When we last left off, Sterling Archer was shot and left for dead. Season 8 reveals that he managed to survive, but ended up in a coma. When Malory and Lana visit him, they say that they're at least glad that he doesn't know that Woodhouse is dead. Archer then starts having a coma dream where he's a Private Detective in 1947, investigating the death of his partner, Woodhouse.
He eventually runs across Mother, a L.A. crime boss who runs a Nightclub named "Dreamland". She wants him to take out her rival, Lex Trexler. In return, she promises that she'll help him find Woodhouse's killer. Of course, because this is Archer, things quickly spiral out of control.
Archer Dreamland is a somewhat Darker and Edgier take on the series, and has a semi-serious Film Noir plot that sticks out compared to the pure Spy Fiction absurdity of previous seasons. It's ultimately more of a Dramedy, albeit one that still leans close to the comedy part.
A mobile app was released with this season called Archer P.I. Players work for Sterling Archer and use their phone's camera to take pictures of various items from within the episodes. This will help them get clues that are needed to solve various puzzles.
Note: Since most of the tropes from Archer still apply here, only add a trope if there's a specific instance of it.
Archer Dreamland provides examples of:
- Adaptational Nice Guy: Archer is noticeably a lot more personable and mature in this series. At one point even apologizing for his poor behavior.
- Adventures in Comaland: The entire season. Although there are a few vague allusions to the fact that it's all in his head (Such as Lana being familiar to Archer) it's mostly just an excuse for them to dump the cast into a different setting. Archer even has PTSD flashbacks of World War II, somehow, despite the fact that he didn't fight in it in real life (though he did within the dream's setting). Notably, the season doesn't end with him waking up.
- Ambiguous Gender: Pam is just called "Poovey" and has a more androgynous look, despite still being voiced by Amber Nash. Characters frequently threaten to kick Poovey in the "genitals" and the Flash Forward Imagine Spots that occur with Poovey imagining life with the Chinese sex slaves depict Poovey as balding with a moustache, with one such spot, explicitly set in 1967 depicting Poovey at a graduation ceremony involving a number of Chinese-American students, which would imply Poovey is their father. Poovey also yells at the Chinese women for leaving the toilet seat down.
- Ambiguous Time Period: Woodhouse's grave in the intro shows that the series takes in the 20th century, but the last two digits are blocked by flowers. That said, the show averts this for once, since the Dreamland setting is explicitly 1947.
- Big Bad: It's originally set up to be Mother who killed Woodhouse, but it turns out that it was Dutch.
- Big Bad Wannabe: Len Trexler is definitely an intimidating presence, but other than buying the sex slaves at the beginning of the season all he does is threaten Cyril and then gets usurped by Dutch.
- Bittersweet Ending: Archer finally learns the truth regarding Woodhouse's murder. Dutch receives his due karma, and Archer is no longer working for Mother at the moment. Unfortunately, Lana and Kreiger's dogs are dead, Cyril is still in debt to Trexler who has lost most of his men to Dutch, Zirk gets coldly rejected by Charlotte who herself hasn't been able to escape her Dysfunctional Family and Poovey's Chinese sister-wives left. However, Archer is trying to move on with his life, and the Chinese sister-wives are trying to make it on their own. In real world terms, Archer also hasn't woken up, but he isn't dead. The only characters who have anything even resembling a happy ending are Cecil and Trinette thanks to an impulsive last-minute marriage.
- Bus Crash: Woodhouse had been written out of the show as missing before this season.
- Black Comedy: Quite a bit of it, even for Archer. The highlight probably being Lana's death in the finale, which starts out as tragic before quickly turning into absurdity when she keeps getting shot at by accident.
- Bloodier and Gorier: Archer has never been squeamish about violence, but this season really amps it up. The ending of "Waxing Gibbous" is probably the most violent moment in the show's history.
- Casting Gag: Lana attempts stand-up comedy and is absolutely dreadful at it. Lana is voiced by successful stand-up comedian Aisha Tyler.
- Chandler American Time: Set in City Noir Los Angeles in 1947, even though strictly speaking that genre originally meant right before the American entry into World War II (i.e., in 1941), and then again, parent series Archer was quite gleeful at mixing-and-matching elements from various eras together in the same setting anyway.
- Cerebus Syndrome: As noted above, while the season still has plenty of comedy, it does take itself more seriously and has several lengthy scenes that are played completely straight.
- Cruel Twist Ending: Not only is it revealed that Woodhouse was killed by Dutch, not because he was on to something big, but because he cut Dutch off in traffic, but the ransom money everyone was fighting over for several episodes turns out to be a suitcase full of dirty incest porn mags, effectively making a lot of the fighting and chaos absolutely pointless.
- Dark and Troubled Past:
- Archer is not only dealing with the loss of his partner, Woodhouse, but is also struggling with PTSD from fighting in World War II, as he flashes back to it at random points in the series.
- Charlotte was raised in a highly dysfunctional, quasi-incestuous family and implied her mother was abused.
- Kreiger was a Jewish professor forced to resign from his job when the Nazis rose to power. Out of revenge, he began to sabotage Hitler's robotics program, only to turn on his superiors and his assistant when they figured him out, having them torn apart by his cyborg dogs.
- Darker and Edgier: In addition to the Cerebus Syndrome, the comedy manages to be even darker than before. Special mention goes to "Waxing Gibbous" and "Gramercy, Halberd!" which effectively delve the series into actual Played Straight horror.
- Death by Adaptation: Lana and Barry (Dutch). Dutch dies from being attacked by Krieger's dogs. Lana is shot by Mother, before shot multiple times to death by Poovey; both by complete accident.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance/Politically Correct History: Invoked, played with, and discussed repeatedly in-universe, much like the more typical seasons:
- When talking with Dreamland's house band about who should be "squad leader" when busting out of jail, Archer cites his time in WWII, to which they all reveal they served (except, of course, Ray, who was far too camp to avoid getting declared 4-F); this leads into a conversation about how the color barrier in the military — which Archer agrees is "bullshit" — putting Floyd and Cliff in support roles doesn't mean they're any less heroic, but Archer still has the most combat experience. Verl even reveals afterward that he was in the 761st, the all-black tank battalion who helped save Archer's unit at the Battle of the Bulge.
- Whenever Lana is revealed as a "T-man", Cecil, Archer, and Mother all react as if it means "transsexual man", as a modern person might assume, rather than "Treasury agent". Lacking a more proper word in common use, they just use "transvestite", but Cecil agrees to be respectful of pronouns, Archer muses that "T-man" sounds awfully like a slur, and Mother reacts like it is.
- Demoted to Extra: Ray, as he only appeared in a few episodes and was never the main focus of any of them.
- Did Not Think This Through: Lana. Twice:
- When the band is arrested, Lana tries to entertain the guests with her stand up routine. However, between her total lack of comedic experience and rushed poorly written material, she fails miserably.
- Later when Lana reveals she's a treasury agent and tries to arrest everyone they just laugh and pull their guns on her. Archer lampshades this by asking if she seriously expected them to just cooperate and let her take them to jail.
- Domestic Abuse: It's implied that Charlotte's mother suffers from this.Kreiger: [explaining his black eye] I...walked into a door? Repeatedly?
Charlotte: Oh yeah... my mother used to do that.
- Double-Meaning Title: Dreamland can refer to either the nightclub that the season revolves around or the fact that it's Archer's coma.
- Extremely Short Time Span: According to Archer, the whole season takes place over the course of one week. Deconstructed, since he never gets any sleep and has pretty much lost any semblance of sanity by the end.
- Forced Meme: After revealing herself to be a Treasury Agent, Lana tries to make "T-Man" a nickname for Treasury Agents, similar to "G-Man" for FBI Agent (itself a Real Life Forced Meme by J. Edgar Hoover, apocryphally attributed to "Machine Gun" Kelly). Everyone who hears this assumes it to mean "transsexual man."
- Friend on the Force: Archer gets along with Poovey pretty well, and he helps him in dealing with Trexler's men.
- Historical AU: The contemporary cast is transplanted into 1947 L.A.
- Human Traffickers: In the first episode of the season Archer saves Chinese immigrants from being sold into sex slavery.
- Last-Minute Hookup: Cecil and Trinette get married in the last finale with little fanfare.
- Never Trust a Trailer: One trailer showed Dreamland exploding. This never happens.
- New Season, New Name: The second season to get a subtitle. The first being Season 5, which was called Archer Vice.
- Noir Episode: An entire noir season for the series as a whole.
- Of Corpse He's Alive: In "Berenice", Archer attempts to fake Charlotte's death using her dead maid. To get the corpse through a hotel lobby, they pretend she's alive, which somehow sets the lobby on fire.
- One Bad Mother: Sterling's wicked mother Malory plays a crime boss actually named "Mother" in Sterling's 1940s dream.
- Out-of-Genre Experience: Somehow manages to apply this trope to an entire season, turning a contemporary spy workplace comedy into a period piece noir dramedy.
- Private Eye Monologue: Parodied. Archer does the monologue while driving, but he picks up a dog, a hobo, a prostitute, and eventually, thanks to a combination of pills and lack of sleep, just starts talking to himself.
- Running Gag:
- Any time Charlotte describes her family as "quasi-incestuous", the person she's speaking to replies "How quasi?" to which she always responds, with no further explanation, "About a 4."
- The drummer of Ray's band does a Rimshot syncing with a Double Entendre joke, followed by Ray telling him to stop.
- Tossing food out of a moving car, hitting another car's windshield followed by the sound of an offscreen crash.
- People, especially Poovey, eating hot dogs in unusual places.
- Running Gagged: Episode 2 onwards, an episode starts with a character saying "So what are we doing, are we just jumping right into this?" When one starts to say it in the last two episodes, they're cut off.
- Sanity Slippage:
- The lack of sleep really gets to Archer by the end.
- Dutch, as he becomes more of a cyborg.
- Sex Slave: Archer thankfully saves a group of Chinese immigrants from becoming these in the first episode of the season.
- Soldiers at the Rear: Two members of Dreamland's band, Floyd and Cliff reveal they served in World War 2, but due to segregation laws at the time, served in non-combat support roles. Archer calls this bullshit and states they're no less heroic for being in support roles.
- Special Edition Title: The season has a 1940s version of the standard intro sequence, and remixes the music to boot.
- Universal-Adaptor Cast: This is the line of thinking for this season: That you could throw the characters into anything and make them work.
- Wham Line:
- From "Gramercy, Halberd!"Lex Trexler: Mother killed Woodhouse.
- Turns out that he was wrong with another Wham Line in the following episode:Dutch: Look at you, whining like your little buddy.
Archer: My what?
Dutch: Yeah, the little limey dope fiend, when I gut-shot him and left him for dead.
- From "Gramercy, Halberd!"