When I watched the pilot of The OA, I expected an almost violent level of weirdness. All I’d heard about the show that it was weird, possibly bad, and possibly amazing. Netflix’s photo of a woman in a horrifying head contraption reinforces this idea. Instead, I was surprised to be immersed in a show so mellow and vibey that it put me in somewhat of a trance.
The aesthetic of the show itself feels like my Pinterest account brought to life. There’s eerily-colored clouds, speckled cosmic backgrounds, a bit of modern dance, oh and of course elaborate braids. The show doesn’t operate in our reality, but in a nice, subdued reality full of gentle parents, quiet misfit kids and plants that grow underground.
The protagonist, Prairie, is like a stock photo of a woman that has frayed at the edges. Played by Brit Marling, she’s tall, blonde and willowy, with a calming, otherworldly presence. Yet there’s something about her that sets her apart from the chosen, golden characters she might otherwise play. Prairie is odd, walking out of her parents’ car with a blanket over her head, choosing to spend most of her time wearing a second-hand wolf hoodie, non-ironically.
With a transcendent mellowness, she weaves a tale of her kidnapping, her many deaths, the mysterious regaining of her vision, and her foray into mystical dance moves. Her chosen audience is a collection of misfits straight out of The Breakfast Club, including Phyllis Smith (The Office) and Patrick Gibson as a bully working on what Prairie calls his “invisible self.”
Once you get into The OA, there are things about it that will probably turn you off. There’s the mystical goddess of the afterlife, Khatun, whose scenes require quite a suspension of disbelief for any sci-fi lover. Then there are the dance moves, and what we find out “OA” stands for, which *** spoiler alert *** is pretty stupid. Some might also find the show’s finale to be a bit trite and unoriginal.
I recognized these things, and just like a good yogi, I let them pass over me. I was watching the show the same way I build a Pinterest board: chilling, appreciating spooky art and thinking about the meaning of life vaguely.
I guess this is a long way to say The OA is a whole lot of style, and a weird grab bag of substance-like-things. I didn’t read the ending as spiritual moralizing, but you could. To me it raised just enough doubt about its own premise not be too ham-fisted.
Despite The OA‘s flaws, its stylish execution and compelling acting made a fairly weak story feel emotionally resonant. I could say the same thing about Mr. Robot, which is certainly derivative of everything from Fight Club to V for Vendetta, yet was engaging nonetheless. The OA will have tough critics at the ready once season two comes along, but I’ll certainly tune in with an open mind.