(This is not a spoiler-free review)
The OA is a Netflix show that debuted on December 16th, 2016. The story follows Prairie Johnson (Brit Marling), a young woman who has recently returned to her family after a seven-year-old disappearance. At the time of her disappearance, Prairie was blind and she returns with her sight restored, which naturally causes the awe of those around her. While the police and her family are trying to figure out what happened to her during the seven years of her disappearance, Prairie chooses five random people (four high school kids and their teacher) to tell them her story. The viewer, along with those five people, delve into an exciting story full of mystery, fantasy and sci-fi.
The OA is by far one of the most original tv series produced recently. It touches subjects such us life after death, inter-dimensional travel, spiritual beings but also more humane ones, such as loss and trauma. Prairie, the protagonist, is supposedly a spiritual being herself. She has survived a near death experience, which allowed her to better understand the workings of our world as well as her own self.
It is a rich story and perhaps at times becomes too rich. Prairie’s backstory, for example, could have been a much more simple one without changing the story at all. Supposedly she was born in Russia, to a wealthy father, whose wealth targets her and some other wealthy children. She is nearly killed (actually, she dies and comes back) and then sent to the United States where she is adopted by the Johnsons. I found this backstory needlessly fantastical – the story would have worked just as well if Prairie was a normal American girl.
This is not the only cheesy moment of this show, though. Prairie teaches her new friends a series of movements that can supposedly heal and, when done to perfection, allow someone travel through dimension. It has been said by many that these ‘movements’ are rather hard to watch with a straight face. They took away from the seriousness of situations, at times. However, unlike most, I liked the use of them in the final episode, where they are used to stop a school shooter. Even if they were all bullshit, they were ridiculous enough that it would be just believable enough that a school shooter might have gone ‘Alright WTF.” and stop the killing just enough for someone to immobilise him.
And here is what I personally loved about the show: it is hinted that Prairie’s fantastical tale might be just that: fantasy. Some plot holes aside, the viewer can decide whether the fantasy/sci-fi elements of this show are true, or whether they are simply the fantasies of a deeply traumatised woman, created in order to mask a much more realistic and sinister tale.
Personally, as a lover of the sci-fi and fantastical, I chose that route, but I can appreciate the show just the same as a real-life drama. What can be safely said is that the final episode left many questions to be answered in a potential second season but, at the same time, I wouldn’t mind if those questions were never answered at all.