Welcome back to my weekly recap and analysis of The OA. Last week we left off with the resurrection of Scott by the movements learned by The OA and Homer. So things are getting pretty exciting now. The OA has escaped from her prison, so obviously they must succeed in their mission right? Let’s see…
This episode is strangely only 30 minutes long, in comparison to the hour-long others. Does this bear any meaning? Can clues be found in the length of each episode? No, thankfully Brit Marling said herself in an interview that they wrote the show as a book with chapters, and of course, chapters are not all the same length — that would be weird! I’m glad I don’t have to go looking for too much deep and meaningful in numbers; maths has never been my strong point.
We start this episode with Buck, learning the ‘movements’ in their mirror before sneaking out of the house under their father’s nose at night. Buck cycles by a bizarre scene on the road — remnants of a vehicle accident, lit by pink flares as if this has recently happened — but there is no dramatic event, no bodies, no emergency services attending to injured parties. The scene is historic. A backpack lies on the ground, reminding us of Rachel’s story of her NDE, where she saw herself above her own body in the van accident, and her little brother’s backpack strewn in the road. Is this a ghostly vision of that moment? Why would Buck see Rachel’s NDE, are they somehow linked?
Buck arrives at the abandoned house where all the others are practising the movements. The OA continues her story.
Two years have passed now. Scott gave them the third movement and in that time Renata had discovered the fourth. During Renata’s NDE she was told that during interdimensional travel one of the side effects was amnesia so now it is very important for them to have a catalogued and coded reminder of the movements. With nothing to write on, The OA scribbles the movement’s symbols, like musical notes, on her steamed up glass cell wall, which Homer then carved into his back; a way for them to never forget. Homer wears the second and fourth movement, and The OA has the first and the third. Like a map, they can never lose.
The OA explains that there are many dimensions, worlds, alternate realities, all on top of each other but they are inaccessible and every time you make a choice, a decision, it forks off into a new possibility. The NDE’s were a way to travel through them, but temporarily. The movements would help them travel to another dimension permanently, stay there; a new life, in a new world. But they had never done it.
Every movement they received the Angel Hunter, Hap, received as well. Hap now firmly believes in angels. Why wouldn’t he after watching his subjects bring someone back to life? He was in a race to beat them to the finish line. If they found the fifth movement, what exactly would Hap do with it?
Rachel was never given the fifth movement, no matter how hard Hap tried. Rachel is different from the others; she always has been. Her dark clothing, the dead plants in her cell. What if she if she’s not an angel? Is she a demon? A ghost? Just plain human? There must be more to her story — some say she might even be on Hap’s side, or a plant by the FBI or some secret agency, a spy? If August was her child, did any hope of her getting the fifth movement die along with her, was the movement passed on and get buried along with her?
Hap travels to the City (unknown) to meet with Leon, a colleague, his mentor, a professor in the same field as his. They walk together to the mortuary within a hospital, a wing that Leon tells him is dead; no-one other than the Janitor visits. It appears that they are both doing a similar study and Leon is keeping his subjects there at the hospital. Hap tells of his resentment of his own subjects because of the unity they feel for each other. He is all alone. They have tribalism that sustains them somehow.
Hap asks Leon how he doesn’t get attached. It is at this point that we realise we have met even more of a monster than even Hap himself. Leon enforces turnover of his subjects. Kills them with Potassium Chloride and tosses them into the incinerator. “There is no line between good and evil, there is only what man can stand.” Leon is so cold, so driven by the need to be the one make this huge discovery — to be that pioneering Scientist that will change the way the humanity sees life and death — that he has totally lost his own humanity, all empathy and sympathy for human suffering. Perhaps even worse is the monetary profit he is most looking forward to. Leon tells Hap that he’s on the brink of this discovery. In only a year or so he will be able to offer incontrovertible proof of an afterlife. Hap is unnerved. He wants to be the winner of this race, the pressure is on for him now.
Foolishly he starts to tell Leon what he’s learned from his subjects — that he thinks there is way more than one other reality, and that he even thinks he knows where they travel to, and could remain. Leon asks him where he thinks they go, but Hap doesn’t want to tell him, then plays down his discovery, interestingly stating that more than likely some younger scientist will come after them and he or she will probably switch the light on the whole thing. Why she? I am not for a minute suggesting a woman couldn’t be a leading scientist, of course, more that Hap seems to know of someone who could fill that role. I can’t help but think of Rachel again. I am probably way off the mark but we never see her being experimented on, and she is never given a movement. Is that because she never has an NDE? Is she assisting Hap, working on the inside?
Leon is rattled. He tricks Hap into looking into one of the corpse drawers in the mortuary, and whilst his back his turned his pulls a gun on him, demands to know what Hap has learned, and shoots at him, the bullet slicing his forehead as it flies by. They get into a scuffle. Hap beats him down and pushes his head into the lilac-coloured embalming fluid within the drawer. He begs Leon to stop fighting him, but he won’t. Leon takes his final breath. Hap, showing that he does have some humanity left in him, disguises himself upon leaving the hospital and catches a nurse to tell her that there are people who need help in the abandoned morgue. This is a risk for sure. Yes, Leon is dead and saving his subjects was an act of great mercy, but it puts his own work in great jeopardy. This will be a worldwide scandal for sure?
Hap’s subjects don’t require gas now. The OA willingly goes with him to partake in the experiment. His ‘rats’ are as interested in the outcome as he is. The OA takes her place in his wing shaped contraption, a halo of mechanical instruments above her head. It would be easy to see where she got the idea of being an angel from if her beliefs are a delusion. As she straps herself in, Hap begins to pour his heart out to her. He cannot contain his jealous feelings of her and Homer; he tries to ridicule their plans of being free, being together and living happily ever after in another dimension. He tells her that he thinks of her as a partner and proposes to her that they leave the next day, suspend the work, and take the first two movements which can heal and then set up a clinic somewhere remote, where they can cure the incurable. She notices now the cut on his head where he fought with Leon. He does not tell her what happened, which makes you wonder how she does know — she’s telling this story to the Crestwood Five, but how does she know what Hap did to Leon? How does she know that he set the subjects of Leon’s study free? Is this wishful thinking on her part? A totally made-up story after seeing the cut on his forehead? He begs her to leave with him; she refuses.
The experiment continues. She calmly takes death on. Drowns in the head tank and she is reborn again in the pool of the place where she knows Khatun to be. Energy pulsates around her; the purple stars start to fade from her ‘heaven’. She calls out for her, tells her they need the fifth movement but Khatun is not there for her this time. She awakens from her death with a gasp. Hap talks with her post NDE. She’s exhausted and doesn’t want to help him, but he tells her that he heard a sound and that he thinks he knows where she went. He plays her three sounds. The first two she does not recognise but the third she does. He reveals that this is the sound recorded by NASA of the rings of Saturn. That is where she went. That’s pretty amazing and all but it’s not another dimension, it is firmly within our solar system, albeit far, far away. So is this where they really go?
The OA starts to lose hope that they will ever get the fifth movement. She thinks Khatun does not want Hap to get his hands on it. Homer encourages her to be positive, tells her that in the place they travel to once they learn the fifth movement and escape, they will have a garden and they will plant vegetables together. There is something so romantic about talking about the everyday things, the things you take for granted doing together with the person you love. Fantasies of the mundane are often more beautiful than any huge gesture of love. The OA thinks they will fail in growing vegetables together as they have no idea how to care for them; they will die, and he agrees that they will the first time, but they will keep on trying again and again until they get it right. Homer is nothing but hope, and that is exactly what she needs.
Hap, now joyous upon his believed discovery that it is Saturn where they travel to at death, listens to the song of the Rings with his headphones on. He does not hear the Sheriff arrive at the door, which is open. The Sheriff steps in and sees the caged humans on the screen in front of him. He cocks his gun against the back of Hap’s head. Is this it? This is where it all ends for him?
For now, my thoughts lie with the advice given to Renata during her NDE. She was told that travelling to another dimension can cause amnesia. What if this has already happened? With Buck possibly seeing Rachel’s original NDE aftermath, could they be one and the same? Are these memories creeping to the surface of a life in another dimension? If this is the case, does the OA know this? She may remember being the Original Angel whereas the others have forgotten and just don’t recognise her. Is this what she is doing, reminding them of their former lives? Or does she not realise either? Does she really believe they are lost when really they are right there with her? We have a lot to ponder, until next week…