in order to bring back to his tribe / group (as well as a macguffin).  This is the basic outline of the Heroic Cycle according to Joseph Campbell:
"A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man." - The Hero With A Thousand Faces
  • Either that or a merely profane 'treasure' / or fortune of gold

Themes in Episodes[]

Strange Pilot (s9e1)[]



  • The opening scene is shot externally so we see the 'real world' which Archer inhabits.  We are then awakened inside his dream by Pam blowing a whistle.  Archer's mind is the only one which exists; all actions and events have no effect on the 'real world.'

Father Figure (lack of/desire for)

  • Archer's dream persona is based on Rip Riley - the 'sky captain of yesteryear' from Heart of Archness - from an era of heroic adventures idealised by Archer in his youth (as well as Reed possibly) and forming the basis of a father figure for him to look up to and embody.


  • Archer displaces his own error involving landing gear in Heart of Archness Pt I to Fuchs', as Fuchs is a character whom he hates. This helps Archer maintain his hero fantasy and demonise Fuchs.


  • Reynaud's character is based on 1930s French gendarmes, but his referents are the 1942 film Casablanca and the 1964 film The Gendarmes of St Tropez.  Anachronisms of this sort are consistent only within a dream world.

Disheartening Situation (s9e2)[]



  • Overcoming the paso de muerte (Step of Death) in the Andes, and fighting against the Condor Legion (Nazi airforce unit) in Spain, Archer's subconscious renders him as a hero, a fighter ace.


  • He thinks he is immortal having survived such dangerous feats.  He is in a limbo of sorts, or near death state.

Implausible / Luck

  • After crash landing the Loose Goose on the road in front of the Hotel, he manages to locate Pam, Fuchs and Crackers by borrowing Reynaud's car.  Pam calls attention to the incredibly good luck that Archer had needed in order to be able to find them, (lampshade-hanging)[4] something which he laughs off (moves on). Without knowing where their parachutes landed, he did a pretty good job of driving right to the spot where they were, just in time to rescue them as the deus ex machina incarnate.  (An old dramatic trick meaning to be rescued from an unlikely and difficult situation by a machine).

Different Modes of Preparing Fruit (s9e3)[]



  • Fuchs refers to Lanaluakalani's guards as eunuchs, which is an allusion to emasculated males and politically ineffectual people in general. Specifically, the castration complex was regarded by Freud as a universal human experience, but few empirical studies have been conducted on the topic.  


  • Pam calls the situation with the Loose Goose a “Catch-22”, referencing a 1961 novel that popularized the phrase.  As the dreamworld is set in 1938, Archer recognizes this as an anachronism and replies “uh, I don’t think that’s a thing yet” (s9e3)

A Warrior in Costume (s9e4)[]


  • Whilst making himself out to be a heroic pilot, Archer's subconscious also summons up a nemesis, Ziegler, (complete with backstory and flashbacks) who happens to resemble his real-life nemesis, Barry.



  • There is a shot from Archer's P.O.V after he wakes up from blacking out.
  • We share in Archer's first-person perspective for the first time - we are in his head.  
  • Pam says to him "C'mon, snap out of it, bub*", seemingly trying to get Archer to wake up.  
  • Bub was the affectionate name for Archer's grandmother.
  • Pam may shoot Ziegler down, but Archer takes the credit - it is his dream after all.

Lucid Dreaming

  • Archer is seen to awaken from a dream within his coma (and breaks the fourth wall in doing so).  He has flashbacks of events in Spain that only 'happened' in his dreams:  being shot down 5 times by Ziegler.  His flashbacks contain a backstory which explains the loss of his eye and his desire for revenge whilst providing a way for him to overcome his own fears of emasculation.

The castration complex 

  • In a pique of revenge, Archer says he wants to shoot Ziegler's dick off (as well as his eye and brains out).
  • He, perhaps understandably, wants to take his revenge (literally and figuratively).
  • Archer plans to literally emasculate the German fighter ace who figuratively emasculated him when he shot him down 5 times. Archer really wants to kill him.  
  • Shooting off his shadow's dick is certainly a symbolic way of overcoming his castration fear but shooting down his plane will achieve that same result but with the added bonus of meting out his revenge fairly.  The forces of good and evil will be balanced.


  • The probability of Ziegler - the man who shot Archer down 5 times and took his eye - turning up on the island are "literally zero" (according to Crackers), and is an incredible coincidence (in the sense of impossible, not amazing) according to Ziegler (literally).  It is as if the dream personas are aware that they are part of a dream and are trying to make Archer 'go lucid' ie. wake up in the dream/ real life.  It is called attention to in a technique called lampshade-hanging.[5]


  • The floatplanes that Ziegler and Archer dogfight in never existed in historical 1938. The Ju 87 Stuka never had a floatplane variant, and as a dive bomber, would never have been capable of performing the fighter/interceptor aerobatics that occurred in the dogfight.

Strange Doings in the Taboo Groves (s9e5)[]


  • Archer's relationship with Pam is explored in depth.  Bear in mind this is a dream state, so the psychodynamics are only being explored from Archer's point of view.  (They can't be otherwise).  How Pam's dream persona acts/reacts isn't necessarily how Pam would react.  The quicksand scene plays out as a way of Archer coming to terms with and realising his feelings for Pam, and acknowledging how much he depends on her even though he treats her like shit (he regularly calls her an idiot, asshole with a fat mouth, making shitty maps etc).  He doesn't appreciate her in the dream, because he doeesn't appreciate her in life, yet she is probably the most reliable, down to earth person in Archer's world.  (Compared with everyone else, she is a saint and a genius!)
  • Archer asks Pam how would she react if he asked her to marry him, and she bursts into laughter and mocks him. On the following episode she would mock him for being sexually attracted to her. Considering that it is Archer's dream and Pam's reaction is "simulated", it is worth noting that Archer's subconscious displays an uncharacteristic lack of confidence with women and fear of rejection, compared with conscious Archer, specifically with the least conventionally attractive main character he may develop a romantic or sexual relationship with. It is possible that Archer's perception of Pam's appearance as a muscular buddy is more in keeping with what he deeply desires - a brawling female drinking buddy with benefits - than a typical damsel in distress figure he expects to meet in the real world.
  • He blames her as being the common denominator in his failed enterprises, when really he just won't admit that he is his own worst enemy.  Pam shoots down Ziegler, saving his 'life', so it is really about Archer beginning to see Pam for who she is - a rock, and a selfless, protective and nurturing mother figure: a more balanced feminine influence than his mercenary and selfish mother (who he is seeking to escape the clutches of). He has had an intimate relationshp with Pam, and she did turn into 'Queen Kong' to protect AJ in real life, so there is a definite crossover in terms of warm and protective emotions associated with Pam.


  • Quicksand
    • There can be many 'dream interpretations' of quicksand, which may be spurious,  But if we take the obvious fact that Archer is in a coma, quicksand can be seen as a metaphor for a situation from which you can't escape, one which pulls you down, closer to your demise.  This could be Archer's subconscious producing dreams based on the very real fear of his own impending death, which he has to face it alone.  Even with Pam and Crackers there to help him, they are little consolation.  
    • Quicksand may also represent the smothering toxic relation Archer has with his mother, and from which he wants to escape with the money from the sale of the idol.  This appears to be a subconscious desire screened from his everyday consciousness (and vintage Archer): to escape from the over-bearing Malory.

Some Remarks on Cannibalism (s9e6)[]


  • Pam and Archer's relationship is back on track.  Neither seem particularly panicked by their predicament.
  • Pam adopts a narrative voice, self-referentially offering 'some remarks on cannibalism' as the title proposes.
  • Fuchs is revealed to be a cold-blooded killer (like the snake he confronted, and which Lanalukalani's father refers to him as).  Fuchs represents the Devil, or Teufel, which has already been uttered twice.  
  • The German's are shown as against the natural order, callously shooting at howler monkey's.  The baby ape cries into the sky, playing with our emotions.


  • Primordial Pair
    • Archer and Pam, stripped to their birthday suits, appear as Adam and Eve in the Garden.  We already know of giant snakes in the jungle, and the paradise of Mitimotu is shown to be in equal measure hellish.  It is a sort of purgatory, like the TV series Lost, with Fuchs as the devil.  Will Archer meet his Maker?
  • Taboos
    • The taboo of cannabalism is explored.  Archer, the moral absolutist who represents good in the struggle against evil is balanced with a highly articulate justification for moral relativism - in "starvation-type situations, cannibalism is a given".  This doesn't detract from the Horror, but serves to highlight the cold rationality of survival.  Our personal morality is checked, and we move on.
  • Hunting
    • All the characters are now drawn into the treasure hunt, with the A-team (Malory et al) searching for Pam and Archer too.  Charlotte's savant like tracking skills are brought to the fore, as she is compared to Lord (and Lady) Baltimore, an Indian tracker and an English noblewoman respectively.  
      An incongruous ability for an upper class lady, perhaps a harkening back to the noble savage?


Author: Communications of the Highest Kind (talk)