Archive 81: Spirit Receivers
February 3, 2022 8:22 AM - Season 1, Episode 4 - Subscribe

Virgil puts the heat on Mark. Melody turns up in the present-day, at the complex. Dan engages, it all seems very real, until it doesn't. In the past, in the Visser, Melody goes to a dinner party, there's a seance. A snuff film is discussed, as well as whether Melody's mother, the mysterious Julia Bennett, is still alive. The past and the present collide, on film, and it's freaking scary.
posted by chavenet (5 comments total)
 
What I think is best described as the "splicing" sequence at the end is extremely well done and completely unnerving. Best bit of this series so far, and there have been a number of good set pieces. Also, Annabelle's "outing" of the party hostess Cassandra is, I thought, elegantly done and does a bit to offset the "straight-washing" mentioned in re the podcast. There are clearly some shots set up here to suggest a relationship between Anabelle and Melody that's more than just best friends / roommates. (Thinking in particular of the visual framing in the scene where Sam turns up and Annabelle, standing behind Melody and sometimes out of focus, niftily berates him for him banging ex-girlfriend Tamara at night in the rec room & hitting on Melody during the daytime).
posted by chavenet at 8:27 AM on February 3


Another numbered list.

1. I liked the teaser, it echoes some of the tapes from the podcast (which are usually descriptions of Cassandra Wall's museum), and it lets us get a look at some of the props that kind of fly by later on. I really like the large paintings. I kind of wish that there were prints available....

2.You would think a guy like Davenport would get notified if there were too many errors on a keypad at the compound...

3. I kind of like the repetition of "How did you get here?" "I don't know." across episodes.

4. Is it my imagination, or are the musical (and film) references in the show more from the early 80s than the early 90s?

5. The whole Cassandra Wall part of the plot is well done; better I would say than the podcast. She's a great balance to Samuel, who is just kind of smarmy, while Cassandra is helpful and provides interesting backstory but Kristin Griffith also makes her very menacing in a genteel way. I'm not sure she's a villain, but she's definitely playing her own game and not too concerned what might happen to the pieces....

6. Samuel is the worst! Maybe he will get hit by a comet.

7. I really liked the poster for The Deep Vault, another podcast by the Archive 81 podcast crew, on the wall in Mark's theater.

8. The seance might be kind of a n overdone thing, but it's made very spooky and unnerving. Beatriz really comes across as someone who is terrified of what is going on. And then it gets properly weird, steps outside the seance box.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:12 PM on February 3 [1 favorite]


Also, Annabelle's "outing" of the party hostess Cassandra is, I thought, elegantly done and does a bit to offset the "straight-washing" mentioned in re the podcast. There are clearly some shots set up here to suggest a relationship between Anabelle and Melody that's more than just best friends / roommates.

Yeah, I don't know... I mean, I guess that means that Cassandra is some sort of representation, although I guess Annabelle could also just be making stuff up (I honestly don't think so, but they are playing her "quirky" enough that it's a possibility), but balance that around straightening one of the two main characters of the podcast, and... I also feel like the show doesn't have a settled idea of what Annabelle and Melody's relationship actually is -- the whole set up that Annabelle followed Melody to the weird-ass Visser suggests a pretty close relationship, but we never see them being physically affectionate, and Melody just seems kind of uncomfortable and anxious most of the time, plus the kiss with Samuel, which... ugh.

In other news, I just listened to the first season of the podcast again, and both Dan and Marc definitely have heterosexual leanings, although they are also really close (Dan returns Marc's phone calls, for example, but he calls his girlfriend only once, maybe twice). If you haven't tried the podcast, the first season is brief -- it's 10 15-ish minute episodes. The second season is a bit more experimental, but the series really takes off with the last two episodes of season 2 and then season 3, that kind of follows on after them. Episodes in seasons 2 and 3 are more like 30 minutes, so be prepared, time-wise.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:13 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


What a horrific final moment in that seance! I'm very intrigued by the structure of the 'cult'. Clearly Samuel is high up in the command chain as well as Cassandra. And now Evie's father's film is somehow tied into it. How many residents of the Visser are actively participating? So many questions.

I'm not a fan of how obviously this show telegraphs some future moves (for instance in one of the first scenes of the first episode when Dan receives the footage from Evie, I remember thinking "That will pop up again later"), but I don't mind in the long run because I don't think the story is revolving on the viewer not being able to figure things out. The show is very Lovecraftian in that one particular sense . . . there's not some unsolvable mystery here, but the circumstances of the story and the sheer amount of crazy going on in plain sight is what's terrifying.

I didn't listen to the podcast, but I'm reading Melody and Annabelle as a queer couple. A queer couple that maybe aren't actually involved anymore and one of them wishes they were, but respects her former partner's boundaries. I could see them splitting up prior to the series start because Melody is obsessed with her graduate work/mom trauma.

However, I don't read Mark and Dan as in a queer relationship. They are--to me--clearly just really close best friends. One is from an obviously privileged background and tries to use his advantages to help his friend, who struggles with mental illness and trauma, as much as he can.
posted by kaiseki at 8:58 AM on February 4 [2 favorites]


I'd love it if it turns out that Samuel and Cassandra (and maybe Tamara and Father Russo and whoever) all have different motives and approaches but are "on the same trajectory." The ritual scenes we have seem kind of.. instinctual? Like most of the Visser Historical Society knows why they go down into the community room and hum and pant at a statue, while others might have an idea, but that idea could be partial or wrong.

I tend to see Annabelle and Melody as a couple because I am always looking for queer couples in media, but the show is really coy about it, if that's their intent. I mean, the one bit of physical affection we've seen from Melody is her kiss with Samuel, which came way out of left field, especially since, as you say, Samuel's badness is pretty strongly telegraphed. Honestly, I don't know why there isn't someone just punching him in every scene. It bet Patricia can hit pretty hard when she tries.

I don't think Dan and Mark in the show have any kind of romantic feelings for each other, although Mark is pretty devoted to Dan, considering the stuff he does in the first few episodes to help out, even though Dan is kind of brusque and a dick to him on the phone. I mean, if I am asking someone to do a bunch of research for me, I try to be a little nicer to them. In the podcast, Marc goes to seven greater lengths to help Dan (although that comes out towards the end of season 2) -- I don't think podcast Marc and Dan are romantically involved, but it's a very tight bond.

As I say above, I do recommend the podcast. The first season is pretty self contained, and it's not much over 2.5 hours in total. It's less polished than the show with younger actors and a much smaller budget, ut it's got some great moments.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:45 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


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