A Guide to the OA Universe and How It Works

If you haven’t read my review on the OA, this post is not for you. If you have read it, and watched the show and are trying to understand what the heck is going on, let’s jump right in. There won’t be OA theories or Easter eggs or guessing of any sort. This guide will contain only what you can see from the show and some questions that we need to KIV for future seasons.

At the time of this writing, the OA has only reached Season 2. Season 3 has not been confirmed. There is word that the writers have plans for the storyline to play out in five seasons. Let’s hope the love for it won’t fizzle out before they get all five seasons.

How to Watch the OA

Watching the show can be frustrating, particularly if you weren’t paying attention. I had a hard time following what is happening where and how until I rewatched several of the episodes multiple times, looking for different things every single time. You’d be surprised with what you find.

To watch the OA is to watch magic happen. To be precise, it is to watch sleight of hand happen, like that moonwalking bear awareness test. While your primary concern is for one thing, something else of significance is being revealed to you at the same time.

You’d have to rewatch a scene multiple times to realise its importance. And because that is time-consuming, I did it for you in this guide to the OA Universe and how it works.

The Movements

Part 1 (Season 1) recounts OA’s 7 years in captivity where she meets Homer, Scott, Renata and Rachel, five other beings who have survived Near-Death Experiences or NDEs enough times to not be human. Apparently they are angels on Earth, and OA is the original, hence Original Angel, OA. One of the things they learn from their NDEs are the movements.

Practising movements in their cage

There are five movements, each would come from an NDE. OA obtained the first movement from consuming a bird in her NDE with Khatun. Khatun says that OA will never escape her captivity without that bird. In return, she takes OA’s father and any chance of reconciliation.

Homer would get the second movement after swallowing a sea anemone from his NDE. Together with OA’s movement, the movements could heal and bring dead people back to life.

Scott gives them the third when he actually dies accidentally but was brought back to life by OA and Homer. He doesn’t mention consuming anything alive in his NDE. Instead, he was taught his movements by an “older, heavyset” woman in his NDE.

Renata gives them the fourth movement (Part 1, Ep 6, 3 minutes in) and her guardian tells her that one of the side effects of inter-dimensional travel is amnesia. OA and Homer carve the movements onto their backs to prevent themselves forgetting the movements.

This is one example of where the sleight of hand I mentioned above occurs. Using scars to remember the movements in order to counter amnesia would serve pointless because only their consciousness travels, not their bodies. This note on amnesia however explains why Homer could not remember OA for most of Part 2. OA will probably suffer from this again in Part 3 (in Dimension #3).

Evelyn, the Sheriff’s wife with ALS gives them the fifth movement, ironically given to her when she suffered an NDE as a young girl.

This means she has held on to the last movement the longest. The first four movements were only made known to the group in the seven years they were in captivity. In her NDE, Evelyn swallowed a moth and was told by her guardian to help two captive angels. OA and Homer would cure her ALS long enough for them to give her the fifth movement. She mentions that travelling is a matter of will.

How Inter-Dimensional Travel Works

In Part 2, we get a look at how inter-dimensional travel actually works.

OA tells BBA and the group that the alternate worlds or dimensions are right on top of each other, created from the different decisions you make hence the term “forking paths” (Part 1, Ep 6).

NDEs are how you travel between the dimensions, temporarily. The movements are what allow you to travel there permanently. You get to choose the type of life you want to live, basically a life where you made all the “right” choices (but what if the people who travel want to travel to different dimensions like how Hap wants to travel to a dimension where OA loves him back? There lies the issue.)

Homer actually showed us how this could occur in Part 1, Ep4 (55 minutes in). In his NDE, he was on all fours, moving through a crawlspace in the ceiling. An arm reached for him but couldn’t get a hold of him. He falls through the ceiling into a place where two urinals are out of order. He grabs a coat and runs down a white corridor.

And in his underwear

He arrives at the place where there is a fish tank and takes out a sea anemone which he promptly swallowed. OA tells him to eat anything alive in his NDE. He then comes out of his NDE.

Right before his induced NDE, he was almost caught listening into one of Hap’s audio recording of one of his earlier NDEs (51 minutes in). Homer listens into a ruckus where someone asks him what his name is, then later tells him, “your name is not Homer”, then asks him whether he knows Dr Roberts.

This would line up with Part 2, Episode 2 (31 minutes in) when OA’s session with Dr Roberts is interrupted by the receptionist saying a “pretty fast” patient is running around in his underwear and a “pink coat”. They’re also experiencing a “plumbing issue”. Earlier, OA convinced Dr Robert to check through a hole in the ceiling to see if anyone’s crawling through, hence the arm Homer had to avoid back in Part 1 during his NDE.

Homer #2 checking for Homer #1 in the crawlspace

Based on this, it’s safe to say that Old Night’s rendering of OA’s NDE in the plane is so coming true in Dimension 3. In Part 2, Ep 4 Old Night says that in the “future”, OA would forget who she is as she will forget her true nature. He will send her there (by killing her for 37 seconds) so she can reawaken her future self to her mission (Oh, so she is on a mission of some kind).

She asks Old Night if she would survive, and it says it is up to her brother. Apparently, in every dimension, her brother is sent by someone (a she) to protect OA. In Dimension 1, Elias the FBI psychiatrist says that he has been sent to help her. In Dimension 2, Karim saves her by cutting Old Night’s tentacle off her neck. Those are your options for OA’s brother. (Question: if OA is the original, does that make her brother also an OA?)

In OA’s octopus-induced NDE, she is in a turbulent flight. She climbs out from a space under the toilet. The pilot has a British accent announcing their venturing into turbulence. She approaches someone with short blonde hair, in a jacket with white floral patterns on a dark green jacket.

Before the lady turns around to see OA, OA is revived by Karim. Old Night is implied to be no more with a chopped off tentacle on the floor (the tree Internet would somewhat confirm this loss).

For Part 3 and beyond, we would probably be visiting Scott’s NDE. In Part 2, Ep 7 he describes his NDE as a place with blinding lights, in a warehouse, there are cameras, and Hap and OA are being all chummy-like, and that Hap spoke with a British accent. Scott says that he is given the third movement by an older, heavyset woman while he was there. Because this is his NDE, this version of Scott is probably there temporarily.

In the Season 2 finale, we see OA suffer a fall and Hap takes her wig off to reveal a pixie cut. Could floral jacket lady be herself? Pfffft, absolutely.

Brit suffers a lot of head injuries for this show

But hold up, if OA’s NDE is the one scnee on the plane, what happened to the ones Hap induced in her under lab conditions. You know, the Rings of Saturns? Remember that? Could an angel have more than one NDE?

Who Can Travel This Way?

By the end of Season 2, you can travel this way no matter if you are an angel (Homer, OA, Scott, Renata, Rachel) or not one (Hap, Steve). Unless of course, Hap and Steve are angels too, or they could be a whole other category that has yet to be revealed.

OA’s tribe?

It is possible that Elias, the FBI psychiatrist who had been helping OA in Season 1 is a fellow traveller. He tells BBA and crew that he had been “sent” to help “her”. We can only assume the her here refers to OA at this point. But clearly, he isn’t from this dimension if he had to be “sent over”.

He tells the group that all the dimensions share the same space, which is why BBA can sense the presence of people through space. Apparently making different choices may change who you are, but it won’t change where buildings are or will be built across dimensions. #shrug

Let’s not forget Elodie, even though I’m sure Elodie is in another class altogether, one who knows what is happening but for some reason would not intervene nor tell OA and Hap what is happening. She’s so interesting, she deserves her own section.

Elodie the Traveler

Elodie strives to be “fair” to both Hap and OA as she explains how inter-dimensional travel works to them, like a messenger or a impartial referee or mentor would. Elodie tells Hap travellers like them will suffer from tinnitus. She knows many things like who Dr Percy really is (she senses fellow travellers), and that he loves OA.

Doesn’t stop her from sleeping with Hap though

She doesn’t know where he came from, she asked him this much when they first meet in the sauna in Part 2: Ep 4 (14 minutes in). She tells him that there are many ways to travel, and while the method is not important, the “fuel” is. For some reason, the fuel is related to them having sex.

One important idea that she gave him though was the dancing robots. (It totally makes sense! This way you can travel whenever, wherever you are. How does she get an endless supply of this though, now that’s a good question I’d like answered.)

She planned her checkout so well that she had called emergency services about a woman who is in a coma. They arrive right when she travels out of her current body. Note the tinnitus right before she collapses.

Elodie checks out once the five small robots do the movements

While we’re on the subject, here’s a problem that has been nibbling at me. Elodie checks out of her body in Part 2, Ep 5 right, but she reappears to speak to OA in Part 2, Ep 7 … in the same body.

How does this work? Isn’t she supposed to be in a coma two episodes before, around the time Karim and OA attempts the house for the first time? If you were in a coma, you probably won’t be released from the hospital fast enough.

Or are we seeing Elodie the way OA and Hap is seeing her? She said that she found herself in a young actress’s body once. Does this mean that she might enter a body who is not hers when she travels across dimension? And if that is the case, are we seeing Elodie the way she looks now because she appeared to Hap and OA in this form, whilst everybody else sees her in the form of the shell, the body she currently inhabits in whichever dimension she is in? Hopefully Season 3 and beyond will have answers to this.

Elodie has high hopes for OA

Back to Elodie’s meeting with OA, she tells OA to basically integrate herself with Nina. And she explains that OA cannot escape Hap because the bonds between some people are too powerful. OA, Hap and Homer are all “travelling together”. When OA protests by saying she doesn’t want to have anything to do with Hap, Elodie says some part of OA wants to travel with Hap. Why this is so is probably fodder for future episodes.

She adds that what happens in one dimension affects and influences the other dimensions, like echoes. To leave an echo, is therefore very dangerous. OA may lose sight of herself, or of Homer, and therefore she needs Hap who Elodie describes as a shadow. “Who has no shadow, has no will to live.” So far this isn’t helping, so I’m just gonna let it go.

But I’d like to note that Hap, due to his obsession with NDEs, was the one who made this whole thing happen. Sure, he killed a colleague, Audrey, the sheriff and his wife, and the angels multiple times in a controlled setting (creepy AF), but he did bring the five of them together in this dimension and probably in all other alternative dimensions as well due to their strong bonds.

Perhaps that’s what Elodie meant when she says Hap is connected to OA and she could not (should not?) escape him. Once that bond between OA and Hap has been broken, the whole inter-dimensional travel thingie would probably cease. Either that or as Elodie puts it, events conspired to bring them all together. We’ll have to wait and see.

The House Is a Portal

If you can’t travel like OA, Homer, Hap or Elodie however, you’re just gonna have to be content with using the house as a portal. That’s how Michelle went “invisible” in the first place, she stepped out of the window. When the “Buck” version of her in Dimension #3 returns through the window, Michelle awakens in Dimension #2. She experienced travel through the house.

As explained by Karim in Part 2, Ep 4, the House on Nob Hill was built by a rich engineer in 1910 for his wife who is a medium. Pierre Ruskin and Nina Azarova would buy it two years before the events of Part 2.

In Part 2, Ep 5 (17 minutes in), we learn more about the house through a recording by Pierre Ruskin. The current house had been built in 1910 after an earthquake and fire tore down the mansion that was there. When trying to lay the foundation, the engineer and his wife discovered a spring.

The spring was a holy site to the Ohlone tribe; the water gave the shamans a “God’s eye view”. The engineer decided to protect the spring by building a house that serves as a puzzle (because why do something the easy way when you could do it the hard way?). The puzzles inside the house is said to be based on the wife’s dreams. Once the puzzles were completed, the husband wanted to attempt the puzzles himself but the wife protested. He did it anyway, as husbands are wont to do, and the wife found him collapsed near the rose glass window in the attic. He fell into a coma then died in his sleep.

In Ruskin’s recording he mentioned that that reason the house was a puzzle was to weed out the unworthy who would be trapped and destroyed or something like that. Solve the puzzle and you receive some sort of revelation behind the rose glass window. When the mention of the “revelation behind the glass window” became an option, I’m not really clear since the first person to have come across this revelation was the engineer himself and he couldn’t tell anyone since he collapsed and remained in a coma until his death. #whatgives?

Anyways, Karim makes his way through the fake bed room and came across a miniature version of the house, which is the exact replica of the real-life version of the house they are inside of. Outside the miniature house is a large, er… miniature tree. Could the tree be a puzzle as well?

At this point in time, OA actually reaches the large tree portion of the house, climbs out of the house through an open window, down the branches of said tree outside the window and falls through the ground. She is caught by the roots of the tree, and a conversation of the arboreal kind commences.

Turns out Nina Azarova is a medium who can speak to giant octopuses and trees (yay, coincidences) – just go with it. The tree, like Old Night the Octopus tells OA that she is running out of time and needs to form a tribe to survive what is coming.

In the meantime, Karim observes the miniature house and opens the rose glass window. Water pours out. What could this mean? (The attic is somewhere where there is water) Eventually, Karim gets to the attic in his second attempt, after being spurred on by writings at the back of a door, by going through the locked gate submerged in water, at the bottom of the well.

He escapes with Fola, and returns with the FBI in tow, but not only does he not find the miniature house, he also couldn’t locate the hall of mirrors where he found Fola. We also see OA sprawled under a not very large tree and like Karim, she awakens out of her trance when she splashes her face with water.

What have they awakened from? Apparently, the hospital discovered that Fola and Karim were poisoned with mercury sulphide which would explained the hallucinations Karim saw in the house: the miniature house which disappeared, the ridiculously large spaces they thought they were in, the people hiding in underground holes, the hall of mirrors where he found Fola, old and withered, etc.

The mercury sulphide had come from the spring, and it triggered trances in native Americans who were exposed to the gases, which was why no one would build there, except the engineer and his medium wife. It’s possible that the engineer lapsed into a coma because of the excessive mercury sulphide levels he had been exposed to as he underwent the puzzles in the house. His wife was spared the vapours because she found him in the attic without going through the puzzle areas of the house.

This might explain why when Karim found Liam, Liam jumped off the second floor of the house onto the concrete below.

He must have pretty high dosages of mercury sulphide poisoning in his system that caused him to go cuckoo. You know what else he has? A seed inside his brain accessible through his ear. I’m not sure why Michelle, Karim and Fola doesn’t. Or maybe they do.

The Map of the Multiverse

We learn how the movements work – two times to heal a body, five times to travel, a minimum of 5 participants is required – in Part 1. In Part 2, Ep 8 (17 minutes in) Hap tells us that, “every human mind contains the multiverse, an actual garden of forking paths within us all, just waiting to be fertilised”. He adds that he didn’t do all this and that the house did. So… the house put seedlings inside people? How does it choose who gets a seedling and who gets to walk away?

Essentially, the map of the multiverse is formed by the seedlings inside Liam, Scott, French, Jesse and Steve. The seed grows vast and far-reaching, like a tree map would, filled with its own forking branches, growing flowers at the tip of each branch.

By consuming the petals from these flowers, Hap says that they never need to jump into the darkness again. He can clearly see where he is going next. But can he choose where to go? Or are the choices just togo or don’t go?

Look at me, a professor who puts glowing petals picked off corpses into my mouth

Hap then lures OA out into the garden where he has his own versions of mega dancing robots (this sounds like an anime now) do the movements to send them to the third dimension. How Hap, who is not an engineer, can build robots like this so quickly and perfectly is not addressed.

In BBA’s dimension, she, Angie, French, Buck and Steve do the same movements manually.

OA is raised high up into the air, right when Karim arrives at the rose stained glass window to see her float in the air. Her body mimics her safety harness breaking, she falls down to the ground, and completes her transition to the third dimension.

Or… has OA already transitioned before Karim saw her float in mid-air? I mean she could be “floating” not because she is an angel but because she is being pulled up with a harness on a movie set. This would explain her body flipping over when that dove dove right into her, as well as her fall and ensuing head injury in the movie set she was in.

Karim is only there as a spectator and to bring home the realisation that he and everybody else in his world are but characters inside a film, living life as dictated by writers and a film crew. I’m not sure why that revelation would make people go insane though. Real life isn’t really that much better.

Steve collapses in his dimension. Hap crosses safely, his ears ringing because of his travelling. They all meet back at the ambulance. Karim sees Buck in Buck attire, calls out to her as Michelle. She responds and crawls back into the round window and returns to her comatose body. Wait, does this mean that we won’t see Buck or Michelle in Dimension 3?

What to Expect in Season 3

Let’s see: British Hap as OA’s husband, Scott’s NDE where he receives the third movement, OA doesn’t believe that she is OA, remembers her mission when OA as Nina Azarova visits her in an NDE on a flight, Homer’s turn to try to find her and convince of what’s happening, Steve as a wild card, another brother to protect her in Dimension 3, a reveal of Renata’s (or someone’s) NDE as fodder for Season 4 because we don’t have the luxury of hiding tree-map-ridden bodies in pools, Elodie may return with more cryptic clues, Elias might resurface with his creepy look one more time, and preferably some answers to the following questions:

1) If NDEs are an insight into where they can travel to, how do they decide which of the five people’s NDE will they all arrive at? How does OA arrive at the same place as the rest of the group when she leaves much later than they do?

2) How do they arrive at Scott’s NDE when Scott isn’t part of the group who is doing the movement? Are the destinations pre-planned? By whom?

3) Where do I get one of those dancing robots?

4) Will OA’s lab-induced NDE in Part 1 at the “rings of Saturn” be addressed?

5) Do all of the bodies die when they make the jump or do they get stuck in a coma like what Elodie suggests? Who is Elodie really?

6) Why are Homer and Prairie’s movements obtained from the animals they eat but Scott’s was taught to him by someone?

7) What’s up with old-timey Homer selling sticks and the old lady who sells fresh skin (they look too fresh to be from corpses)? The actress portraying the old lady is also the sheriff’s wife. Does her dual role have significance? Or are they just rehashing a darn good actress?

8) Why did Scott collapse inside the house? Why does he have a seedling out his ear like the others in the multiverse garden? How does the house select who gets a seedling?

9) Old Night and the trees speak of something of urgency and that time is not on OA’s side. What is this thing they speak of? Khatun tells OA something similar back in Part 1, Ep 4, that all “five of them” must work together as one to avert a great evil.

Until the next season!

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