Netflix’s newest mystery/drama hit with a bang. The OA (a title better left abbreviated) is incredibly well executed and brave show that tells an astonishing story without an agenda.
First things first. Many other sites, media sources, and reviews are comparing The OA to Stranger Things. Many writers claim this is the thing you need to hold you over until Stranger Things comes back to us. Some have even gone as far to say it is ‘better.’ Stranger Things and The OA are far from similar. Far far from it. Saying one is better than the other is a matter of opinion of course, but no the OA (great in its own regard) is not better.
The OA follows Prairie Johnson (Brit Marling) when she mysteriously returns to her small town after having been missing for seven years. The biggest mystery isn’t even where had she been. It’s how did she reclaim her eyesight. The story opens with the titular character trying to kill herself. The opening downer isn’t what it appears to be and the series is a slow tense burn as Prairie reveals her past to a close group of unlikely allies turned friend.
The story is farfetched and eerie. The pacing reminds me of classic Stephen King novels (there’s the connection to Stranger Things so many were keen to force onto the series). The reality of the story is so tight in The OA that when the supernatural elements start to trickle in you don’t question them. Not in ways you aren’t supposed to anyway. When the show turns from tragic to strange you will be so invested in what has happened to this woman and where it’s going next that you won’t have a hard time digesting any of it.
The show is a bit slow at times, but in this case it isn’t a negative. It never drags. You won’t be checking the clock or backing out to find something else to watch. The deliberate pacing makes the dramatic beats that much more enthralling. Punctuated with a stellar score the series feels so grounded in the real and ordinary that the extraordinary doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb but blends right in.
So much of The OA’s quality needs to be directly credited to the actors. The series essentially runs on two casts that are connected in theme, discovery, and through Prairie. Prairie’s time imprisoned and the time she spends in the ‘present,’ when she’s back in town, are separate in setting and time but share so many consistencies the editing script shine. A few familiar faces are spattered throughout a cast of incredibly talented young actors. The actors have to sell ridiculous notions and some of the physical aspects are downright silly. Or they could be without such a talented cast presenting the subject matter.
As the short series comes full circle in the end the strength of the script shines even brighter. The parallels in the storytelling and the little nods and ‘a-ha’ moments to moments previously seen are on point. The writing is tight that every last minute is used to convey something. More often than not, a feeling.
If you aren’t convinced, the absolute coolest aspect of The OA is the open ended concept on how much of what was said and shown is actually true. Seriously, watch it.