Archive 81 Explained-Kaelego, Baldung Coven, The Kharon Comet, And Spirit Receivers
It’s a deep rabbit hole that Dan and Melody suck us into in Netflix’s trippy and very scary series Archive 81 available right now.
Netflix’s horror series Archive 81 has many heavy hitters attached to it. If you are a genre lover, you know the kind of emotional, thoughtful, existential dread that the duo of Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead is known for. Assuming you haven’t been living under a rock, you have seen one of James Wan’s movies. The Conjuring Universe, Insidious, and last years Malignant are all excellent examples of his film’s unique ability to combine great stories, actors, and visuals to get under a viewer’s skin and genuinely scare them. The eight-episode series loosely based on the first season of the Podcast of the same name is an incredible mix of the filmmaker’s styles. It is eerie, anxiety-inducing, slow-burning dread.
Dan Turner(Mamoudou Athie) is a film archivist who a wealthy businessman has hired to restore videos at a remote facility. The recordings from 1994 are of a college student named Melody, who is making an oral history of the Visser building where she recently moved in. She is also searching for her birth mother, who she believes once lived in the building. The entire building burned, and nearly all of the residents died, including Melody. The more film Dan restores, the more he becomes convinced he can somehow turn back time and save her.
Dan gets pulled further into the black hole of paranoia and mystery. It’s an endless rabbit hole of questions that only lead to more questions in Archive 81. Every road leads to more secrets. Here are some of your biggest questions answered about what is real and what is fiction in Archive 81.
The demon Kaelego in Archive 81
The half-demon, half-god entity that rules over the alternate universe that Dan enters in the final episode to save Melody seems to be more heavily influenced by his demon side. Dan is cautioned that Kaelego will trick him into staying in the other realm. I think it probably goes without saying that any higher being that demands a blood sacrifice is perhaps not on the side of good. The demon god’s blood spread in our world in the form of hallucinogenic mold throughout the Visser and later the facility Dan was working in.
The biggest question, though, remains unanswered. Is Kaelego a real known demon? He is entirely fictional. He is not one of the demons mentioned in any religious text and is not cited in any Satanic or Wiccan literature. There have been many trickster demons with the power to lie and manipulate but none that could create entire worlds. A hypothetical “demon” in physics called Maxwell’s Demon was named after James Clerk Maxwell in 1871. It was an invention of Maxwell to explain thermodynamics. The second law of thermodynamics states water won’t flow from a cooler body of water to a warmer one. This could happen only if a “being” opened a door or portal, allowing the flow of water. This was disproven around 1950 by French physicist Léon Brillouin around 1950.
The Kharon Comet
The Kharon Comet is fictional but seems to be modeled after a moon of Pluto called Charon, Halley’s, and Hale-Bopp Comets. Halley’s Comet inspired the Heaven’s Gate cult founded by Bonnie Nettles and Marshall Applewhite in 1974. The cult believed ascension to extraterrestrial beings was possible, and in 1997 all members were found dead by suicide in an attempt to ascend during the closest viewing of the Hale-Bopp Comet to Earth. Although Kharon is not real, there are still groups who think that the comets have mystical powers.
The witch coven in Archive 81 is necessary to open the portal between our world and Kaelego’s. Melody was lured to the Visser by Samuel because he discovered she was a member of the Baldung bloodline. Her biological mother was a Baldung witch who gave her up at birth to keep her safe. Unfortunately, through Samuel’s brother’s DNA company Wellspring, he was able to find Melody and trick her into moving in. The coven in Archive 81 is named after the famous woodcut from German artist Hans Baldung Grien. It depicts three witches in a woodland setting. It is colored in grays to cast a gloomy glow over the figures.
There is a lot of talk of spirit receivers in Archive 81. Brought on by mold ingestions, vulnerability, and emotional manipulation, several characters are used to channel information from the other side. For example, Annabelle paints pictures of Iris Vos, and Jess draws pictures of something dark that she senses lurking in a nearby reality. Although spirit receivers are not real, it sounds a lot like a psychological phenomenon called spirit writing. Spirit writing, also called automatic writing, is used by some as a therapeutic device and others believe it has a paranormal component. Some believe the messages come from ghosts, while others believe it is simply the sub-conscience of the person writing.
There’s a lot to love about Archive 81. Although the early weird plot beats hit harder than the final moments, it is a terrifying series and proof that Netflix is committed to bringing quality science fiction and horror to a quarantined audience. Archive 81 is on Netflix right now.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.