Warning: The following contains “Archive 81” spoilers through Episode 8.
The new Netflix horror-mystery series “Archive 81” asks a lot of questions through its eight-episode first season, and while plenty are answered, there are still more mysteries left to unpack after the eventful finale. So TheWrap asked showrunner Rebecca Sonnenshine some burning questions we had after the episode, from Kaelego’s origins to Season 2 possibilities.
After spending the preceding episodes restoring video tapes of Melody Pendras’ (Dina Shihabi) time at The Visser apartment building, Episode 8 finds Dan (Mamoudou Athie) returning to Virgil Davenport’s (Martin Donovan) compound and confronting him about the truth of the tapes.
Davenport reveals that Dan’s father was previously in possession of the tapes, and they showed up in a storage facility a year prior to the present day events of the series. “They burned down your house in order to destroy them,” Davenport tells Dan, before adding, “There are people who will risk everything to raise that god-forsaken demon into this world and there are people who will risk everything to keep such an event from ever happening. Your father was on the receiving end of that ideology, and your family paid the price. Your escape was entirely accidental.”
Davenport turns on Dan despite admitting he likes him, pulling a gun on his young former employee, but Mark (Matt McGorry) comes to the rescue and knocks Davenport out. They descend to the basement, where the Kaelego statue and ritual room have been recreated from The Visser and the mansion before that, only to have Bobbi surprise them with Davenport’s gun. It’s at this point that it’s revealed that Bobbi – who has been posing as the groundskeeper – is actually Melody’s mother, and she agrees to help enact the ritual (she’s a Baldung witch) to try and get Melody out of The Otherworld.
Dan goes into The Otherworld, is tempted by Kaelego, finds Melody and is about to get her out when Samuel (Evan Jonigkeit) snatches her. Melody arrives back in our dimension, in front of her mother, but Dan wakes up in the 1990s having seemingly traveled back in time. And thus the season ends.
Below, we asked “Archive 81” executive producer, writer and showrunner Rebecca Sonnenshine a number of burning questions about that finale and what happens next.
Will There Be an “Archive 81” Season 2?
First and foremost, fans are surely wondering if there will be an “Archive 81” Season 2. While Netflix has not officially ordered a second season, Sonnenshine is hopeful. “The idea is that we continue on with these characters into a new season should we be so lucky to get a second season,” the showrunner said. “It wasn’t conceived as a one-season show. I think there are more stories to tell. I think we end on a good cliffhanger that needs to be addressed. We introduce a lot of characters that surround Dan and Melody that have very rich and interesting lives to explore further. So yeah, we hope to keep going.”
The executive producer revealed that she and the writers “have been brainstorming” and already have some ideas for Season 2. “The writers are really excited to keep telling the story. We love our actors so much, we love the world. So, fingers crossed.”
Is Kaelego Real?
The answer, surprisingly, is no. “It is not [based on] anything except for my head,” Sonnenshine revealed. “This is kind of a Lovecraftian element to this show, which is an elder god or demon depending on how you look at it. So it feels real but it’s an invention and obviously draws upon many tropes and other ideas, but the monster or god or demon himself is our creation.”
Does Davenport Want to Let Kaelego Out or Keep Him in?
The true motives of Davenport remain murky through the finale episode, as he explains to Dan that there are two factions of people – those who will stop at nothing to keep Kaelego locked in The Otherworld, and those who will stop at nothing to get him out. We know that the videos of Melody playing in the basement are meant to “unravel the spell” according to Bobbi, so what is Davenport’s endgame here?
“I think it’s something that you could expect in a second season,” Sonnenshine revealed before adding that they have Davenport’s story mapped out already. “That was a thing that we just didn’t have time to get into, although we had very much mapped out all his motivation. I think for us everything will come back to an emotional place, but that is definitely on the table for exploration and further story in a Season 2, should it happen.”
Did Davenport Know Bobbi Was Melody’s Mother?
Davenport seems like a very smart character who has spent years studying The Otherworld and knows pretty much everything about Dan. So did he know that Bobbi, who presents herself as the groundskeeper, is actually Melody’s mother? “In our minds, he does not know that,” Sonnenshine said before adding, “But he can surprise me. Sometimes a character surprises me at the strangest moment where they’re like, ‘Actually, I did know that.’ And you think, ‘Oh.’ So I think one of the things about doing mythology shows is that you do need to leave yourself open to the characters surprising you at some point.”
As for Bobbi, Sonnenshine says if the show gets renewed for a second season we’ll learn more about Melody’s mother and where she’s been. “That is definitely something to explore in Season 2 because the end of Season 1, they meet and nothing is really said between them yet, but obviously that is such a rich ground for their exploration,” Sonnenshine said. “And again that was another story that we didn’t get to – in eight episodes you have only so much real estate. But we talked a lot about where Bobbi has been and how she ended up in the situation she ended up in.”
What Is The Otherworld, Exactly?
In the finale episode, we finally visit The Otherworld, but for Dan and Melody they’re transported to places from deep within their psyches rather than some hellish wasteland. That was by design, and rooted in the show’s commitment to emotional storytelling. “I wouldn’t say that any of those things are real, but that’s what they’re perceiving when they go into this other dimension that’s ruled by a very powerful mind-bending god or demon,” Sonnenshine explained. “So I think that what we were looking for in the end, that is bringing it back to something that means something to the character… like a moment that everything changed for them and they’ve been drawn back there to revisit or relive a moment or have a different life in that moment.” The showrunner continued, alluding to “Stranger Things” by saying “it’s not the Upside Down, it’s something a little more connected to their psyche.”
Where Is Samuel?
In the final moments in The Otherworld, we see Samuel come out of nowhere and snatch Melody out of Dan’s hands. But only Melody returns to our dimension, with Samuel nowhere to be found. Where is he? Sonnenshine is staying mum on that one: “Oh my gosh. I mean, I don’t know, where could he be? I would say stay tuned for Season 2.”
Did Dan Just Time Travel?
The final shot of the season is of Dan waking up in a hospital and a nurse telling him he just survived a fire at The Visser, with a television playing MTV News with Kurt Loder. The camera pulls back as Dan looks out the window, and the Twin Towers are still standing – Dan is now in the 1990s. Right? Sonnenshine explained what happened as a different kind of twist on time travel tropes. “This is, for us, just a new spin on time travel,” the showrunner said. “Which is, it’s kind of going through another dimension. It’s not what we think of as time travel. But there’s so much of this show that’s about time and how it moves and what is it and is it a flat circle? Is it an expanding universe? Is it a block universe? We don’t know. But the adage of having this alternate dimension puts a new playground in play. I think for us in terms of, well, someone went in the nineties and someone went in our present day. Does that mean there’s little holes that you can travel through? So that was always kind of the idea.”
The showrunner clarified, “It’s not a time machine. It’s something different. It’s a way to bend time through an alternate dimension.” Which, one would assume, means there’s a way back. Here’s hoping Season 2 is ordered swiftly, because we need some serious resolution to this whopping cliffhanger.