I watch a lot of TV. I don’t have one particular genre that I stick to, so as long as it’s good, I’ll be tuned in. Netflix and Amazon Prime changed the game so that binge-watching is the hot new thing, but you already know that. However, there is only one show I have truly ever binge watched, where I sat in one place and did not move from start to finish minus a few bathroom breaks- that show is The OA.
In your head, describe your favorite show as simply as you can. It might be difficult to condense years of television and characters you’ve spent countless hours with and come to love in a few words, but typically it can be done. Example: The Sopranos is about an Italian crime family in New Jersey. Breaking Bad is about a chemistry teacher diagnosed with terminal cancer who makes meth to support his family. Now, those may not do justice to the complexity and development those shows had, but they are pretty good descriptions for a beginner. The OA, however, can have no simple description. Where would you start? How could you possibly start? The show is abound with content, yet, I do not have the words to describe it simply. If you asked me what it was about, very frankly, I’d say I have no idea.
The show gripped me right from the beginning, where we see Prairie jump off the bride and end up in the hospital. The first episode can drag a little bit, but once Prairie assembles her audience, the story grabs you and doesn’t let go. There was no fanfare around the series as it was announced just days before it released, meaning there was no build up or really any time to tease the series. That being said, I think it should be done more often, because I went in with a blank slate, not knowing what to expect at all, which was good, because if there were expectations going in, I guarantee the end result would have been wildly different from what anyone could have predicted.
It takes some time for the first episode to pick up. In all fairness, setting the show’s course would have taken a lot of setup anyway they did it, so I’ll give them a pass here. Without knowing exactly what we were getting into, it was certainly strange watching the events that lead to those five misfits sitting around Prairie listening to her story. The series takes us back and forth between present day and Prairie’s early life, eventually into her teenage years and starting in the second episode, the real meat of the series: Prairie’s capture by a scientist studying near-death experiences. Played by the familiar Jason Isaacs, “Hap” as he’s called uses Prairie along with Homer, Rachel, and Scott to study NDEs, as he calls them, to figure out what happens to people having near death experiences and where they go during them. This is where the show gets really good, and easily where the most questions come from.
Where most shows that are so ridiculously ambitious lose steam, The OA only picked up. It was after the fifth episode- where Prairie and Homer revive Scott- that the series was at its best. Watching that scene, you think you know exactly where the series is going, and just when it gets to that point, it practically drops dead, only to pick right back up and start running at 100 miles per hour again. That is a trend after major plot developments and it keeps you going, which is part of the reason why I could stomach this whole show in one sitting. However, the pacing of the show is a little off at times between Prairie’s storytelling sessions and the few timelines going on, but its never so bad as to hamper the viewing experience. The show’s pacing is good where it needs to be.
The one major flaw was the very end. We were supposed to see the five open the dimension and reunite Prairie with Homer right? Wrong. What we got was not really much of anything. Should we think Prairie made the whole thing up? I doubt it. Sure the books were under her bed, but she was blind for most of her life, so how could she have learned how to read them? If Prairie is making the whole thing up, what was the FBI trauma counselor doing in her house? And why did French see Homer’s reflection in the mirror? Personally, I believe Prairie. There is too much evidence that points to her being right, or at best leaving the real answer ambiguous enough (like why was Rachel’s name written in braille at the FBI office?) that we would need to see more to really get a good idea of what actually happened.
The show is acted well and looks pretty good, and if there is a second season I’m sure Netflix will up the ante a little bit and get the effects looking better. I hope there is a second season, because there are way too many questions, and not in a way that does the story justice.
Final Grade: B+, the ending was easily the show’s lowest point and left a bad taste in my mouth that only a second season can get out.