With all the streaming releases these days, sometimes it’s easy to miss a gem. To many, Netflix’s adaptation of the popular audio drama podcast Archive 81 is one of those. Produced by horror maestro James Wan, this creepy story bends time and reality to terrifying effect. It follows Dan (Mamoudou Athie) as a conservator of damaged video recordings. He is hired by Virgil (Martin Donovan), the head of a mysterious corporation, to restore a box of fire-damaged videotapes. These tapes were originally made decades before by Melody (Dina Shihabi) a woman who moved into a creepy apartment building, ostensibly to make a documentary about the residents in the historical artifice, but with a hidden motive: to find out what happened to her birth mother who gave her up for adoption.
Dan is offered a sizable fee for the work but with a catch. The tapes are too fragile to be moved and he has to stay by himself in a labyrinthine research campus out in the woods to do the work. When he pieces together the footage, he starts to unveil the truth behind the tapes, the fire that destroyed the building and Melody’s life, and connections between these events and a fire that took the life of his own family around the same time. As more is revealed and Dan discovers his father’s role in Melody’s story, reality begins to unwind around him and many secrets are revealed including ones inside the very campus he is sequestered in.
Ending on a sizable cliffhanger, many fans of this delicious creepshow of a series have been worried as to the status of a second season. Netflix has historically not been the most reliable when it comes to renewing their series, even with shows that appear to be hits, such as this one which was raved about by critics and reached #1 on Netflix the first week after launch. The whys and wherefores of how these decisions are made by the streaming giant remain a mystery but one thing has become clear: they tend to respond when fans speak up.
One person speaking out about their concern for the continuation of the Archive 81 story is its star Dina Shihabi who you might also know from the second season of Netflix’s Altered Carbon or as one of the main characters in Season 1 of the Amazon Prime series Jack Ryan. Without going into spoiler details, it seems clear that much is ahead for her character of Melody if a second season is greenlit and speaking to Variety, she made clear that she wasn’t entirely sure what that would be. “They haven’t given us any information at all“ she said, noting how unsurprisingly ambiguous the creators have been about it. For a show drenched in surreal and horrifying mysteries, this makes sense, but the real problem is Netflix remaining quiet about whether they plan to give them the chance to continue – “So we’re just in this no man’s land of waiting for Netflix to tell us if there’s a second season.”
The two main characters of Dan and Melody are separated by time in the show, and the final episode leads us to expect that they will remain so, only now in a completely different way. Despite that, Shihabi discusses in the interview their connection, practically a romance separated by time but briefly brought together by the mysterious powers behind the cult that lived in the apartment building.
“There is a spiritual bond between them that could lead to romance, could lead to deep friendship, could lead to anything, which I find quite moving. It’s almost deeper than a romantic relationship. It’s like something that the two of them haven’t shared with anyone else ever.”
Shihabi appears to be as big of a fan of the show as we are, and is waiting on tenterhooks like the rest of us as well to see what happens next, or if we get to see what happens next at all. “There’s so much possibility here“ she says, and we have to agree. Netflix…get on it.