The OA Is Light on Thrills but a Fine Holiday Binge

first_imgNothing was known about Netflix’s new show “The OA” until just a few days before its release last Friday. With an unsettling, cryptic trailer and mysterious social media campaign, it instantly caught our attention. We had to know exactly what was going on. The fact that it comes in mid-December, when all of our favorite shows are on break, makes it even more of a must-watch for anyone trawling their streaming services for something new.If the trailer made you expect something a little scary on the order of Stranger Things or Twin Peaks, you should know that The OA isn’t that. For all the creepy imagery and Soundcloud files that lead up to its release, the series itself is a much calmer mystery. There are horror elements and tense scenes to be sure, but the focus is more on telling a good story. The show begins with a cell phone video of a woman jumping off a bridge. She survives and is taken to a hospital, where we learn that she has been missing for seven years. More than that, she used to be blind and now she can see. Her adoptive parents show up to take her home, but she doesn’t want to talk to anyone about what happened to her. Instead of her given name, She calls herself The OA.For the duration of the first episode, we follow her as she tries to send messages out, and looks for information on someone named Homer. She eventually forms a connection with four teenage boys and their teacher, instructing them to meet her in an abandoned, unfinished house. For the rest of the series, she tells them her story by night. During the day, the boys and their teacher try to navigate their lives and act as an audience-surrogate by attempting to guess where OA’s story is going. We eventually learn that she was captured by a scientist and held prisoner with five other people. All of them have survived near-death experiences.The OA finds out what experiments await her. (Via Netflix)The structure allows the show to slowly and deliberately dole out the plot over the course of eight episodes. It’s certainly effective. Each episode ends in a way that compels you to start the next one immediately. The OA is a series that is meant to be binged. Compared to most other shows, it’s relatively short at just over seven hours. You can easily knock it out in a day or two, and that’s probably the best way to watch it. It’s almost structured more like a very long movie than a TV series.Although everything appears to be building up to a huge twist or reveal, it never really comes. The story is fairly straightforward, leaving most of its larger questions unanswered and up for debate. Is OA’s story true? Is she actually what she says she is? What really happened at the very end? I’m trying really hard not to spoil anything. Half the fun of the show is discovering the story for yourself. The other half is forming your own theories about what actually happened.For the most part, the story is well-told, largely thanks to the cast. Brit Marling’s otherworldly OA sells the impossible story she’s telling. It’s easy to believe the unlikely companions she’s gathered would get so wrapped up in her tale. Phyllis Smith as the kids’ teacher, Betty Broderick-Allen, is easily my favorite character of all of them. While each character has their own journey over the course of eight episodes, she’s the one who shows the most personal growth. She holds the entire group together, and you’re cheering for her by the end. Jason Isaacs does such a great job as the villain that you begin to feel for him. At the very least, you understand why he’s holding these people captive.Jason Isaacs plays the evil (or possibly just misguided) scientist. (via Netflix)Without any kind of big payoff, the story falls apart at the end. The final third of episode eight almost feels rushed, which is weird for a series that doesn’t have the time constraints of a traditional TV show. The events of the last 10 minutes especially seem to come out of nowhere. A conflict between OA’s adoptive parents is added but goes nowhere. The actual final scene is a little underwhelming but succeeds at posing one final question for the audience to debate.While it might not be the thriller the trailer implied, The OA might be the perfect holiday TV show. It’s an optimistic story about faith, but not any particular religion. It’s about a diverse group of people coming together to hear a story and help out a friend. For all the debate and discussion the show will inspire, it doesn’t matter what the answers are. Is OA’s story true? To these four kids and their teacher, it is. That’s all that matters. For all the darkness and horror the characters go through, it’s ultimately a hopeful story, which is exactly what most people are looking for this time of year.While it would be interesting to see where this story goes next, it doesn’t necessarily need a second season. This is a series about asking questions, not answering them. I would like to know what happened to the other captives. I’d like to know if OA ever finds Homer again. Whether her story is true or not, I want to know what happens next. If that never happens, that’s OK too. It had a fitting enough ending, and we can all form our own theories about what happens next. That might even be the intention.The OA is not the new Stranger Things. It probably won’t take over the world or have fans begging for more after they finish it. It is an intriguing story that’s (mostly) well told. It’s a solid seven plus hours of television with a little bit of horror and a lot of hope. More than anything else, it’s perfect for a holiday weekend binge.last_img read more

Continue reading