What Lies Beneath
Where is Melody?
Episode 8 of Archive 81 begins with Melody held against her will. Steven shows up and reveals that he knows who Samuel is. When he met Samuel, he was using the name Alexander Davenport. And Alexander is the historian he’s been liaising with that studies the Baldung.
Steven has brought Melody to a psychiatric ward to keep her safe, away from Alexander who needs her for his ritual. Steven promises to handle this but Melody has lost all trust in those around her.
What does Annabelle know?
Instead of leaving, Steven brings Melody down to an adjacent room, where she finds Annabelle scribbling Iris’ face repeatedly up on the walls. Unfortunately Steven takes their reunion as an opportune moment to shut the door and lock it behind him.
Alone, Annabelle claims the ferryman was there earlier on and the ritual is going to take place this very night. According to her, the comet flying overhead is the opportune time for the ritual to take place. Wherever Iris is, she’s due to be freed and come back through to our world.
When Melody left out the window that night, that’s the last Annabelle actually saw of her friend.
What happened to Jess?
So naturally, we cut back to Dan and Mark. Melody needs Dan’s help to bring her back, and he’s the only one able to do this. As for Jess, she’s still alive and has left behind a box of tapes for them both. Jess is now a nun and she has a new alias in the form of Sister Mary Cecilia.
Dan takes the tapes back home, using an old Fisher Price camera to actually read the tapes. It appears the cassettes are only compatible with this and wouldn’t you know it, Dan just so happens to have this exact model. I know he works at a firm dealing with tapes but even so, that’s quite a jump!
Anyway, the black and white video shows Melody returning to the Visser apartment. This is a secret tape, and Melody reinforces on camera that if anything happens to her then Samuel is the one responsible. After finishing this video, she heads up to the sixth floor, desperate to find Jess.
Well, it turns out Jess is actually in that dilapidated apartment and Melody sneaks in through the window. Jess asks if Melody is “part of this” before revealing matter-of-factly that this is her destiny to receive this blessing. The thing is, she has no idea that it’s going to lead to her throat being slit and her life sacrificed.
Jess is defiant that this isn’t the case but it’s clear she’s being brainwashed. Melody eventually ushers Jess out the window, only for herself to be used as the sacrifice instead. After being knocked out by John Smith, Melody is taken down to the basement. The “vessel” was really just bait to lure Melody in, and she’s fallen for it hook, line and sinker.
Does the ritual go ahead?
With Jess gone, Tamara takes Jess’s place, with the necklace placed around her neck. Melody tries in vain to call for help but she’s brought forward to allow her blood to be spilled over the statue. This is, of course, all part of the ritual and the blood flows freely. Tamara is brought forward afterwards and her throat is inevitably slit.
In doing so, Iris appears behind the strange white, ethereal veil. Jess is there too, filming the whole thing. So much for getting away, eh! Anyway, the video soon distorts, leading back to Dan and Mark. Here, Mark theorizes our timeline and spells out what appears to have happened.
What is the Other World?
It looks like this is a gateway to Kaelego’s hometown – the Other World. This could be some sort of shadow dimension and this ritual opens up a doorway between the two worlds. The white veil is a place where two dimensions briefly interact, like a sort of inter-dimensional tunnel.
It would appear that Melody is actually trapped inside the Otherworld and all of what we’ve been seeing – Melody reaching out to Dan, the visions etc. – are part of her calling Dan to help.
All of this originated back in 1924, during the last episode’s flashbacks, where Iris tried to reach in and pull Kaelego into our dimension. Instead, she was pulled into Kaelego’s.
When the ritual was opened again by Samuel/Alexander and the pair saw Iris sanding before them, it could be that Melody was pulled through as well, along with Samuel.
How does Dan intend to bring Melody back?
The only solution now comes from Dan convincing Virgil Davenport to help stop his brother and save Melody. Heading to his compound, Dan reveals that there’s another tape, and shows Virgil the ritual. Before showing more of it though, Dan tries to reach the bottom of what’s going on.
It turns out the tapes were moved to a storage facility by none other than Dan’s father, Steven. In hiding the tapes, Dan’s family were killed, as the fire that took their lives was started by fanatics that believed desperately in bringing a demon through to our world. Dan’s escape from the fire was a complete accident – he was never meant to survive.
Dan even tries to compromise, pointing out that Samuel is also trapped in the other dimension and using that as leverage for his deal. Instead, Virgil pulls a gun out and looks set to shoot. Thankfully, Mark appears and knocks him out.
Dan instead heads into the chapel, grabbing a vial of blood from the refrigerator and setting to work redoing the same ritual we’ve seen before. Having watched the tape, studied the books and with the trinkets needed, Dan is confident he can make this work.
Who is Melody’s mother?
Only, when he gets there Bobbi shows up with a gun. She promises that this won’t work and shows off a tuner. This is a key and it turns out only a Baldung can use it. And wouldn’t you know it, Bobbi is actually a Baldung!
Davenport was a means to an end for her, and she used him to get closer to what’s happening here. She too wants to get Melody out as the truth about Bobbi comes to light. Her name’s not Bobbi – it’s Julia. Yes, it turns out Melody’s mother has been with us the whole time hiding in plain sight.
Julia originally gave her daughter up to save her from ever getting mixed up in this cult-like business. Unfortunately that didn’t work, given Melody’s perceived powers. Now that her daughter is stuck, Julia has been trying to free her for the last 25 years but needed all the puzzle pieces (Dan, Davenport etc.) to fall into line before she did.
Now, correct me if I’m wrong but this also means that the whole comet shindig appears to be a smokescreen – it was never about that. At least not based on what these guys are saying anyway.
Bobbi opens the portal and warns Dan that he’s got 5 minutes to get himself there and back – preferably with Melody. She also tells him that Kaelego will try to entice him to stay but he needs to follow the familiar sound of the tuner to bring him back.
What happens in the Other World? Does Dan find Melody?
So Dan falls into this Otherworld, where the rules aren’t the same and time doesn’t follow a linear pattern. Walking through this ethereal dimension, he miraculously finds Melody.
Melody is sitting in the chapel, which is inexplicably attached to the apartment complex. Melody claims that she’s “waiting for her”, which is clearly a nod toward her mother, given that’s where she left her as a babe.
As the bells start to toll, Dan grabs Melody’s hand and rushes with her back whence they came. On the TV is a camera feed of the compound. Kaelego shows up, as does Samuel, and all hell breaks loose.
Melody is pulled out from the Other World, while Dan loses his grip on her hand and is seemingly stuck inside. Cutting back to our world, Mark is incredulous and shocked; Dan and Samuel are nowhere to be found. Melody is reunited with her mother but it’s bittersweet, given the loss they’ve endured.
How does Archive 81 end?
As Mark calls out for Dan, we jump back to see Dan in hospital. We awakens to a TV flashing with a news report regarding Kurt Cobain’s death. The date shows 1994.
Dan looks outside, and is shocked to find he’s in a different time. The reflection on the window next to his shows the outline of the twin towers. Not only that, it’s assumed that he’s still stuck in the Other World with the demon.
The Episode Review
What a deliciously twisted Twilight Zone-esque ending! There’s certainly a lot to unpack here and it’s left up to interpretation over exactly where Dan may be in the end. I would assume that he’s still in the Other World and presumably tricked into thinking he was in a coma this whole time to feed the demon and keep Dan unquestioning over his reality.
Now, Dan was warned by Julia that he’d be tempted and believe this to be real, it certainly adds up.
Despite Archive 81’s strengths, the show has also been a little messy at times – especially when it comes to this ending. Not only does it rush the conclusion (which is odd given the slow pace this show has adopted) it also doesn’t fully explain everything.
Iris is still a point of contention, as is the way Baldungs are chosen or how Melody managed to communicate and see Dan but Iris couldn’t do the same thing. The show has been a bit messy and disappointingly light on horror. When it comes to mystery and drama, this one has had it in droves, but does the end justify the means? I’m not so sure.
This may sound odd (especially given how positive I’ve been across the episodes) but as a collective whole, Archive 81 feels like a stitch work of different horror concepts pulled together into a story that’s more investigative drama horror (ala. The Ring) rather than a genuinely creepy multi-dimension thriller.
Archive 81 could have done with a bit more editing to make this a bit pacier but that ending certainly leaves room for a potential sequel. Will Netflix renew this one though? We’ll have to wait and see,