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Archive 81 Showrunner Answers Two Of Our Big Season 1 Finale Questions

Spoilers below for anyone who hasn’t yet watched Archive 81’s entire eight-episode season, so be warned!

Upon turning the acclaimed horror podcast Archive 81 into a live-action TV series, showrunner Rebecca Sonnenshine expanded and morphed the central storyline to keep Netflix viewers guessing until the very end. Okay, so the guessing actually extends well beyond that point, considering all the questions we still have about the intricacies and details of this bonkers universe. With The Conjuring and Malignant filmmaker James Wan as a guiding light, Archive 81 delivered a toothsome concoction of found-footage thrills, demonic cults, mental trauma and technology-tethered timelines, with the finale seemingly wrapping up some narrative threads while leaving others unresolved.

Rebecca Sonnenshine definitely kept some mysteries’ answers under a Vos-approved lock and key when she spoke with CinemaBlend to promote Archive 81’s stellar debut on Netflix (where it currently sits in the #1 slot), but she did offer fairly straightforward answers to two of my biggest questions regarding the season finale’s harrowing final sequence.

Dan staring in shock in Archive 81 finale

(Image credit: Netflix)

What Was Behind The Door That Dan And Melody Didn’t Open? 

Believe you me, there were easily dozens of hyper-specific questions I could have asked the head of Archive 81’s creative team about the episode “What Lies Beneath” and how things played out for the main characters in the end. (And some that I did.) However, one particular moment stuck out to me after watching for not just being unexplained, but also for the curious lack of attention it was given.

After Mamoudou Athie’s Dan found Dina Shihabi’s Melody within Kaelego’s Otherworld and convinced her to follow him, they had a bit of trouble finding the portal back into Dan’s timeline where Jacqueline Antaramian’s Bobbi and Matt McGorry’s Mark were waiting for them. In running away from Kaelego’s demonic presence, Dan and Melody descended the faux Visser’s stairwell via confusingly repeating footage, and then faced an unfamiliar door with what seemed to be the portal’s familiar light shining around its edges. But just as Dan started walking towards it, Melody opted for the fully opened door nearby, with Evan Jonigkeit’s cult leader Samuel suddenly emerging and inevitably taking her back to the latter-day timeline. And the next time we saw Dan, he was waking up in an unidentified hospital in 1994.

When I asked Rebecca Sonnenshine what the deal was with that door that went unopened (to viewers, at least), here’s how she explained it:

I hear you. I think that, you know, without giving too much away, I think what you see is that there's different points of entry into the other world from different points in time. Right? So that's what we're looking at. And obviously, that's all kind of a construct of Khalego, this other world. Like, the things we're actually seeing. But that was meant to be like kind of a...when you see Dan wake up, you're like, 'Oh, I get it.' There's different points where time is drilled down into this other world, represented by doors.

Though the showrunner didn’t come out and say it, it stands to reason that Dan tried to follow Melody by going into a different elegantly lit portal, which sent him back to 1994 at a point after the fire at the Visser Building. (More on that below.) Kaelego’s home base is apparently a place where a variety of points in time can converge on a permanent basis, with the construct itself appearing as something familiar to those within. 

It also stands to reason that the portal-esque points are drilled into this realm, as it were, when someone in the real world performs the proper ritual. (Possibly even if they don’t perform it in the most precise way.) So while Archive 81 viewers are only privy to a handful of instances where a bloody sacrifice was made in Kaelego’s name, it’s possible there are many other mold-loving, mouth-breathing cults out there whose timelines could be found behind other doors. Which brings us back around to Dan’s current fate. 

Dan in hospital bed on Archive 81 finale

(Image credit: Netflix)

Is Dan Actually Stuck In A Hospital In 1994?

Given all of the times Dan’s emotional breakdown was hinted at without full explanation throughout Archive 81, the finale’s shocking final scene in the hospital could have easily been viewed as the aftermath of another mental collapse. Possibly where all of the moments witnessed prior to that were just figments of Dan’s muddled confusion, or some other form of narrative trickery. While that would have been interesting to a certain extent, depending on how Rebecca Sonnenshine & Co. would have played it, we thankfully don’t need to worry about a “Gotcha!” reveal being the intended purpose there. 

When I asked the showrunner for clarification that the final scene is meant to be viewed as canon, that Dan did indeed wake up ten days after the Visser Building fire, and that he was in a legit hospital and not some other building, she answered with:

Yeah, yes. Yes.

A trio of yesses can rarely be a bad thing in any capacity, and I was certainly glad to hear them in this case, even if they weren't necessarily meant to answer all three questions. Knowing what we now do regarding timeline points in Kaelego’s Otherworld, it’s certainly possible that Dan was actually in a coma for ten days, and that he’d popped into 1994 through the very portal that Samuel and Melody disappeared into. Clearly, he would have needed rescue in some form or fashion, but that could have come in the form of Ariana Neal’s Jess, though that’s the kind of methodical contemplation that’s better saved for another time. 

Suffice it to say if there is a Season 2 of Archive 81, it will likely explore Dan trying to figure out WTF happened and how he could possibly make it back to a familiar time and space in a world that is only beginning to mourn the loss of Kurt Cobain, and where the terrors of 9/11 are still seven years away. And I’d be lying if I said part of me didn’t want a potential second season to tap into Dan trying to change the past 12 Monkeys-style while figuring out a path back.

Archive 81 is available to stream on Netflix right now, and it’s worth the rewatch once you’ve already gone through to pick up on even more clues along the way. And when you’re done with that, and you still can’t get that simplistically nightmarish tune out of your head, fill that brain with dates for all the new and returning shows in our 2022 TV premiere schedule.

Nick Venable
Nick Venable

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.