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Sterling Is The Ultimate Scapegoat


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Sterling may have caused chaos after waking up from his coma, but season 11’s finale shows he’s really just an excuse for others to behave badly.

Archer’s season 11 finale provides a new explanation for why Sterling causes chaos everywhere he goes — and it’s not just because his actions are dangerous and reckless. Since season 1 of FX’s animated action comedy, Sterling has been blamed for bringing out the worst in people around him and causing the failure of spy missions. In a surprise ending to season 11, however, Sterling breaks that pattern, saving the world and arguing that he is used as the scapegoat of the group — allowing them to be their worst selves and blaming it on him.

Sterling has (slowly) grown up throughout Archer. In early seasons, the sexual tension between Sterling and his ex-girlfriend Lana was a major plot point. The couple’s romance reignited in season 6, after Lana reveals that her daughter AJ is biologically Archer’s. In season 7, however, their relationship falls apart as a result of jealousy, and Archer is shot and falls into a coma before the two can resolve their disagreements.

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Seasons 8, 9 and 10 of Archer take place in Sterling’s imagination, with the characters taking on a variety of roles. When Sterling wakes up from his three-year coma in season 11, he finds that Lana is married to billionaire Robert and his daughter AJ has grown up. Lana’s marriage is disrupted in season 11, episode 6, “The Double Date,” when unsavory aspects of Robert’s past are revealed, but the two are still together by the end of the season. Although Lana still cares for Sterling, it appears that both she and AJ have both moved on.

Archer Season 11 Finale Ending Explained

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Sterling’s chaotic role in Archer is emphasized throughout season 11, when his return to the spy agency prompts a string of operational failures and incites arguments between staff members. Archer is blamed for destroying the effectiveness of the newly successful agency and causing his coworkers to backslide into bad habits. Cyril, a once-successful field agent, reverts to his timid personality. Lana, a happily married mother, starts lashing out at others after her relationship with Robert deteriorates. Carol stops holding onto sanity and Mallory again becomes a controlling alcoholic.

The plot of season 11, episode 8, “Cold Fusion,” is a classic murder mystery reminiscent of early seasons. The spy agency is hired for a critically important job in an extreme location. Unlike the endings to seasons 3, 5 and 6, however, Archer’s involvement in the mission this time leads to its success. After saving the world from a hydrogen bomb, Sterling argues that the mistakes Lana, Cyril, Carol and Mallory have made are not his fault. “Did you people ever consider that you need me around because you want the excuse to be your worst selves?” he asks.

Sterling Archer Is a Scapegoat — What This Means Going Forward

Sterling’s pronouncement in the final seconds of Archer’s season 11 finale is met with silence from the group. It’s clear that Lana and other members of the team have never before considered that their moral failings could be a result of their inherent personalities rather than their relationship with Sterling. When Archer stands up for himself, he presents a new viewpoint to the characters and audience — the idea that while he is messed up, he’s no more dysfunctional than anyone else in the agency. Sterling’s newfound maturity at the end of season 11 makes it hard for the team to continue using him as a scapegoat. Without Sterling as an excuse, the team will have to face their personal issues head on.

Related: Archer: How (And Why) Woodhouse Died

Biggest Questions For Archer Season 12

Sterling seems to have reached a turning point at the end of season 11 of Archer. One of the biggest unanswered questions in the finale is whether Lana and Sterling will resume a romantic relationship. Lana’s marriage is deteriorating, but Archer is also letting go of the idea of winning Lana back. At the end of “Double Date,” he and Lana have a quiet conversation about how he actually liked the woman he asked out to make Lana jealous. Another loose end is Sterling’s relationship with daughter AJ. Will Sterling be able to rebuild a connection with his daughter or will he be edged out by Robert?

More: What To Expect From Archer Season 12

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Updated: November 17, 2020 — 7:13 pm

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