Top 10 Literary References in Archer

Posted by Eric Smith

Filled with incredibly obscure references that send watchers stampeding to Wikipedia (ie: Who am I, Alan Turing?), Archer isn’t only one of the funniest shows on television. It’s also one of the smartest.

And wow, does this show love making literary references. From Tolkien to Shakespeare, Melville to Orwell, the past three seasons of FX’s Archer has been full of them.

So read on, and share your favorite literary moments in the comments.

1. LORD OF THE RINGS: The show references Lord of the Rings quite often, to the point where one of the computer nerds is actually named Bilbo and talks about Tolkien. Such as in the season two finale, Double Trouble.

Archer: So you! Can you hack into the KGB servers?

Bilbo: Pfft… does one ring rule them all?

The Lord of the Rings references aren’t limited to this random character (who according to the Archer Wiki, lives in Queens with his roommate). A drone refers to a strong door as an “alloy of adamantium and mithril” in the season three finale.

Oh! And speaking adamantium…

2. WOLVERINE: Sterling Archer loves his comic books, and sadly makes many references that are lost on the other characters. Such as in season two’s episode, Tragical History.

Archer: It’s like it’s made out of Wolverine’s bones.

(Awkward silence)

Archer: You know, cause they’re… does nobody read X-Men?

Sorry Archer. Nope.

3. SHAKESPEARE’S JULIUS CAESAR: Sometimes the characters on Archer mess up their quotes and references, and correct each other with hilarious results. Such as in the Placebo Effect episode in season two.

Malorie: Sterling, no! You’re not well. What are you going to do?

Archer: Cry havoc and let slip the hogs of war!

LanaDogs of war…

Archer: Whatever farm animal of war, Lana! Shut up!

And speaking of farm animals…

4. ANIMAL FARM: Because if you’re going to fight about a George Orwell novel, you might as well do it while you’re in space. And the cast of Archer does so in season three’s Space Race.

Archer: Wait, there are animals?

Lana: No, Animal Farm.

Cyril: How do you not get that?

Archer: No, I know what an animal farm is.

Cyril: Not an animal farm.

Archer: Maybe we can stampede a flock of goats down the hall.


Archer: No, it’s not Lana. It’s an allegorical novella about Stalinism by George Orwell, and spoiler alert, IT SUCKS.

Oops. Excuse me. Allegorical novella. Thank you Archer.

5. OEDIPUS THE KING: Poor Sterling has some serious mother issues. No surprise that an Oedipus reference gets made.

Lana: If you want to know why Archer is Archer, you need to go back in time and have a threesome with Oedipus and Sigmund Freud!

No thanks.

6. JAMES BOND (and every other espionage thriller ever written): Sterling Archer loves his License to Kill, and isn’t afraid to wave it around in season three’s Heart of Archness (BONUS: Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad reference) three episode arch in order to get his way.

Noah: Can I just run up to my hovel real quick and get the only extant copy of my dissertation?

Archer: Noah, I’ve still got four bullets.

Noah: Oh God! Do you know what ‘extant’ means?!

Archer: Do you know what ‘License to kill’ means?

Noah: … I’ll write another one.

Pst. Extant means “only one in existence.” Sorry Noah. Get to writing.

7: OF MICE AND MEN: From season two, A Growing Concern.

Len: Actually can I have all of it? And the bunny attached to it? He is attached, right? Can I have the bunny and the lettuce?

Archer: Um, can we give Lennie the rabbit?

Len: And the lettuce!

Archer: … sure thing. Go to town.

Len: Yeah, ’cause, you know… they’re brothers.

Archer: Um. Is he always gonna be like this now because I feel bad.

Hopefully things turned out okay for that bun. Because (spoiler!) things didn’t turn out so great for Lennie’s pet in Of Mice and Men.

8. THE DESTRUCTION OF SENNACHERIB: Pam shows that she has the most bad ass back tattoo ever in season two, the episode El Secuestro. Seriously. So bad ass.

9. BARTLEBY THE SCRIVENER: Possibly the most obscure literary reference made on the show, happens in season two, in the episode Skorpio.

10. WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS: I’m probably in the minority here, but I really hated Where The Red Fern Grows. But whenever I think of this reference from Pipeline Fever in season two, I can’t help but laugh.

Eric Smith


ERIC SMITH is the cofounder of Geekadelphia, a popular blog covering all-that-is-geek in the City of Brotherly Love, as well as the Philadelphia Geek Awards, an annual awards show held at the Academy of Natural Sciences. He’s written for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Weekly, and