The OA | Review
Full spoilers ahead.
I wanted to start the New Year with some quality viewing and Netflix’s The OA did not disappoint. OK, where to start...
The story line for this show focuses on the question of what happens when you die and particularly the phenomenon of a ‘Near Death Experience’ or NDE. The lead character is Prairie Johnson (played by Brit Marling) and we are taken on a journey which describes her childhood as the daughter of a Russian oligarch, her first NDE and subsequent move to the United States, adoption by her American parents and then kidnapping and captivity by a mad scientist (played by Jason Isaacs of Harry Potter fame) for seven years. Oh yeah, and did I mention that she starts-off as sighted, becomes blind and then regains her sight again…
As Prairie settles into her life post-captivity she begins to gather a group around herself to aide in her quest to save her still captive friends through special dance moves revealed during NDE’s. I know what this sounds like but stay with me on this. This group of individuals are all revealed as being alienated or troubled in some way. For example there is Steve who has violent impulse control issues and is in danger of being sent to a reform school. There is Buck who has identity issues and is definitely on the outer. There is Betty the disillusioned teacher who has guilt related to her twin brother’s death and tries to help stop Steve from being expelled.
As details of Prairie’s captivity are revealed we are then introduced to her fellow ‘inmates’ and Dr ‘Hap’ Percy, proprietor of a purpose-built laboratory/dungeon where she was held captive. Hap has made it his life’s work to uncover whether there is an afterlife and has determined that the best way to do this is kidnap and experiment on people given incredible talents due to their NDE’s. His character is intriguing as he simultaneously shows moments of compassion but also rationalises forcing numerous NDE’s on his subjects via drowning with the occasional ‘mishap’ (death). The inmates devise a plan to escape after Prairie is communicated 1 of 5 movements via an NDE from the afterlife which must be completed in unison to allow miraculous events. During her captivity she falls in love with Homer the ex-college quarterback who is also imprisoned in one of the five transparent cells. The harrowing daily existence for the captives is terrible to watch as they are fed dog food and forced to wash in in the small stream running through their cells.
This show will inevitably draw comparison with Stranger Things due to a number of parallels including a female protagonist who has escaped captivity with ‘special powers’ and regular nose bleeds, a motley group of (mainly) kids which bands to help her on her quest and the small town American setting. I found that the OA easily holds its own against Stranger Things dues to its originality, strong performances and twists in the plot. If you liked Stranger Things then I bet you’ll thoroughly enjoy The OA.
Even if this show doesn’t initially appeal it’s worth persevering just for the horrific NDE experimentation scenes and the finale which is equal parts unexpected and mortifyingly embarrassing.
- Juxtaposition of Prairies early life story/captivity/re-integration into her local community
- The depth of character built up for the supporting characters
- Cringe worthy ‘angel dancing’
- The twist in the story
- Cringe worthy ‘angel dancing’
- The myriad missed opportunities to escape
- Nose bleeds again
- The annoying mother