FX’s Archer has some huge changes coming for season 11. The first piece of news is that there is going to be a season 11 (creator Adam Reed has previously suggested the show might end after the current 10th season). The second revelation is — as Archer producers just revealed at Comic-Con in San Diego on Friday — that Sterling Archer is going to wake from his three-year coma in the upcoming finale as the show plans a return to its spy agency roots next season. But there’s a lot more to it than just that.
EW exclusively spoke to executive producers Matt Thompson and Casey Willis about their season 11 shakeup. We got the scoop on the show’s major story line for next season, how long Archer has been in a coma, the future involvement of Reed on the show, and more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So for the past three seasons, Archer has explored different genres while Sterling has been in a coma. What made you decide to return to the show’s main timeline?
CASEY WILLIS: As we were doing these seasons of genre-hopping, we started thinking about how interesting it would be if Archer were to wake up to a world that’s had to move on without him. We thought it was so interesting that we wanted to do another season and explore that dynamic. In his coma we found out what’s important to Archer, and we want to see how he’s going to react when he’s back in the real world.
MATT THOMPSON: They say you can never go home again. Archer goes home again and finds that everything’s changed. One reason Adam, Casey, and I started genre-hopping is we got bored telling a mission-of-the-week story. It felt stale. We didn’t know how to do yet another story where Archer had to go get a dictator in a foreign country and bring him back. Now we’ve been gone so long from that it’s going to feel brand-new again. Because everything’s changed. It’s not a small matter. We want this to feel closer to season 2 and season 3, but at the same time Archer’s lost, and that’s interesting to us.
So you’re literally back at the New York agency in the same non-distinct time period?
THOMPSON: Yes. But the personalities and situation of the office has changed. We’re definitely back to doing spy missions. But the roles and people’s personalities have changed. What’s also different is Archer is physically and mentally not what he was. He’s been in a bed for three years. His muscles have atrophied to the point where he can’t even walk that well.
WILLIS: He’s going to have a cane. That’s something we can give away.
THOMPSON: But it’s not just a cane. It’s a Tacti-Cane.
Of course it is.
THOMPSON: Krieger has put all these devices in it like he’s James Bond. Because Archer can’t go out there and physically dominate any more.
WILLIS: And last time we saw Cyril, he was running a private detective agency. And how does doing that for three years affect him and his capabilities?
What is the name of the agency now? Because I assume it’s not the Figgis Agency or ISIS. [The latter was the original name of the show’s spy agency and was discarded after the rise of the real-life terror group.]
THOMPSON: We have at this point not named it yet. We have just started on the scripting of it and haven’t decided what we’re going to call it. It’s always a delicate balance on whether we call it something or not because of our experience with our past name. So we tend to treat that delicately.
WILLIS: One lead candidate was the Epstein Agency, and now that’s right out the door!
THOMPSON: Please, that was never a candidate!
This is just me making a guess: Is Lana now married?
WILLIS: [Pauses] We weren’t going to tell you, but goddamnit, you’re right.
I know you don’t want to give away too much, but is there anything else you can tell us about the adventures in season 11 or any spoofs you’re doing?
THOMPSON: The main thing is Archer and how lost he is. He feels everyone has left him behind. The only person who seems to give a f— is Pam, and she’s like, “Hey, buddy, let’s go get a drink, I still love you.” But everybody else treats him like an afterthought, he’s not what he was, and he’s actually making them worse at their jobs. He’s in the way. And that exploration of truly something different for Archer as a character is exciting for us. So it’s about him, and how having him back in the group forces change upon all of them.
WILLIS: Archer can’t understand how everything moved on without him; he’s the center of the universe in his mind. And Archer is going to change throughout the season as well.
Curious, if you had done another genre season, what was your best runner-up idea for that?
THOMPSON: We talked about King Arthur/King Archer, with Krieger as Merlin. We couldn’t make it work out.
WILLIS: It turns out animating horses is really difficult.
THOMPSON: We had a zombie apocalypse thing we thought about.
WILLIS: This is a small spoiler, but in the final episode of season 10 you might see a glimpse of what Archer would be like in the Old West.
THOMPSON: We talked about that one too.
There was speculation season 10 would be the last. Obviously, it’s up to FX, but what’s your sense? Is season 11 definitely not the last season? Or possibly is?
THOMPSON: It’s not our call, but the series feels re-energized by the stories Casey and I and Adam are floating around. It feels brand-new again to me. And if that feeling stays and we see a way to make season 12 and continue that interest, I don’t see why not. I know all the cast is signed and extremely happy to be here… There are fans out there we’ve lost along the way. And I understand that — I don’t watch shows in their 11th season. There’s fatigue there. And what I want to say to those people is that we were fatigued too but now we’re not, and to c’mon back, ya’ll.
Obviously the show is largely an episodic comedy. But there are serialized elements. Do you think you owe fans — if and when you do end — a planned scripted ending at this point?
THOMPSON: Our No. 1 concern has always been are we telling an interesting story that entertains us. But a large part of thinking as we sat around discusses if we were going to end it after season 10, is that Archer deserved more than going out in a dream state. We have read the internet. And some people are like, “I love that you’re [doing the genre-hopping seasons], it looks amazing.” But then there’s another portion of the internet that’s like, “Wake the f— up already.” We definitely heard them. The story wasn’t as interesting to us at the time than Archer being in a noir detective or being in outer space. But now it is. Regardless, Archer had to wake back up to end the series. Even if we ended the series at 10, he would need to wake back up to feel some sort of peace and closure with him instead of fading out on what’s inside his mind.
WILLIS: Whenever the series does end, I think Adam and Matt and I will think of a great way to end it.
You mentioned Adam a couple times. It’s been widely assumed he’s leaving after season 10. Yet it sounds like he’s part of season 11? What’s his creative involvement?
THOMPSON: Adam has always said, “I’m out after season 10!” But it’s like Godfather III: “…then they pull me back in.” He’s not with us day to day. In season 10 he wrote four episodes, and then Casey and I came up and got the writers and the rest going. This season he’s taken a further step back but is still in. He plotted out the stories with us. At this time, he’s only slated to write one episode. His involvement was mainly at the front end of the production. It was Adam who said he wanted Archer to wake up, and for him to be atrophied and not able to perform.
Are there any burning questions that you think the show has an obligation to eventually answer before it ends? Such as whether Krieger a clone?
THOMPSON: I had a pitch for this season and nobody f—ing liked it. It was about Archer’s real father. He’s in Russia doing some James Bond stuff, and Archer is the only one who can solve this problem. Kate Lambert at FX — who’s our daily contact on the show — and Casey and Adam were all like: “No one cares about his father, shut up, no one cares.” And I was like, “No! This is a great idea! People want to know about his dad.” And people were just walking out of the room. So as far as answering anything, we do talk a little more about his daughter with Lana this season.
WILLIS: I don’t know if you’ve heard this story, but Adam pulled aside Lucky Yates [who voices Krieger] and told him whether he was the real Krieger or just a clone. So not even Matt or I know, it was just a note to inform Lucky about his performance. I don’t know if I ever want to solve that mystery because I love the idea that Adam and Lucky are the only people in the world who know that.