The OA is one of the most polarising shows out there. This means you either love it or hate it, there’s no in-between. For me, I both love and hate it. Can you blame me? It’s a show that’s easy to hate. Most of the time you do not understand what is happening until much, much later. It’s both annoying, and rewarding if you stick it out to the end, of course. The issue now is can it survive long enough to complete the rest of the run.
If you are new to the OA, you need to understand that this is a show that will test your patience and your faith multiple times. After Season 1 was released in 2016, it took them until 2019 to release Season 2. I just want to put this out here to let you know the sort of waiting time you might have to endure. So far Season 1 and 2 have eight 45-minute long episodes each.
If doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, you might want to check out Line of Duty.
Has to be said: Spoilers abound!
Brit Marling stars as OA, which stands for… nope, too early. Let’s start at the beginning. This lady who is stuck in a hospital bed is Prairie Johnson (Brit Marling). She went missing 7 years ago and her parents, Abel and Nancy Johnson, had been looking for her ever since.
When they met her in hospital, she couldn’t recognise them, mostly because when she was growing up with them, she was blind. And now, she could see. The rest of this otherwise mostly uneventful pilot episode would be about her adjusting to life at home again whilst fending off attempts by her parents or the authorities to figure out where she had been all those years.
Things pick up in episode 2 when she started to tell the story about her life before she came to live with Abel and Nancy, her adoptive parents, as well as her kidnapping. She would tell it to a group of five other people who she hopes will help her with an important task later.
This storytelling exercise would take place across several nights, in an abandoned house. The other five participants must leave the front door of their house open. Why this is so, has never been mentioned, much like many of the other loose threads sprinkled all over this show.
As for her backstory: her mother died at childbirth, leaving only her father and her. They came into a lot of money which made life for them in Russia rather dangerous. She almost died in a bus accident which took away her eyesight, a bargain she struck with a Khatun, a representation of Death(?). She returns to her life as a blind girl.
Fearing a reprisal, her father sent her to the US to stay with her aunt, for her safety. Despite promises to join her later, he dies in the background and the money stops coming. Her aunt takes her out of school.
To make money, her aunt runs a baby-selling syndicate, which is where Abel and Nancy comes in. When they meet up for the exchange, instead of the boy they were going to buy, Nancy asked for the little blind girl instead. They made the adoption legal and named the little Russian girl, Prairie.
On certain nights, Prairie would suffer from nose bleeds after having night terrors and cryptic nightmares. She would spew Russian and walk around with a knife in her hand. Her adoptive parents took her to a psychiatrist who advised them to keep her under medication, all the way to her 21st birthday. She resents her parents for this, like any teenager would.
She eventually runs away to meet up with her father, whom she believes have been sending her messages in her dreams as to where and when to meet up.
Instead of meeting her father, she is abducted by a charming professor who has an obsession with near-death experiences (NDE). The rest of the series would recount the horrifying things that happen to her in the 7 or so years she spent in captivity. She was not alone however. She was kept with four other people who had one thing in common with her: they all have had and survived near-death experiences.
Unlike her, they all can see and were tracked down and captured by their captor. Prairie’s abduction was in her captor’s own admission: pure accident. The problem is, in the OA, nothing is accidental – everything happens for a reason, including Prairie’s terrible years in captivity, which was what made Season 1 interesting, but only if you are willing to suspend your disbelief just that much. For instance, have I mentioned that OA regains her eyesight while in captivity? How? She got hit on the head. Yeah. Just gotta go with it.
For Season 1, I went with it, letting it lead me to wherever it wants me to go. Halfway through Season 2 however, I was going ffs, what the heck is going on? more often than I’m comfortable with.
Season 2 opens with OA in a sort of parallel universe setting. She is now in a universe where she was never in that bus accident, never lost her eyesight, never got separated from her father and where she remained a Russian. She was never adopted and thus she is not Prairie, but Nina Azarova, a pure Russian through and through. Prairie Johnson no longer exists.
OA, on the other hand, is here. I think that’s the only reason the OA identity is relevant here. Because Prairie Johnson does not exist in this timeline. But OA does, and she is inhabiting Nina’s body. As a result, she is always confused, and she no longer speaks with a Russian accent. And Barack Obama is no longer president. Because OA wasn’t on that bus that day? I don’t know how this timeline thing works.
ANYWAY, in this universe, her captor still has a hold of her, as he does on her fellow prisoners, this time in a cushy asylum. How convenient.
She breaks out of the institution with the help of a private investigator, Karim Washington, who was asked by a Vietnamese grandmother to help look for her missing granddaughter. Let’s backtrack a bit. This is Karim. He’s a new character in Season 2. Starts out strong, fizzles out in the end. He leads you to a house and a few other weird stuff.
Karim is trying to crack a smartphone game in an effort to find Michelle, the missing Vietnamese grand daughter who got sucked into the game big time. Michelle was playing said smartphone game and went missing. Her grandma, not really big on English, says Michelle is now “invisible”.
His investigation led him to a house of puzzles which “coincidentally” is owned by Nina Azarova, which was what led him to OA. How convenient, again. That I can deal with. It’s the world of OA, coincidences are there for a reason. And I’m a fan (I guess). I’ll play along.
But then they started pulling out wild cards like a giant sentient octopus that can transfer thoughts via its tentacles…
… and trees that can talk to OA via its roots telling her about some tree Internet and that they have been trying to talk to her via the wind…
… and seedlings from inside corpses that can grow into multiverses.
Of course, you don’t understand what that means. I don’t understand what that means either, and I watched the show. I had so many, many questions. I had them listed down in an initial draft of this post, and then I went back and rewatch some of the scenes to phrase my questions properly.
And what do you know? In the process, I slowly realised how the OA universe (OA stands for Original Angel, by the way) works, which will be my next post: A Guide to the OA Universe and How it works