Over winter break I watched this ridiculous sci-fi drama mini-series on Netflix called “The OA.” I am not a huge sci-fi person, especially after having already watched my fill with the show “Stranger Things,” but since I had five weeks to spare I gave it a try, and I ended up binge watching it all in three days. And boy, were those a crazy three days.
“The OA” is a mysterious, cerebral experience. Intense and strange at times, the mini-series echoes “Stranger Things” in its otherworldly elements, stunning cinematography and eerie atmosphere—but it’s even better.
First, let me tell you what “The OA” is about. The series walks the viewer through the story of Prairie Johnson, a young woman who went missing for seven years. The first episode begins with Prairie being found. However, there’s a twist—when she went missing she was blind, but when she was found she can see. Reluctant to tell anyone what happened to her, Prairie assembles a group of five outcasts to whom she tells her story. She reveals to this group that she was taken hostage by a crazed scientist who wanted to study near death experiences—an experience in which one dies temporarily, crosses over into a different world and then is resuscitated. Sounds wacky, right?
“The OA” had a bit of a slow start, so I wasn’t immediately hooked. In the first episode, the main character refuses to tell anyone what had happened to her until its end—and that was a little frustrating. However, once she gathers this cult of five people, her story unfolds, and by the end of the first episode, I felt that I had been a part of an emotional, mystical whirlwind.
Overall, what I thought made “The OA” better than “Stranger Things” was that it had the most beautiful and tense moments between characters. Even in the chaos, there are scenes in which Johnson is in a magical world, among the stars and talking to angels with a simple grace. There are also scenes in which she is just talking to a normal person, but revealing this inner omniscient wisdom that is both beautiful and eerie.
With that said, the main character did irritate me at times. She was very serious, amusingly so, and in telling her story, she tries to make her tale extremely profound. Some of these moments seem very meaningful and enchanting, but other times they were a little over-the-top for me.
That is why I think this show can only be watched in a humorous light. It is so dramatic, yet bizarre that I couldn’t help but make fun of it as I watched. For instance, there is a scene in which the characters are doing these “five movements,” or as I saw it, interpretive dancing, to bring someone back to life. I found myself laughing and mimicking their crazy movements with my mother.
The finale was quite shocking, though as the episodes progressed I felt that the show kept compiling more and more unresolved mysteries—however, the mini-series does answer what “The OA” stands for. I’m unsure if the loose ends are a set-up for a Season two or if the directors purposely made the show more convoluted. I think the show would be most powerful if the directors simply left it at one season, leaving behind some unexplained, yet beautiful content.
If you do watch the show, just remember that a lot of what happens doesn’t make perfect sense. Actress Brit Marling acknowledged this element, saying, “There’s no right or wrong answer, it’s just what you feel, which is kind of what being alive is like” (Variety, “‘The OA’ Creators Explain Netflix’s Mysterious New Drama,” 12.16.2016).
Even with the loose ends and the exaggerated intensity, I would recommend “The OA” to anyone who loves “Stranger Things” or beautifully shot films. It is not a casual show to watch, but if you want something that keeps you on the edge of your seat, then I would recommend it.