TL;DR – This is a show that entrances you and then just when you think you have everything worked out it shifts the game completely and you are left in awe with what just happened.
Score – 4.5 out of 5 stars
I have tried to keep up with all the new sci-fi shows dropping on Netflix, but occasionally one of them slips through the cracks, and this week we are looking at one of those with the brilliantly odd The OA. When a friend highly suggested that I give it a watch I thought I would get it an episode or two to see how it was and then at some point during Part 2 I looked up to see that it was 3 am and I truly wondered if I should watch the two last episodes then and there, so that should give you an indication as to how good the show is.
So to set the scene, we open with a rainy day as people drive over a bridge when someone records a woman in white running across to the edge of the bridge and then falling off into the water below. She survives, but won’t tell anybody her name or where she is from. Meanwhile in a small town, in a housing estate that was never finished, Nancy (Alice Krige) and Able (Scott Wilson) are going about their day when someone sends them a link to something online and they watch at their long lost daughter Prairie (Brit Marling) jump off a bridge. They race to her hospital, retelling the story of how their daughter went missing one day seven years ago, they race into her hospital bed where the woman in front of them goes by The OA not Prairie and does not recognise who just walked in, that is until she touches Nancy’s face. For you see when Prairie was taken she was blind but now she can see. Now, from this point onwards, we will be looking at Part 1 and Part 2 as a whole, so there will be [SPOILERS] ahead.
is a show that is, on the one hand, is a very slow burn, but on the other hand, it is completely confident with who it
is. For example, this is a show that will
stick its opening credits three-quarters
of the way through the first episode, right at the moment it had pulled the rug
out from underneath you. It is also a show that takes almost a full season to
reveal what is going on, only to completely complicate everything all over
again. It is also a show that has people doing some of the most ridiculous
interpretive dance movements ever put to film, but doing it with such
commitment and sincerity that it works. All of this is even before we make it
to the multiple branching timelines and talking animals.
One of the really fascinating things about The OA is that it doesn’t really fit into any real genre. It has elements of multiple timelines like Sci-fi treasures such as Fringe, it has elements of the supernatural and mystical, it delves into religion, dreams, future technology, talking trees, environment, horror, mystery, drama, a bit of everything, I mean there is even a road trip in there. Usually, this would lead to a disjointed mess but it doesn’t, here it all works. I think part of this is thanks to the work of creators Brit Marling & Zal Batmanglij who also write and direct most of the episodes. It is clear that they had a good idea of where they were going straight from the start leading to the ‘Oh Wow!’ moments throughout the show. But you also see it in all the little details that line up even across the (at least) four timelines that we have seen so far.
important part of The OA’s narrative structure is how more than anything else
it is a character analysis. You see that clearly in Part One in its two
branching storylines. In the present time
you have OA bring five of the local people BBA (Phyllis Smith), Steve (Patrick
Gibson), Jesse (Brendan Meyer), French (Brandon Perea), and Buck (Ian Alexander)
together, these were those on the outside, who had experienced pain in their
own lives. As the season goes on we get to know who they are and what drives
them. I have to especially point out Phyllis’ performance as BBA, I really felt
the pain she was going through and how the world had worn her down. This is of
course juxtaposed with OA’s stories of the past, her time in Russia, and the
years she spent as a captive to Hap (Jason Isaacs) and his experiments. Where
she fell in love with Homer (Emory Cohen) a fellow prisoner that for seven
years they were right next to each other but never able to even touch.
The show is full of these small character moments that feel at once perfectly suited to the situation but also build on everything we have seen before. Like when Nancy dropped the bombshell that she had been keeping the note Prairie left behind when she left from Abel. Abel is so mad that something so important was kept from him that he has to leave and go make a waffle. He is taking a moment to collect himself, but Nancy follows him out because she needs him to understand why she did what she did. There is the feeling that after everything this is the straw that would break the camel’s back, but also the understanding that they had gone through so much that nothing could stop them. Or when Steve and French are helping BBA clean up her brother’s room and Steve gets into his old skiing gear not realising what impact that would have. Or the way that Hap uses Homer to capture Renata (Paz Vega) manipulating him like how abusers manipulate their victims. They don’t always work like for example an unneeded sex scene in the first episode, but it is one of the things that pulls you throughout the show because you honestly care for all of the characters and you want to see them succeed. Okay, well everyone bar Hap, goodness is Jason Isaacs, not the best modern villain actor.
other thing that pulls you through the show is the theme and scenario. As I mentioned,
The OA is a show that weaves its way
through so many different genres from the mystical, to the fantasy, to the
spiritual, to full of science fiction. The show feels like an embodiment of the
puzzle house from Season Two, where you are flailing about wondering what is
going on and then the bed lifts up and you gasp because something else falls
into place. Like when Prairie/OA as Nina walks into the common room at the
facility and sees the fish tank from Homer’s NDE or Near-Death-Experience. This
is what Hap is researching, finding out what happens after death, and is it the
end? However, just when you think you have the handle on what is happing they
change it up again. You see that in Part Two where we have the Prime and Mirror
timelines playout next to each other with echoes passing back and forth, and
just when you think you have that sorted a talking octopus Old Night (Eijiro
Ozaki) appears. It is a show that is clearing dealing with science fiction but
then on the fringes, there is the world
of mysticism but more than that is there. We have characters like Elias (Riz
Ahmed) that have been ‘sent’ by someone to help OA, and the show is filled with
religious references. There is also the mirror aspect of Part 1 and Part 2 in
how they start and end, that you don’t realise until you have seen it all.
All of this would be interesting and what may lead you looking up and realising that it is 3 am and you have been watching it all night because you wanted to see what happened. But before you can process all this the season finale of Part Two “Chapter 8: Overview” happened and once again it shifts everything up and [MAJOR SPOILERS] for the final episode of Part Two. In this episode, OA uses the knowledge of Nina, and help from the gang in the Prime Universe, and the manipulations from Hap in the Mirror Universe to jump again to help save Homer because Hap had shot him. All while this is happening Karim (Kingsley Ben-Adir) had finally made it through the Puzzle House to the Rose Window. He opens the window just as OA jumps and sees The OA being made as a TV show, in our timeline??? OA jumps into Brit (she is played by Brit Marling) and Hap jumps into Jason Issacs (he is played by Jason Issacs) and I was just sitting there in shock. Even now that I have had a couple of days to process it, I still am in awe of what game-changing twist this is and how it changes everything up, and how I 100% have to see a Part 3.
In the end, do we recommend The OA? Yes, we do, with a couple of caveats. There is a lot of violence, language, and sex in places which I know and understand are deal breakers for some people. However, I went from being interested to entranced in a couple of episodes and if my voice has any weight please let us see a Part 3 Netflix, please and thank-you.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow
Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV,
he’ll be talking about International Relations,
or the Solar System.
Have you seen The OA yet ?, let us know what you thought in the comments below, feel free to share this review on any of the social medias and you can follow us Here. Check out all our past reviews and articles Here, and have a happy day.
Trailer – Click Here to View (all trailers have heavy spoilers)
Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The OA
Directed by – Zal Batmanglij, Andrew Haigh & Anna Rose Holmer
Written by – Brit Marling, Zal Batmanglij, Melanie Marnich, Dominic Orlando, Ruby Rae Spiegel, Damien Ober, Nicki Paluga, Henry Bean, Claire Kiechel
Created by – Brit Marling & Zal Batmanglij
Production/Distribution Companies – Plan B Entertainment, Anonymous Content & Netflix
Starring – Brit Marling, Patrick Gibson, Ian Alexander, Brendan Meyer, Brandon Perea, Phyllis Smith, Chloë Levine, Emory Cohen, Will Brill, Sharon Van Etten, Paz Vega, Scott Wilson, Alice Krige, Jason Isaacs & Kingsley Ben-Adir with Zoey Todorovsky, Riz Ahmed, Nikolai Nikolaeff, Zendaya, Liz Carr, Robert Eli, Hiam Abbass & Vincent Kartheiser.