When bizarre sci-fi series The OA arrived on Netflix, it pretty quickly divided and confused most people. The show focuses on Prairie (or OA, as she likes to be known), who is abducted by a scientist named Hap and held captive with others who are all used for experimentation. They have all had a near death experience (NDE) that involved being medically dead, then brought back, and all have experienced another dimension. Hap wants to prove its existence, and learn how to get there. He does this by repeatedly drugging, then drowning each of his captives, and monitoring their brain activity. While the captives are on the other side, they pick up moves that connect into a sequence that help them to heal others, and to travel into other dimension at will.
OA eventually escapes Hap’s clutches and is reunited with her family, but the emotional scars run deep, as does a fundamental desire to be reunited with Homer. Assembling a group of social outcasts and misfits, OA tells her story and teaches the ritualistic moves to the group in an attempt to make it to the other side.
The OA has raised many questions and answered but a few. It’s compelling viewing, drawing influence from many sources, including interpretive dance and the Bible. In fact, the Biblical references in The OA are quite overt; from Hap being painted as the Devil, tempting each of his subjects away, to the ‘resurrection’ of one captive, Scott. When Hap dumps him on the floor of his cell after an experiment goes awry, OA and Homer perform the moves they have learned in a ritual like manner and, after many hours, Scott is raised from the dead.
Created by Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling, who also stars as Prairie, The OA has been renewed for a second season, which might give the show a chance to answer some of the questions the first season posed, especially surrounding the ambiguous ending. In the final episode, OA was kept away from her new group of friends after their secret meetings were discovered. A school shooting brought them all to the scene, where they performed the moves and managed to avert further shooting, but the OA took a bullet. As she was taken away in an ambulance, she seemed perfectly okay with her fate, confident that she would be reunited with Homer, but the most troubled member of the new group, Steve, desperately wanted OA to take him with her, in order that he might escape his home life. The final shot of the episode was of OA waking up in a white room, and right before the screen goes to black, we hear her say “Homer.” While there was the question of whether OA’s story was entirely fabricated, for now, we will assume that all she told was real, otherwise there’s not much point to a second season.
It’s likely that The OA will pick up on the ending of season 1 as a starting point for season 2, so we will finally get to see whether OA made it back to Homer, or whether she decided to return to her current existence. If she is indeed back with Homer, then that raises the question of whether or not she is dead, or whether she has made it into another dimension. We know from Homer and OA’s experiences that there is a very real existence beyond life on earth, and if they are someplace else, season two could take place both in the real world and whatever realm OA and Homer are now in. A short teaser for season 2 carries the tagline "Something always survives." Has OA 'passed over' but still survived?
What of those that OA has left behind, though? How will they fare without her? The ragtag group of teenagers and the random teacher she befriended are all fighting their own battles, and could all use some cohesiveness as a group, but we know from season 1 that when OA isn’t there holding them all together, they drift back into their own solitary ways of life. It could be that, knowing the required moves, they could make it over to wherever OA is now, or that OA will return with Homer in tow, because there is more of her story to be told.
Marling says that season 1 was intentionally ambiguous, but even so the audience is likely to want answers, otherwise they’re unlikely to stick around. Why was it so important that the group all leave their doors open when they met? What has happened to the other captives after Hap fled the scene with OA? Perhaps the most intriguing part of OA’s story is the part that’s missing; we saw Hap throw her out of the car at the side of the road, but when she was found, she was in San Francisco, jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. How did she get from point A to point B, and why did she feel as though jumping off the bridge was a sensible course of action? OA tells Doctors that she wasn’t trying to commit suicide, so it could well be that she was trying to die in order that she would have another NDE and find Homer.
Whichever way the plot goes (and really, it’s anyone’s guess), the references and influences that season 2 could draw on are almost more intriguing than the story itself. Will we see more strange dance moves and signals? During the final episode of season 1, Alfonso found a copy of Homer’s The Odyssey under OA’s bed, which could possibly be a precursor to season 2’s plot. The original poem tells the story of Odysseus, who still hasn’t returned from the Trojan War ten years after it ended. Possibly OA season 2 will, in turn, focus on Homer trying to return from his own, personal war.
What’s also worthy of discussion is whether the show will continue to draw on the Bible for influence and, if so, what parts could be used. The theory of resurrection has already been explored, as has the Devil’s temptation of Jesus and (more loosely) the concept of OA and Homer being Adam and Eve, but the Bible is a rather large book. Two verses stand out as possibly being worthy of exploration: John 13: 6: “Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” and John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Let’s take the first quote, and assume that OA takes the place of Jesus. It’s not that much of a stretch, since she has been presented as a martyr-like figure throughout the first season. Replace Father with ‘other dimension,’ and we have OA saying that no one can access the other dimension without her, which leads onto the next verse.
Given that questions have been raised over the reliability of OA’s story, it could be that, in effect, for Steve, Alfonso, and the others to make it into the other dimension, they have to believe wholeheartedly in her account. If they do that, then they too can enjoy whatever waits on the other side; the serene peacefulness that OA found there, the escape from reality of life on earth.
Other Biblical parallels are possible too, of course, including the persecution and crucifixion of Christ. Again, put OA in the place of Christ, and the reactions of the teenager’s parents, her own parents, and the general public could well be the stirrings of the alienation that Jesus experienced after three years of healing and helping others. Is the tide turning on OA? Will we find her becoming wrongly labelled as the villain of the piece, while Hap escapes, and will she be betrayed by one of the group?
Whatever route The OA takes for its second season, it certainly won’t be strait-laced and easy to follow. Marling and Batmanglij’s intention is to make us think, to explore, and ultimately to reach our own conclusions. Yes, The OA is confusing at times, but it showcases some outstanding performances, including from Marling herself, and it opens our minds to endless possibility.
The OA season 2 will air on Netflix in 2017