Archive 81: Mystery Signals
January 25, 2022 1:37 PM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

A skilled video editor / restorer is hired to examine some cassettes that were found in the smoldering remains of the Visser Building. They were shot by a sociologist doing research on the building's inhabitants. Mixing found-footage with scenes from the past and present, the mystery deepens. It's the video version of the Archive 81 podcast
posted by chavenet (20 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
So far, I am liking the visuals and some of the actors (both the leads do a good job with bafflement and suffering) quite a bit. I have an uneasy feeling that the script writers don’t really understand what made the podcast compelling, and we are going to end up with a much more pedestrian story, but I have some hope.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:15 PM on January 25, 2022 [1 favorite]

I finished the series tonight, and thought that it was sufficiently creepy. I liked that the bit in the background was visible enough to catch the eye, but the show didn't do anything to bring them to our attention.
posted by Spike Glee at 8:34 PM on January 25, 2022 [2 favorites]

I watched the first episode without having listened to the podcast and thought it was nicely shot. I imagine this is a bit of a puzzle box and therefore better to go into unspoiled, but if anyone has both listened to the podcast and watched the series I'd be interested to get a recommendation which experience would be best as a first go.
posted by bcwinters at 5:25 AM on January 26, 2022 [1 favorite]

With respect that this is a discussion of the show, not the podcast, the questions has been asked.

My feeling at the halfway point is that it's probably best to finish what you've started, then go on to the other version if you really like it. The first season of the show follows the rough outline of the first season of the podcast so far, although all the stuff about Dan's past is new. Some thoughts:

1. I found the "haunted by family tragedy" theme to be trite, although Dan in the podcast is just sort of rudderless and unhappy with his life, so the show is more textured, at the very least. Obviously, any viewer's mileage will vary.

2. The podcast is heavily driven by its soundscape (for obvious reasons), the show less so (also for obvious reasons). One of the two podcast creators is very much a "sound guy," and it shows -- there is a huge effort to drive the narrative, characters, and world-building by the use of sound. Since the show can (and has to) use visuals, this is going to be blunted. Whether that's good or bad really depends on the listener/viewer.

3. If the show stops with podcast season one, I think that will be fine; if they want to go into seasons 2 and 3, they may have a harder time of it. The podcast goes off in very unusual directions (whioch some listeners liked and some didn't), where the show seems to be following "building haunted by... something" in a more pedestrian way. I mean, in season 2 and 3 there are two characters who are kind of just sound, which would be hard to do as a show.

4. The show is a little more coherent about it's development of what is going on at the Visser. I am not sure they had things entirely worked out when the podcast started, so it's nice to see a firmer authorial hand.

5. One criticism I have of the show is that it erases the homoromanticism of the podcast, although it's pretty light in the first season. In the podcast, Dan and Marc are... maybe not a couple, but they have a longg-standing devoted relationship that subtly underscores a lot of the larger plot. This seems very much not present in the show. Similarly, Melody is a lesbian in the podcast, which the show leaves kind of incoherently ambiguous (at least as far as I have gotten).

6. As I said above, I think Mamoudou Athie and Dina Shihabi are great, and bring a lot of depth to the characters who are flatter in the podcast.

OK, that is probably well enough. I have more thoughts, but they are going to be spoilery, since I watched the show in two bites of two episodes each so far, and I don't want to "talk ahead" too much.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:32 AM on January 26, 2022 [1 favorite]

Fascinating. I liked many things about the podcast but had no idea this existed. I'm looking forward to it. Thanks for pointing it out.

(I think I'm looking forward to it. Often that transition doesn't go terribly well - e.g., Jam vs. Blue Jam - where the TV programme was good, but so much less good than the radio version it was hard not to feel annoyed. But, I remain optimistic.)
posted by eotvos at 8:50 AM on January 26, 2022 [2 favorites]

The series deviates harder from the podcast the further it goes, to the point that IMO they're barely related by the end.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:17 PM on January 26, 2022 [2 favorites]

Pretty much, and that’s not even touching on Dan and Marc. Not to give too much away, but you need to listen to all 3 seasons of the podcast to understand how much Marc wants Dan to be OK.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:58 PM on January 26, 2022 [2 favorites]

I binged the whole TV series a couple of weeks ago and have now just listened to the first season of the podcast. I really like them both, though I agree it would have been more interesting if they had retained Melody's queerness in the TV show. I am not fond of the implied romantic relationship between her and Dan, I think it's distracting. But I do think the show managed to hint at a deeper connection between Dan and Mark, or maybe that was just me reading into it. And Annabelle is a great addition, love her.

Anyway this isn't a full season post and also isn't meant to include the pod so will just say that I think both have their strong points and mildly disappointing detours into horror cliché, though not the same ones. Both do a great job of creating atmosphere though for me the show was more immersive, and the creepy music and sounds actually worked better. Not to mention Ratty, who I think was better as a visual presence than an auditory one.

So many bits about both show and pod are just creepily brilliant, and again not always the same ones! I am glad I saw the show first, I think it made it easier to appreciate, and now I get to listen to the rest of the pod to continue my enjoyment!
posted by Athanassiel at 1:56 AM on January 27, 2022 [2 favorites]

the implied romantic relationship between her and Dan

I didn't sense that their relationship was "romantic." Rather, it's two people caught up in something weird turning to each other for help. Not even friendship, but just throwing a line to someone who's drowning.

OTOH, Anabelle's relationship with Melody seemed pretty obvious, although more on Anabelle's side than Melody's. Melody, I think, had more urgent issues to deal with.

I appreciated that events turned more towards the "weird fiction" direction (ie, HPL, Chambers, Clark Ashton Smith) of a menace from space instead of the boring "demons from hell" origin.
posted by SPrintF at 7:09 AM on January 27, 2022 [3 favorites]

I am liking this very much, also the film buff nods like the Tarkovsky mug or the Don't Look Now visual reference.
posted by each day we work at 7:33 AM on January 27, 2022 [2 favorites]

I'm a big fan. The first episode was interesting enough to keep me hooked even if it's a bit slow to get going. The soundtrack is incredible with the Philip Glass nods along with eerie breathing ambient that would fit into the world of The Empty Man.

I also very much enjoyed the direction the show takes by the end but I'll leave that for a wider show discussion. It's inspired me to listen to the podcast and I'm a few episodes in and quite enjoying that as well.
posted by slimepuppy at 9:41 AM on January 27, 2022 [2 favorites]

Only halfway through and while they've changed some stuff I recall, so far seems to work for itself in the new format. I've heard that the way this is structured kind of rules out season two of the podcast, where IMO is when the shit goes from really great to incredible. And shit, if there's one thing the visual version can do that the podcast couldn't, it's get the visuals of the protagonist down once he... well once what happens to him happens. To be honest my interest is very much predicated on whether they go all out for season 2 or just drago out spooky building, which I enjoyed but only as the tip of the iceberg. I want more berg.
posted by GoblinHoney at 2:00 PM on January 27, 2022 [2 favorites]

The first episode of the show is incredible, I was instantly hooked and watched the whole thing in two sittings. I enjoyed the show as a whole but I especially loved the score by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury. That excellent soundtrack is available on Bandcamp from Invada. The track titles are vague enough that I don't think any constitute as spoilers, but still viewers may want to wait until after watching the whole show to snag it. A physical copy would be great, fingers crossed for a limited DAT edition or some other appropriately obscure thing.
posted by tomorrowromance at 12:47 PM on January 28, 2022 [2 favorites]

I only watched the show, haven't listened to the podcast but it was very clear to me that Annabelle was queer, and that it was probable that she and Melody were involved in a relationship but that Melody wasn't out, or particularly romantically inclined even. But obviously, Melody having a wife in the podcast is a big change for the show to make. Although at the point we meet her in the show, a wife of 20 years wouldn't make sense considering how young she is.

I didn't think Melody was romantically interested in Samuel, although Annabelle teases her about it. It's more that Melody thought he was compelling and had answers to all of her questions. I was more vague about whether we were supposed to think of Melody and Dan as a pairing but I thought their freaky time travel friendship was more interesting.

Poor Mark - I spent every scene with him expecting the heel turn of betrayal which never came. I'm overly suspicious lol.
posted by See you tomorrow, saguaro at 7:31 PM on January 31, 2022 [2 favorites]

Although at the point we meet her in the show, a wife of 20 years wouldn't make sense considering how young she is.

No, but Dan is from 2022 (or thereabouts; we don't see any sign of COVID that I remember), while Melody is from 1994, which theoretically gets her potentially a near 30 years of marriage (always assuming something doesn't go awful).
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:30 AM on February 2, 2022 [1 favorite]

I just realized this topic is only for the first episode, not the whole season, so I am sorry for making a more season-wide post!
posted by See you tomorrow, saguaro at 4:24 PM on February 2, 2022 [2 favorites]

I've just started watching this and am enjoying it very much. It's definitely the type of thriller I like. Mamoudou Athie has an Adam Driver vibe about him, a quiet, intelligent seriousness.
posted by essexjan at 10:31 AM on February 6, 2022 [3 favorites]

On the “Melody being married” front…. I just listened to the podcast again this weekend, and Alexa said the marriage is common law, since they couldn’t get married at first and then there was no one to marry them.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:37 AM on February 9, 2022

I've only seen the first episode so far and haven't listened to the podcast, and mostly I like it so far. That said, I'm not sure where they're going with the Solaris reference, but if they're going the obvious place with that Night of the Living Dead poster and the Don't Look Now reference (the red figure in the background), I am going to be very annoyed.
posted by johnofjack at 4:55 PM on February 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

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