What the Hell Just Happened in the Archive 81 Finale?

Let's just say it was an iconic twist of M. Night Shyamalan proportions.

Season 1 of Netflix's Archive 81 has had viewers glued to their screens for eight episodes. And following that cliffhanger, everyone wants to know whether Archive 81 is coming back for a second season. While Netflix is yet to officially greenlight season 2, it's the perfect time to explore what the hell went down in the season 1 finale.

Archive 81 follows archivist Dan Turner (Mamoudou Athie), who finds himself embroiled in a mystery when he's hired to restore a collection of VHS tapes from the '90s. Dan watches footage recorded by Melody Pendras (Dina Shihabi) at The Visser building, involving a strange cult, disappearances, sacrifices, and even an alternate dimension. As Dan follows Melody's journey, the pair start to connect in an unexpected way, leading to an unpredictable finale.

If you've seen all eight episodes of Archive 81's first season, you'll know that the show ends on a major cliffhanger that impacts all of the characters in a life changing way. Here's what you need to know about Archive 81's season 1 finale.

What happens in the Archive 81 finale?

Melody's mom, Julia Bennett, is revealed to be a Baldung witch who can open the portal to the other dimension. Dan enters the Otherworld to find Melody, who has been trapped there since 1994 when Samuel dragged her in after summoning Iris.

Once there, the demon Kaelago attempts to distort reality and manipulate Dan into staying. Dan's family appear to be alive in the Otherworld, with Kaelago hoping to con Dan into remaining there forever. However, Dan finds Melody and convinces her to leave with him. They follow the sound of the key, produced by Julia, and try to find their way out of the maze that is Kaelago's lair. Just as they are about to leave, Samuel appears and grabs Melody. He pulls her through an open door and into the light.

dina shihabi in archive 81

In the present day, Melody appears from the portal, but she is alone. She's reunited with her mom, but Dan's best friend Mark wants to know where Dan is. The scene cuts to Dan in a hospital bed, where he's been for two weeks. A nurse reveals that he survived a fire, and that no one has come to visit him in that time. On the TV, MTV plays, and it's announced that Kurt Cobain has died. Dan stands and looks out of the hospital window, where he sees the Twin Towers. It turns out Dan has ended up in 1994, effectively switching places with Melody who is now in his present day.

The finale ends on this cliffhanger, ensuring that viewers want—no, need—a second season of Archive 81.

What does this ending mean?

Having switched places, Dan is now in 1994, while Melody is in the present day. Despite having been trapped in the Otherworld for decades, Melody hasn't aged at all. (Viewers will likely have so many questions about that.)

Plus, it's not completely clear what happened to Dan. The nurse suggests that he survived the fire at The Visser building, but it's also possible that he's still trapped in the Otherworld, and being tricked into staying there by Kaelago. Or he could be dead, but hopefully not.

What has the cast and crew said about a possible second season?

With The Visser building burned down, a potential season 2 of Archive 81 could take place in another location. The show is set in New York but was filmed on location in Pittsburgh. Matt McGorry, who plays Mark, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “One of the reasons I hope we get a season 2 is for the opportunity to explore the city when it’s full and vibrant and things aren’t as closed down.”

In an interview with Looper, showrunner Rebecca Sonnenshine spoke about what might happen after season 1's “huge cliffhanger.” “‘How's Dan going to get back to where he belongs?’ is the question of the cliffhanger, which is not going to be easy,” she explained. “Also, thematically, our characters have been searching for something that they wanted to know. Who are their parents, or who are they? They have all these answers now, but now they have to deal with the fallout of that. That's kind of the emotional landscape that we're going for.”

archive 81

Sonnenshine also teased that the timeline flip opened up new storylines for all of the characters. “Everybody's been shaken up into new pairings,” she said. “Dan doesn't have Mark anymore, and now they're going to have to forge these new relationships with people to work together. That's always what's very funny to me, when you can shake up a show and have people now be paired up with other people. They have scenes with people that you never would've expected them to have, which is very exciting.”

While the series' source material, the Archive 81 podcast, has had three seasons to date, the TV show might head in a different direction story-wise. Sonnenshine told Looper, “I would say that we diverge from the podcast, so I think there's lots of things that are up for grabs in Season 2, but Kaelego, he's our demon. He's our guy.” Basically, prepare yourself for even more horror if a second season comes around.


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