In 1994, a mysterious New York apartment building, the Visser, burns down, killing many people, including one Melody Panderas. As part of his archival work years later, Dan must sift through Melody’s recorded tapes to unravel the mystery of the Visser. However, this process exposes him to realities that eventually distort his own, leading to a tug of war between skepticism and the need to believe. Meanwhile, Melody’s tapes reveal she was going through a similar process in 1994 after discovering unsavory secrets about the building’s inhabitants.
“Archive 81” writer and executive producer Rebecca Sonnenshine spoke to Looper about this trope of two characters navigating the unknown, citing “The X-Files” as a major narrative and aesthetic influence for the series. Sonnenshine explained that “The X-Files” is “ephemeral” to her and that the visual feel of this classic series inspired her show’s dark hallways and abandoned rooms, which are often punctuated by the dim beam of flashlights. . This interplay of crawling around dark corners and investigating with flashlights adds considerable tension to Melody and Dan’s actions, as there’s a lot at stake should either of them be caught by the wrong people.
Dan and Melody deal with supernatural events that are triggered by real people around them, which adds to their confusion about the nature of the unknown. Although they aren’t Mulder and Scully, one of them is more inclined to embrace the unknown, while the other deals with an often unhealthy dose of skeptical rationalism. Dan and Melody manage to meet halfway, which opens the possibility of altering the past and the future according to different timelines.