(Note: This Retrospective contains spoilers!)
So Archive 81’s wonderful testament to road trip fun and enjoyment has come to a close, and with it, I really feel like it’s put a neat little bow on the third season of Archive 81. The show follows Nicholas Waters (voiced by Peter Musante) into a pretty cool new continent on the Other World, as he journeys to get a new body for Static Man (voiced by Jack Calk), who serves him as his vassal. Along the way, he encounters the unique and terrifying denizens of the world, builds new relationships with the people he meets along the way, and in the end, learns a lesson about how one interacts with the Ecosystem of the Other World. It’s a real feel-good, character building miniseries, about how sometimes it’s all about the journey, rather than the destination, and how sometimes, you can’t always get what you want.
What I loved about it
Honestly, the same things I loved about the last season of Archive 81, which has been my favourite season so far. Things have gone pretty strangely, as Nick has gone further down the path of the esoteric arts like his father before him, and he’s prepared a Ritual to grant Static Man a body. It delves really closely into the relationship between Nick and Static Man, and the new environment is a really terrifying yet immersive backdrop for their development as characters. We learn a lot about the world of Archive 81 as well, a little more about how the Other World works mechanically, and how it responds to the will of its inhabitants, as well as how it responds to new entities entering its ecosystem.
Honestly, the setting is incredible. The Other World feels like a character unto itself, and the characters that inhabit it that Nick and Static Man encounter feel as vibrant and enjoyable as any of the other ones Dan Powell and Marc Sollinger have created, which is to say, extremely vibrant and enjoyable. The way the setting is delivered to the listener is so incredible, the soundscape that’s been produced, whether it’s being described from the sound design or delivered via exposition is real and living and pulsates with the sense of a real Other World, and a road trip through that place. You really feel like your experiencing its wonder and horror alongside Nick and Static Man. It’s so incredible.
For all its amazing expansiveness though, it’s also an extremely intimate story. Nick and Static Man are the primary vehicles through which we experience the narrative, and I love watching their relationship develop and hit different roadblocks, as their different aspirations and desires come to a head with each other. As incredible and charming as the new characters that the two of them meet are, and I do love them a lot, (special shoutout to Cecilia Lynn-Jacobs and David DelGrosso for their performances as Clerk and Trucker respectively, both are incredibly enjoyable and brilliant) the most notable and engaging parts, at least for me, are Nick and Static Man having their conversations about what they want from each other. I found myself really sympathizing and being repulsed by both characters’ different plights and ambitions. Nick in particular really seems intent on following the path he began in the third season of Archive 81, which I found pretty exciting, in an ominous sort of way. It’s a show both expansive and intimate, and an incredible piece of audio drama.
Also the soundtrack fucking slaps. I’m not sure how many times I’ve listened to the beginning of the first episode so I could listen to the theme song again and again, but I’m not ashamed to admit it was a lot.
What I’m looking forward to
Like obviously I’m excited to listen to Archive 81 Season 4, whenever and however that may manifest itself, and obviously if there’s more stories about Nick and Christine to be told, then I’d love to hear them. But if this is the last story told about them, then I would 100% be happy with that. It felt like a great epilogue to a great season, and there’s just enough there to be told that the adventure continues, without knowing exactly how or what might happen. If this is the end of Nick and Static Man’s story on Archive 81, then it was an amazing ending, and if there’s more to be told, I can’t wait to hear it.
Here’s where you can listen to Archive 81: http://www.archive81.com
Here’s where you can support the show: https://www.patreon.com/archive81