Netflix release poster
|Directed by||Zal Batmanglij|
|Theme music composer||Rostam Batmanglij|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Original language(s)||English, Russian, Arabic|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||8 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||31–71 minutes|
|Picture format||4K (Ultra HD)|
|Audio format||Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 with Descriptive Video Service track|
|Original release||December 16, 2016– present|
The OA is an American mystery drama Netflix series with science fiction, supernatural, and fantasy elements, which debuted on Netflix on December 16, 2016. Created and executive produced by Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij, the series is their third collaboration. The series consists of eight episodes, all directed by Batmanglij, and is produced by Plan B Entertainment and Anonymous Content. In the series, Marling stars as a young woman named Prairie Johnson who resurfaces after having been missing for seven years. Prairie now calls herself "The OA" and can see, despite having been blind before her disappearance.
The OA received generally favorable critical reception. The series' directing, visuals and acting were often singled out. Reviews also ranged from highly positive to negative, with several reviewers drawing both favorable and unfavorable comparisons with Stranger Things, another science fiction series that debuted on Netflix earlier in the year.
The series centers on Prairie Johnson, an adopted young woman who resurfaces after having been missing for seven years. Upon her return, Johnson calls herself "The OA", exhibits scars on her back, and can see, despite having been blind when she disappeared. The OA refuses to tell the FBI and her adoptive parents where she has been and how her eyesight was restored, and instead quickly assembles a team of five locals (four high school students and a teacher) to whom she reveals that information, also explaining her life story. Finally, she asks for their help to save the other missing people who she claims she can rescue by opening a portal to another dimension.
- Brit Marling as Prairie Johnson / The OA
- Emory Cohen as Homer Roberts
- Scott Wilson as Abel Johnson, Prairie's adoptive father
- Phyllis Smith as Elizabeth "Betty" Broderick-Allen ("BBA")
- Alice Krige as Nancy Johnson, Prairie's adoptive mother
- Patrick Gibson as Steve Winchell
- Brendan Meyer as Jesse
- Brandon Perea as Alfonso "French" Sosa
- Ian Alexander as Buck Vu
- Jason Isaacs as Hunter Aloysius "Hap" Percy
- Hiam Abbass as Khatun
- Zoey Todorovsky as Nina Azarova, a young Prairie Johnson
- Marcus Choi as Mr. Vu
- Robert Eli as Principal Gilchrist
- Nikolai Nikolaeff as Roman Azarov, Nina's father
- Will Brill as Scott Brown
- Zachary Gemino as Carlos Sosa, Alfonso's brother
- Sharon Van Etten as Rachel
- Riz Ahmed as FBI Psychologist Elias Rahim
- Paz Vega as Renata
- Robert Morgan as Sheriff Stan Markham
- Michael Cumpsty as Leon Citro
- Bria Vinaite
The series was conceived by Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij and they began working on the concept in December 2012. They spent two years working on The OA on their own, before pitching to studios. From the early stages of development onward, they were telling the story out loud and noting one another's reactions to the story to refine it accordingly. They found it difficult to summarize the series in a written story, so they developed it aurally. When executives read the script of the first hour, they asked if the story "really [went] somewhere". Marling and Batmanglij then began to tell the story from beginning to end, playing all the characters and acting out the big moments through many hours. They worked with Brad Pitt's Plan B Entertainment, which connected with the story and shared notes before it went to networks and studios . Following a multiple-network bidding war, the series was first announced on March 5, 2015, when Netflix ordered eight one-hour long episodes with Plan B and Anonymous Content also on board. The announcement revealed that Marling would star, Batmanglij would direct, and both would write and executive produce. Marling and Batmanglij held similar positions in their previous two collaborations, Sound of My Voice and The East.
Rostam Batmanglij, Zal's brother, worked as one of the composers on the series, and he also wrote its theme music. He previously composed for both Sound of My Voice and The East. Choreographer Ryan Heffington created The Movements. Heffington first professionally worked with them on The East, and had been an acquaintance of both from earlier than that.
The final episode includes a dedication to Allison Wilke. Wilke, also known professionally as A.W. Gryphon, was a producer on the series who died of breast cancer a month before its release and three days after the series was finished.
|No.||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original release date|
|1||"Homecoming"||Zal Batmanglij||Brit Marling & Zal Batmanglij||December 16, 2016|
|After disappearing seven years ago, Prairie Johnson returns to her parents, Nancy and Abel. Prairie disappeared blind, but now she can see, and insists that her name is "The OA". She does not reveal how she regained her eyesight, nor where she has been for the past seven years, although she makes vague allusions to being held hostage with others. OA tells Steve, a neighborhood bully, that she will save him from being sent to boot camp in Asheville, if he presents her with four other strong people. That night, OA meets Steve in an abandoned house with three other boys from his school, "French", Buck, and Jesse, along with their teacher, Betty Broderick-Allen ("BBA"). She tells them that she was born in Russia as Nina Azarov, the daughter of a powerful oligarch. One day, following a premonition she had, the mafia knocked the bus of the oligarch's children into a river. Nina had a near-death experience, where a woman named Khatun gave her the choice of returning to life. Nina came back blind after Khatun told her she would take her sight to protect her from the horrible things lying ahead.|
|2||"New Colossus"||Zal Batmanglij||Melanie Marnich||December 16, 2016|
|Continuing her story, OA says that her father sent her to a boarding school for blind children in America to protect her. However, her father died, and she was sent to live with her aunt who ran an illegal adoption service. Nancy and Abel adopted her and named her Prairie. For the next several years, Prairie had dreams and premonitions, for which her parents medicated her. In them, her father waited for her by the Statue of Liberty. She ran away on her 21st birthday to see him, but he did not appear. Instead, she met a scientist named "Hap". She ends her story for the night, and the boys begin to investigate whether she is telling the truth. French considers not going again when he gets a scholarship and wishes to focus on that, but Buck convinces him to come. The next night, she tells them that Hap was studying people that had NDEs, like she did. Prairie agreed to let Hap study her and flew on his private plane to his house, where he trapped her in a glass cage in his basement, with the other test subjects he had tricked over the years.|
|3||"Champion"||Zal Batmanglij||Brit Marling & Dominic Orlando||December 16, 2016|
|In the present, a journalist approaches Prairie's mother, asking if she can write a book about their story. In the flashback, Prairie gets to know Homer, Scott and Rachel, the other three captives. Prairie makes Hap a sandwich, and he takes her on as a cook. He regularly pumps gas to their cages as part of an experiment, but the four cannot figure what that is, as the gas makes them pass out. BBA defends Steve from being sent to Asheville, convincing his parents to put him in special education instead. Prairie makes soup for Hap, who experiences anaphylactic shock when he eats it. He asks her to get an EpiPen from the bathroom, but there she discovers the dead body of a girl "August". The captives try to send a letter for help, but lose it. Prairie asks Hap about August, but becomes angry and pushes him down the stairs, and flees. She makes it as far as a cliff, but gets hit in the head by a rifle butt.|
|4||"Away"||Zal Batmanglij||Ruby Rae Spiegel||December 16, 2016|
|Prairie meets Khatun in NDE. She is offered the choice of reuniting with her father but she chooses to return to help the others. Khatun, who shows she has a bird wing, offers Prairie to swallow a bird which will show her a way of traveling unknown to humans. She tells Prairie that five of them must work together to avert a great evil and that Prairie is "the original". Hap returns Prairie to her cage and she tells the others that she can see, they are all angels, and their way out is by figuring Hap's experiment. In the present, BBA learns Theo left her $50,000 in his will. OA meets an FBI counselor, Elias, who suggests to her she focuses on healing herself. In her story, Prairie and Rachel decide to suck Hap's scopolamine-like gas, so that Homer experiences the experiment awake. Hap is revealed to be drowning them in water and recording the soundscape of their NDEs. It takes Homer four years, but he experiences an NDE awake, in which he manages to swallow a sea anemone. Prairie contemplates the possibility that she has a truer self who answers to something sounding like "Away" or "Oh-A".|
|5||"Paradise"||Zal Batmanglij||Brit Marling & Zal Batmanglij||December 16, 2016|
|OA (having abandoned the name Prairie) and Homer perform the two movements they got from their NDEs. Hap forces Homer to seduce an NDE survivor in Cuba named Renata, to kidnap her. Homer ends up sleeping with her, which destroys the morale of the team and hurts OA. With Renata now locked back at Hap's, it's Scott's turn for the experiment. Scott begs Hap to spare him as he is too sick to survive another NDE and reveals OA can see, and her ideas about angels and how to escape. Hap proceeds with the experiment and Scott dies. Hap takes his body back to his cage, telling OA it's her fault. OA and Homer do their movements for hours, while facing each other with Scott in the middle. Unexpectedly, Scott returns to life and tells them they were right; if at least five people perform the movements, a door to another dimension opens. He has been given the third of five. Hap runs downstairs in shock that Scott is alive. In present day, OA tells the others the reason she gathered them is to teach them the movements so that she may travel to another dimension and rescue the others.|
|6||"Forking Paths"||Zal Batmanglij||Melanie Marnich||December 16, 2016|
|In the following three years Renata gets the fourth movement, OA and Homer scar themselves with depictions of them, so that they don't forget them, and Hap is watching closely and learning their movements as well. Hap visits his former mentor, Leon, in a morgue, in which Leon also runs similar experiments. Leon tells Hap he is very close to proving the existence of afterlife, but Hap tells him he actually believes there are multiple dimensions, and his subjects have the means to make traveling between them possible. He also thinks he knows where their NDEs take place, and he intends to go see it with his own eyes. Leon pulls a gun on Hap demanding he reveals his breakthroughs. They fight and Hap kills him. Hap leaves the hospital and informs the staff to call the police to rescue Leon's subjects. Later, he asks OA to leave with him, make money using the first two healing movements, and run experiments on their own, but she turns him down. He reveals to her he thinks her NDEs take her to the rings of Saturn. A sheriff pays Hap a visit and discovers the hostages. He aims his gun at Hap.|
|7||"Empire of Light"||Zal Batmanglij||Brit Marling & Zal Batmanglij||December 16, 2016|
|OA has a premonition of a big space with a metallic sound, but she can't tell what it means. She discusses it with Elias, who suggest that her "psychic" capability might be the result of being able to notice even the smallest cues around her. He also tells her to just accept whatever happens. Steve is being shipped to Asheville but BBA uses her cheque to bribe the drivers to let him go. OA has dinner with her parents, when Nancy gets upset that she knows nothing about what happened to her daughter. OA explains that she scarred herself with the notations of the movements that open another dimension and she knows all this because she's "the Original Angel", which causes Nancy to slap her. French suggests to OA to forgive Nancy and Abel and consider them as her parents and one of the reasons she came back from her NDEs. Steve accuses OA for using him and the rest just so that she gets back to Homer and stabs her with a pencil. She embraces him and calms him down. He asks her how she survived all those years and she replies she did because she wasn't alone.|
|8||"Invisible Self"||Zal Batmanglij||Brit Marling & Zal Batmanglij||December 16, 2016|
The OA has received generally favorable critical reception. Rotten Tomatoes assigned the series a 76% critical approval rating and an average rating of 7.52/10 based on 41 reviews, writing that "The OA is more than OK." Metacritic, based on 17 reviews, assigned the series a rating of 61 out of 100, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Most reviewers acknowledged the series' ambition and praised its mystery and direction. Reviewers made both favorable and unfavorable comparisons to another Netflix Original, Stranger Things.
John Doyle of The Globe and Mail writes, "The OA is Netflix's strongest and strangest original production since Stranger Things. In terms of substantive, original drama, it transcends it. Mind you, it is unclassifiable in the context of drama, mystery, science-fiction and fantasy, since it is straddling all sorts of lines and blurring them. It is outright astounding and brilliant, too." Tim Surette at TV Guide said that "the final moments of Episode 5 – probably the best episode of the first season – was some of the most reaffirming television I've ever seen, not just for the show but for life itself. I've never really had this kind of a relationship with a series while watching it, but it's that experience that makes it well worth viewing." New York Magazine headlined its glowing review, "Netflix's The OA Is an Extraordinary, Binge-Worthy December Surprise".
Tristram Fane Saunders of The Daily Telegraph gave a mixed review of 3 out of 5 stars and noted the series' potential but criticized its similarity to fellow Netflix Original Stranger Things, claiming that the series was attempting to be "stranger than Stranger Things" but "on the basis of the first four episodes, the answer is a resounding no". Saunders's review also highlighted the series' lack of originality and characterization, and derided the dialogue as "portentous [and] self-consciously literary". In addition, it also criticized the slow pace as "glacial". However, Saunders also acknowledged the series told an interesting and compelling story, writing that "The OA may be utter hokum, but you'll still be hooked."
Daniel Fienberg of The Hollywood Reporter gave a negative review, stating that the series was "a failed, but not wholly worthless, experiment in TV auteurism". Fienberg added "the problem, of course, is that telling you what The OA is vaguely like is just another tease and telling you what it actually is is a recipe for disappointment, because after an enticing and somewhat infuriating build-up, The OA becomes something quite ludicrous as it stumbles toward a climax that is, if I'm generous, merely unearned and if I'm not being generous, a series of offensive overreaches." Sonia Saraiya of Variety also gave a negative review, stating that "it is hard to take The OA seriously", detailing that "none of it makes any sense", while praising the direction and acting.
The extreme reaction to the series is best exemplified within the pages of Variety itself where, following the TV critic's review, a chief film critic for the trade wrote a glowing piece with the headline "Why The OA is One of the Year's Most Important Films".
|2017||GLAAD Media Awards||Outstanding Drama Series||The OA||Nominated|||
|2017||Writers Guild of America Award||Episodic Drama||Brit Marling & Zal Batmanglij||Nominated|
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