The OA

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The OA
The OA.png
Netflix release poster
Genre
Created by
Directed by Zal Batmanglij
Starring
Theme music composer Rostam Batmanglij
Composer(s)
  • Rostam Batmanglij
  • Danny Bensi
  • Saunder Jurriaans
  • Jay Wadley
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English, Russian, Arabic
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 8 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s)
Producer(s)
  • Jill Footlick
  • Ashley Zalta
Location(s)
Cinematography Lol Crawley
Editor(s)
  • Jonathan Alberts
  • Geraud Brisson
  • Matthew Hannam
  • Lisa Lassek
Running time 31–71 minutes
Production company(s)
Distributor Netflix
Release
Original network Netflix
Picture format 4K (Ultra HD)
Audio format Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 with Descriptive Video Service track
Original release December 16, 2016 (2016-12-16) – present
External links
Website

The OA is an American mystery drama Netflix series with science fiction, supernatural, and fantasy elements,[5][6] which debuted on Netflix on December 16, 2016.[7][8] Created and executive produced by Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij, the series is their third collaboration.[7][8] The series consists of eight episodes, all directed by Batmanglij, and is produced by Plan B Entertainment and Anonymous Content.[9] 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.

On February 8, 2017, Netflix renewed the series for a second season, dubbed "Part II".[10] Production started in January 2018 with Brit Marling reprising her lead role as Prairie.[11]

Premise[edit]

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.[12]

Cast[edit]

The following actors appear in the series:[13][14]

Main[edit]

Guest[edit]

Production[edit]

The series was conceived by Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij and they began working on the concept in December 2012.[22][23] They spent two years working on The OA on their own,[24] before pitching to studios.[25] 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.[26] 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,[26] playing all the characters and acting out the big moments through many hours.[27] They worked with Brad Pitt's Plan B Entertainment, which connected with the story and shared notes before it went to networks and studios .[24] 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.[28]

Rostam Batmanglij, Zal's brother, worked as one of the composers on the series, and he also wrote its theme music.[29] 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.[30]

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.[31]

Episodes[edit]

No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal release date
1"Homecoming"Zal BatmanglijBrit Marling & Zal BatmanglijDecember 16, 2016 (2016-12-16)
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 BatmanglijMelanie MarnichDecember 16, 2016 (2016-12-16)
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 BatmanglijBrit Marling & Dominic OrlandoDecember 16, 2016 (2016-12-16)
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 BatmanglijRuby Rae SpiegelDecember 16, 2016 (2016-12-16)
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 BatmanglijBrit Marling & Zal BatmanglijDecember 16, 2016 (2016-12-16)
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 BatmanglijMelanie MarnichDecember 16, 2016 (2016-12-16)
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 BatmanglijBrit Marling & Zal BatmanglijDecember 16, 2016 (2016-12-16)
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 BatmanglijBrit Marling & Zal BatmanglijDecember 16, 2016 (2016-12-16)
Hap convinces the sheriff that OA and Homer can cure his dying wife. Once healed, the sheriff's wife reveals she is an NDE survivor that can give them the fifth movement. Upon doing so, Hap kills her and her husband. He dumps OA on the side of the road, telling her he will jump dimensions with the others. In the present, OA tells a simplified version of her story to her parents. Nancy reveals to Abel she knew OA had left on her own. French breaks into OA's house and discovers some books that relate to OA's story (e.g. Homer's Iliad). He stumbles upon Elias and tells him OA's stories were lies, but Elias responds that what matters is that French was there for her. French shares the revelation with the others. After several weeks, the boys have returned to their previous lives, disconnected. BBA has been fired after meeting with the school board and plans to drive to California. The day BBA is collecting personal things from her classroom, a shooter approaches the school cafeteria where the boys are eating lunch. Meanwhile, OA realizes what her premonition means and runs towards the school. The boys and BBA, fearing for their lives, desperately decide to enact OA's five movements in front of the shooter. The shooter is confused by this action and somebody subdues him. A stray bullet hits OA at the cafeteria window where she had been watching from outside. As she's transported to an ambulance, OA tells the boys and BBA that their actions worked and that she can feel herself going to another dimension. Steve chases after the ambulance, yelling for OA to take him with her. The scene cuts to black, then to OA looking into the camera, and then black again, as she asks "Homer?"

Reception[edit]

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."[32] Metacritic, based on 17 reviews, assigned the series a rating of 61 out of 100, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[33] Most reviewers acknowledged the series' ambition and praised its mystery and direction. Reviewers made both favorable[5][34][35][36] and unfavorable[37][38][39] 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."[5] 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."[40] New York Magazine headlined its glowing review, "Netflix's The OA Is an Extraordinary, Binge-Worthy December Surprise".[41]

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."[42]

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."[43] 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.[44]

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".[45]

Accolades[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result Ref.
2017 GLAAD Media Awards Outstanding Drama Series The OA Nominated [46]
2017 Writers Guild of America Award Episodic Drama Brit Marling & Zal Batmanglij Nominated

References[edit]

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  3. ^ "Monroe- Woodbury High School to be the set of new Netflix series – Monroe Woodbury NY – Local News". thephoto-news.com. Retrieved January 3, 2017. 
  4. ^ Kristina Dorsey (May 10, 2016). "Netflix series wraps a two-day shoot in Groton". The Day. Retrieved December 25, 2016. 
  5. ^ a b c "John Doyle: Netflix's mysterious The OA is mind-bending drama". theglobeandmail.com. Retrieved December 18, 2016. 
  6. ^ "Could The OA be the new Stranger Things? All we know so far about Netflix's mysterious new show". telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved December 19, 2016. 
  7. ^ a b Pedersen, Erik (December 12, 2016). "The OA Trailer: Netflix Releases First Look & Sets Premiere Date For Drama". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved December 12, 2016. 
  8. ^ a b "Netflix orders new original series The OA starring Brit Marling". Digital Spy. March 5, 2015. Retrieved March 5, 2015. 
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  23. ^ lefigaro.fr (December 21, 2016). "The OA, la série "révolutionnaire" de Netflix racontée par." lefigaro.fr. Retrieved December 22, 2016. 
  24. ^ a b "Brit Marling Spills on Her Mysterious New Netflix Show 'The OA'". marieclaire.com. December 16, 2016. Retrieved December 22, 2016. 
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  28. ^ "Brit Marling-Zal Batmanglij Drama Gets Netflix Series Order (Exclusive)". hollywoodreporter.com. Retrieved December 22, 2016. 
  29. ^ "Character Building: Brit Marling". The New York Times. December 16, 2016. Retrieved December 22, 2016. 
  30. ^ "The OA's Choreographer on the Meaning of the 'Movements'". vulture.com. December 21, 2016. Retrieved December 22, 2016. 
  31. ^ Rowney, Jo-Anne (10 January 2017). "Answers to your The OA questions including season 2 and who is Allison Wilke". mirror.co.uk. Retrieved 10 January 2017. 
  32. ^ "The OA: Season 1 – Rotten Tomatoes". rottentomatoes.com. Retrieved January 6, 2017. 
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  34. ^ Busis, Hillary. "Netflix's New Sci-Fi Drama Isn't the Next Stranger Things—It's Better". vanityfair.com. Retrieved December 18, 2016. 
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  36. ^ "'The OA': Your New Holiday Binge?". yahoo.com. Retrieved December 18, 2016. 
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  43. ^ "'The OA': TV Review". hollywoodreporter.com. Retrieved December 17, 2016. 
  44. ^ Saraiya, Sonia (December 16, 2016). "TV Review: Netflix's 'The OA'". variety.com. Retrieved December 17, 2016. 
  45. ^ Debruge, Peter (December 24, 2016). "Why The OA is One of the Year's Most Important Films". variety.com. Retrieved December 24, 2016. 
  46. ^ Schwindt, Oriana (January 31, 2017). "'Moonlight,' Netflix's 'The OA,' 'Supergirl' Snag GLAAD Media Awards Nominations". Variety Reporter. Retrieved January 31, 2017. 

External links[edit]