- Archive 81 -The Time-Twisting Ending Of 'Archive 81' Explained
As far as cliffhangers go, Archive 81 serves up a whopper at the end of Season 1. The supernatural Netflix series, which is based on a popular podcast, doesn't exactly embrace the idea of a straightforward narrative in the first place, but things get extra weird in the final moments of the season.
Warning: Spoilers for all of Season 1 to follow.
Throughout the series, the story unravels across multiple timelines: the present, wherein archivist Dan restores a collection of tapes that were badly damaged in the Visser Apartment fire, 1994, where grad student Melody stumbles upon a cult while searching for her mother at the Visser, and 1924, where a wealthy cult leader named Iris Vos leads the Vos Society as they try to awaken the demon/god Kaelego. Got all that? Good, now let's get to the truly mind-bending part of the story.
In the season finale, Dan, along with his friend Mark, and Bobbi, the caretaker of the facility where Dan has worked all season long (who is also revealed to be Melody's biological mother), hatch a plan to open the veil between worlds and free Melody. Thankfully, there's no ritual sacrifice involved this time, just Bobbi slashing her hand to offer up some of that Baldung Witch blood that Kaelego can't get enough of. With the gateway open, she tells Dan she can hold it for five minutes while he retrieves her daughter from the other realm.
Dan proceeds to enter the gateway and avoid Kaelego's promises that he can live the life he always wanted with his deceased family, and quickly finds Melody holed up in the chapel where her mother left her as a baby. The duo then head toward the sound of the tuning fork (the only way they can find the entrance to the gateway), but just before they can make it out safely, cult leader Samuel pops up out of nowhere and snatches Melody. However, she's still returned safely to the compound where her mom and Mark are waiting, while Samuel is nowhere to be found. And Dan? Well, he appears to have landed in 1994 somehow.
Confused? You're not alone. Here's what all of those twists and time-jumps mean for a potential Season 2.
How Did Dan End Up In 1994?
Dan waking up in 1994 to discover he's the only survivor of the Visser fire is... unexpected to say the least. Now, it's possible he's simply trapped in Kaelego's world just like Melody was, but I think it's far more likely that's he really in 1994. Here's why: whenever the action is happening in Kaelego's world there appears to be tiny orbs of light, almost like dust particles or ashes, floating around Melody and Dan.
Those orbs are nowhere to be seen when Dan wakes up and spies the Twin Towers still standing outside his hospital window. That suggests the gateway simply spit him out in the wrong timeline. In fact, the show hinted at the big reveal in the penultimate episode.
When Dan and Mark visit Anabelle in "The Ferryman," she tells him that Jess dropped off some tapes for him before she left for Haiti. Now, here's the thing, Jess never met Dan, and she would have no way to know he would be looking for Melody unless he found her in the past. Her awareness of Dan serves as a major hint that their paths are set to cross either in 1994 or later in the '90s timeline as the archivist tries to navigate being thrust into another era.
Where Is Samuel?
One of the biggest questions at the end of Season 1 is where did Samuel end up? If Melody is in the present and Dan's in the '90s, then could Samuel be in another timeline entirely? Or did he enter the present with Melody, but somehow land in a different place? Bobbi does say the gateway is unpredictable and that time moves differently there.
Given how tightly he was holding onto Melody, Samuel almost certainly landed somewhere in the present where he can wreak maximum havoc. You would think being trapped in a demon dimension for 25 years would have turned him off Team Kaelego, but if Bobbi's right and the demon creates an illusion of maximum happiness to convince people to keep him company, then Samuel is probably more zealous than ever before.
Are There More Baldung Witches Out There?
The Baldung witches could be the only thing standing between the world and Kaelego's wrath. It's been established that they gave up their powers years ago to keep the door shut, but they may need to reclaim their power in order to fight off Samuel. At this stage, the only confirmed living witches are Bobbi and Melody, but there may be others out there.
Given the potential reemergence of Samuel, and Dan being lost in time, the newly reunited mother-daughter duo have some pretty big problems to solve in Season 2. And those problems can only be solved by them working together to bring Dan home and stop Samuel for good.
There's no doubt about it, the Archive 81 Season 1 finale was wild, but each one of those big twists seems to be pointing the show in an exciting new sci-fi tinged direction if Netflix greenlights Season 2.