The prisons of the mind, the prisons of the soul are more suffocating than the ones with rusty bars and bad food. Escaping them requires not a rock hammer and 19 years, but imagination, fantasy, and occasionally, even elaborate dance routines.
The call came a few weeks ago. A new show was coming, they said. It was being kept a secret. Its existence would be announced mere days before its premiere. It was called The OA, and nothing more was revealed.
There aren’t many out there who count themselves as fans, or are even familiar with the work of actor/writer/all-around genius Brit Marling. But for those of us lucky to belong to her cult, anything she touches instantly becomes the priority – and this, in the same week that brings Rogue One. The OA had been hovering around the radar for a year, but with absolutely no word about it arriving after those initial couple of days, it seemed like it had simply been postponed to a later, better date – especially considering how tight Netflix’s release schedule has been lately.
But then, that call came. A new show was coming, they said. It was being kept a secret. Where do we even begin…
If I were to describe, in plain words, the show that I have just finished watching, it would probably draw laughter. But such is the straight-faced solemnity with which it tells its story, that you find yourself being sucked in to its surreal world, engrossed as one episode flows into the next. Talking about it can be truly rewarding only when everyone is clued in, and for that, you’re going to have to watch it before spoilers flood the Internet. After all, it is a show designed to be discussed and debated. They’re going to be talking about The OA for a while.
Ideally, you should jump right into it, without even a glance at its trailer, and with enough rations by your side to last 8 hours. But since a trailer exists, and since it hints at a premise, there should be no harm in repeating it here.
The OA is the story of Prairie Johnson, a blind girl who returns to her hometown after being missing for 7 years – her eyesight restored. Surrounded by scrutiny, hounded to the brink of insanity, she gathers 5 misfits from the town – mostly kids - and begins telling them her remarkable story, of the man who kidnapped her, and angels that saved her.
That’s all you’re going to get. It’s for your own good...
Because only a sadist would reveal even the tiniest detail about its plot beforehand. Think of it like being thrust The Catcher in the Rye by your best friend, a frenzied look in their eyes, wordlessly conveying its brilliance. To experience The OA for yourself, to make of it what you will, to love it or to hate it, that is the joy it offers. Watching this show is going to be a solitary experience, yes – but only till you’ve finished it, and the Internet has finished it. Only then will it come to life. And then, it will live forever.
Speaking of Salinger, watching the show is very much like reading a novel. The fluidity in its unconventional storytelling, its 8 ‘chapters’ ranging from an hour and ten minutes to just half an hour in length make it seem more like an 8-hour movie than an episodic TV show. Its opening credits arrive an hour into episode 1, in the first of many moments of revelation.
But answers don’t come easy in The OA. In fact, an unusually high level of patience would be necessary to fully appreciate it. And for many, its final moments will be unsatisfyingly ambiguous.
But for those of you who have seen Brit Marling’s previous films, Another Earth and Sound of My Voice (both masterpieces - Sound of My Voice, which is also directed by Zal Batmanglij, could easily be a sequel to this show), watching The OA will be like returning to the weird, wonderful little abandoned basement she has dug for herself, and other like-minded oddballs.
For the rest of you, you are in an enviable position. There is only ever going to be one first time. Buckle up. How often do you get to see geniuses at work?
Watch the trailer for The OA here