The OA: Netflix’s New Show Confuses

“You asked me how I got my sight. The better story is how I lost it in the first place.”

The OA is at the very least, different. Netflix has funded and supported many popular shows over the years, including other sci-fi series like “Stranger Things” and “Sense8”. While “Stranger Things” was a surprising delight to all kinds of viewers, “The OA” is made for a certain audience in mind. This type of series is not for the viewer who enjoys shows that are grounded in reality, because “The OA” is anything but.

The OA’s plot is difficult to summarize. In brief: The show follows the main character Prairie Johnson, (played by Brit Marling who is also the shows co-creator) through her return home to her adoptive parents and marries that narrative with her own storytelling of her past.

The shows central hook lies in that Prairie, who was blind when she first disappeared, returns with her sight renewed. Prairie refuses to tell her own adoptive parents about her disappearance and how she regained her sight during that time but spends much of the series telling five strangers. The lengthy flashbacks follow her through her childhood, her adoption, and her imprisonment. Prairie also discusses some mythical powers that she acquires as the “Original Angel” or “The OA”.

Brit Marling and the shows director Zal Batmanglij (another co-creator of the series) thoughtfully shot the show to include striking imagery and unique camera angles. The series often calls attention to the fact the main character is blind and tries to give the viewer the same feeling of being blind to the character’s surroundings through the camera angles. The best attempt at this sort of camouflaging occurs at the end of the second episode. During a scene where Prairie is tricked into her terrarium-like prison, Batmanglij chooses to keep the camera focused tightly on her face. This keeps the viewer from being able to see the room and the other captives. He also continues the illusion from her perspective by having Homer’s (one of the other prisoners played by Emory Cohen) warning be spoken, void of visual. Batmanglij decided to not show his face to the viewers in order to show the barrier of her blindness.

The show also includes strong acting from all the actors and actress’ including the present-day characters who had severely underwritten roles (including Elizabeth “Betty” Broderick-Allen and Jesse). Prairie and Hap (the mad scientist brought to life by John Issacs) share a toxic chemistry that the audience will find believable. The acting from Issacs leads the viewers to believe Prairie’s reasoning for participating in his study.

While there was plenty of character development for Hap and Prairie, many of the characters in the series were severely underdeveloped. Jesse (one of the teenage boys that Prairie tells her story to and recruits for her unknown mission) has no background at all.

There are a few aspects to this series that some viewers might enjoy, while others will find the very same aspects to cause episodes to draw out, almost mind-numbingly so. The viewers could become bored throughout the series with the seemingly never-ending mystery and the lengthy storytelling, exposition filled portions. The show takes the mysteriousness overboard, to the point where the series ends with more questions than answers. The storytelling aspect of the series was a unique idea but ends up taking over the show causing the present-day scenes and characters to become undermined by the past.

“The OA” runs into problems with their overly complicated plot as well, which might seem impossible at the pace it often crawls along at. While viewers might be intrigued by the melancholy, dream-like tone and the mystery; the talk of angels, the five movements, multiple near-death experiences and dimension jumping will turn them off the series. There is a point where the intriguing tips over into convolutedness. The show also results in many loose ends and unanswered questions. By the end of the show the audience is left wondering what happened. The entire show ends with an unsatisfying conclusion and leaves the viewer with an uncertainty as to whether there will be another season.

“The OA” is a sci-fi mystery that may not appeal to everyone. It has a strong combination of elements that make it hard to be loved by the average watcher. This show might be a letdown to those who aren’t fans of sci-fi and lengthy flashbacks. For the average viewer, and maybe even the discerning fan, this show might be better suited for die-hard sci-fi fans hungry for a new, interesting world two dive in. Let’s leave this series to them.

There are 3 comments

  1. T. Newby

    I guess I'm a die hard sci-fi fan. I didn't find it convoluted or confusing at all. It was suspenseful and fascinating in my opinion! Excited to see what season 2 brings.

  2. Vanessa

    I'm not a fan of science fiction but I was thoroughly intrigued by the OA. The idea of the subconscious mind and going into the other dimensions of life and the story telling kept me glued to the screen. What a powerful series.

  3. Emily

    I'm the opposite of a die hard sci fi fan and I thought this show was absolutely brilliant. Outstanding writing and cinematography as well as a talented cast who really brought this story to life. As Vanessa said, a truly powerful series.

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