Like most Netflix shows, Archive 81 came out of nowhere to rise to the top of the streaming service’s Top 10 list. Even though the show’s reign was short-lived after Netflix abruptly cancelled it, it was still a big hit with people. In fact, if you play the tape from Archive 81 back, the first season of the original series had a lot of history in the scary genre.
Following a video archiver named Dan (Mamoudou Athie), the story takes place in the mid-1990s when he is hired to put together a series of documentary tapes that had been lost. Assorted cassette tapes may hold the answer to what may have caused the fire that destroyed the Visser apartment building.
The more Dan learns about the tapes and story, the more he falls in love with Melody Pendras, the young woman who is recording and narrating them for a documentary project. On each of the tapes, Dan follows Melody as she unravels threads about everything from time travel to a mystical mould, and even to another dark world.
Netflix released the first season of Archive 81 on January 14, 2022. It briefly took the top spot on its Top 10 chart in the US, and Nielsen also put it on its Top 10 list of US streaming shows that were made in the US. Even better, the slow-boil horror story was a big hit with critics, who gave it an 86 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The news came out on March 24, 2022, just a little over two months after the first season premiered. Netflix would not be re-running the show for a second season at that time. Fans of Dan’s story and the Visser quickly learned that the tape had run out.
Rebecca Sonnenshine, the show’s showrunner, told The Wrap that the project was never meant to be an anthology. It was meant to run for a long time.
There are more stories to tell, she said. “As a whole, I think we leave off on a good note. We also introduce a lot of people who live near Dan and Melody who have very interesting lives to learn about. That’s right. We want to keep going.”
Sonnenshine told EW that they tried to set up future stories in the first season. So if you want to know where the story would have gone, the best way to find out is to pay attention to where it has already been.
“In the mythology, there are a lot of little Easter eggs or little things that make you wonder if they’re going to be looked into more. Yes, that’s correct “She also said.
“Some things just didn’t actually make it into the season. A mythology series is a lot of work, but then you think, “Oh, we don’t have enough space for all of that,” so you build it out. If you read the next season, you’ll see what we did with that piece… All I can do, because I’m such a fan of television and shows like this, is talk. We’d talk a lot about what we’d like to see and what would make us excited, and then we’d try to do that.”
So why did Netflix axe the series so quickly, even after it charted and scored great reviews? Not surprisingly, the streaming service has kept quiet about the decision. In a short statement after the news broke, Sonnenshine thanked fans and hoped that this show could still find its place in the short-lived horror genre. Awful: Unfortunately, she didn’t give us a reason as to why this show had to be cancelled in the first place.
“A big thank you from all of us to everyone who watched Archive 81! They were very kind and thoughtful, so I want to say thank you to them “She wrote on Twitter. “Angry that we won’t be making another season (we had cool new stories, found footage, and Kaelego-lore planned). I hope you’ll think of us often.”
Decisions about how to make shows and how quickly they rise and fall in popularity are mostly made by Netflix’s own data. This includes things like viewer retention, episode start times, project budgets, and how quickly shows rise and fall in popularity. Archive 81 may not have been able to keep up enough momentum for Netflix to think that a second season could match or even beat the success of the first one, Deadline says.
So it’s a real shame, because the show was able to connect with viewers by telling an interesting story in a new way. It used a mix of media and some old-fashioned analogue crackle and static that stayed true to the creepy podcast that the show was adapting.
Instead of the story being told to the audience through recorded tapes, viewers watched Dan as he went back and forth between the past and the present to try to save Melody from a tragedy that happened 30 years ago.
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When the story built its world, it also wore its weirdness on its sleeve. There were a lot of questions and interesting paths to follow, and the story made sure to show off its weirdness. It’s a very different product, but it had the same type of creepy potential fans saw in Stranger Things back in that show’s inaugural season. Potential, but without a way to explore it.
Because there is no hope for a second season, what should fans do? In the end, it’s always going to be the first podcast that started it all off. The original Archive 81 podcast ran for three full seasons, as well as two ancillary miniseries that came at the end of season three.
The TV show, though, took some liberties with the story of the podcast. For fans of the show, it has the same roots as the podcast, and it gives them more room to dig a lot deeper into what was going on with the tapes.