the oa

Stars: 4.5/5

When season one premiered in 2016, nobody really knew what the show was about. What did “OA” mean? Two seasons later, “The OA” is one of Netflix’s most unique and interesting shows. 

Season one ended with the uncertainty of Prairie’s (Brit Marling) fate as well as Prairie’s reality itself — was she telling the truth or was her story a product of delusions caused by mental illness? Season two kicks off nowhere near there with private investigator Karim Washington (Kingsley Ben-Adir) being hired to search for missing girl Michelle Vu (Ian Alexander). 

Karim’s search for Michelle is intertwined with Nina Azarova (Brit Marling), a young Russian woman and girlfriend to tech mogul Pierre Ruskin (Vincent Kartheiser) who seems to be front and center of an online puzzle Michelle — and other solvers like Fola (Zendaya) — are obsessed with. The puzzle somehow leads to a house owned by Nina that causes people to lose their minds.  

Prairie arrives in Karim’s dimension to inhabit Nina’s body and is committed to a hospital where she’s reunited with HAP (Jason Isaacs) as well as Renata (Paz Vega), Rachel (Sharon Van Etten) and Scott (Will Brill) from her dimension. Homer (Emory Cohen) is also there but he fails to remember anything from the previous dimension.

In Prairie’s original dimension, BBA (Phyllis Smith) reunites with Steve (Patrick Gibson), Buck (Ian Alexander), Jesse (Brendan Meyer), French (Brandon Perea) and Angie (Chloe Levine). Steve is convinced Prairie/OA didn’t die but simply jumped to another dimension, convincing everyone to accompany him in a quest to find the truth that will lead them to Treasure Island, the location of the hospital where Prairie is committed to in the alternate dimension.  

Unless you watch the show from the beginning, it’s hard to follow the different storylines in the different timelines, especially with characters in both dimensions played by the same actors, but that’s what makes this show so compelling – there are so many layers constantly being added. In season one, we learned OA meant “original angel” and that Prairie along with the rest of HAP’s captives had survived NDEs or “near death experiences.” 

Season two adds the complexity of the new dimensions and how each character fits into the life of their alternate beings. Rachel suffers from aphasia as a result of an accident her alternate self was involved in and is unable to speak, which is more horrifying because Rachel was a singer. The actor who plays Rachel, Van Etten, is a talented singer in-real-life who recently released her new album, “Remind Me Tomorrow.”  

Prairie’s life in the new dimension is further complicated by her inability to remember Nina’s life, which is vastly different from hers due to the fact she failed to board the school bus as a child on the fateful day that determined her future in the old dimension. Eventually, Prairie has to face her fear of drowning to unlock Nina from her cage. BBA becomes tuned with Prairie’s new dimension and seems to be able to sense the location of the characters’ alternates in the other dimension.  

The musical score for this show is so ethereal and blends so well with the theme. The actors are all so talented and the imagery is so profound. The puzzle that Prairie and Karim solve that grants them access to the house actually makes the shape of an intersected tree trunk, which foreshadows the fact that Prairie/Nina are mediums for the natural world, as seen when Nina syncs with giant octopus “Old Night” and communicates with him.  

Ruskin is utilizing the solvers to decipher the mystery behind a house owned by Nina, much like in that dimension he utilized crowdsourcing to develop rideshare without having any actual employees. The house holds a message for Prairie and had been calling to her through the dimensions with the wind. The house is revealed to be a portal that shows the truth. Those who cannot handle it enter into a comma where the seed inside their brain grow into a flowering plant HAP discovers to be glimpses into different dimensions.  

HAP’s focus shifts from the NDEs to devising an interdimensional map for the multiverse of dimensions so he never has to jump blind again. He continues to see Prairie as a partner rather than an adversary whereas Prairie sees HAP as the polisher that turned her into a diamond. This becomes important at the end of the season when HAP decides to utilize the fit left to him by another traveler to bring Prairie to another dimension.  

The series was created and is executive produced by  Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij in their third collaboration. The inside of their combined minds is a beautiful place filled with creativity and I personally can’t wait to see what’s next. However, I’m not sure if “The OA” should get a third season.  

I feel like the ending of season two was so meta and so on brand with the show that any further installments would ruin it. While the show is masterfully done, the ending brought into question what we see as reality being essentially perception, and it’s hard to have an encore for that kind of cognitive dissonance. I sincerely hope Marling and Batmanglij prove me wrong. 

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