Two very different shows about a young girl with supernatural powers came out in 2016.
One of them was Stranger Things. The other was a thought-provoking mystery going on in a small town with a scientist villain performing inhuman experiments.
One of these shows is no longer running. And yet, The OA is still the second-best TV show sunk into Netflix’s mines. The best show is German sci-fi thriller Darkbut OA is not far behind.
The OA is hard to describe because it sews a handful of different genres into its own ethereal plane. OA is at times surreal. But instead of floating images gently tapping against each other, the sci-fi here is delivered with the solid security of a Christopher Nolan movie. It moves with the same relentless force.
Our anchor and main heroine is Prairie Johnson. In the very first scene, Prairie, a young blonde woman, jumps off a bridge. When she wakes up, she’s home again. She had been missing for seven years.
No one knows what happened to her. Her return is a miracle. Even more shocking: Once she has gone blind, she can see again.
Prairie has scars on her back and is experiencing traumatic episodes, but will not burden her adopted parents with her story. Instead, she goes online and finds like-minded friends through the medium YouTube.
From here, the story works a bit like the mystery of Yellowjackets. We do not know if Prairie is telling her new friends the truth or not. We do not know if she really has supernatural powers. For them, it does not really matter. She brings unhappy, trapped people together and shows them the same kindness and understanding that they have given her. Shows them an escape.
OA comes from the longtime creative team Brit Marling (who also stars as Prairie) and Zal Batmanglij. The show feels like a product of buzzing minds that enthusiastically throws idea after idea out. OA is as intense as it is dense, exploring the human condition, mortality, the afterlife, and … the multiverse.
It is true. Forget Marvel. This is the show to see if you want a rich, existential look at the connection between all things. OA’s world is huge, and the way it works follows the most unexpected rules.
OA also does not adhere to any strict TV series formula. The opening texts do not appear until 57 minutes inside the show. It was written as an eight-hour film with a novelistic approach. Some of the main characters are not met until a third of the way.
And season 2 is even better than the first. It turns into a noir detective story set in Silicon Valley, where children, one of whom is played by Zendaya, disappear after competing in a VR game on an app. Recorded with a more polished look, season 2 is a little less gloomy than the character drama in season 1. There are even attempts at humor – Marling is no stranger to comedy, appearing in Community and the British series Babylon.
Occasionally, The OA’s literary voice hits a gem. “To exist is to survive unjust choices,” someone tells Prairie.
So it’s a little confusing that Netflix canceled the show after two seasons. Somehow, this ambitious, genre-spanning ball of tangled threads is a cohesive, life-affirming experience.
It sticks together with realistic, loyal characters bound by their appalling common trials. There’s even a believable love story, a glimmer of warmth amidst the eerie science, cryptic riddles and sad images.
Netflix made a mistake by canceling this show. Many fans thought it was an advertising stunt – there was no way the streamer would stop funding this acclaimed, albeit expensive, series, intended for five seasons, each of which was very different in style and setting from the previous one. .
Surprisingly, the end of season 2 almost serves as a finale for the entire series. Still, Marling and Batmanglij have the right conclusion hidden somewhere. Let’s pray they have a chance to bring season 3 to the screen. Please someone, skip dimensions and save this show from the canceled TV realm.
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