What a strange, strange little show.
The OA is not the kind of series you can sell to a casual TV viewer: it’s a bizarre tale about a blind woman who reappears (after vanishing for seven years) with her sight completely restored. To reveal any more of that would be a disservice to the show which thrives on the unexpected. Nevertheless, it’s an ambitious narrative, albeit one that somewhat falters in its season finale.
The show works thanks to its star Brit Marling. When I first watched The OA‘s pilot, I misjudged the actress; I found her both void and emotionless. Cut to the second episode and I was dumbfounded by her range and skill. Marling completely carries the show across eight episodes, and she’s an absolute delight to watch. The show’s other secret weapon is Jason Isaacs who plays Hap, the show’s antagonist. I use the word antagonist with caution, because his character is enormously complex and layered. You somehow buy his motivations and drive, and this is where the show succeeds in showcasing an all-encompassing perspective that doesn’t paint people as simple heroes or villains.
And truly this is not a straightforward show. It balances many themes, and it’s frequently spiritual; it explores the power of the human spirit and the bonds that shape us through our darkest times. I know I’m being vague, but telling you any more will rob you of an exceptional viewing experience. Try the first two episodes, and decide for yourself if it’s a story you want to watch unfold.
Bits From The Blind
– Only read this section if you finished the season because I will spoil everything.
– I don’t understand why Prairie put poison in the whole batch of soup? Why not just in Hap’s plate? The suspense in this sequence nevertheless drove me nuts.
– Alice Krige as Prairie’s mother Nancy is definitely the show’s MVP. Absolutely heartbreaking performance.
– I cheered like never before when Prairie tried to escape and reached the canyon before getting struck in the head. What a cliffhanger!
– Renata was kind of underdeveloped. After she joined the gang underground, the show sort of forgot about her.
– Who is Khatun exactly? Is she an angel? God? The devil? Her world is so trippy with the various lights and shapes.
– How wonderful is Phyllis Smith as Betty? You just want to give her a big fat hug every time she’s on screen. So darn lovable.
– Loved how the gang learned to trick Hap by breathing out the gas and discovering just what he does to them during the NDEs.
– Speaking of NDEs, the contraption that Hap uses with the drowning water is tremendously horrifying. What a twisted man.
– I was on the edge of my toes as Homer and Prairie tried to cure the police officer’s wife. The way Hap blackmailed him with the hope of curing his wife’s ALS was just brutal.
– Props to whoever choreographed the “movements”. They’re so captivating and beautiful.
– It’s a miracle really that the show managed to get me to kind of like “Steve” by the end of the season. French and Buck were great from the start. Jesse was a non-entity.
– I kind of wish we got more screen-time with French’s mom. Her special brand of atrocious parenting never stopped shocking me.
– I’m unsure what to feel about the shooter in the season finale. On one hand it feels sudden, but a little research reminded me that the ominous act was foreshadowed in episode five as we hear news of a shooter causing havoc on the radio in Betty’s apartment.
– I got goosebumps when the five banded together and did the five movements in front of the shooter. Even if they didn’t really accomplish anything besides distract him long enough for someone to take him down, it’s the idea that they believed in themselves and the bond they shared in the face of insurmountable danger.
– So what do you think happened in the finale’s end moments? Did the gang manage to break through dimensions and send Prairie to Homer (as evidenced by that final scene in the white room)? Or is she an insane and unreliable narrator, and is in some insane asylum? I kind of wish the show gave us a clearer answer and didn’t have to resort to stalling until a potential season two. I think this is a series that works best as a one-season experiment. But I’ll try to reserve judgment.
Prairie: That isn’t a fair choice.
Khatun: To exist is to survive unfair choices.
Renata: It’s like sleeping with a stranger and then asking their name on the way out the door.
Hap: To validate the intimacy.
Renata: Or to invalidate it.
It might be mystifying and weird, but it’s also a show that aims for the stars and tells one heck of a compelling journey. Incredible!