Under all the horror, and found footage, lies the heart of this film. Archive 81This is Netflix-style thriller fiction. Follow Dan Turner (Mamoudou Athie), an archiver, who is being called to help restore videotapes damaged in a 1994 fire at Visser’s apartment building. The mystery grows from every direction.
Like many Netflix thrillers before it, the show’s dialogue is often lackluster even as the general mood feels like it’s slowly boiling you alive. That coupled with the visuals — the way time slides so easily between a 1990s VHS tape and the present, or a woman tearing her face off because of what she sees in a vision — well, of course it’s the sort of thing I can’t stop watching.
And last but not least Archive 81Season finale answers most of the mystery (something not many mystery box shows will do). If it looked like the series was heading towards a neat conclusion, there’s another twist. Rebecca Sonnenshine, the showrunner, has stated that she deliberately left some fuel in reserve for season 2. And while Netflix hasn’t yet renewed the show for a second season, here’s what Sonnenshine says about two of the biggest mysteries that might be dealt with in a new chapter.
[Ed. note: This post contains spoilers for the end of season 1 of Archive 81.]
What took place at Visser
After reviewing hours and hours of Melody’s (Dina Shihabi) tapes, Dan discovers that what was happening at the Visser is regular old cult stuff — but they do happen to be a cult based around real magic. Vos Society wanted to liberate Kalego, the demon from the Baldung coven’s statue.
Virgil, the tech-entrepreneur who hired Dan for the restoration of the tapes was named Martin Donovan. He believed Melody had destroyed the Visser and murdered his brother Samuel Jonigkeit (Evan Jonigkeit). The tapes show that Melody saved Jess (Ariana Naal), who was being possibly sacrificed by Melody, but she couldn’t stop it completely. The ritual is what caused the fire, burning down the Visser and obscuring the fact that Melody and Vos leader Samuel got sent to Kalego’s “Otherworld.”
While that’s one mystery squared away, there’s still others looming — like, for instance, what happened at Dan’s house when he was a child, burning down his home and killing his family. While Dan learns that his father knows Melody, and other shenanigans at the Visser’s house, Sonnenshine confirms that she plans to tell the full story in Season 2.
“There are a lot of little Easter eggs or little things like that, that if you’re like, ‘I wonder if that’s something that is part of the mythology and that will be explored further?’ And, yes,” Sonnenshine told Entertainment Weekly. “Some things just didn’t actually make it into the season.”
Dan: What happened?
After going into the Otherworld to rescue Melody, Dan gets separated from her and wakes up to find himself in an apartment … in 1990s New York, Two Towers reflection and all. But if you were thinking that there might still be some otherworldly shenanigans playing tricks on Dan’s perception, Sonnenshine assures you there aren’t.
“I can tell you that he is in the ’90s,” the showrunner told Variety of the final shot of the season. “He’s in the real ’90s, and the clue for that is that it does not have the particulates floating around there. He’s in 1994. And the question we’re asking is, we saw people disappear into The Otherworld in different time periods, right?
“It means there’s little holes, little poke, poke — little entry and exit points. And that people have gotten kind of mixed up in there trying to exit, and maybe didn’t exit through the right door.”
With the Otherworld spitting people out in various points in time, Sonnenshine says that means Samuel is “still very much a part of the story.” Were Netflix to renew them for second season, Samuel and Virgil’s stories will be a much bigger part of it.
“It’s kind of at the top of our list for season 2, because we didn’t quite get to it, but also I can say that everyone in the show is doing something that they think is right,” Sonnenshine said to EW.
The podcast on which the show is based has already aired three seasons. This may just be the beginning. Archive 81’s web (if Netflix obliges). And Sonnenshine has confirmed that when it does, there’ll be plenty of cross-media magical madness.
“We definitely are not abandoning [the found footage aspect]. There are all kinds of ways when you think, oh, how would he communicate with them?” Sonnenshine told Variety. “It wouldn’t be the same device, but it would be a different window with a similar device. […] We’re ready to go, should we be so lucky to get a Season 2, we have some really cool stories to tell.”
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