Saturday, March 18, 2017

The OA (Season 1)

I’ve always found flashbacks to be cliché.  Usually, it comes off as a way of padding a movie or TV episode.  You could just as easily show what happened.  Sometimes, it’s effective.  It can be used as a way to raise questions or cast doubt.  Such is the case with The OA.

It starts with a woman jumping off of a bridge.  She’s known as Prairie Johnson, but she wants to be addressed as The OA.  Her parents, who we soon learn are adoptive, have no idea what happened to her in the intervening seven years.  She simply ran off one day.  Oh, and it takes Prairie a moment to recognize her parents.  You see, seven years ago, she was blind.  Now she can see.

Prairie gathers five people in an uncompleted house to hear her story.  One is a teacher; the rest are students.  (They are all from the same school.)  She was born in Russia as Nina Azarov.  Her father was a rich man, but became a target.  As such, Nina was in danger.  She was injured in an attack, resulting in a near-death experience and blindness.  Her father eventually sent her away to a boarding school until his death.

She is eventually adopted by an American couple, the Johnsons, and renamed Prairie.  She’s brought to the United States and raised until she runs away.  It’s approaching her 21st birthday and she has a dream that her father will meet her at the Statue of Liberty.  Of course, he’s not there, but she meets Hap, a guy who has a plane and a plan to help her.  Of course, by help, he means abduct.

The narrative alternates between Prairie telling her group of five about her ordeal and their respective lives in the present.  Prairie is seeing a counselor from the FBI while her five protégés/disciples have lives of their own.  Prairie and her parents try to get her back to normal.  The problem is that her story is anything but normal.  Hap is doing research into near-death experiences.  All of the other captives that she tells the group about had similar experiences.  In fact, that’s what she needs help with.  Her plan is to teach the others to open a portal so that she can go back and save the others.

If you think that this sounds a little weird, it is.  Prairie’s story comes off as what you might expect from someone who escaped captivity.  It sounds very much like a coping mechanism.  She desperately tried to find a way to save herself while in captivity and is having a hard time coming down from it.  How much of it is real, though?  Were there really others or were they figments of her imagination to help her cope?  Was she really having near-death experiences or was she just hallucinating from being held captive for so long?

There’s the issue of her regaining her sight.  I’m sure such things happen.  However, is it possible that she was conditioned to play blind so that she would be adopted?  She was able to fool Hap for a while.  Could she have been playing her adoptive parents for sympathy?  If this is the case, what really happened during those seven years?

Even if we take her story at face value, there are questions.  Each of the captives are shown wearing the same clothes the entire time.  There’s no mention of their clothing being washed or changed, nor do the clothes seem to get dirty.  Also, Hap seems to be able to record the captives’ experiences while they’re on The Other Side.  How is this possible?  Speaking of seemingly impossible, Prairie and another captive, Homer, are able to write the movements, in code, on their backs.  How did they do this, given that they were separated?  The markings are on their backs in an area that’s difficult to reach and there are no signs of any sort of tool.  Also, why split the markings between two captives?  Why not write all the movements on all of the prisoners?

The big issue is that there doesn’t seem to be much proof of her ordeal.  The prisoners managed to get a bill with Hap’s P.O. Box number on it.  It seems like such a simple thing to remember.   Yet, when Prairie returns, she can’t seem to tell which city she was being held in.  You’d think that if they could encode movements on their backs, they could have memorized or encoded a simple address.

As much as I enjoyed the series, I had a sense of being let down at the end.  It looks like there’s going to be a second season.  However, we’re not left with a cliffhanger, per se.  We’re also not left with much of a resolution.  There’s not that decisive moment were it either all comes together or forces that one unresolved issue upon us that will leave us hanging until next season.  Instead, you get all of these uneasy feelings that only become questions later on. 

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