The OA Review

By Patricia Azevedo

What happens to us when we die? This question has perplexed humanity. Since the beginning of thought, people have wondered what would happen after their bodies ceased to function. Another wonder is that, should there be something where we are still us beyond our bodies, what life truly is.

The OA attempts to display perhaps a little bit of madness and perhaps a little bit of truth at the same time. It displays the scenes in such a way that you are unsure whether what you are seeing is being portrayed as reality or as a dream. The characters themselves discuss it.

It focuses on a group of people that have had near death experiences, or NDEs. Each of them, after the NDE, came back with some talent or ability. There is a woman, originally named Prairie, who is the main character. She, and four other people with NDEs, have been kidnapped by the modern day equivalent of a mad scientist. The mad scientist, Dr. “Hap” Percy, is perhaps one of the most brilliant creations of the show’s creators, Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij. His madness is subtle, and yet effectively disturbing. He hardly raises his voice, and he is, for all intents and purposes, keeping them merely for his experiments, but all the while you are left wondering if perhaps he’ll snap and kill them all for kicks. The rest of the characters are complex enough to fill practically every basic archetype and divide them up between the 5 focus characters pretty well. They discuss their surroundings in what is essentially a Socratic circle, but is also five people trapped inside a circular prison, each in their own cell.

The experiments of Dr. Percy have one focus: prove the afterlife exists. He has “set out to collect,” (his words, not mine), these people and discover what tangible thing he can record to prove the afterlife exists. For his experiment to work he has to be able to record them in the afterlife. Since he has to record them in the afterlife, he essentially has to carefully drown and revive them multiple times, and, at such times when they are technically dead, record their brainwaves.

The series shows their thoughts while “dead”, and this is what we are perceiving to be the real after life for a majority of the show. The show changes though when Prairie mysteriously arrives back home, and at this point all the things being said about the group are Prairie’s stories to this group of regular people from her hometown, and they appear to have no connection to each other. Eventually we find that all these people either attend or work at the same local high school.

Throughout Prairie’s stories, she keeps repeating the names of her fellow captives. The other characters have doubted most things she said, and yet they were entranced by the story. Their small amount of faith falls away when one high school student finds a box of books that belonged to Prairie that has the names of the other captives as each title. The high school student, who had been most skeptical, set down the books, turned to the group, and walked away without saying much. One by one the others walked away with him.

The series ends with the group using a set of “movements” Prairie and the other captives had allegedly learned from the afterlife to confuse a school shooter. The shooter stands still long enough for someone to tackle him to the ground while only getting off one, seemingly harmless, gunshot.

Everyone seems relieved until the group notices Prairie, who had come to the school because she had a bad feeling. Prairie was standing against the window, and she had taken the bullet through the glass. Prairie is put in an ambulance, but it is made apparent she is not going to make it. She tells the children not to worry, and that all along she had only wanted to be free. She said the movements had saved her and that she would be with the others now. The ambulance speeds out over the hill. The scene fades to black as the characters slowly walk away from the scene.

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