The AM Archives – Worth paying for?
This week, we decided to do a normal review, but with a bit of a twist. We’re looking at The AM Archives as a podcast behind a paywall. Is it a piece of content worth paying for?
Now, let me say up front, this has nothing to do with Luminary or supporting their practices as a company. We are not even concerned with the price point specifically, but rather are trying to judge The AM Archives on its own.
The AM Archives is a spin off of The Bright Sessions, a longer run series following atypical (super powered) people as they attend therapy and deal with living their lives with super powers. Their therapist, and a central character, was doctor Bright – hence the name. The original series was a fantastic slice of life story mixed with a bit of action and a superhero vibe, but you’d never call it a superhero podcast.
However, The AM Archives is a superhero podcast. It is nothing like The Bright Sessions. Whether that’s a good or bad thing depends on your thoughts about the original.
The AM Archives follows Sam and doctor Bright on their quest to take charge of the old Atypical Monitors building and change the AM for the benefit of atypicals.
Barring any spoilers, Sam, doctor Bright and agent (now director) Green are the main recognizable voices from the initial series – and it’s an absolutely amazing feeling to be back with these characters we’ve grown to love.
And as fans of the original series, the AM facility itself was always sort of a mystery that I’m sure many listeners have been dying to explore more, which you definitely get to do.
The overall plot of The AM Archives follows our main cast, as well as some new employees, including Jackson, an atypical with super speed who was once a patient of the AM’s, and Mags, a telekinetic with some anxiety that rivals Sam’s from the first series. This new gang of do-gooders want to turn the AM into a safer, more friendly place to help atypicals, and for a while, they start to.
After a break out attempt nearly kills doctor Bright, her fear and worry about the atypicals causes the entire staff to think about decommissioning level 5 (the atypicals who are either too powerful or too dangerous to release). And the main story arc kicks off from there.
The pacing of The AM Archives is fast, and it’s easy to binge listen through “just one more episode.” The action is definitely there, and reminds us of some of the best moments from The Bright Sessions, specifically with Damien. The new characters are likable, and the villain of the season is memorable to a point where we wished she had a bigger role in the episodes. It’s definitely one engaging podcast.
The AM Archives almost functions like an X-men comic – you have a cast of misfit superheroes (who most of society does not know exists) with a leader in doctor Bright, as she helps them navigate saving the day and not blowing up in a fiery explosion. (Literally).
The buildup of tension is nice, although the ending payoff doesn’t live up to the expectations that the rest of the podcast builds. With such solid momentum, the ending of just kind of happens, and you’re left with what could have been an excellent wrap up, but in reality just felt unfulfilling. And we’ve identified the reason for this.
Despite all this, as a standalone podcast, the AM Archives is absolutely fantastic. It’s got everything you could want from a super hero podcast. But the problem arises by my careful choice of words here: “super hero podcast.”
The AM Archives is not The Bright Sessions. And frankly, it doesn’t even feel like The Bright Sessions. What many listeners found engaging and attractive about The Bright Sessions was this intimacy you feel with the characters by being a fly on the wall during their daily lives. You learn about them and get to know them on a deep, personal level, because all of the conversations are inherently deeply personal.
However, The AM Archives is a very surface-level experience. There are almost no real, hard-hitting conversations; almost nothing to look for here aside from the action storyline. It’s no longer a story of real characters dealing with their problems. It’s an action story of superheroes coming together to save the day.
That doesn’t make it bad by any means. As we’ve said, The AM Archives is a great experience. But the caliber of writing and character development we’ve grown to love through The Bright Sessions is not here, and it’s deeply missed.
So this all begs the question: Is it worth paying to listen to? And of course, the answer still depends.
For us, honestly, yes. Not only does Luminary give you a month free trial, which is more than enough time to listen to the entire podcast, but it’s also a great experience that we’d recommend people check out, even if they weren’t fans of The Bright Sessions.
However, if you’re looking to get more out of Lauren Shippen’s atypical world, and craving more of The Bright Sessions, this podcast is unfortunately not the place to look – which may mean it’s not worth paying for.
We recommending taking advantage of the free month of Luminary while the offer is still there, and then binging The AM Archives. If that offer goes away, or you’d already used the free month, consider the subscription akin to paying for a CD. Just listen within your month and you haven’t spent more than you would by supporting your favorite band.
Overall, we enjoyed our time with The AM Archives, although the experience was not what we were expecting. And frankly, I have no idea how they’d spin this in a second season, if that’s what they decide to do.
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Vince, also known as Grumpy Gus, is a writer, director and lover of audio dramas. Though he may appear grumpy, working in audio drama production is his favorite passion. During the infrequent times when he’s not working, he’s probably watching The Office for the 6th time through.