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Saturday, Nov 23, 2019

The OA season 2 review: Netflix’s wildly ambitious show has one of the most stunning endings in recent memory

The OA season 2 review: Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij return with the long overdue second season of their mind-bending Netflix show, one of the most stunningly original ever made. Rating: 4.5/5.

tv Updated: Mar 27, 2019 14:23 IST
Rohan Naahar
Rohan Naahar
Hindustan Times
The OA season 2 review: Genius co-creator Brit Marling in a still from the Netflix show.
The OA season 2 review: Genius co-creator Brit Marling in a still from the Netflix show.(Nicola Goode/Netflix)
         

The OA Part II
Creators - Brit Marling, Zal Batmanglij
Cast - Brit Marling, Jason Isaacs, Emory Cohen, Phyllis Smith, Patrick Gibson, Brendan Meyer, Brandon Perea, Ian Alexander
Rating - 4.5/5 

It is probably a sign of how well-mannered the fanbase of The OA is that in the three days it took for me to finish it, no one said a word about its objectively insane ending. Or perhaps, more depressingly, it is a sign of how few people actually watch the show, which returned on Netflix for a long overdue second season this week.

Either way, imagine this: In an era when even the most mundane information is communicated on the internet with the seriousness of a health advisory, millions of people watched an entire season of a show filled with talking points, and had the kindness to allow others to have the same transcendental experience that they did.

Watch the OA Part II trailer here

 

Not like they could’ve explained what they’d seen even if they’d tried. The OA is nothing like a television show, nor is it like any movie I’ve ever seen. It is its own thing - a strange audio-visual experiment that uses cinematic language almost as a matter of chance.

One can just as easily imagine creators Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij choosing to write books instead, or compose music to convey their complex humanist ideas.

In one crucial episode this season, dubbed Part II for understandably lofty reasons, we are introduced to an enigmatic new character. She appears out of nowhere, equipped with the sort of culturally vague accent that only the most nomadic souls seem to possess. At the risk of revealing more than I should, the point of introducing this character is understood only in the season’s final moments, during a sequence of such breathtaking originality, that you’re forced to reconsider everything you’ve seen so far.

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It is a similar sensation to what you probably felt at the end of season one, when the show conducted its own judgment day of sorts. Having lured you up the Stairway to Heaven, right at the foot of the Pearly Gates, The OA pulled the rug from under its audience’s feet and proceeded to divvy it up - the cynical half was sent packing, while the rest of us, the true believers, were inducted into its cult.

Like the hot-headed Steve, we found ourselves chasing ambulances, successfully brainwashed into believing whatever kooky ideas Marling and Batmaglij were sermonising. In Part II, the pair appears to make the suggestion that all of humanity is intrinsically divine. It’s a noble thought, far too pure for the world we sadly live in.

But this isn’t the sort of new-age melodrama that the Wachowskis are known for. Instead, Marling and Batmanglij take a rather cerebral approach towards spirituality, combining elements of science fiction with Eastern philosophy. Part II of the OA plays it just as loose with genre as season one, serving up a heady cocktail of noir mystery with bonkers sci-fi, as the OA awakens to find herself in another dimension - one where she’s still Nina Azarova and not Prairie Johnson.

Part II doubles down on the inter-dimensional aspects of the story, but not in a cutesy Star Trek/Marvel way. Alternate dimensions in the OA are conceptually heavier and visually distinct, but like everything else about the show, they’re rooted in humanist thought. What if we made different decisions in our lives? What if we married the one that got away? What if we could erase our mistakes and have a second shot at life?

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These are the same ideas that Marling, especially, has been wrestling with ever since the days of her indie debut, Another Earth. The idea that there exists, somewhere in the universe, another version of you - perhaps happier, perhaps sadder, perhaps just the same - is something that keeps attracting her, like Aladdin’s alluring cave.

The OA is consistently challenging, refreshingly ambitious, and a bittersweet reminder of the Golden Age of Netflix, back when the streaming service had cultivated an identity for itself with consistency excellent programming.

It took three years and a whole lot of trust for Marling and Batmanglij to deliver a second season. And as difficult as it is to write about - for multiple reasons - the wait was quite worth it.

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The author tweets @RohanNaahar