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My god, what a letdown.
The OA follows the story of a blind girl that went missing for seven years, and mysteriously reappeared with her sight restored, weird scars on her body, and an obsession with trying to find one of her old friends.
(Spoiler alert, duh)
Firstly, I love the atmosphere of this story, or: stories. There’s the A story, which takes place in the real-world present-day, where The OA is trying to cope after being rescued, and is desperately trying to get back somewhere. Most of the A story involves her gathering a group of followers and telling them her story – the B story.
The B story is where the magic happens – literally. In the B story, she’s the unfortunate orphan of a Russian billionaire, sent to America under a new name, and who ends up living with her aunt in squalid conditions, before eventually being rescued by a kind American couple who adopt her.
If that sounds like a superhero origin story, it is. If it reminds you a lot of Jupiter Jones’ backstory in Jupiter Ascending, it should, since it’s cribbed more or less word-for-word, including the Russian heritage.
The B story does get better from there, though, and I really enjoyed the way they explored the afterlife. In the B story, she travels to New York, following her visions to reunite with her father, but nothing comes of it. She does meet a kind stranger, a scientist researching Near-Death Experiences (NDEs), and agrees to take part in his study.
This whole section of the B story feels like 10 Cloverfield Lane, with some mad science thrown in, and one NDE later, The OA starts down a path of uncovering a mystical power based entirely in a very Sadler Wells-esque dance routine. Watching it sort of reminded me of this abnormality, at first.
There are two parts of this show I thoroughly enjoyed. In the B story, I loved the merging of science and mysticism, the idea of an afterlife, parallel universes that could be navigated by harnessing natural energy. I loved that they had “common”, every-day medical professionals doing this research, totally in secret – a world behind the world.
And in the A story, I loved the disciple aspect, with The OA uniting five very disparate people, and through her story and convictions alone, fundamentally changing the nature of that group.
The A story alone is worth an exploration in and of itself. No magic happens here, no weirdness, no proof of anything she’s telling us in the B story, but it’s enough to get her five disciples hooked – and eventually to risk their lives in the finale, despite them finding compelling evidence that she simply made the whole B story up.
Could be a great allegory about man’s need to believe in something in the great beyond, even in the face of physical evidence to the contrary.
The finale was the best/worst I’ve ever seen in the show. It was the best in that, it executed a realistic, terrifying scenario with absolute precision. They re-created a scenario every bit as tense as the 9/11 attacks, and tapped into the latent nightmares of basically any parent or school child.
And then they crapped all over it, building to an inspiring final act that completely deflated, unraveling the entire A story. They had an opportunity to do something really awesome, to have the A and B stories overlap, bring some of that mysticism into the present-day, and poke at the fabric of reality as they did so.
Which they did not, and instead made the disciples out to look like complete idiots, with none of their actions contributing to resolving the issue they thought they might have resolved, and out of nowhere, The OA gets shot by a stray bullet.
I mean, what?
In the end, The OA left me feeling disappointed. It became a story less about the afterlife, and more about what a group of people are willing to do based solely on the words of one damaged, but compelling, individual.