The OA: Invisible Self
December 18, 2016 6:54 PM - Season 1, Episode 8 - Subscribe

After OA recounts a dramatic final night at Hap's the others begin to see her story in a new light. The fragments of the dream click into place. (Season finale)

In the flashback:
*Hap tells Sheriff Stan that the captives can heal his wife Evelyn's ALS, so he brings her to the cabin. Hap tells OA and Homer to heal her.
*Homer says they should only pretend to do it, so that the sheriff will arrest Hap and free the prisoners, but OA says if they don't help Evelyn they aren't really who they say they are. They succeed in healing her, and Evelyn tells them that she has been waiting for them, that when she was a child she died and saw the light, and a little girl who said she would help two angels one day. She swallowed a moth and learned the fifth movement. She teaches it to them, but Hap sees it too, and shoots Sheriff Stan and Evelyn, then drugs OA.
*OA awakens in Hap's car, he drags her out and abandons her on the side of the road, says he and the captives will be gone before she can ever find them.

In the present:
*The various parents show up in the house for the end of the story, and split everyone up.
*Abel and Nancy go to [the Winchells'?] house but are turned away. French comes out and tells them he's going to prove OA's story is true.
*Back home, Abel ignores the ringing phone and then rips it from the wall. He and Nancy drive to a hotel with OA, swarmed by reporters as they leave the house. At the hotel. OA tells them about her captivity.
*In the early morning, Nancy shows Abel Prairie's running-away note that she had kept hidden all these years. He goes to the hotel breakfast area to try to avoid listening to any explanations for her betrayal, but she persists, and he eventually forgives her.
*OA wakes alone, tries to call the 5 but doesn't have Betty's number or enough of the boys' names to look them up.
*Steve and French go online to try to prove OA's story, find a youtube of OA playing violin in subway in NYC.
*French sneaks into OA's house for more clues, and finds books under her bed about the Russian oligarchs, angels, NDE's, and Homer's the Illiad. In the bathroom mirror, for a moment Homer's face appears. Downstairs, French runs into FBI counselor Rahim.
*French shows the Buck, Jesse, and Steve the books, says that OA made up her story.
*Later, OA is gardening with Abel. She's back on Lexapro and has an ankle monitor, and there's a for sale sign on house.
*Betty packing up her classroom things with Principal Gilchrist, having been fired.
*French charges his phone in the empty cafeteria and listens to the sound of the trees in the wind. Later in the full cafeteria, the 4 boys are back in their separate cliques.
*OA has nosebleed dream in bath, tells Abel she knows what it means and he lets her leave.
*The boy talking to Jesse is the first to see a boy with a gun approaching the cafeteria, he shoves Jesse to the floor as the boy starts shooting.
*As students run for the exit and Gilchrist helps them out, Betty runs towards the cafeteria, saying "my boys."
*Jesse, French, Buck, Steve, and Betty exchange looks, and as one perform the 5 movements.
*A cafeteria worker uses the distraction to bodyslam the shooter to the floor. The gun goes off in the fall, and the 5 see that OA was at the window and has been shot in the chest.
*As she is driven away in the ambulance, Steve hears the 'woosh' of her death.
*In the final shot, OA in a white room/space says Homer's name.

Vulture - Let’s Talk About the Ending of The OA
posted by oh yeah! (77 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Wasn't sure quite what to make of this series. Are the various inconsistencies clues to the mystery of OA or just sloppy writing? But I found I didn't really care at the end - I teared up when BBA said "my boys", and I was full on crying during when those goofballs were all doing the 5 movements at the shooter. I don't even really want another season, I think I'd like it to stay as this weird ambiguous one-off.
posted by oh yeah! at 8:05 PM on December 18, 2016 [4 favorites]

Thanks for all your posts. After watching the third episode I decided to just read your posts. The story had such potential but, oy... the writing was so bad I couldn't take it anymore. It was less painful to read about the bad writing in five minutes than watch for five more hours.
posted by cairnoflore at 12:13 AM on December 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

Oh, gosh, I didn't think anyone would ever read the post instead of watching -- I like doing bullet-point recaps for bingewatch shows mainly because it keeps me from spacing out/getting distracted by the internet while I'm watching, and so I can see what episode is which when the threads pop up in my Recent Activity later. I'll have to bear that in mind for the next time.

It's funny, I'm pretty firmly anti-woo in real life, and I normally hate mystery shows with ambiguous endings, but there was something about this show that got me. Maybe because it was only 8 episodes I didn't feel like my time was wasted? Or because it was so unrealistic from the get-go I didn't have any real expectation for a definitive conclusion?
posted by oh yeah! at 5:48 AM on December 19, 2016 [6 favorites]

Since I cannot go back in time to prevent myself from watching this, do you think it is okay to share that warning in previous episode threads?

This show made a lot of promises it failed to deliver on - really, there was no there there, a shaggy dog story. For all that it tried, maybe even over-tried, to be inclusive, it was really just White Woman In Peril. I know, I know, more fool on me for watching the whole thing, but there were just enough hooks and hope that it gets better that I hung in there which made the ending even more frustrating.

Some +/-'s.

+ Variable Episode Length: Great. I like how the show did not hue to the standard TV episode lengths because as a streaming show, they were unneeded. I hope future shows follow this pattern.

- Brit Marling: UNGH. Can we see less of your face, please? Less of your Serious Acting? I guess this is because she wrote/produced the whole thing, but seriously, there were serious Poochie Levels of focus.

+ Inclusive Characters: Hey, more of this... although I hear black people exist too.

- Inclusive Characters: Oh, wait, they are not actual characters, they are set dressing, props that move and speak. What little development they are given only serves to make OA all that more awesome for "choosing" them.

- Bully the Kid: The only supporting character to get fleshed out is, of course, the white dude. And even then it's just to show who OA's influence changes him and makes him want to be a better man OH SNAP THAT SONG WOAH SHOW SO DEEP.

- Shaggy Dog Plot: Look, if it's all a fantasy made up by OA, then you need to have some sort of payout that makes it worthwhile. We're talking being at least half as effective as Usual Suspects. "Hey, I found some books stored in order of the story she told us. Guess she was a liar." Maybe if they had shown OA quietly gathering information about the five, they could have had a bit of a reveal scene "But how did she know about ___?" "Oh, I think I mentioned that to her." Instead, they were like "Look, books" and she behaved like "Oops, you got me!"

- Shaggy Dog Plot, Basement Prison Edition: So OA posits a world where there is an underground Science Cult of afterlife researchers? "Devil's Breath" zombie gas that everyone totally heard of so, yeah, that's a thing.

- The Ending: FUCK YOU. School shootings are Michael Scott Doing Improv ( "I always start with a gun because you can't top it. You just can't.") I actually had to put money into a swear jar when I saw this AND WE DO NOT EVEN HAVE A SWEAR JAR or do we? OooOOooohh [LOGO]

I'm out of +'s so fail at the compliment sandwich and I have not even reached "- Interpretive Dance Saves the World" and "- Hey, I went to Cuba once" as negatives.

This show is a black box theater production you get taken to because you sort of know someone in the cast. It's full of Earnest Actor types who have Big Messages, but completely missed on creating something that would be... cohesive entertainment? and the audience is left to cling to scraps of plot in order to keep themselves involved.

To sum, up, play us out King Missile.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:17 AM on December 19, 2016 [16 favorites]

Wow, I'm surprised at all the disdain for this show. I fucking loved it and my only regret was that I started watching at 5 pm so I was up way past my bedtime. I didn't like the first half of the first episode, and I almost stopped because it didn't seem to be going anywhere, but my new rule is to watch at least 2 episodes of a series before I give up (unless it's The 100, which I gave up on after 10 minutes).

I thought it was dreamy and gripping and engaging. Not everyone was likable or relatable (Scott, Steve) but I thought that was a good thing, it made it more "real" than Stranger Things, where they're all Good Kids Doing Good Deeds. People are messy. It did have a "Breakfast Club" vibe to it, where Steve = Bender, French = Andrew... okay, it falls apart after that.

Also, I think this is the first time a trans guy has played a trans guy in any mainstream media so I was super excited about that. I get the criticism of tokenism and poor character development, but this is a HUGE DEAL for us. And it was presented as nbd - it was a total non-issue to anyone except the dad. And trans men, unlike trans women, are almost totally invisible in media.
posted by AFABulous at 6:55 AM on December 19, 2016 [21 favorites]

(Okay, there was a trans guy in Transparent, played by a trans guy (Ian Harvie), but it was very Look At The Trans Guy and His Transness, Let's Explain It. I only watched the first season.)
posted by AFABulous at 6:58 AM on December 19, 2016

+ Interpretive Dance Saves the World
- Yayoi Kusama not credited for set design
- bus of screaming doomed children
+ Can now convince partner to watch Altered States and Flatliners
+ Majical Cloudz on the soundtrack
- everyone lives in a mansion?
posted by Theta States at 11:18 AM on December 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Couple things I forgot to mention last night

I mentioned on Facebook that I was halfway through the series and really enjoying it when some shitheel commented that the last 15 minutes was really "triggering" to him. He didn't say any more but 1. there went my hope for a happy ending and 2. for the last three episodes I was bracing myself for something terrible.

Unrelated, it really bothered me that, with all his technology, Hap didn't bug the cages. Why have video without audio? He clearly had speakers because he piped in Homer & Renata. I suppose the story would have ended a lot sooner if he was able to listen in, but boy did that annoy me.
posted by AFABulous at 12:20 PM on December 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

Possible spin-offs:

- Interpretive Dance Fixed My Fridge
- Interpretive Dance Paid Off My Student Loans
- Interpretive Dance Made The Batteries In My Flashlight Last Longer

The list is endless!
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:01 PM on December 19, 2016 [7 favorites]

Interpretive Dance Gets Cafeteria Worker Big Promotion
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:10 PM on December 19, 2016 [14 favorites]

Ian Alexander's (Buck) tumblr - post from when he got cast and left for filming.
posted by oh yeah! at 6:17 PM on December 19, 2016 [10 favorites]

If a sherrif holds your captor at gunpoint and your captor demands you heal his wife, tell the sherrif you will heal his wife in exchange for your captor's immediate arrest. I guess they don't teach that in Angel College.
posted by condour75 at 8:39 PM on December 19, 2016 [20 favorites]

If a sherrif holds your captor at gunpoint and your captor demands you heal his wife, tell the sherrif you will heal his wife in exchange for your captor's immediate arrest. I guess they don't teach that in Angel College.

Or just, like, heal her after your captor is arrested. I'm sure she would have lasted a few hours.
posted by Theta States at 8:28 AM on December 20, 2016 [5 favorites]

I was able to roll with a lot of the sloppy writing in this until the last two episodes, and then it just collapsed for me. The thing with the books = she's lying!!!! was especially egregious to me. Like, I get why at least one of the teenagers would think that, but why would all of them immediately decide "yeah, that's proof she made it all up"? Sometimes people want to research the things that have happened to them! I'd also assume she gave fake names for everyone involved before I'd assume she lied about the whole thing. It felt like a kind of nasty and obnoxious writing trick to have it fizzle out in a "she was crazy and lying" end without any challenge from the OA or her friends, especially when the show didn't seem to be seeding much in the way of hints that it was all in her head, apart from how generally fantastical the story itself was, which didn't ping me as a hint because, well, I thought that was the genre.

I also deeply resented the amount of time spent on bully kid, and nearly ditched the show in the first couple episodes because of him. It wasn't a bad redemption of the bully plot, as these things go: he made believable improvements, went one step forward two steps back in a plausible way, and I did find it genuinely moving that he went from a place where he literally did not understand himself or his emotions to acknowledging his feelings. The storytelling sessions with the OA basically amounted to group therapy for him, and it clearly did him some good. But oh my god, I just do not care about white teenager problems. I resent narratives expecting me to empathize with these guys again and again. Especially not when there are two other teenagers who are right there with far more compelling stories and problems. I wanted to know way more about Buck, and all my actual sympathy was with him and Alphonso.

And I love dance, but oh man, the interpretive dance thing strained my credulity to the breaking point, especially in the school shooting scene. Which, by the way, ugh.

My final conclusion is: some interesting ideas, beautifully made, but it didn't stick the dismount at all. I'm not sure I'll ever bother with watching a second season, should one be made, at least not without spoilers telling me if any of this is resolved well or not.
posted by yasaman at 12:04 PM on December 20, 2016 [3 favorites]

I've been thinking that condour75's "starting to feel like an M. Night Shamalayan joint" comment in the episode 5 thread hits on one of reasons the show worked on me. I mean, Shamalayan turned out to be kind of a one-trick-pony, but I remember how exciting that trick was the first time. The OA is the first Brit Marling/Zal Batmanglij thing I've ever seen, so I went into it with no idea where it was going and no particular expectations, and so the increasing what-the-fuckery became kind of delightful, because it was so antithetical to the norms of good storytelling.

Much like the Shamalayan-twist, I expect the Marling/Batmanglij WTF is a style of diminishing returns though. Now that I know they're willing to make a story climax with World-Saving-Interpretive-Dance, I'd be going into any future production with the expectation of the story going goofy, which is bound to make it less affecting.
posted by oh yeah! at 8:28 PM on December 20, 2016 [6 favorites]

So uhhhh if it was all made up, where was she all those years and how did she get her sight back?
posted by Theta States at 1:19 PM on December 21, 2016 [5 favorites]

and if all made up, did she go through all the trouble to get the fake symbols on her skin? Like if it's all a concoction, there's still no landing of the unanswered questions.
posted by Theta States at 1:24 PM on December 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

The FBI counsellor planted the books in the OA's house, right? I think that's why he was there.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 1:52 PM on December 21, 2016 [15 favorites]

Yeah, that the counselor planted the books is also what I thought, because what the hell was he in the house for? and French is too scared about getting caught to wonder whats up.
posted by florencetnoa at 7:27 PM on December 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

I was expecting some kind of reveal about the FBI. The FBI place has been screaming FAKE FACILITY all season ... but I guess not.

These last couple episodes have been pretty bad. The scene where BBA packs up her desk had dialogue that could have been a deleted scene from The Room. More generally, there was just no dramatic momentum at all from the introduction of this third premonition (at the beginning of the last episode) to the incident this episode.

So.. I guess the FBI guy is genuine. He helps the OA decide to accept her vision, meaning to accept the call to the afterlife, and she realizes this is the mission, to save everyone else and be the only one who dies. She was supposed to die all along. Kind of like Donnie Darko meets 'Highway to Heaven' or something.

Though it still seems like the she-made-it-all-up reveal throws a spanner into everything.
posted by fleacircus at 4:43 AM on December 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

There are two different stories going on here, the one in the present and the one she is telling to the five. Whether or not the second story is "true" in the context of the first story, it is presumably of equal or greater importance to the writers — otherwise why did they spend so much time on it? Either way, I think the execution of the "twist" was awful. In order to pull off something like that, you have to earn the audience's trust first, and you must make the audience at least feel like they could have figured it out. Even without the fantastical elements, the twist would have been a hard sell, but the show was already depending on the audience's suspension of disbelief, which isn't really compatible with the skepticism that would be necessary for the audience to catch any foreshadowing that would have made the ending feel any less like a betrayal.

Personally, I choose the believe that her story is legit and the FBI Agent planted the books, mainly because otherwise I'd feel like I completely wasted my time on this show. Otherwise, how did she get her sight back? Also, she mentioned Homer before she would have had a chance to order a box of books from

If they end up announcing a second season, then that is essentially a promise that her story is true — or that the creators are bad people.
posted by thedward at 10:13 AM on December 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

So, I'm convinced that both the story was true, and that she bought the books herself; the FBI did not plant them (and no one did).

The story is mainly true because of her eyesight being restored, but also the scars (although they could have been created by her in a delusional state)... And every time the gang looks for reinforcement for the truth of the story they find it. And she looks for Homer right when she gets home.

Why didn't the FBI plant the books? Well, I'm not sure what the motivation would have been... But more importantly there is nothing indicating that she shared her story with the FBI (or anyone outside of the gang - which also indicates that no on else planted the books). But her buying the books isn't proof the her story is fake - it's just shows she had interest in things that happened to her (angels, the Russian oligarchy, etc).

But I understand why the gang both listened to her whole story, and then decided that it wasn't true... They listened because it was compelling... And they did believe it enough to learn the movements. Only when pressed with outside pressure (that the entire world would decide they were deluded and/or insane) that they abandoned the belief... But when the moment came they realized it was time to use the movement.

I don't even find the ending that ambiguous; it seems like her story was the truth to me.

Even though her narration might have been untrustworthy; the show told us things that she couldn't have known and couldn't have been part of her actual story - specifically the incident in the hospital and the murder that occurred there.

I too wish that less time would have been spent with the bully and more time spent with Buck and the other characters... And can understand critiques that the story moved slowly at times (particularly the beginning and first episode).

Finally, while I would watch a 2nd season, I thought the story worked great on its own, and a 2nd season could easily destroy it - I would certainly wait for reviews before watching a 2nd season.
posted by el io at 3:08 PM on December 23, 2016 [7 favorites]

It seems to me like I had a wildly different experience watching this than most of you.

Around episode 2 or 3 I almost posted "None of this is real, right?" in the thread, but then I worried I'd be asking for spoilers. Anyway, that's how I watched this show: as the story of a woman with trauma-related psychosis. Or more precisely, as the narrative her deeply fractured psyche has come up with, shown to us the way she experiences it herself - clear, beautiful, coherent, poignant - and for us to interpret more or less like a dream. I found it a fascinating concept, and this hypothesis coloured my entire viewing experience.

So in my imagination, the real-reality Prairie is probably like the people you sometimes see on bus stops and in public parks, talking to herself and pacing, only we get to see her own experience, shown from the inside. And psychosis, from the inside, feels like clarity and truth.

I imagine that reality-Prairie was sitting in an abandoned house where teens were dealing and using, and she was mumbling her incoherent stories in a corner and everyone more or less ignored her. Only in her imagination they're her followers, her disciples, and she is teaching them something important - and so that's what we get to see.

Reality-Prairie was medicated from an early age on, only it was for a valid reason. I imagine her to have had a long history of psychosis.

Reality-Prairie did run away, and spent time locked up somewhere, probably. Maybe it was an abusive situation, and perhaps it really is the trauma of abduction, violation and captivity her psyche is protecting her from by making it about NDE's and dance, who knows. But it may just as well have been a mental institution; that's why she was held by a "doctor" along with others, in her narrative. Drugged and prodded. Her psyche has turned it into a story of magical survival.

We never get to know the other characters in either timeline very intimately, because in essence, they're figments of her imagination, or at least seen through the prism of her psychotic narrative. There were lots of words with double meaning, which is also something psychotic minds sometimes get fixated on. Her name was Away. Her place of captivity? Mine. As a kid she escaped the Voi(d). Her cornerstone had the word "home" in his name. I think there were other examples of that, but I forgot.

Anyway, watching it like this was fun, pretty much playing Dr Freud every step of the way going "hmm, innnteresting..." And that way the story was actually lovely and poignant, too, because I imagined it all to be emotionally true, for Prairie. Also, it's a great way to not have to give a damn about plot holes, or the general impossibility of everything.
posted by sively at 3:54 PM on December 23, 2016 [23 favorites]

Oh god I hope Netflix doesn't make another season of this. What could you possibly do that wouldn't ruin it? I mean, it had its problems (White People Problems), but I love how you can interpret the same story multiple ways just depending on what genre you assume it falls under. That's well thought out storytelling, not a "twist ending." Stranger Things has more to tell (potentially, they could screw it up), but the OA feels done to me.
posted by rikschell at 8:10 PM on December 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

Oh god, that interpretive dance in the face of a mass shooting.

Oh god, BBA muttering "my boys" and running towards the gunfire.

I can't help but find the dance jarringly silly. BUT. I'm also reminded of a movie from years, can't remember the name of. But it's a black guy sent to prision for weed possession. Once there, there's a situation where others are about to gang up on him and he's all alone. So he breaks into a rap and it's so WTF, off the wall, that his attackers pause and grant him space and eventually respect as he finds a way to express himself and them.

It's a different tone and technique, but the same is happening in OA, there's a pointed refusal to engage in violence. Yet the method to do it is so jarring that it risks throwing the audience out the story. I don't know of a way to avoid that, because violence itself can be so overwhelming.

I'm so glad it wasn't Steve who was doing the shooting, that's what I feared at first. And it explains the mad dog like anger he had and OA's commitment to helping him and why his story was so central. It's that explosive violence that has hurt so many others, particularly in America, that must be dealt with and the creators are offering one very out of the box solution. Not a literal one, but it's something.

I just finished the series, in these first hours of Christmas, after one of the best Christmas Eves of my life. Family and friends and those bonds are important and watching Steve gain was key part of the series, even if it left other characters twisting in the wind. I get why that would bother some, hell it bothered me, but it's reasoning for do so works.

The series was messy at times, but I loved it in the end. Hopefully they'll stop there.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:01 PM on December 24, 2016 [8 favorites]

Owen Meany was the real OA.
posted by humanfont at 2:41 AM on December 25, 2016 [4 favorites]

Stupid question, what was the meaning behind OA's name. I think at one point I heard it mean 'away', but surely there's more to it?

*Does interpretive dance to find its meaning*
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:37 AM on December 25, 2016

Brandon - OA stood for 'Original Angel'.
posted by oh yeah! at 5:57 AM on December 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:01 AM on December 25, 2016

I know this probably wasn't the creators' intention, but this show really feels like a spiritual sequel to Donnie Darko. There are a lot of similarities. I love it, and am going to rewatch it. They said that one of the sound engineers caught something that explains the plot but that only really dedicated people would catch that. Now I want to know!
posted by gucci mane at 11:24 AM on December 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

Am I the only one who sees parallels between OA and Blue Light by Walter Mosley. The main character "Chance" also leaves the reader guessing if the story was real or just the product of a crazy mind. There is a kind of sci-fi/spiritual mashup in play with the powers of the Blues compared to the dance/extraordinary abilities of the NDE's. And a common critical note that the writers never figured out a way to bring it to a satisfying conclusion and instead left the audience somewhat grumpy.
posted by humanfont at 1:09 PM on December 25, 2016

Heh - “i just finished watching the oa” starter pack tumblr gifset
posted by oh yeah! at 11:25 AM on December 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

"The OA" could be "D.O.A."
posted by sixpack at 9:12 AM on December 27, 2016 [6 favorites]

+ everything.

Cried like a damn baby at the end.

Absolutely beautiful, at least for me, it resonated so deeply with my own experiences of trauma, the search for meaning in our pain, the dreams we have that construct a meaning out of the senselessness of life.

Not that I'm a kidnap victim or had an NDE, or anything.

This was a daring and moving work of art. I want to watch it all over again. And I have no desire to explain it to myself. Just to experience it.

Plz no second season though.
posted by dis_integration at 11:00 AM on December 27, 2016 [5 favorites]

Came here to mention Owen Meany, see that humanfont got there ahead of me. Yeah I started getting that vibe a couple episodes ago and even so I was surprised at the ending.

Still not sure what to make of it but I think I enjoyed it.

I assume it's been mentioned in one of these threads and I just missed it, but if you enjoyed this keep an eye out for Sound of My Voice, a 2011 collaboration between Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij. Some interesting parallels with The OA to be found there.
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 1:46 PM on December 27, 2016

There was a huge disconnect in the plot as far as wtf the FBI was supposedly doing. Confirming a runaway that tried to commit suicide upon being rediscovered still has mental health issues? And the urgent matter of asking about the other captives and investigating that was a non-issue?
If she just got her eyesight back, does she know how to read or was she tackling those 300 page books in braille?
Wouldn't it be pretty easy to find a college football star who broke his back, made a comeback to win a championship, and was named Homer?

Idk. There was something endearing about the show that kept me watching. I felt like there was a larger overall thematic story about white middle class, it's disappearance and it's disaffected youth. Over the course of the show the shamanistic interpretive dance went slowly from plausible to LOLable, but I feel that was the trajectory it was supposed to take for the audience. The expectation of the audience to see something fantastic and then is undercut by reality.
posted by P.o.B. at 8:02 AM on December 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

I felt like there was a larger overall thematic story about white middle class, it's disappearance and it's disaffected youth.

I don't know about the disappearance part, but I was certainly moved by the landscape where "reality" took place: sprawling housing projects of massive homes built on enormous lots barely in sight of another house - all only partially occupied (or even completed). That was bleak, man.
posted by ezust at 2:22 PM on December 29, 2016 [7 favorites]

Rachel is the only prisoner not to have received a movement, and the wall of the FBI lobby says RACHEL in huge Braille

(that's somebody else's observation – I don't know Braille – but it suggests a lot is going on with the FBI involvement and/or OA's imagination of it)

And I like how the parallel-worlds questions get super explicit when we see Homer's face reflected back to French but also essentially ignored by French because he doesn't know what to do with it (I could practically hear him muttering "It doesn't mean anything to me," all Westworld-like). He's like Homer as a self-abnegating family protector & athlete

Buck also is the only one who seems to notice or engage with the flare, car accident remains, and backpack on the road, as Rachel described. He's like her with the beautiful voice & vulnerability

Stoner kid with no parents is like stoner Scott with no parents....

I'd welcome more seasons, but I also loved this as a very ambiguous & open-to-interpretation whole.
posted by kalapierson at 3:56 PM on December 30, 2016 [5 favorites]

I liked it. I think I did, anyway. It was beautifully shot, at any rate.

I agree with the statement that this hits similar notes as Donnie Darko, and that the setting of the present-day story is very bleak and effective. I didn't think that the present day group was as thin as everyone had said. We don't get a lot of direct exposition about their characters, but I think the show does a good job of describing their histories through context.

I'm unsure if I would even want a season 2. I would dread that the O.A. = D.O.A. thing is correct, and that our final shot of Prairie is her waking up on a gurney at a hospital.

What I think is the case, is that The OA was telling us the truth. She really is getting nose bleeds, and she really does presage the future. The books were either a plant by the FBI, or it was just a coincidence. The stuff in the lab happened as it happened. If that's the case, then it means that what the angel dreaded (Hap gaining access to the other side) happened, and he's now there with the others. What does crossing the stream even mean? What does that give Hap the power to do? Maybe it's best if that's left an open question.

RE: The interpretive dance, I actually really liked it. It's such a bizarre, but also very filmic way to depict magic. It beats the hell out of something like Dr. Strange, where it's a bunch of people doing video game magic at each other, anyway, totally stripping the ritual element that characterizes so much of traditional, practiced magic. I also like it because interpretive dance is always such a joke to straight-laced, mainstream society. The OA at least attempts to flip the joke back on itself, and have something that's often a punchline be the remedy for so much toxic masculinity and hatred that is a byproduct of said straight-laced, mainstream society.

All that being said, there are a lot of problems with the show. It's difficult to parse for me whether it was truly sloppy writing, or maybe issues with the final cut of the show, or coyness at answering questions, or a combination of the three. The pure eyecandy (and well delivered performances) are enough to make me look past that. And the fact that, regardless of its faults, there's not much else out there that's really like The OA.
posted by codacorolla at 7:17 PM on December 30, 2016 [12 favorites]

I'm in the "that was unspeakably stupid and I want my eight hours back" camp. Sorry, if you loved the show good for you. For me it was insipid and didn't deliver on any of the hooks. Like Lost crossed with a Very Special Hallmark Channel Show about Original Angels.

Is there anything more American than a high school shooting as a deus ex machina plot device?

I still grudgingly liked parts of the show; the weird eschatology, the uncomfortable emotions, the cinematography, the quiet of it. If you liked those things too, you might well like The Leftovers, a serial TV drama still in production. It's kind of like this only not stupid.
posted by Nelson at 9:23 PM on December 31, 2016 [2 favorites]

Are we so deep into postmodernism that we actually question whether a badly written story was written that way on purpose, and that the gaping plot holes and inconsistencies are clues to finding the real meaning?
Occam's razor suggests it was just bad writing and a poorly fleshed out narrative.
posted by rocket88 at 4:42 PM on January 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

Since that isn't what I wrote, I would say "no" for myself. The story had a lot of problems, but it's not clear if those problems were due to the initial script, or edits along the line. Thanks for the PHIL101 condescension, though.
posted by codacorolla at 5:08 PM on January 1, 2017 [4 favorites]

codacorolla, my comment wasn't directed at you nor was it a response to yours.

But I just can't get past the inconsistencies in the plot that were not only not resolved, but not even presented in a way that could reasonably be seen as a clue for figuring any of this out.

My biggest questions and problems:

- I understand French breaking into OA's house because he's desperate for answers, but why would he specifically look under her bed? Why would the books be all in a box under the bed anyway, as if they were unread? Come to think of it, it's unlikely OA could read a book given that she was blind since, what, age six? There's no mention of having books to read in captivity after regaining her sight.

- Speaking of the books, why would the Iliad by Homer suggest that OA made Homer up and gave him that name because of the book? Wasn't he an actual real person named Homer who had YouTube videos of his NDE at a football game?

- Why was the FBI counselor at the OA's house? It makes zero sense save the theory that he planted the books...but that makes even less sense. Why hide books under a bed when he has no idea that French would even look there?

- The flashbacks were a visualization of OA's recounting of her story. As such, there should be no details of events she didn't know about, like the conversation with the Sheriff on the front porch, or the killing of the other researcher at the hospital.

- How easy is it to fly in and out of Cuba in a private aircraft? How easy is it to fly out of Cuba carrying a presumably unconscious Cuban national?

- Why does Dr. Hap have a camera pointed at his bed (I assume it was his bedroom where they put the Sheriff's wife?). Why does he have a heat vision camera as backup?

- Why were there crowds of reporters at the house when the OA first came back, and again when they left in the last episode, but never any in between?

There were many more, but that final episode completely ruined an otherwise interesting story for me. They just went to the Deus Ex Machina well far too many times to try to paste some kind of ending on a story that really needed to go somewhere.
posted by rocket88 at 9:43 AM on January 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

The clearest stupid is why doesn't Hap have microphones in his glass cave with many cameras? I mean, really?
posted by Nelson at 12:52 PM on January 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

The more I think about it the more I veer towards the idea that this is a woman who goes through a traumatic event, escapes from it, tried to commit suicide, and then creates a story with fantastic elements in order to give her life and story a meaning. The only story we, and the five others, get is from OA herself. I think this is a much more interesting take as it allows discussion around rape & trauma survivors, and how we deal with it.
posted by P.o.B. at 8:28 AM on January 5, 2017

The downside of The Golden Age of Television is that when something comes out that exists on its own weird wavelength, tuned into its own not-quite-standard key, some people are going to hate the shit out of it.

I liked this. I will watch if there's more, too.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:01 PM on January 16, 2017 [11 favorites]

Yeah the lack of microphones bothered me, but since I otherwise really enjoyed the show I just rolled with it. My justification for not having microphones is that Hap doesn't think his captives have anything to say that's worth listening to. He only bothered to interview OA when he killed her outside of his normal experimental process. You don't record the sound lab mice make unless you're studying that. Its not a great justification and he did want to know what they were saying at times, but it helped me get passed it instead of dwelling on it. And that's assuming OA was describing actual events.

I can absolutely see why someone would dislike or hate this show, but it managed to reach into some deep parts of my cortex that few shows/books seldom find.
posted by Green With You at 3:12 PM on January 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

I liked it. I dont need it to make sense. I dont need to know that it was real.

I probably dont need another season of it.

But it was a fun, satisfying, different journey.
posted by cacofonie at 9:07 PM on January 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

I liked it too. Perhaps it did not need 8 hours to get there (there was some filler) but overall it's an intriguing, unpredictable tale, which is always welcome. There were many similarities with Another Earth (written by Marling, I haven't seen Sound of my voice yet) and I Origins (not written by Marling): fantasy/sci-fi setting surimposed on a ultrarealistic background and a lot of handwaving (which tends to annoy viewers who really like their tales to be internally logical). There was a New Weird vibe too. Marling would have been perfect to play the Biologist in the upcoming adaptation of the Southern Reach Trilogy but Portman got the part.
posted by elgilito at 9:24 AM on January 23, 2017

I haven't read the Southern Reach trilogy, but I'd read that the casting of Portman as the Biologist was yet another case of Hollywood whitewashing an Asian role, so, seems like Marling would be equally unsuitable for the part, no?
posted by oh yeah! at 10:27 AM on January 23, 2017

I haven't read the Southern Reach trilogy, but I'd read that the casting of Portman as the Biologist was yet another case of Hollywood whitewashing an Asian role, so, seems like Marling would be equally unsuitable for the part, no?

Indeed, I see that some people have objected to that. Diversity is important in the books and I understand that Asian-American actors could be disappointed. On the other hand, Control is the only character whose ethnicity actually matters in the plot. The other characters could be anything. There's one brief allusion to the Biologist's Asian heritage in Book 2 and I completely forgot about it even though I'm half-Asian myself. So: no big deal. Portman is a fantastic actress but she's a little bit too... glamorous perhaps? Marling has played scientists/science-minded people before and she's completely at ease in this type of "weird" stories. In fact, I just found that Jeff VanderMeer has said several times that Marling was part of his "dream cast" for the Southern Reach movies (though not for a specific role).
posted by elgilito at 2:12 PM on January 23, 2017

I liked it quite a bit. This wasn't a show that needed a whole lot of thought as some of you have put in. It just felt satisfying to watch it.
posted by numaner at 10:39 AM on January 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

if you enjoyed this keep an eye out for Sound of My Voice, a 2011 collaboration between Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij. Some interesting parallels with The OA to be found there.

Maybe I just wasn't in the mood yesterday, But I tried to watch this last night. And the characters settled down into the suburban house to gather 'round Marling's spooky character and hear her tell them she had a story to share that would be hard to believe but they would have to trust her and open their hearts...

It was a little too familiar. I gather from reading about this film, it goes into different directions, but wow, that is mostly the same goddamned setup.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:37 AM on January 26, 2017

I just watched Sound of my voice and it looks very much like an early draft of The OA. Marling and Batmanglij made the "guru" the main - and much more likeable - character: Maggie and Prairie are played in a similar fashion by Marling, but Prairie is shown to be empathetic whereas Maggie is manipulative. The "Movements", which are only significant in the last minutes of SOMV, are more spectacular and central to the plot in The OA.
posted by elgilito at 2:32 PM on January 26, 2017

I really loved this and would have wanted to start watching season 2 directly after finishing, were such a thing possible.

The box of books was a little bit clumsy, but I'm pretty sure The OA watched the video of Homer on YouTube, not anyone else. So we had that cooperation of her story, but the five didn't.

It felt like a continuation of the let down from realizing that the captives had never managed to use the five movements. We didn't even have The OA's confirmation that she knew them right, or that there was anything special to the five movements being done together. So they might have been primed to see something else that could be interpreted as evidence that she made it up and believe the worst. Her story was also over, so it could be seen as a way to move on.

I hadn't considered that the FBI guy had planted the books. He seemed to be by far the most reasonable person there, so I can't really figure out why he would want to separate her from her support group. But, hmmm.

At any rate, we know Homer is a real person, so I'm convinced the story is true (within the context of the show).

I'm not sure what to think about parts The OA didn't witness/hear about (such as the fateful visit with Dr. Leon), but for that we do see her notice Hap's scar, ask where he had gone, and wonder about his change of heart regarding the research. That is to say, the Leon episode could have been made up, to fit into the story.
posted by mountmccabe at 7:49 PM on February 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

How do you know Homer is real?
posted by P.o.B. at 3:52 PM on February 3, 2017

The OA specifically searches for and finds video of Homer on YouTube (in the first episode, I think?) as soon as she gets access to the internet. Homer is, at least, actually a former football player who had an NDE then came back to win the championship (fitting with what Hap was talking about, coming back with extraordinary abilities).

It doesn't make sense to me that they would show us that video (after The OA was specifically looking for info on him) as misdirection, at a point in the narrative where we have no direction at all.
posted by mountmccabe at 10:21 PM on February 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

How about that The OA renewed for season 2! Guess we'll find out how unreliable a narrator OA was after all.
posted by oh yeah! at 11:25 AM on February 8, 2017 [5 favorites]

From Variety:

So, let’s get to the burning question: Is the OA telling the truth? Or is that the question you want the audience to be asking?

Marling: I think there is something really delicious in the mystery about questioning the storyteller’s truth. Certainly, you go back and forth on it. As an audience member, the boys are kind of your surrogate. I think just as the boys go back and forth on the truth of her story, you do, too. I think the place it kind of ultimately arrives at is that it maybe doesn’t matter as much the details are true, because there’s some essential core that she’s imparting that smacks of honesty. Whether part of the story is a metaphor, or it is a literal truth, tends to matter less when you get to the end and see that the DNA of the story contains something that just this group needed.

Batmanglij: I guess I believe the trauma in her story is true. Maybe she couldn’t tell her story as it actually happened, but she experienced something. I don’t think the details matter. I think that there are lots of different interpretations. I think that’s what’s going to make it fun, if people do connect to it. If people see the show.

posted by P.o.B. at 11:57 AM on February 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

> Marling: [...] Whether part of the story is a metaphor, or it is a literal truth, tends to matter less when you get to the end and see that the DNA of the story contains something that just this group needed.

Well that sounds like an answer, I guess. I must admit I'm disappointed.

> Batmanglij: [...] I don’t think the details matter.

That's a shame, because I was watching the show as if they did.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 9:17 PM on February 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

Oh wow. I don't think I'll ever not have a big grin when crisp interpretive dance saves the day. This is a much better ending than I expected, even if it was "The 5th movement was the friends you made along the journey and was inside you all along." Which, I'm pretty sure at least one character has said "the answer is inside you" anyway, so.

Obviously the show has flaws, and I'm sympathetic to those who felt it was wasted time, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 11:55 PM on March 12, 2017 [5 favorites]

I just watched Sound of my voice and it looks very much like an early draft of The OA.

I've been meaning to watching Sound of My Voice, and I'll be curious to see how it overlaps - from trailers and other previews I saw when it first came out, I think I can already figure out that a Brit Marling Bingo Board should have "Marling under a Blanket", "Stories in Dimly Lit Rooms with People Sitting on the Ground", "Choreographed Hand Movements", and "Weird Bathtub Scenes". Does Another Earth have any of those? I need to watch that too...but then I'm a sucker for weird sci-fi-esque stuff.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 11:56 PM on March 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

I get such glee out of seeing The OA threads pop up in Recent Activity whenever a new person gets sucked in, waiting to see whether they end up on the fun train or not. Welcome aboard, Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug.
posted by oh yeah! at 7:28 AM on March 13, 2017 [5 favorites]

Hey thanks, oh yeah!, and thanks for posting about season 2. Netflix sure is interesting - like others have mentioned, I struggle to imagine something like this ever fully airing on broadcast TV, much less getting a season 2. The closest comparison I think of is Fringe, which got jerked around a lot in schedules and iffy renewals and suffered for it.

And by allowing requiring? a full season before shows can air, Netflix also seems to prevent a lot of the stupidity that Lost had.

Up with this sort of (artsy fartsy, character driven, SFF shaggy dog story) thing.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 9:33 AM on March 13, 2017

I'm glad I watched it and I am glad it finally ended. Not sure if I would ever watch this again; it just felt so muddy with so many gaps... and if the OA is an unreliable narrative, then I still don't see a strong underlying current for any PTSD type of interpretation - there was an opportunity to add some depth via her parents' dialogue if this was the case.
posted by olya at 10:07 AM on March 25, 2017

I just re-watched this, all in one day. For me, it held up. It improved even, as I went in understanding a) what would be required of me in terms of suspension of disbelief and b) that it was not at all a Lost-style puzzle show, despite having a mystery at its core.

I also continue to believe her story. I think it's almost incomprehensible that the show would be coming back if she had made this all up, taken a shot to the heart, and (almost certainly) died. The level of coincidence needed for her to be shot that way at the exact moment she would, under her understanding of what was to happen, be crossing over, would be even weirder than the movements. I think the books likely represent nothing more than her doing some reading so that she can write and tell her story.

The only things I cannot fit comfortably within the narrative that Prairie has presented are the actions of the FBI, namely their disinterest in her claims of other victims, their prioritizing of her comfortably telling her own story over them getting evidence/testimony, and most of all, the counselor showing up in her home while she is away. I think these are likely the loose threads from which season 2 will be woven.

And upon rewatch, gawd help me, I like the movements. I keep thinking of Arthur C Clarke's "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" and adding my own corollary: "... or at the very least, looks ridiculous to the untrained eye."
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:02 AM on July 2, 2018 [4 favorites]

All of the overlaid whoosh/wind/Saturn's ring sounds over the last scenes seem to be the director's/FX & sound team's way of saying, yes, the interdimensional thing is happening right now. I notice many of these seem to be noticed by French, who is the Homer surrogate, and even--I would love to see you to place this into an it's-all-made-up interpretation--had a vision of Homer's face in the mirror.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:15 AM on July 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

The level of coincidence needed for her to be shot that way at the exact moment she would, under her understanding of what was to happen, be crossing over, would be even weirder than the movements.

So, the 4th movement is actually getting shot, isn't it? We saw that happen both times but I don't think I made that connection right away.

It's weird, but I like that, kind of like the "get run over by a train to prove you're in a dream" thing in Inception.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 1:22 PM on July 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

There's a season 2 trailer and it looks as loopy as it probably should.
posted by fleacircus at 4:54 PM on February 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

Okay, so because of the S2 trailer and release date coming up, I went back to this show after checking out in boredom-anger maybe 10-20 minutes into the first episode over a year ago. This show makes me so mad, but yeah, I'll watch season 2. Or start to.

Here are some random notes from somebody watching it late:

- the event at the end of the final episode really bothered my SO and I, possibly due to our fairly close proximity to victims of a school shooting. it's not even a 'too soon' thing, but it's just trauma for no reason, and just too similar to actual tragic events, though unrealistically presented and resolved, to NOT be seen as unnecessary/in poor taste/etc.

- perhaps those books under The OA's bed were purchased by her mother - I don't think that there's any way that she herself would have had the time to read them even if she hadn't previously been blind.

- I agree strongly with the comments above about certain plot contrivances, such as Homer and The OA not working out a deal with the police officer to free the captives and arrest HAP. Instead, it's presented as a decision of whether or not to heal the wife, just to prove (beat you over the already-beaten head) that The OA is An Angel and always must Do Good (even though she doesn't always, at all).

- Speaking of HAP, I had a lot of problems with him and those complicit - my fear is that in S2 this'll be explained as 'the world you guys inhabited in, in S1, was a particularly bad one where dudes are just mega shitty in general, all of them, unless they're Angels, but maybe they just need some Angel Magic'. I was honestly kind of disappointed that HAP didn't get exploded due to flash mob interpretive dance, but I also understand that that wouldn't go with the theme of Angel Magic only doing Good, I guess...

- I don't think the 'unreliable narrator' aspect worked at all in this show - to me, the story she tells is basically true, and the show focuses on these experiences she had (and some she didn't, such as with Homer and HAP), to inform the viewer of them, which is not something that you do when these events (possibly) didn't take place. "These things might not have happened but they definitely did!" is a strange vibe to put out there - especially once you see the S2 trailer which further validates her story.

I was originally curious about The OA because it seemed so similar to The Sound of My Voice, which I never got around to watching but had the general idea of. To me, it seems really strange/fascinating to create such a similar series to your previous one (that movie was originally meant as a short series, and from what I've heard, it still shows).

To summarize, I guess I've got complicated feelings about this show and maybe it has to do with lack of sleep due to sick cat, haha. Looking forward to S2 with a bit of trepidation mixed in.
posted by destructive cactus at 12:20 PM on March 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

Well, season 2 is up on Netflix today, but I'm unfortunately out of town until Monday. (I mean, the trip is not unfortunate, I'm on a mini-vacation in San Diego, it's just that I was looking forward to giving this season the binge-postathon treatment again since it's only 8 episodes, but there might not be much point in doing that after the weekend if most people have already finished, and the internet is full of spoilers.)

So, if anyone starts watching today and feels like posting threads as they go, or if anyone zooms through the season in the next couple of days and wants to make a complete-season-2 thread, please feel free.
posted by oh yeah! at 6:59 AM on March 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

I totally started watching today and it’s really good, but I’m on my phone! If anyone else wants to that would be great, I second,
posted by corb at 4:57 PM on March 23, 2019

I made a full season thread and also a S2E1 thread which could probably double as general I-haven't-seen-the-ending thread unless someone wants to extend it episode by episode. (I won't be.)
posted by fleacircus at 5:42 AM on March 24, 2019

I did not see that ending coming and it worked for me.

The show signaled early on that it would require a strong suspension of belief, so I watched it in the context of mood and allusion, not realism. I'm very much not a 'woo' person -- I see this as literature, not philosophy, so I'm okay with it.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:37 AM on April 8, 2019

Late to the season 1 party and enjoying the discussion but I have to say Phyllis Smith’s acting is incredible. Everyone is over acting all over the screen but she’s present and I feel her feeling things if you know what I mean.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 4:42 PM on April 17, 2019

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