The oa s01e01

The oa s01e01 DEFAULT

&#;We all died more times than I can count.&#;

Welcome home

When a video goes viral of a woman jumping off a bridge in St. Louis, Mr. and Mrs. Johnson rush to the hospital, thinking it&#;s their missing daughter, who&#;s been gone for seven years. It is, but she&#;s very different.

While they named her Prairie, she won&#;t respond to it, and tells the nurse, &#;I am The OA.&#; She also has extreme scarring on her back.

Even stranger, she can see. The Prairie they knew was blind. The Johnsons go home, and Prairie (who I&#;m just going to call OA from now on), is not adjusting well. She&#;s desperate to use the internet, but her mother says the hospital advised them not to let her.

I help you, you help me.

OA goes to the abandoned house in her neighborhood where a local kid, Steve, sells drugs. She asks for to use someone&#;s wifi from the neighborhood, but Steve gets angry, taking her camera and letting his dog attack her. The dog bites her, but then she bites the dog, and it backs down.

After an incident at school that is probably getting him expelled, Steve comes to OA with a deal. He gives her a wifi router and promises to help her with whatever, if she helps him in return. She agrees, dressing up and going into school as his fake stepmother, meeting Betty Broderick-Allen, or BBA, who she convinces to let Steve stay.

Dear Homer&#;

OA has been using the camera to record herself talking to someone named Homer. When she finally gets on the internet she looks him up, watching a video where he talks about having a NDE, or Near Death Experience. She clearly loves Homer and is desperate to get back to him.

OA and Steve&#;s trick is quickly discovered, and Steve&#;s parents come over to the Johnsons&#; house and recommend they hospitalize OA. Her parents defend her, saying she needs to be at home. After, they remove the doorway to her room so they can always monitor her.

Prairie&#;s story

OA still needs help from Steve, telling him to find five strong and flexible people. When she realizes he won&#;t be any help, OA uploads a video she filmed on Youtube, explaining her plight. She goes to the abandoned house that night for the first meeting.

Five people show up: Steve, Jesse, Buck, French, and BBA. She tells them the story of how she became blind. Born in Russia, her father was a newly rich man, and therefore a target to a powerful organization she calls &#;The Voi.&#;

When she was very young, she consistently had this nightmare about drowning in an aquarium, with crayons floating around her in the water. Her father helps her overcome her fears, and everything seems fine.

To protect them, all the newly rich oligarchs send their children to school on a special bus. But one day, the bus is driven off a bridge, and OA, or as she was called then, Nina, sees her nightmare become reality. They&#;re all drowning, but Nina is able to get out of the bus and starts swimming towards the surface.

Despite all her efforts, Nina dies, and she experiences something very strange. It&#;s like some afterlife dimension, and a otherworldly woman there warns her of a harsh future ahead of her.

Nina still chooses to go back, so the woman says, &#;I will take your eyes, because I cannot bear for you to see what lies ahead.&#; The real world rushes back, and Nina&#;s father is there, but she can&#;t see anything.

Season one of The OA is on Netflix right now, and season two arrives on March 22nd!

(Featured Image: Netflix)


Chapter 1: Homecoming
The OA Season 1

Not Yet Available


Critics Consensus

No consensus yet.


Not enough ratings to calculate a score.

Episode Info

A mysterious woman turns up at a hospital with strange scars on her back, unable to explain where she's been for the past seven years.

  • Genre:

    Mystery & Thriller

  • Network:


  • Air Date:

    Dec 16,

  • Directed By:

    Zal Batmanglij

Chapter 1: Homecoming Photos

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The OA is the intriguing story of a young woman who returns home after 7 years in captivity. She was blind when she left home, but now her sight has been restored. She&#;s unable to talk about her ordeal, and seems changed in indefinable, mysterious ways. The pilot, at least, focusses more on character and setting up the mood and world of the show than getting a fast-paced plot going. The feel of the show reminds me of The Man in the High Castle in that way, even though they are otherwise very different shows. It slowly builds tension and doles out clues, allowing us to piece together the mystery and understand the show&#;s universe.

The pilot begins with a phone video shot through the windshield of a car as it crosses a bridge in St Louis. A young woman in a flowing sundress dodges between cars to cross the bridge and climb over the side rail. She briefly looks back toward the camera with a blank face, then steps off the bridge to let herself fall into the Mississippi River below.

We cut to the woman&#;s face as she lies in a hospital bed. She&#;s been unconscious for three days. She asks the nurse who&#;s in the room with her if she flatlined. When the nurse says no, the woman asks if she&#;s sure. She shrinks away from the nurse and refuses to be touched. The nurse also asks about the scars on the woman&#;s back. The nurse throws a lot of questions out quickly, in an annoying way, considering the woman just tried to kill herself and then was unconscious for 3 days. The nurse finally gets the woman to give her name: The OA.

An elderly couple are at home when the wife gets a phone call. She watches an online video of The OA jumping off the bridge. She cries to her husband. It&#;s their daughter. They rush to see her at the hospital. Once there, a caseworker informs them that their daughter is in a fractured mental state. She doesn&#;t respond to the name they gave, she&#;s agitated, and she keeps trying to get to the computers in the ICU. She has unusual scarring on her back. She won&#;t talk to anyone, including the police, about what happened. It&#;s the hospital&#;s recommendation that she be committed to in-patient care. The hospital knows nothing of her background or situation, and she&#;s not harming herself or others at this point, but they don&#;t understand her, so she should be locked away. I&#;m really not sure why wanting to use the internet is a sign of mental illness, or having old scars that had to be inflicted by someone else, based on their positioning.

The OA&#;s parents just want to see their daughter. She doesn&#;t recognize them. The mom, Nancy Johnson, goes over to OA and lets her feel her mom&#;s face. She recognizes her mom&#;s face right away through touch. The dad, Abel Johnson, explains that their daughter, Prairie, has never seen them before. Seven years ago, when she disappeared, she was blind.

They bring Prairie home to their suburban Michigan house. There&#;s a crowd of press and onlookers waiting outside the house. Prairie is frightened by the onslaught of people, but happy to be home.

The police come to her home to question her. She&#;s not able to tell them much that they find useful. She says that she walked a long time, maybe days, before she got to a road. An old woman gave her a ride to a place with a lot of lost people, that might have been a shelter. She wanted to leave, so they let her go. She kept walking, trying to get back to them. The officers interrupt her constantly here, so she never really gets to finish what she&#;s trying to say. Prairie: She wanted to get back to them, possibly meaning the other captives, but she knew they were all gone. Cop: Dead? Prairie: (We) all died more times than she can count. Cop: Is that why she was trying to kill herself? Prairie: She wasn&#;t trying to kill herself, she was trying to get help or get back to them. Cop: She could have called the police. Prairie: That wouldn&#;t have helped.

The cops give up on trying to make sense of Prairie&#;s story, and leave. They&#;ll try again in a week or so. Maybe she&#;ll have processed her experience more clearly by then.

Prairie tries to use her computer to get on the internet, but it&#;s password protected. She searches her father&#;s office for the password, and sees articles about her disappearance. She also finds a video camera. Nancy finds her just as she&#;s opened up a container of handheld cutting tools and started to run her finger over the blade of one. Maybe I was wrong about the scars not being self-inflicted. Nancy suggests they go for a walk.

Outside, it&#;s dark, breezy and quiet. The neighborhood is full of partially finished houses that were abandoned when the developer ran out of money. Nancy asks how Prairie regained her sight. Prairie says that she can&#;t tell her. There are teenagers fooling around on the roof of one of the houses. They recognize Prairie.

The next afternoon, a high school boy and girl are having sex in his bedroom. It&#;s clear that this is just sex, not a relationship. He wants it to be more, but she isn&#;t interested. She&#;s interested in someone in the school chorus. Steve punches a hole in the wall after the girl leaves. His father comes in and asks him about the hole in the wall, then tells him that his teacher, Broderick-Allen, emailed about bullying. Steve hasn&#;t been keeping the promises he made to his dad, and he needs to fix it.

Prairie is laying on her bed, under the covers, vlogging to Homer. She tells him she&#;s scared and she didn&#;t leave him behind. Nancy tells Prairie that her internet usage must be monitored at all times, according to the hospital&#;s guidelines.

Prairie goes back to the abandoned house, where neighborhood kids congregate to buy and sell drugs after school. Steve is the drug dealer. He has a guard dog with him. He gets angry when he sees Prairie with the video camera in her hand and grabs the camera from her. She&#;s looking for someone to give her their internet password. They argue. When neither backs down, Steve sets the dog on Prairie, and holds back anyone who tries to help her. Prairie bites the dog back and subdues it. All four guys in the room are stunned and frozen in shock. Prairie takes the camera out of Steve&#;s hand and leaves.

Nancy is helping Prairie bathe and clean her dog bite wounds. She asks if Prairie is  hearing voices again, then reveals that she&#;s watched Prairie&#;s videos, which makes Prairie feel violated. Nancy tells her that even though she&#;s adopted, Nancy still feels her daughter&#;s pain as if she&#;s her own flesh and blood. Prairie says she can&#;t tell her parents what happened because it would hurt her to hurt them. She needs time.

At school, Steve listens to the chorus to check out his competition. He finds Miles, the best singer, outside in the parking lot later and punches him in the neck hard enough to lacerate his trachea.

Steve then comes through Prairie&#;s bedroom window during the day while she&#;s making another video for Homer, filming her Barbies and Barbie mansion. She&#;s in the midst of saying that she met a boy she thinks is part of &#;it.&#; Steve&#;s brought her a router with prepaid internet as a peace-offering. He wants to make a &#;Strangers on a Train&#; deal. If they help each other out with things no one would expect from them, they should be able to get away with it.

Steve needs Prairie to get him out of trouble for assaulting Miles, before his dad sends him to military school in Asheville. Prairie agrees, provided he finds her a team of five strong, flexible people willing to meet at the abandoned house and do what she asks. No one is to touch her. Steve agrees.

Steve and Prairie go clothes shopping for Prairie&#;s meeting with Steve&#;s teacher. They talk about why Steve punched Miles. Prairie suggests that he work on his invisible, inner self, and that he try seeing the world with his eyes closed. While she&#;s trying on clothes we see some of the scars on her upper back. They are red lines that appear to be some kind of symbols, on her left and right sides, but not on the middle, down her spine. Technically, she probably could have drawn them on herself, but that doesn&#;t tell us whether she did, or someone else did.

Prairie puts on her grown up costume and goes to the meeting with Steve&#;s teacher, Betty Broderick-Allen, a dedicated middle-aged teacher. Prairie presents herself as Steve&#;s new stepmother. Betty wants to expel Steve from school because of his increasing bullying and violence. Prairie and Betty get into a deep discussion about the nature of teaching, and why she got into it to begin with. Prairie says &#;this dimension is crumbling to violence, pettiness and greed. Steve is sensitive enough to feel it and he&#;s angry. He&#;s angry and he&#;s lost. And in order to find him, you&#;d have to teach yourself again. You decided somewhere along the way that you were done learning. It&#;s too painful to stay open&#;If you want to be a teacher, teach Steve. He&#;s the boy you can help become a man. He&#;s the one you lost. He&#;s your first reason [for becoming a teacher].&#;

As Prairie&#;s leaving, Betty asks for her first name. &#;I&#;m the OA,&#; she responds.

Betty smiles and winks at Steve the next time he comes to class.

Prairie/OA looks up Homer Roberts. He was a Missouri college football player who suffered a serious injury and a near death experience in the championship game on November 2, It left him paralyzed when he woke up, but he insists he&#;ll play football again. Prairie bursts into tears after watching the video and wonders where Homer is.

Steve calls to tell Prairie her trip to school worked. She tells him they need to get started on her side of the bargain, tonight. Five people, meet at midnight at the abandoned house, and leave their front doors open. They argue about the open door, and whether Steve will even fulfill his part of the bargain. Prairie insists she chose him, not the other way around, and he needs to go through with it.

Betty runs into Steve&#;s parents in the supermarket and learns that Prairie isn&#;t his stepmother. Steve and his parents show up at Prairie&#;s house, accusing her of impersonating Steve&#;s mother, which is true. But, his parents go on to blow it all out of proportion by insinuating that she&#;s leading their innocent babe astray and might even take advantage of him&#;sexually!* They want her in a mental hospital and away from decent people, such as themselves, immediately. Steve argues for Prairie&#;s side the entire time. Prairie overhears the conversation, and runs to upload a Youtube video asking for help, before she loses her internet access. I feel like I&#;m watching the scene from The Wizard of Ozwhere Miss Gulch has come to take Toto from Dorothy. The letter of the law is on her side, and Steve&#;s parents&#;, sure, but they aren&#;t really the good guys.

But, Nancy and Abel still have to follow the rules of society, whether they are fair toward their daughter or not. The hospital&#;s Invasive Guidelines for Mentally Unstable, Scary Women Who Won&#;t Submit go into effect in the Johnson home. Prairie&#;s bedroom door, and thus all privacy, is removed. Her access to the world outside of her home is removed. Her camera is taken away. She is a prisoner in her own home, even though she hasn&#;t shown any tendencies toward violence or delusions, and Steve vouched for the fact that this was a consensual deal made between the two of them. Prairie is a 29 year old adult. People have attacked her and done things to her body without her consent, and she&#;s defended herself. People have verbally cut her off when she&#;s tried to explain what happened while she was missing, instead of listening with an open mind while she tried to put things that have been jumbled in her mind by the trauma she&#;s experienced into understandable terms. She&#;s a desperate person taking desperate actions. No one is really seeing HER, they are seeing what each of them is projecting onto her. Suffering from trauma doesn&#;t automatically make her incapable of rational thought. It does, however, provide an excellent excuse for controlling her.

Various characters watch Prairie&#;s Youtube video. Betty, who has been googling &#;The OA&#;, is one of them.

Youtube voiceover:

&#;I need help. I need to cross a border that&#;s hard to define. Maybe you know what I&#;m talking about, or you don&#;t, but you feel it. Because you&#;ve felt other borders like youth, and adulthood, maybe. I can&#;t change your fate, but I can help you meet it. We begin our journey to the border tonight, midnight, at the unfinished house at the edge of Crestwood View. Don&#;t come unless you leave your front door open. You have to invite me in.&#;

While the voiceover plays, we see the kids from the attack dog scene watching it, and making their way to the house. Steve is walking his dog and runs into his sex buddy. She gives him a ride and they talk. He realizes he doesn&#;t want her after all, and heads toward the abandoned house. The four boys all arrive together. Betty arrives a few moments later. They have the five that OA needs. She says she needs to do something specific, and leave something behind. The process will only work if there are five people plus her.

She lights candles and begins to tell her story, asking the group to trust her, and to close their eyes and see the story as if they&#;re her.

She was born in Russia in to the wealthy owner of mining corporation. Her name was Nina. Her father had gotten very rich, very fast. The newly rich were in danger from a Russian crime organization called the Voi, so they lived in a secret enclave outside of Moscow, with the other newly rich. She was born with her sight, and remembers how beautiful Russia was. She grew up surrounded by wealth and beauty, friends with the children of the wealthy who lived nearby. Her mother had died in childbirth, so it was just her and her father.

She had frequent, intense dreams that gave her nosebleeds, then. In one of the recurring dreams, she was trapped underwater in an aquarium, and she couldn&#;t get out. Her father took her out to a frozen lake, and chopped a hole in the ice over shallow water. He told her that in order to beat the cold, she must become even colder. Even though she was barefoot and in her nightgown, Nina got into the water up to her shoulders. Her father taught her to be brave, and she never had the aquarium dream again.

Months later, she started school. Her school bus was attacked by the Voi while it was on a bridge, and fell into the water. She figured out where there was a broken bus window to escape through, but none of the other children followed her. She was the only one who escaped, but she still died trying. While she was dead, a woman (Goddess?) named Khatun gave her the choice of staying dead or going back. If she went back, she would experience great love, but also great hardship. Nina chose to go back. Khatun took Nina&#;s eyes from her, because she couldn&#;t bear for Nina to see the horrible things that she would experience.

Nina was revived on the shore with her father, but she was blind.

Observations and Questions:

-Nina/Prairie&#;s near death experience makes her special, and seems to have something to do with her disappearance, since she was hoping that jumping off the bridge would make her flatline, and take her back to the others.

-Homer Roberts also had a near death experience, and is most likely another hostage. It seems like someone gathered people who&#;d had near death experiences (NDEs) and made them have more, since Prairie said she&#;d died more times than she could count.

-It&#;s possible that the hostages have developed a way to find and communicate with each other in the place they go during NDEs. But it takes a certain amount of psychic energy to get there, and to leave a message, which is why Prairie needs five people besides herself.

-There was something special about Prairie to begin with. She was already having predictive dreams before her NDE. Did she have an NDE during her own birth, when her mother died? Or does she have some other special talent that gives her these dreams?

-Who are the Voi? The Russian mafia is the Bratva. The Voi seem very powerful and secretive, to be wielding all of this power over such rich men, and to have the rich hiding in fear.

-Khatun took away Nina&#;s sight so that she wouldn&#;t have to look at the horrible things she was going to live through. Does she have her sight back because she&#;s lived through the worst of it?

-Prairie has almost hypnotic persuasive powers over people who are open to listening to her. She sees what&#;s inside someone, and speaks to that. Unfortunately, her adoptive parents are well-meaning but too small-minded to open themselves fully to a heart and mind as powerful as Prairie&#;s.

-Steve is an interesting character. We haven&#;t been given a reason for his behavioral issues and anger, beyond that he&#;s a bad, spoiled kid, which is too easy to apply to anyone. Is there some trauma, abuse, or neglect in his background? Does he have an undiagnosed disability or mental illness? The actor is doing a fantastic job making Steve feel erratic, tensed-up, and violent, like he&#;s a bomb that&#;s waiting to blow. But, he also could be a kid who maybe isn&#;t so bad underneath it all. He has the shell-shocked look of someone who&#;s as surprised and hurt by his own impulsive, self-destructive behavior as anyone else. Prairie was right, there&#;s some interesting potential for growth in Steve, if he can learn to channel his impulses.

-The other boys are Jesse, Alfonso, and Buck. Alfonso is an athlete and good student. Jesse is a geek who wants to create personal training videos with Steve. Buck is a FtM trans boy who doesn&#;t appear to be out to his family and gets his hormones from Steve. The five people who are helping Prairie all seem lost themselves in some way.

-Prairie was born in Assuming the series takes place in the present time, she disappears when she&#;s about 22, and returns when she&#;s Yet her bedroom is filled with dolls, especially Barbies. Prairie and the Barbies look very similar, with their long blonde hair and even features. Is Prairie everyone&#;s doll and plaything? Does everyone, including her parents, simply put the clothes and persona they want onto her? The doll imagery was overwhelming in this episode. Prairie even replaced herself in bed with a doll when she went to the abandoned house at midnight. Was she leaving her parents the kind of daughter they really want? Certainly it&#;s the kind of patient the hospital guidelines want. Even Steve tried to subdue her, then dressed her up to be a real life doll with a stepmommy persona. Nina&#;s father was the only person who accepted her as she was, bare feet and all. He tried to give her what she truly needed by helping her face her fears to become strong.

-Not only does Prairie leave a doll in her place when she leaves her parents&#; house, she goes to a broken, unfinished house to do her important work. A house that&#;s always open, with no windows or doors, but whose inhabitants come and go by choice. No one is forced to give up their agency or privacy here. The normal rules of society are broken here on a regular basis. It&#;s a liminal space where anything can happen, the complete opposite of her parents house where conformism is more and more strictly enforced, in the name of protecting her from herself. And in this place, she finds her voice again, and speaks freely, after being unable to put her experience into words in the stifling atmospheres of the hospital and her parents&#; house.

-In this version of The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy/Nina was born in the beautiful Emerald City/outskirts of Moscow. She somehow ended up blind/seeing in black and white, and living in Midwestern Kansas/Michigan, renamed Prairie to cement the reference. The question is, where did she go for those missing 7 years? Was she held by the Wicked Witch, who thought she had some version of the Ruby Slippers/immortality/magic? Who is she planning to rescue? Is her new team the Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, Scare Crow, or is that Homer and the other hostages? Or have I stretched this analogy too far? Is her father the Wizard? He gave her courage. If the parallel holds, Nina should wind up somewhere happy and beautiful with her father, or a father substitute, at the end. (She didn&#;t start in Kansas, so she shouldn&#;t end in Kansas, but the enclave in Moscow doesn&#;t seem feasible either.)

-There is the possibility that parts of her story aren&#;t true, though I believe her.


*I&#;m not in any way advocating for this, but Steve and Prairie having a sexual relationship in the state of Michigan would be legal. The legal age of consent there is She&#;s not an authority figure over him in any way. We&#;ve seen that he&#;s sexually active and his father, at least, knows about it. Steve is impulsive, violent, and possessive. The person who would be in the most danger if they were to get involved is Prairie, especially if she&#;s as mentally fragile as the other characters believe she is. The level of hypocrisy his parents displayed is ridiculous.

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Published by Metacrone

Retired teacher, homeschooling mom and lifelong film, television and theater enthusiast living in Albuquerque, NM. View all posts by Metacrone

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The OA Series Premiere Recap: Eyes Without a Face

The OA


Season 1 Episode 1

Editor’s Rating 4 stars ****

Alice Krige, Brit Marling. Photo: JoJo Whilden/Netflix

A blind woman regains her sight after a seven-year disappearance … and the first thing she wants to do is go online. Sounds about right. Welcome to The OA, the surprise new Netflix show that’s fallen into our laps from the place where dead people go, with only an arty Instagram account to help us point the way. A head-scratching sci-fi mystery mixed with some rudimentary teenager concerns, the eight-part series is a proudly strange narrative experiment.

The OA is the latest speculative fiction from the team of Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij, who made the eerie cult tale Sound of My Voice with basically no budget, and then got handed a bit more money to make the eco-conspiracy thriller The East. (Marling also made the similarly inflected Another Earth with a different collaborator.) Marling and Batmanglij co-created the show, with Batmanglij directing all eight episodes in a familiar ethos and Marling starring in the lead role. Though their storytelling tactics have undoubtedly matured, their worldview in the first episode remains the same, for better and worse: the grandiose philosophical ideas, the mysterious central character who’s thought of as a fool before she demonstrates her abilities, the corny dialogue. Basically, you can choose to either resent these folks for their DIY spirit or applaud them for their ingenuity in spinning whole universes out of thin air. I choose the second. It’s more fun that way.

The show begins in a similar way to Sound of My Voice, with cell-phone footage of a disheveled-looking Prairie (Marling) flailing around a busy street before jumping off a bridge. She whips her head back to face the camera immediately before leaping, piercing us with her stare before the fall. That stare will take on new meaning several scenes later, once Prairie, who miraculously survives the fall, is sent to the hospital and her parents (Alice Krige and Scott Wilson) ID her as their adopted daughter who went missing seven years ago. It’s here we learn she used to be blind. How did she come to see again? That may be the wrong question.

Returning to the cul-de-sac of McMansions where she grew up, Prairie is reluctant to share any details of her journey. All we know is she calls herself “the OA,” she hates to be touched, she has some strange scars on her back, and she desperately wants internet access so she can send some sort of e-beacon to a dude named Homer, a former football star who “came back from the dead.”

Of course, every Prairie needs a home companion (sorry, I’m not sorry). Our hero quickly allies with Steve Winchell (Patrick Gibson), a troubled neighbor boy and drug dealer whose violent, undisciplined behavior — in one scene, he assaults a choir boy — is on the verge of getting him kicked out of school and sent to a military academy. In exchange for a mobile router and recruiting five people for a strange experiment she’s planning, Prairie poses as Steve’s “stepmother” to ward off expulsion from his teacher Betty. And hey, that’s Phyllis Smith as Betty, ready to bless us with her Sadness once more.

The plan to pull one over on the adults fails, leaving Steve presumably bound for the No-Smiles Academy. But the weird nighttime ritual still happens, with Steve and three of his friends joining Betty (yes, their teacher) for this séance-type event in an abandoned, half-finished house that wouldn’t look out of place in Gone Girl. As instructed, they all leave their front doors open in a sign of blind trust — in Prairie’s words, “so you can invite me in.” Is she a vampire? A being from another time? Her explanation may be a little silly, but the image of those doors swinging open to empty streets, the naked vulnerability on display, is oddly intriguing. Whatever The OA has in store, with all this talk of visible and invisible selves, there’s no better way to communicate a request to leave our sense of security behind.

If the first hour of “Homecoming” leaves you a bit conflicted, with the cryptic internet mythology sitting uncomfortably next to some schoolboy’s anger-management issues, the last ten minutes should fully convince you this is a story worth sticking with. First off, it’s an insanely baller move for Batmanglij to wait until the climax of the episode to launch into an expansive title sequence. (That’s, like, Love Exposure levels of delayed gratification.) Secondly, the tale Prairie weaves of her past life is so visually stunning, and so unbelievable, that it would take all your willpower not to watch the second episode immediately. Who would have guessed this woman was the child of an Russian oligarch? Or that she could see when she was a child? Or that a deadly bus accident sent her to commune with some spirit-mother who took her sight as payment in exchange for the journey back to Earth?

We are now in the realm of folklore, not merely techno-conspiracy stuff, and The OA has a lot to sell us. But the stylistic grandeur of the episode’s final act has me convinced there is a greater plan at work, and I can’t wait to discover what it is. Prairie’s eyes can summon followers just by staring into a camera, and the spell is working on me.

Stray thoughts:

  • Is it so hard to get internet these days that you have to make deals with troubled teens for some Wi-Fi?
  • I wonder if the logistics of Prairie’s character and her blindness will fall by the wayside as we get deeper into her backstory. Either way, it’s a nice moment when she feels her adoptive mother’s face while seeing her for the first time.
  • When I say Batmanglij and Marling write corny dialogue, it’s usually because they’re focusing a bit too much on world-building at the expense of authentic human interaction. In this episode, for example, Prairie (while posing as Steve’s stepmother) tells Betty, “I’m the OA” without offering anything else as explanation. Betty’s response? She just smiles and nods her head. That is not normal behavior, and it took me out of the episode.
  • Though I suppose you could chalk up that specific interaction to Prairie’s supposed powers of persuasion. Whenever she touches someone, she seems able to bend them to her will.
  • Brit Marling often writes herself as an otherworldly character, and she’s the perfect performer for the type: slightly airy presence, fiery eyes, and a sense that she’s constantly receiving stage directions from aliens. In this case, who knows? Maybe she is.
The OA Premiere Recap: Eyes Without a FaceSours:

Oa s01e01 the

The OA season 1 recaps

Netflix&#x;s newest dip into the sci-fi/fantasy realm is a heavy one indeed. The OA stars Brit Marling as Prairie Johnson, a woman who&#x;s been missing for seven years but has much more than an ordinary abduction story to speak of. From grappling with the tortures of a mad scientist to coasting through the very planes of human existence, her story is fascinating&#x; but she&#x;ll only tell it to a few. On Dec. 16, Netflix dropped all 8 episodes of this series,and we&#x;re bingeing and recapping all the episodes now. There is one episode recap per page, so dig in and read along while you watch.

Episode 1: “Homecoming”

The obvious first question about all of this is, what in the world is an &#x;OA&#x;?

The answer, it seems, isn&#x;t going to come to us as easily as we might like. What we do find out in the series opener is that this title is the preferred moniker of a woman named Prairie, who used to go by Nina. She&#x;s obviously unstable, but is there something real to her wild imagination? This is why we came here, it seems.

The episode opens with a found footage-style cell phone capture of a blond woman in a wispy nightgown who decides to hop off a bridge, and, although she manages to go video viral because of it, she isn&#x;t successful at killing herself. She&#x;s none too pleased about having survived her fall, but her lips are sealed as to why. All the nurses can figure out about her is that she doesn&#x;t like to be touched, and she has some wicked scar patterns on her back.

Thanks to the power of YouTube, though, her story comes to the attention of her adoptive mother, who introduces herself to the formerly missing (for seven years!) Prairie, but letting her touch her face. Turns out, Prairie was once blind but has regained her sight thanks to the magic of &#x; well, we don&#x;t get to find that out either.

Prairie&#x;s not open about the details of her disappearance (except she tells authorities that she, in fact, did not disappear and was present for all of it &#x; all seven years, three months, and 11 days ), but she&#x;s desperate for a wi-fi connection to search for her long-lost hero Homer, who everyone suspects is the man who must&#x;ve captured her. She does reveal that she and whomever she was with all these years have all died more times than she can count, which rightly freaks everyone out. (By the way, Homer was a former football stud who broke his back and was minutes from perishing but had a miraculous recovery somehow; that&#x;s all we know right now.)

Her mom is hesitant to share the password to their router because the hospital told her not to, but she&#x;s willing to bend on some of the other suggested policies, like unhinging the doors and not letting her out of sight till she&#x;s cured of whatever attendant psychosis has come with her perceived kidnapping. Google? A no-no. But random walks out in the nothingness by herself are just fine. Okay.

This brings Prairie into contact with Steve, a guy who likes to do handstands on the very high roofs of abandoned buildings and linger naked by the window (HELLO, gratuitous butt shot) while his dad warns him about his bullying behaviors. She gets his attention &#x; well, beyond the notoriety that she&#x;s already carrying around the neighborhood for being the long-lost abductee come home at last &#x; by biting his guard dog into submission after he sics the pooch on her for getting too close for his comfort.

RELATED: Brit Marling on what went into the making of The OA

Steve&#x;s a prototypical jerk who sells drugs to other students and is on the brink of expulsion thanks to punching a prized chorus singer in the throat over the fact that Steve&#x;s friends with benefits, Jay, might have a thing for him. He needs Prairie to pretend to be his stepmom for a parent-teacher conference, and he&#x;s willing to hook Crazy up with her much-fussed web connection in some Strangers on a Train-style favor trade in return for it. But her price is steeper than some mere modem. She wants him to rustle up some of his pals to meet her at one of the empty spec houses they&#x;ve colonized for their meet-cute at midnight and leave their front doors open in the process. And no, she&#x;s not answering any questions about the reason for that either except to say that she need[s] to cross a border that&#x;s hard to define.

Prairie is successful at convincing poor Ms. Broderick-Allen that she should give Steve another chance because he&#x;s a kid who can really learn something from her (HA!). But the jig is up as quickly as it went down because the teacher runs into Steve&#x;s dad at the warehouse supermarket soon after, revealing Steve&#x;s lie.

Prairie then takes her campaign for help to YouTube, which Steve&#x;s friends all see, and after he realizes that she gave him some good advice about not being such a superficial jerk all the time (something about finding his invisible self ), he decides to go for it and show up to her little late-night story session after all. He&#x;s probably going to get shipped off to military-style reform camp anyway, so why not, right? The only surprise attendee is Ms. Broderick-Allen, who happens across her plea video online after searching for the meaning of OA just like the rest of us have probably done by now (it&#x;s the name she gave her during their con meeting). With her squad of five &#x; a VERY important number, for some as-yet-unexplained reason &#x; she fires up some candles and finally starts to dig into some meat about herself.

It&#x;s only then that we finally get the opening credits, a whopping 55 minutes into this business.

There are some obvious calls back to Eleven from Stranger Things here right away: Girl whose nose bleeds as an indication of some inner power pulls together a team of curious kids &#x; Steve, Jesse, Buck, French, and their teacher &#x; to transport herself to another mind realm. The only thing missing is telekinesis and a box of Eggo waffles, really, but anyway.

Turns out, she grew up as the daughter of a Russian oligarch and could see just fine and got to ride a fancy bus to private school every day. Her dad was her sole parent, after her mom died in childbirth, and he had some questionable tactics for helping her get over her nightmares &#x; instead of a trial by fire, his method is of the icier variety. That approach comes in handy for her, though, when her bus goes off a bridge and lands at the bottom of a chilly river. While the rest of the czars&#x; kids are stuck beneath, Nina/Prairie/OA swims her way through a hole and comes face to face with a bright light.

We were a message, you see? From the void to our parents. A message that said you are powerful to be sure, but you are not all powerful. The youngest sons and daughters of every Russian zion was on the bus that day. They all died. Every single one of them, including me.

She finds herself transported to a starry realm where a woman offers to let her surface to safety in trade for her sight &#x; this angel (?) tells her she doesn&#x;t want her to see those horrors ahead of her. When she comes to on the beach, where her father is shaking her back to life, she&#x;s blind. And with that, we&#x;re left with far more questions than answers &#x;

Episode grade: B

NEXT: So, that&#x;s Homer&#x;

Episode 2: “New Colossus”

Now we&#x;re starting to get into some real details.

It&#x;s still hard to know for sure whether OA&#x;s childhood memories are at all reliable or if her doctor&#x;s right that she&#x;s concocted some kind of Little Princess-style delusion, but it&#x;s all we&#x;ve got for now.

A second session of Prairie&#x;s midnight storytelling is called to order, and the entire congregation joins &#x; although French takes a little convincing from Buck because he&#x;s got a scholarship character clause that might be violated by his being caught in a known drug house, and his family situation is obviously held together solely by his (drug-assisted) success. It&#x;s here we learn that Prairie was not abducted &#x; well, not at first.

Her adoptive parents, Nancy and Abel, sprung her from the black-market orphanage her aunt apparently runs in the States after they went to buy a baby and found her living in shambles. It&#x;s a far fall from where she&#x;d been before &#x; at a cozy boarding school for the blind that her father secretly stowed her away at while he was ducking the Russian mafia. But once he died (which she doesn&#x;t believe actually happened), his money ran dry and she had to live in her aunt&#x;s attic while she made do by selling unwanted children, including herself.

Nancy and Abel were kind to her, but they got understandably weirded out when they caught her ranting Russian in her sleep while grabbing for a butcher knife. Prairie&#x;s psychologist wanted her medicated, and Nancy was hesitant but ultimately convinced it was necessary because of her flashback flip-outs over being submerged in water. The meds helped keep her numb and all, but they did nothing to stave off her sureness that her dad was still alive out there and waiting to meet up with her just like he&#x;d promised.

Instead of giving up on the ghost, she ran away to New York and dutifully waited at their planned meeting spot near the Statue of Liberty on her 21st birthday. But of course, her dad never showed, so instead of returning to the safety of her home, she opted for the vagabond life of playing her violin in the subway in hopes that he&#x;d hear her play as only she could and come running back into his life. This was successful in attracting the ear of someone, but it wasn&#x;t her dad.

Instead, Dr. Happ, a physician who swears he heard someone&#x;s soul leave and re-enter a person&#x;s body on the table one day, comes into her life and can tell just like (*snap*) that she&#x;s had a near-death experience. His specialty and passion, he says, is studying people who&#x;ve been through such a thing because they always come back with extraordinary talents, and he&#x;s just engrossed with the idea that they&#x;ve left this plane of reality for another and lived to talk about it. Somewhere between his kind words about her weirdness being quite alright, his cool heartbeat-hearing machine, and a plate of french fries, she decides to join him in his underground lab full of fellow NDE-ers, and she seems to have a sense of purpose for the first time in who knows how long.

It all seems swell until she gets to her room in his little lair and hears the clink of her cage locking her in. That&#x;s when the panic sets in and a neighboring captive&#x;s voice tells her that, yes, what she thinks is happening actually is happening right now. Oh no! Who would&#x;ve thought that accompanying a strange man she just met to his magical hideaway would be a terrible idea?!

It may be a while before he comes for you, and as you think about every step that led you here, you&#x;ll eventually realize it&#x;s no one&#x;s fault but your own. Your thoughts are going to try to take you down but don&#x;t let them. You&#x;ll find your freedom in sleep in your dreams. It&#x;s how we stay sane.

That voice, she informs her rapt audience in the abandoned house, was Homer&#x;s. Dun dun dunnnn&#x;

Episode grade: B+

NEXT: An escape plan&#x;

Episode 3: “Champion”

If only Pat from TheChicago Tribune were one of the chosen five, she might just get her story. But, alas, there will be no healing biopic book from Prairie Johnson just yet, no matter what kind of loot it might bring Prairie&#x;s financially strapped family. See, the difference between her other captives who choose to be written about is that her story doesn&#x;t have its ending just yet. I&#x;ll say.

Reunion numbers three and four of the midnight storytellers brigade (of which Steve and French have come to major blows and Mrs. Broderick-Allen is dealing &#x; or not dealing, as the case may be &#x; with the death of her brother) takes us deeper into Happ&#x;s lair, where we finally get to learn a thing or two about Prairie&#x;s fellow captives, Homer, Rachel, and Scott.

We were the living dead, right next to each other but alone, she says. There&#x;s nothing more isolating than to not be able to feel time, to not know the distance between hours, days.

To break the silence and separation, the four start talking to one another. Homer reveals that he&#x;s not so much concerned about being rescued from their little prison as he is making sure his baby son knows he didn&#x;t abandon his mother during her pregnancy. The whole reason he&#x;s in this mess to begin with is that Dr. Happ (if that&#x;s even his real name) offered him $ to do a medical experiment on NDEs, and while he did pay up, the money never got to his ex-girlfriend or child. It&#x;s still wadded up in a crinkly ball of cash down there with Homer, completely useless to everyone.

Just before Homer was abducted, he reveals, he got a sneaking suspicion that things weren&#x;t what they seemed and hid his championship ring in the doc&#x;s bathroom before being stowed away in his glass cage for who knows how long. Why is this information useful, you ask?

Well, Prairie here has gotten on Happ&#x;s good side by making him a sandwich with the giant butcher knife she comes across in the kitchen, instead of trying to stab him to death. Happ gave her a hall pass to get a split second of sunshine because, as a blind person, she needs that more than everyone else for some reason. Why he&#x;s taken a liking to her above the others isn&#x;t clear, but she suspects it has something to do with the fact that she can&#x;t see and tell what he&#x;s up to (or where he&#x;s up to it, for that matter).

This eventually progresses into a full-on gig as his house elf, and although she&#x;s cooking up her own plan for finding a phone or some other means of escape, Homer just wants her to snag that ring and a piece of mail that they can use to send word to Mandy and everyone else that the quartet is alive and well and needs help (although Homer himself isn&#x;t as concerned with that last part of the equation as everyone else).

Prairie finds out that the good doctor has to take sleeping pills and decides to squirrel them away, one by one, until she&#x;s got enough to poison his batch of stew, and while she&#x;s sweating and suspicious as she can be when she pours him a bowl, he still feasts on a few spoons of the beet-filled soup (an ingredient which serves as a nice metaphor for her, actually, as it&#x;s favored by Russians for surviving the frost). He starts to choke more quickly than she expected, but it&#x;s not because of the meds she&#x;s sprinkled into it; turns out, he&#x;s allergic to the tomato paste that&#x;s in the stock, and he&#x;s having a severe allergic reaction as a result.

He sends her to his restroom to get his EpiPen from the medicine cabinet, saying if he doesn&#x;t survive, the other three will be stuck downstairs and starve to death. She dutifully retrieves it but still hesitates to deliver the life-saving device, especially after she feels the hair of a dead girl lying in his bathtub. Turns out, the woman Rachel was screaming for, August, has been dead since before Prairie arrived. Dr. Happ doesn&#x;t tell her why, but Prairie knows it has something to do with the gas that&#x;s been sprayed on Scott, and although it looks like he might bite it without his shot, especially since she started this story with it&#x;s really hard to kill a man, it&#x;s even hard to allow a man to die. But because that would be too easy, he mud-crawls his way into the bathroom and sticks himself to safety.

Despite her failure to kill &#x; or even subdue &#x; the doctor, she does manage to snag a piece of mail addressed to Verizon, along with Homer&#x;s ring, and together they compose a letter alerting whoever receives it to everything they can remember about where they are, who&#x;s down there with them, and who should know about it. This could work because it&#x;s just being written on an already-outgoing statement, but the class ring bulge could also totally give them away. In the end, the wisdom of the plan doesn&#x;t matter because even though their idea is to slip it under the little shale stream they all share is solid, it floats past her hands and into oblivion, mixing with whatever river the stream ultimately runs into.

Prairie&#x;s hesitation to deliver the EpiPen earlier doesn&#x;t cause her any problems with Happ, somehow, because she&#x;s back in his service soon enough. Homer gives her a nice pep talk about how to survive their epic letdown of an escape attempt, and Rachel reveals her crystalline post-resurrection vocal tones (and her backstory of returning to her body after a gnarly car accident with her little brother). This gives Prairie a pair of wings, so when she has a chance to, she throws Dr. Happ down the stairs and makes a break for it.

She gets through the window by bashing it out with a frying pan and runs as fast and far as she can before coming upon a giant cliff &#x; how Scott and Homer arrived via car makes no sense on that note &#x; before being knocked out herself. By whom? Good question. But somehow, I get the feeling her teacher&#x;s pet card has just been revoked. THIS IS GETTING GOOD.

We still have zero idea what The OA is, why there have to be five people for her to talk about her past, why the door has to be open for each of them, or where the scars came from.

Random curiosity: What&#x;s with the wolf hoodie being such a happy-maker?

Episode grade: A

NEXT: Happ&#x;s experiment is revealed&#x;

Episode 4: “Away”

Away. OA. Ohhh Ayyee. Away. That&#x;s what it is. That&#x;s what it means. We know that now. But now a whole new can of questions has been opened about what in the world that means.

Our story group is going through some changes as Prairie lays out her crazy narrative. Jesse&#x;s coming to terms with his mortality (and what happened to his mother and sister Ali), Steve&#x;s giving being less of a d-bag half a chance, and Ms. Broderick-Allen is finally dealing with the death of her brother, who nicknamed her Otter in the hopes that there was something more to this life.

Meanwhile, the picture of what went on with Prairie in Happ&#x;s little neverland below has just taken a grim turn.

Turns out, it was Happ who incapacitated her after her escape attempt, and she died as a result of her injury. She returns to the place with many stars and meets her angel, Katoon, once again. Katoon gives her the option to go after what she&#x;s been in search of nearly her whole life: a future of peace with her dad. He&#x;s there, too (guess he really did die after all). But she can&#x;t leave existence just yet because she&#x;s got three others to think about. This, Katoon tells her, is a sacrifice worthy of a gift, a life bird that she swallows, which makes her feel alive and away.

Happ&#x;s just thrilled that she came back from her outside death because it means he&#x;s got something new to study; he hooks her up to his heartbeat monitor to make sure she&#x;s not lying to him and asks her to tell him all about her choice to rejoin the living just now. She smartly turns the quiz on its head and tells him to ask her specific questions rather than expecting an open-ended narrative, which means she gets to skirt the whole issue of the angel and the life-bird and (BAM) the fact that she&#x;s now regained her sight. You might think she&#x;d use that little nugget to her advantage, but not so much.

Instead, it&#x;s Homer who rises to the occasion and decides to be brave for everyone (Scott doesn&#x;t want anything to do with their plan of sucking away all the gas to allow him to stay awake during Happ&#x;s cart-away process). They quickly learn that the gas doesn&#x;t make you sleep soundly through his experiments, but to be compliant. They call it Devil&#x;s Breath. The girls happily suck down gulp after gulp of the stuff for years on end until Homer&#x;s finally able to get to the experiment chamber wide awake. Even then, it takes endless efforts to get through what he&#x;s actually doing down there because OH MY GOD THIS GUY IS A FREAKSHOW.

He&#x;s drowning them. He&#x;s DROWNING them. All for the sake of recording their hearts and other stats to catch that pivotal whoosh he once heard. He&#x;s obsessed with proving that there&#x;s a soul whose departure from the body is the only true sign of death, and he&#x;ll stop at nothing to get there.

Even more obsessed, once he figures out what&#x;s happening, is Homer, who somehow manages to control his rhythms to the point that he can die awake and, taking Prairie&#x;s instruction, swallow something alive in the other world so that he, too, can feel that feeling that she&#x;s got. Alone, her gift is apparently useless, but if Homer has it, they can stop being lab rats and start controlling this experiment. It&#x;s the only way.

Homer&#x;s conviction is ultimately successful, as he manages to die and go to the other side (or whatever it is) and swallow a sea creature. When he wakes, he&#x;s disappointed that he doesn&#x;t feel the feeling Prairie&#x;s gone on and on about &#x; that she and the rest are all angels that just need to realize it. L. Ron Hubbard would be so proud of her. But then, all of a sudden, he passes out again and when he comes to, GASP! Something&#x;s different. Has he been away? OA? Is Homer another OA?

Episode grade: B+

NEXT: The rule of five revealed&#x;

Episode 5: “Paradise”

Ah, so that&#x;s why she needs five. Prairie has told her new neighborly companions that she needs their help saving her long-lost cellar comrades, but what she&#x;s never really explained to them is how they can be useful, why her friends need rescuing right now when she&#x;s walking freely, and when this is supposed to go down. We&#x;re over halfway through this thing now, so it&#x;s time for some answers.

We don&#x;t get much out of Prairie&#x;s second psychology session with Riz Ahmed (The Night Of, Rogue One), but we do learn that her pals have removed themselves from the game board of life somehow and she wants to get back to them (which he, understandably, perceives as another suicide attempt in the making).

Just as the Prairie quintet are starting to raise eyebrows around school &#x; even the guidance counselor&#x;s perplexed by their common thread &#x; they&#x;re finally reaching a point of making sense to one another. French has everything going for him on the one hand, but his mom&#x;s doing her very best to sabotage his success, then, isn&#x;t she? And Buck is, in a very literal sense, finding a voice. Their development parallels nicely to what&#x;s happening beneath/in Prairie&#x;s past.

At this point in her story, she and Homer have both reached a state of higher post-life consciousness thanks to their in-limbo animal consumption, and they&#x;ve fallen madly, deeply, weirdly in love with one another, despite the glass wall that separates them. Their fascination with each other gives Happ a terrible idea.

With the departure of August (did she just decide against coming back for the umpteenth time?) there&#x;s an empty space in the cage, and Happ&#x;s had his eye on a Cuban guitarist whose NDE was a drowning. Unfortunately for Happ, the woman&#x;s completely resistant to his charms and wants exactly nothing to do with his little experiment offer. She&#x;s instead got her eye on a sweaty club boy who likes to grind on the dance floor, and while Happ&#x;s visibly jealous, it doesn&#x;t take him long to put two and two together. He&#x;s seen those bedroom eyes flashed around before, and he just so happens to have a pair-wearer tucked away in his little collection of humans.

What a great way to get back at them for their little dance rebellion, right?

Naturally, Homer&#x;s shocked to bits about every moment of the outside. He&#x;s shaking, can hardly stomach the non-pellet food, and doesn&#x;t even know how to run to get away from his captor before being caught on the street. His mission is to seduce Happ&#x;s newest person-prize so that she can be taken back with them.

In a way, Happ&#x;s a lot like his subjects here; their philosophical freedom comes at the cost of taking a life in their little celestial tunnels, and Happ, too, needs to feast on new lives to feed his own appetite for existence. Why he doesn&#x;t at least give these people the instruments he so admires them playing makes no sense at all, but it&#x;s probably got something to do with the fact that he&#x;s a hideous excuse for a human being and gets worse with every breath drawn.

Happ&#x;s plan to capture the Cuban woman works out unfairly well because even when Homer does have a change of heart and encourages her to go from his shady hotel room, this show of vulnerability is attractive to her. Happ is listening to everything, of course, but decides to spread the wealth of this very audial copulation session with his friends back in the basement.

Naturally, Prairie&#x;s left heartbroken by what she hears, and, once our new friend joins the fold, she&#x;s even more furious at what Homer&#x;s done.

Meanwhile, Scott&#x;s hatred of the gas has become a source of terrible irony because once the pipeline breaks and he&#x;s taken to the lab, fully conscious of the water that&#x;s filling his face tank, he kind of wants that gas back. But despite his willingness to barter some crucial details &#x; about Homer and Prairie&#x;s space dance, the fact that his golden girl calls him the angel hunter, and, oh, that she can see again &#x; Happ still drowns him. And what&#x;s worse is that accidentally launches some kind of ear-brain piercing devices in the process, so Scott&#x;s really done.

Happ drops off the soggy, blood-soaked body to Scott&#x;s old sector and tells Prairie it&#x;s all her fault for lying &#x; &#x;cause his sense of logic, reason, and synthesis of cause and effect apparently do not exist. And while she had her feelings hurt by Homer&#x;s cheating (?) with their new Cuban friend, she picks herself up off the floor and starts doing those dances, this time with some extra conviction, once more. And guess who joins them for a new round of Dancing with the Scars? Homer.

As they engage in what can only be described as some kind makeup air sex routine, Scott&#x;s blood starts to seep back into his body, and when he comes to, he laughs at his own doubt or betrayal of the two crazies who&#x;ve been breaking down all the while. They&#x;ve been right about that tunnel of destiny this whole time, and if resident basement skeptic Scott can be convinced, that means everyone&#x;s in. With the addition of a fifth, they&#x;re suddenly more powerful than ever.

Which brings us to a point of actual utility &#x; the whole reason Prairie has called these meetings to order is that she wants to teach them all five of the life dances (numbers four and five must have been later discovered by the other two tank tenants). That way, she can go into the tunnel and spring her friends at long last. It has to be five, though, because her angel pal said so, and Scott reiterated the number after his latest return from the beyond.

There are still some maddening questions on the table right now like:

Why do the front doors have to be left opened?

●What happens if someone else closes them during one of these meetings?

●Why have they had to do it this whole time, instead of waiting to leave their doors open until the ritual thingamabob?

●What&#x;s with the scars?

But we&#x;re at least starting to peel the onion here, so snaps for progress!

Grade: B+

NEXT: The other Happ&#x;

Episode 6: “Forking Paths”


Well, there were two Happs. This is not a drill.

Happ&#x;s Dr. Mengele routine wasn&#x;t just born of his particular penchant for evil, but he actually inherited his perverse vision of the scientific method from his former residency fellow Dr Leon. As in, he&#x;s a protégé of murdering for discovery&#x;s sake, and he&#x;s trying to best his former mentor in a race for the finish line of who&#x;ll prove the afterlife exists first.

These two are stunningly frightening to watch together because they&#x;ve normalized their captivity of these subjects to the degree that they can easily eat sandwiches off a morgue table without batting an eye and have to reach deep to even consider feeling sorry for those they experiment on. Leon even more so than Happ: In fact, he thinks of his subject pool like a restaurant manager would &#x; turnover is key to keeping things fresh. The only thing that gets either of them riled up is the conversation over who&#x;ll make use of their findings first. In Leon&#x;s case, he wants to reap the financial rewards, and he thinks he&#x;s really close to getting his hands on some proof.

Happ just wants to be part of that world, Little Mermaid-style, but, as Prairie points out, is too much of a chicken poo to go through with his own self-experimentation and find out what it&#x;s like firsthand. Instead, he&#x;s stuck emulating their little dance moves from his closed-circuit viewpoint and ravenously gnawing on every detail they give him about the experience.

The same is true for Leon, who has a nasty grin about the condition of his subjects but isn&#x;t exactly facing that bright light on his own time. The pair compares notes on what&#x;s ahead for them in the hereafter (chances are, it&#x;s not The Good Place), and Leon&#x;s beside himself over Happ&#x;s suggestion that there may be more than one possible beyond. Instead of waxing philosophical again and congratulating each other on being equally awful, Leon gets angry with Happ. To him, his little s-word of an underling has just threatened to take away his stacks of cash on the horizon by besting him for the big discovery somehow (who can possibly keep up with the logic of two psychopaths such as these&#x;).

Leon pulls one of his look down at that thing over there, WHAM maneuvers with Happ and a morgue drawer, and Happ surprisingly falls for the elementary attack ploy. He manages to outmuscle Leon, however, and ends up smothering him with a tray of the same purple goo Dead August was bathing in back at home.

Guess Leon got to find out all the answers to his questions after all.

Happ escapes the morgue in a ridiculous incognito scarf and sunglasses ensemble (when did he become so amateur at things!?), but before he leaves, he does do the first decent thing we&#x;ve seen by alerting one of the passing nurses to people in need of help down there at the abandoned morgue. Those would be Leon&#x;s subjects, who&#x;d starve unnoticed without his heads-up there. Has he had some major change of heart? Has Leon&#x;s callous disregard for the purity and higher purpose of this experiment brought him a soul all of a sudden here? Um, NO.

He does offer to take OA away to wherever she wants to go and put an end to the experiment, sending the others to some sort of alternative safety while they practiced healing rituals with the first two dance moves together, but OA declines the offer, telling him in no uncertain terms that she&#x;ll go with him nowhere. Like she&#x;d have a choice about keeping company with him anyway, right? She knows he&#x;s starting to unravel and can somehow sense that he&#x;s just killed someone.

What OA is compliant to is another experiment without so much as a puff of the gassy stuff. She&#x;s fine with dying alert at this point, because now that they&#x;ve gotten the other four moves (turns out, Renata, the fifth wheel, was able to scurry up the fourth after Scott), she wants the fifth so they can soul-skedaddle their ways out of there at long last. Happ wants to see them move five, too, because he&#x;s been studying their routine through his closed-circuit view of everything and wants to experience this alternative reality for himself, so he doesn&#x;t even pretend to be opposed to her goal.

When OA gets to the next level, though, no one&#x;s home. Her angel Katoon is long gone from the starry realm, and OA thinks it&#x;s because she doesn&#x;t want to share the last move and have Happ come knocking on her door next.

OA&#x;s returned to her cell and informs Homer of this new development, and the two console each other with a drawn-out discussion of raising celery stalks, while Happ listens to the sounds of Saturn because he believes that&#x;s where OA was transported during her latest romp through heaven. He falls asleep at the wheel, and that&#x;s when Stan, the policeman who&#x;d moseyed by once before on other business, strolls in and sees his security monitor display of caged humans &#x; and then he puts a gun to Happ&#x;s head.

Grade: A

NEXT: Hello Asheville&#x;

Episode 7: “Empire of Light”

It took seven whole episodes, but we finally have an explanation for what The OA means: Original Angel. Facepalm. It was there the whole time, wasn&#x;t it? The significance was about more than just its homonym status with away after all. We find this out after Prairie/OA is prompted by her therapist to have a dinner out with her parents, Nancy and Abel, to try and normalize their home life.

She&#x;s been having some more of those nosebleed nightmares that have, in the past, signified something horrible (the bus crash, her fateful trip to NYC). She&#x;s convinced there&#x;s some puzzle piece she&#x;s missing, and her counselor thinks it&#x;s got something to do with her home life being so out of whack. She needs to accept her pain as it comes this time, he says.

Their dinner out goes over like a lead balloon. It&#x;s fun at first, as they reminisce about an old mustachioed boyfriend who benefited from her sightlessness, but then a rude stranger comes along and snaps an unwanted selfie with Prairie and ruins the whole mood. Nancy has a mini-meltdown over what people are saying about Prairie&#x;s time in the hole &#x; apparently, the kids all think she was sexually violated and beaten to a pulp &#x; and that invites her own questions about what happened to her. Where was she? Where did the scars come from? Who did that to her?

As OA predicted, Nancy does not like the answers she has to give. She tells her that she&#x;s the Original Angel and that she did the scars to herself as a reminder of the dances she needs to do to enter another dimension, and Nancy slaps her right in the face. French is there waiting tables and springs her from the restaurant then and there, but he&#x;s still quick with a pep talk about how maybe, just maybe, the Johnsons are that missing piece she&#x;s been searching for. Her real family. Another accept your pain speech, basically, and it couldn&#x;t come at a better time because she&#x;s about to face the wrath of Steve.

See, Steve&#x;s parents have finally found out about his throat-punching incident from the pilot. The school principal found a social media subtweet that linked Steve with the chorus singer&#x;s injury, and he dutifully reported it to the boy&#x;s parents. They then used that as leverage against Steve&#x;s parents, who have to fork over $5, for the medical expenses to avoid a lawsuit. If they weren&#x;t serious about calling in the Asheville guard before, now it&#x;s really happening.

And it&#x;s kind of a shame, too, because Steve had some extra pep in his step earlier that day. He&#x;d finally talked to (and kissed) the snarky girl from his alternative learning class, and he was even playing nice with Buck and French. Plus, he&#x;s taken to dance move training like he was made for it. So, when the guard is called in, he&#x;s disappointed that his past has finally caught up to him at a point when he&#x;s finally changing his ways.

Luckily, Ms. Broderick-Allen (who&#x;s going by BBA nowadays because everyone needs an acronym, apparently) spots him being assaulted into the van and comes up with a plan for how to keep him from boot camp. When Plan A &#x; shouting that his escorts are molesting him at a gas station, where no one within earshot seems to care &#x; fails, she decides to make good use of the $50, cashier&#x;s check she&#x;s been holding onto.

She may not get the divine answers she&#x;s been seeking out of her brother&#x;s death, but she can rescue this boy she&#x;s grown to care for, and that&#x;s something. But even though he&#x;s saved from his prison ahead, he&#x;s still distraught over the fact that his parents looked the other way while these two men brutalized him in their front yard.

Because Steve is still an unreasonable person at the end of the day, he stabs OA in the leg in a fit of rage. And because OA is still completely weird, she accepts that pain and hugs him &#x;til he calms down. She tells him the only way she survived for so long in her pain is by having friends. As they say, misery does love company.

And with that, there&#x;s one last session of story time to go before the big dance&#x; Are you ready? A thousand times, yes. Well, we&#x;ve gotten this far without knowing (1) how OA escaped, (2) what happened to the rest of them, (3) who found the fifth dance and how, and (4) what&#x;s going to happen to her new friends in the process of this otherly dimension trip. So there&#x;s a lot to accomplish in the final hour, and I am HERE for it.

Grade: B-

NEXT: Is this is the end or just the beginning?

Episode 8: “Invisible Self”

Whoooo boy. What a show.

There&#x;s a lot to unpack here in the finale, and part of the difficulty in doing so is that, like pretty much every other installment so far, this episode leaves a lot to the imagination. This was obviously just meant to be a total mind-trip of show that made its audience become both superstitious and skeptical about OA&#x;s story &#x; not to mention completely confused.

Do we take a leap of faith and trust her story, or was Prairie just crazy this whole time? Was she really ever Nina, the child of a Russian oligarch who survived a near-death experience and lost her sight thanks to the interference of an angel, or was she just a blind orphan who spent too much of her youth locked up in an attic? Was her captor really such a maniacal sicko that he drowned his subjects a hundred times over just to see if he could hear their souls re-enter the body? Were there really some mystical moves that could transport her to another dimension?

The only true piece of evidence French can find that any element of her story is true &#x; well, apart from the scars and the fact that she&#x;s been missing for seven years &#x; is some random YouTube video of a blonde woman who looks a lot like her playing the violin really well in the subway. That&#x;s it. Their entire platter of proof right there in one little-seen clip.

Meanwhile, there&#x;s a cache of books about the history of Russian oligarchs, angels, and near-death experiences, along with Homer&#x;s Iliad, under her bed. You might think, well, maybe she just did some research on all the things she&#x;d been through OR you might think, hey, this girl went nuts in captivity and came up with a story so that her lost lifetime would be a lot more fascinating than it was. Which do you choose? Her five high school buddies aren&#x;t so sure, either.

They hear out her final chapter, which reveals that Officer Stan agreed to forget about Happ&#x;s torture chamber in exchange for him forcing his charges to cure his ALS-stricken wife, Evelyn. Homer knew that if they didn&#x;t cure her, Stan would get frustrated and call the law on Happ, but Prairie didn&#x;t want to leave the poor woman in her body-trapped condition like that.

So, they did the dance, and Evelyn was made mobile again. It was the right call because, as Katoon once said, getting these move codes entails a serious sacrifice. Their decision to forego freedom so this woman could be healed would certainly qualify, and guess what? She just so happened to be an NDE survivor herself who had the fifth code all ready for them (and the ever-looming Happ) to learn. With that, their window to the other side was then fully open, and Happ didn&#x;t need Prairie around anymore to get there &#x; he could be the fifth. He obviously felt spiteful of her for lying to him and turning him down for a different life and jumping on the chance to finally touch Homer&#x;s skin in the extra room. So, he ditched her on the side of the road, which is exactly how she ended up in her flimsy dress jumping off a bridge in the very beginning of the show.

Somehow, the tail end of that story was overhead by the kids&#x; parents, who are livid about the fact that their children have been spending all this time with this half-naked weirdo woman who&#x;s telling everyone she&#x;s an angel. The Johnsons try to take her away to a motel they can&#x;t afford, and as remuneration for their trouble, she finally fills them in on a few details about her time away. That&#x;s when Nancy reveals to Abel that there actually was a runaway note and that she basically kept it from him all those years because she didn&#x;t want him to realize they chose the wrong kid that day at the orphanage. Ouch.

While they&#x;re arguing, Prairie resorts to prisoner breakout mode and tries to call information to connect her to her new friends but realizes she doesn&#x;t know enough about them to even get their numbers. What&#x;s French&#x;s last name? What&#x;s Betty even stand for? She knows exactly nothing about these people whose lives she&#x;s royally messed up.

In the end, the five basically break up. Steve&#x;s got a new girlfriend and is hanging out with his alternative education classmates; Buck&#x;s back with the quiet boys; French is joking around with jocks again; Jesse&#x;s spending time with the stoners; BBA is clearing her desk thanks to her unethical involvement in all this abandoned house brouhaha.

Meanwhile, OA&#x;s medicated and spending her time gardening with Abel and taking bathtub naps when her nose starts bleeding and she figures out what she&#x;s supposed to do. With Abel&#x;s blessing, she breaks her obvious house arrest and runs to the school where an active gunman has just come on campus and is making his way into the crowded cafeteria.

The five somehow all converge again and do their dance, and just as the fifth move is finally on, the shooter&#x;s been distracted long enough for a school employee to tackle him from behind. Is this the kind of life-saving maneuver she meant or mere coincidence? Only a few stray bullets are released in the takedown, and one of them hits OA square in the chest just as she&#x;s finishing up the moves outside the window. As the ambulance carts her away, Steve hears a whoosh noise and is convinced that she&#x;s finally making her way to that fabled other side. For him, it&#x;s real.

Indeed, we see OA wake up in a bright room and mutter the word Homer? to leave us on a major cliffhanger. Is he alive? Is he dead? Are the others with him? Is Happ there with them?

Other lingering questions: The open door policy was pointless, right? Obviously, the five didn&#x;t all leave their doors open that day, so what was the reason for that piece of random again? Whatever happened to Katoon? Did Homer&#x;s kid ever get word of his condition? Rachel&#x;s family? Did Prairie ever bother telling anyone that their people were with her down below or give the FBI any insight as to how to find them? What do the Prairie Five do now?

Overall, The OA was an ambitiously original show that didn&#x;t hesitate to embrace its own oddities (those dance moves, in particular) while keeping almost everything within the plausible realm of skepticism. The use of the therapist as a source of normality is a rewarding tactic because it blurs the line even further between her truth and their reality, which is delightfully frustrating. The show was messy at times, but that only made it even more surprising throughout, and the constant tonal shifts were equal parts irritating and engrossing. If there&#x;s a season 2, it&#x;s gonna be bonkers.

Another Netflix Original win.

Grade: B+

  • Brit Marling
  • Zal Batmanglij
The OA - Story ( Season 1 Recap Edit )


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