Archive 81’s Showrunner Explained The Perplexing Season 1 Ending

What happened to Dan?!

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The 'Archive 81' Season 1 ending sees Dan in an unfamiliar environment. Photo via Netflix
Idris Solomon/Netflix

Spoilers ahead for the Archive 81 Season 1 finale. Archive 81 is a confusing, unsettling ride from beginning to end. Not only does the new Netflix horror series oscillate between timelines, there’s an entire Otherworld that exists somewhere outside the time and space continuum. It’s there that Melody (Dina Shihabi) has been trapped since 1994 and where Dan (Mamoudou Athie) aims to free her from in the Season 1 finale — with mixed results.

With the help of Melody’s birth mother, a Baldung witch who’s revealed to be the groundskeeper at LMG’s remote facility, Dan travels into the spooky, liminal Otherworld on a rescue mission. He finds Melody and manages to narrowly escape Kaelego — but just as they’re about to return to the present day, Samuel (Mamoudou Athie) appears out of nowhere and pulls Melody through a portal. She ends up with her mom and Mark (Matt McGorry) in the present day, but both Samuel and Dan are nowhere to be found.

Our hero is very disoriented when he wakes up in the hospital at the very end of Archive Season 1. A nurse says the fire at the Visser apartment building happened super recently, while he turns on the TV to see MTV News announcing the death of Kurt Cobain. Suddenly, Dan comes to the realization that he’s been transported back to Melody’s timeline in 1994 New York. But is he actually, you know, lost in time? Or is this just another Otherworld-esque illusion?

Clifton Prescod/Netflix

Showrunner Rebecca Sonnenshine set the record straight in an interview with Variety. “He’s in the real ’90s,” she said. “And the clue for that is that it does not have the particulates floating around there.” Indeed, if you look at Dan and Melody’s last few minutes together in the Otherworld, you can see light-colored specks moving throughout the air — a handy visual that may help you keep your worlds in order on a rewatch.

While it’s sort of a relief to know that Dan is relatively OK (maybe he can even save his family from their fate somehow), it’s obviously Melody who’s supposed to be in 1994, not Dan. “There’s little holes ... little entry and exit points,” Sonnenshine explained to Variety of the Otherworld. “[Meaning] that people have gotten kind of mixed up in there trying to exit, and maybe didn’t exit through the right door.” Here’s hoping Melody can help Dan find the right one in a potential Season 2.

In the meantime, what happened to Samuel? Theoretically, he should be by Melody’s side as she stumbles into the current day — but he isn’t. Perhaps he, as Sonnenshine put it, missed his own exit. Either way, his story will be an important part of the show’s second installment if Archive 81 is renewed. As Sonnenshine said: “I think Season 2 is, where is Samuel? Where is he? And I think that that is a very exciting branch of our story that we definitely know what we’re doing with.”

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