The OA: Season One.
Series like this come up every once in a while, when they catch such a swell that you need to see it, to be part of the pop culture zeitgeist. Netflix is especially good at creating these movements, most recently the Stranger Things tidal wave that swept the world. Next, in a very similar vein, is The OA.
This is an incredibly hard show to describe. It focuses on a girl named Prairie (Brit Marling) who reappears in a small town after being gone for 7 years. Another catch, she was blind as a young girl but now has the ability to see. The entire series revolves around this mystery of where she was, why she can see, and what is she up to now? At only eight episodes, it’s easily bingeable but it’s only the first season, meaning many questions don’t have answers.
It’s an incredibly complicated show, relying on your ability to pay attention. The opening credits for the first episode don’t happen until about the 1 hour mark, letting you know that this show won’t be like anything else you’ve seen, at least not recently.
Why is the world talking about The OA? People love mysteries and now we’ll have a year, or more, to try to figure out the story that this show is telling. This appeals to the same part of me that loved shows like Lost. If you like to theorize and guess and predict, this show will have you doing all of those things. If you don’t like that but want to be given answers, this show may frustrate you, as the answers are given out very slowly.
The acting talent here is incredible, consisting mostly of unknown or still relatively undiscovered talent. Every character is three-dimensional, though Prairie gets most of the screentime, though other supporting characters are explored throughout the eight episodes, but never to much extent.
I also appreciated the cinematography. Huge open areas are meant to feel confining and limited, while enclosed rooms feel full of life. It’s an interesting juxtaposition, every detail seemingly intentional, all little clues to what’s happening.
What doesn’t work?
This show can be just as frustrating as it can be fulfilling. It’s hard to judge a first season, as we don’t know if these questions will be answered, but this show did what a proper first season should: leave us wanting more.
There are also quite a few supporting characters and there just isn’t time to get into them. Some characters we see constantly are mysteries to us, I don’t even know if I could tell you their names. Even the core cast, they’re basically just plot devices in some aspects. It’s really about Prairie, if you can get behind that.
The OA will be fun to theorize about but I’m not sure if people will still be interested in a year, when we finally get a season two. Shows like Sense8 and Stranger Things wrapped their first seasons up pretty nicely, which is a much safer choice and maybe better for shows that we binge watch like this. However, if you don’t mind the wait, there’s a lot to like here, most notably a compelling mystery and some great acting.