Archive 81: Season 1 of Archive 81
August 16, 2016 10:31 AM - Subscribe

Finale: Daniel is still missing, but maybe for good reason. One story ends while another, a much larger one, begins again. Since we sort of trailed off with the episode posts, I figured a season-ender might be interesting.

I think this podcast pulled off the "bad thing wants you to hear it" trope better than some of the others in the genre.
posted by robocop is bleeding (8 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I liked A81 much better than the second season of The Black Tapes. The final-ish reveal was sufficiently story-arc-ending while legitimately setting us off toward season 2.

All in all, 4 out of 5 overall.
posted by Etrigan at 10:43 AM on August 16, 2016

I admit I am in Camp No Ratty. Maybe it's because of too many escaped Rattatas thinking they are better than their CP 10 denotes, but Ratty just annoyed me. I've had plenty of friends with pet rats and I never, ever, heard them make that squeaky noise. I had hoped that Ratty would just turn out to be a figment of Dan's imagination, but his very, very crunchy demise denied that dream.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:47 AM on August 16, 2016

Okay so here is my understanding of what happened, which I feel is missing large explanatory parts of the narrative but also maybe these are just questions to be answered in season 2??

Some organization, which I think went unnamed, invited a supernatural entity to inhabit a building they owned (Visser) so as to gain insight into/power over the true nature of reality. Said entity has an agenda of its own (of course), which it pursued through Samuel, who does vague cultish things that lead to the entity more fully possessing Visser (kind of the point) and him becoming its avatar (I think unexpected). A competing organization with interest in the supernatural discovers the Visser building and sends Melody in to document everything with no real explanation of what is happening because reasons??? She doesn't seem to like ever actually figure anything out, but eventually she soaks up enough of the ambiance so that Samuel can use her as a sacrifice to let the entity in the building loose or something. She escapes with the help of somebody, the building collapses for some reason, the organization that set it all up goes into magical bankruptcy and Melody's employers (embodied in Mr. Davenport) pick up the assets on the cheap.

Mr. Davenport sits on Melody's tape archive for a few decades because why not, then employs Dan to listen to the archive because his organization is bored of there not being Lovecraftian beings from another plane of existence eating everyone's brain. Their plan is to intervene before Dan can summon it fully into existence by having computers pick up keywords from his audio log that will clue them in that he's reached the end, but he's just too good at listening to things, and it shows up early. He slips through some hole in reality and ends up outside because now he probably has space warping powers like were demonstrated at Visser (this being the sort of thing that motivates all these shadowy organizations to dabble in summoning demons in the first place), mails all the tapes of his audio log to his friend because diffusing the truth among many people will weaken entities that gain power from being believed in (yeah, sure, okay), and goes off to presumably join some underground third unknown group of supernatural enthusiasts.

Nobody ever mentions rats.
posted by books for weapons at 12:34 AM on August 17, 2016 [4 favorites]

I think that's basically it - Visser is a body constructed by the Dutch family in exchange for the favor of some Outer Thing. Thing didn't like being trapped as a building so used Samuel to try to escape. Part of the escape was to build it a new "body" out of a story. That's why Samuel let Melody poke around the building for so long, he wanted the story told. The building was full of weirdness as a side-effect of being the here-form of the Outer Thing. One of the weirdnesses was the guy who could not be recorded, who was the dude that Melody called in at the end of the ritual to mess up the tape so that the Outer Thing could not escape while it sloughed off its building-body in favor of becoming a story. Building is no more, Davenport and employers (government?) sweep in and pick up everything, including getting the tapes from the Dutch heiress.

Davenport and employers want to see what's up with the Outer Thing who is stuck in limbo between its avatar (Samuel) and the tapes, probably in hopes of setting up a deal with it. He does not know that Samuel is still out there. Dan gets called in to a bunker in the middle of nowhere (in case things go down) and is kept in isolation (the Outer Thing needs stories told about it to exist, this is why Davenport was so down on talking to outsiders). Dan listens to the tapes while Davenport listens to him, both unaware that playing the tapes will attract Samuel's attention. Samuel appears to complete the ritual to allow the Outer Thing become a story and helps Dan escape because spreading the tapes/story only makes the Outer Thing more powerful/bigger on this plane of existence (think of it like the apartments in Visser - they could have just built it a shack for a body, but size matters). Samuel just needed the story's conclusion out there in order for the Outer Thing to be free.

If you listened to the Archive, then the Outer Thing lives in you as well now, but it doesn't really care about you the same way you don't care about the cells that make up your body. Still, you are infected the same way the building was, so things will be a bit stranger for you from now on.

Where does the story go from here? It could either focus on one of the other Archives or Dan's continuing adventures. I hope they lean more towards the former than the latter with the archivist being interrupted by Dan mid-season. The recordings are still sent off to Mark who uploads them to the podcast.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 12:55 PM on August 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

I really thought Ratty was going to turn out to be Melody, transformed into a rat. Because Ratty a) squeaked in a quasi-human conversational way (i.e. didn't sound at all like an actual rat); and b) seemed otherwise pointless.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 6:06 PM on August 17, 2016

There's a lot to be said for Archive 81. The plot's a bit wonky. (Thanks, robocop is bleeding and books for weapons, for the nice summary above.) But, the plot is a very minor part of the program. As an excuse for beautifully constructed unsettling and thoughtful episodes, it works well enough. "Here are some really interesting disconnected stories that involve a building" would also have worked just fine, if you ask me. I'm not sure quite why they bothered trying to tie things up into a single story.

But, I love the absurd elements: hiring someone to make audio recordings of themselves listening to audio recordings in a bunker in the middle of nowhere; audio-tape cultural anthropology focused on architecture; condo associations that are actually fronts for occult organizations. A lot of the random interviews were really compelling and nicely constructed. In short, the show has everything I want in audio fiction.

But. . . then there's the Mr. Davenport character. And Ratty. That either made it into a final edit is shocking. The show could be really great - but it desperately needs an editor willing to say no to bad ideas and terrible voice acting.
posted by eotvos at 11:59 AM on August 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Mr. Davenport is played by Dan's dad - and if we've learned anything from podcasts like The Adventure Zone, dads have a hard time with character voices.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:34 PM on August 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

Mr. Davenport isn't played by a bad actor, he's a guy whose interactions with the characters we see (Melody, Dan) are deeply insincere. He sounds like a dude reading a script because he basically is, it's just that he's putting that script together as he goes from corporate platitudes and euphemisms.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:44 AM on May 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

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