Samuel Brace with two reasons to watch Netflix’s The OA and one reason not to…
Netflix is doing this TV thing right. Their track record has been just terrific. Since bursting onto the scene; the dominance on display has been palpable. With AMC falling away, the online streaming service has not only rocketed to second position in the TV juggernaut league, but has pulled up alongside long time leaders HBO. 2016 has proved to be no different; Netflix offering us delights such as Stranger Things along with their many excellent returning shows. So when they serve up surprise new series like The OA, a show about a blind woman who turns up after being missing for years only to be not blind anymore, TV audiences take notice. The OA is a strange case however. Is it brilliant? Is it awful? To be honest, I’m not really sure. But here are 2 reasons you should check it out and 1 big reason you maybe should stay away.
1) You should watch for the Story
There are many disappearance centric stories available, one of the year’s best products in fact, Stranger Things, was one of these very offerings. So perhaps with The OA‘s most basic version of its premise, there is not much here to get excited by. But what is uncovered when peeling back a few of its layers, is how different this show actually is. The plot, revolving around Prairie Johnson, a young woman who vanished suddenly only to turn up eight years later, no longer blind, quickly turns into a show that is basically about a retelling of the years she was missing. The OA is structured like a campfire story time as Prairie recounts her tale to a group of local misfits who she needs in order to save her friends. Without spoiling things too much, things get weird, and they get weird quick. ‘Space Witch’ is a phrase that comes to mind when recalling one of The OA‘s most peculiar of moments. The show blends the very out of the box components of its make up with a very down to earth, realist setting that is like the reality we all know. The blurring of these lines works very well indeed, and helps present to us a tale that is gripping and wholly mystifying. The ride on which we are taken with The OA is the shows best feature, until it suddenly isn’t — more on that later.
2) You should watch for the Visuals
This is a beautiful show. It really is. A lot of TV looks very safe, very bland and very conservative. The dull and saturated tones of AMC dramas spring instantly to mind. The OA however, isn’t one of these shows. What this series does so well is provide its audience with the regular, with the norm and mundane, until it then suddenly transports you to a place of unbelievable wonder. This is depicted in the show’s plot and in its visual aesthetic. The wintery town of the show’s present day story is — while being beautifully captured — a very unspectacular image to look at, but we are also provided with images pretty enough to make you audibly gasp. Remember the Space Witch I mentioned? Yeah, that was an image and a half, gorgeous to behold and completely disparate from everything that comes before it. The OA is a show that is reminiscent of Hannibal and The Leftovers in more ways than one. There are comparisons to be made tonally and stylistically, but in terms of their balance visually between realism and the fantastical, these three shows definitely march to the beat of the same drum. The OA really is endlessly pleasant to behold and you could easily justify the eight hour investment just for this.
1) Why You Should Stay Away
The reason why The OA might be best left alone is connected to the very first reason why you should turn up — the story.
You see, while the show is endlessly fascinating, compelling, and has a habit of permeating parts of your mind you never thought would be susceptible to such intrusions, things take a sharp and almost fatal turn for the worst right as the season’s end approaches. It’s not so much that The OA falls over the finish line, it’s that you realise the finish line isn’t really there at all and the show is just kind of sitting on the ground, not knowing what to do with its self. It would almost be sad if it wasn’t so infuriating.
For seven of the show’s eight episodes, proceedings are pretty darn wonderful, but then we arrive at the finale and everything falls apart and everyone notices. What you thought the show was, suddenly isn’t’. What you thought was important, doesn’t matter. The show ends in such a way that gives you the impression that none of your questions about the show’s mystifying plot and occurrences will ever be answered, because none of what you were watching ever had an explanation at all. The strange choices The OA makes right at the last suggest to the viewer that this actually isn’t a show with many obscure riddles to solve — riddles that might be solved in a later season — but that this is just nonsense that had a sole purpose of misleading us.
It’s hard to talk about without getting into spoiler territory, but imagine Lost, at the end of season one, finished in a way that would suggest there would be no season 2 — because the story doesn’t need one — but also never answers any of your questions because those very questions, due to climatic events, are irrelevant to the larger story. Sound annoying? Yeah, that’s what happened here with The OA.
It’s rough. It really is, because I loved my time with the show. I had a fantastic weekend watching it. There was so much to adore. It’s a shame it had to end up like it did. Perhaps a second season could rectify some of this. Though I’m not entirely sure how. I do want to watch more however. The world, and the characters that inhabit that world, are very watchable, and I almost feel like I need a second season for some closure, for my own sanity.
It all hinges on that final episode. Are the events that take place congruent with the theme of the show? Or does the finale ruin everything, turning a series of great potential into a colossal mess? I am leaning towards the latter, but part of me wants to believe. That part of me has faith. Prairie took me on a journey and I don’t want it to end.
What an odd experience.