Last time I talked a little about the first season of The OA, its premise and some of the themes running throughout, with a particular view in what made it so unique. It was an incredible eight episodes, with lots to ponder, and it ended with many questions—questions of validity (of Prairie’s story), of destiny (both of hers and that of her fellow captives—and also her new-found friends), and of understanding (for instance—what is Elias’s involvement? Why does Rachel not receive a movement, and why were the plants dying in her cell?). There are many, many more uncertainties that have made the two year wait for a follow up so perplexing for many viewers.
I don’t know if Part 2 of The OA, due very soon, will expand upon its universe(s) or twist our expectations in a new direction, perhaps even undoing our limited understanding of what has gone before. One thing is for sure—it will be fascinating to watch, emotional, and thought-provoking. In fact, in response to the recent release of a trailer, and in anticipation of the new series, I spoke to fellow writers here at 25YL, Martin Hearn and Anthony Divers (fans of the show) about our experiences of the first season and our hopes for the new one…
Paul: So, it seems like a good place to start would be asking you what the first season of The OA meant to you both?
Anthony: To me, The OA is one of those shows that when you try to explain to someone why they need to watch it, you struggle to make it sound good without giving away any spoilers. Much like Twin Peaks, I want everyone to watch it but I can’t really say why. I’m at an age now where I gauge new shows on the emotional impact they have on me. And watching The OA had me feeling all sorts. The first time I saw the finale I was floored. It felt like I’d been beaten up but in a good way. So to me, The OA means emotion. It means outcasts coming together and finding somewhere they belong. It means love transcending time and space. And it means hope. It’s a show that’s much more than a show, it’s a feeling. And it feels great.
Paul: That’s really interesting you say that. I felt the same in terms of getting more from the show than just a story and trying to describe that in words is difficult—especially without giving that story away. You kind of want someone to ‘discover’ it for themselves. Martin, was that the same for you? How did you find The OA?
Martin: I found The OA by complete accident and I’m so glad that I did. I was having a restless night and couldn’t sleep so began endlessly browsing the Netflix menu looking for something to send me off to sleep. I stumbled across The OA which I had never heard of, seen any trailer for, or even seen anybody speaking about it online so figured I would just jump in and give it a go. I ended up being up all night as I binge-watched the entire season in one go till the sun started coming up. I felt a really strong emotional connection to the show, but I’m not really sure why and still can’t quite put my finger on it.
Paul: Much like you, I didn’t know anything about it either and it’s one of the only shows I have given myself permission to binge watch, which I normally avoid. I watched one every night, kind of like getting Prairie’s story each night, as in the series.
You both talked about an emotional connection, which I got too. From all the themes that thread throughout, and the characters that we follow, were there any that particularly stood out for you?
Martin: BBA was my absolute favourite from the moment we met the character right through to the end. The moment in the finale when she first hears the gunshots and cries out “my boys” gets to me every single time. I loved how they didn’t take the predictable path and have all the characters learning Prairie’s story just be high school students. Adding an older, very different character in there changed things and created a whole new dynamic to the group.
Anthony: This is where this show is different than others; I can’t pick out a character that stood out. And I don’t mean that in the sense that they were all boring, but the opposite; they were all brilliant. I always think I felt a connection with Prairie and Homer most. But then I think, no Steve. Actually no it’s BBA. Oh, actually it’s Buck. And then I realise I love them all. Which is rare in a TV show. I normally have a favourite and a least favourite. But not with The OA. Maybe it’s because everyone has their own tragedy to deal with, instead of just having the one character with a tragic story.
Martin: I agree, despite BBA being my favourite I definitely couldn’t tell you a character I actually disliked.
Paul: What did we think of Hap? I remember having so little sympathy for him, but on a rewatch I was intrigued as to whether there was more that we are unaware of? If this is just Prairie’s story, might we be missing something?
Anthony: I was personally dim enough to fall for his charms and was genuinely shocked when Prairie realises she’s been locked in the cell. I don’t particularly like what he’s done and how he’s gone about it but it’s so crazy it makes me think something must have happened to him that we don’t know about yet. It’s interesting that in the trailer for season 2, the other captives seem to be working with him. Or is that another timeline? I don’t know but I can’t wait to find out.
Paul: He’s a smart man, a scientist, obviously driven beyond modern, acceptable methods of experimentation—and he isn’t the only one (his friend Leon appears to have done similar unorthodox tests). Is there a cult of some sort behind this? Could he be working with the FBI—is that why Elias was so keen on gleaning so much information—and why he was in Prairie’s house? Or was that genuine concern? Who knows at this moment.
But back to what you said Martin—I loved BBA. She was so real a person to me. The actress did such a beautiful job. They were all so real throughout, to the point where I didn’t like some of them at times, but I…understood them? Does that make sense? On a different level. They were complicated.
Anthony: I get that. I didn’t agree with some of Steve’s choices but I understood why he made them and didn’t hold them against him.
Martin: There’s something so unique and wonderful about Phyllis Smith, who played BBA, I think she’s a really powerful actress without even knowing it.
Anthony: Her face. It tells a story of its own. And her voice. She was literally ‘sadness on the Inside Out’. She has a naturally heartbreaking tone. Urgh. I love her.
Paul: Haha. She was amazing. And I agree about Steve. Unlikable in so many ways (my wife thought he was a great character and the actor played him perfectly) but that’s people, that’s becoming an adult…A messy time. I’m guessing that’s what the OA meant about borders “like youth and adulthood.”
That’s definitely one of the threads we experience. There are so many others. Obviously one of the biggest is the idea of angels, of an afterlife or other universes. Did all that intrigue you as it did me?
Martin: I’ve had conversations with people in the past about a possible afterlife but in all honesty, I’ve never actually given it proper thought and came up with an educated decision on it. This show has definitely made me think about it more.
I don’t know whether I believe in angels but I definitely think that people we’ve lost in life are somewhere looking out for us.
Anthony: I’m gonna hold my hands up and say I was disappointed when we found out what OA stood for. After all the mystique it was religion all along? Really? I think I literally said to Martin ‘It better not mean original angel’ when it started hinting at it. It felt a bit bland after all of the mystical mysterious stuff that had happened. But now that it’s over I get it. And I appreciate it. I guess as an alien nerd I just wanted it to be something about space. Not religion.
Also, it doesn’t mean angel as in white wings and harps which is the image I have had burned into my mind since childhood. So I guess my thoughts on angels blurred what the show was actually saying.
Paul: Years ago I had a fascination with all paranormal and spiritual things. It came about after I had something a psychiatrist called ‘an existential event’. The meaning behind things in my life had disappeared and I was, I guess, adrift without an anchor. It was a really scary thing and I fell into one hell of a depression. And one of the things I did at the time was read, a lot. And I went from religion to religion, belief to belief system, trying to find something to resonate with me, to ground me or whatever it was that could just point in me in the right direction. It’s amazing that a lot of things I ‘got’ from The OA had some ties to things I had read, experiences that I had heard of.
I think the show is defining an ‘angel’ as something slightly different to the classic view, but it plays with the imagery a lot. For instance, the chair and apparatus that the NDE experiments are conducted in—from behind it looks like an angel—wings, halo etc..
Martin: I think about that chair making them all appear as angels when in it, I noticed it on my first watch through and it’s one of the first things I think of when I think of the show. I’ve never massively been into religion and I only ever dabbled with Christianity in my teenage years for a few months and then later tried Buddhism but could never get into it enough to keep going. That’s why I don’t think religion is for me.
Anthony: Paul—that’s spookily similar to something I went through in Uni. I only found any comfort in Buddhism out of all the religions I looked into.
Paul: Buddhism was the closest of anything that resonated with me too…
Anthony: But even that was too much for me. So I took a gap year and turned to Beyonce and I’ve never looked back. I…don’t think I noticed that about the chair…that’s really interesting. I’m gonna Google it!
Paul: Here’s a screen grab I took..
Anthony: Shit.. How did I not see that?! Halo and everything!
Paul: I think we all notice different things in the show! (I even picked up on some of the songs played in the show, like “Battle Angels” and “Possessing The Angels,” which was playing in Hap’s headphones) I haven’t had time at all, but there are so many subreddits and commentaries etc out there devoted to picking the show apart for details and clues, including our own series reviews The OA season 1. I think our new site message board will light up when Part 2 comes out!
Speaking of that, what did you both think of the trailer? What did you get from it?
Anthony: Intrigue. Pure intrigue. I’m excited to see where the story goes from here, especially as it shows us an alternate universe. And those weird experiments, what are those about?! I’m glad to see everyone back for it too. I’m just worried it won’t live up to Season 1. But I always feel that when I really love the first season. I’m hopeful.
Martin: The trailer is not what I expected at all but I genuinely don’t know what I was expecting to happen in Season 2. It does look incredible and I think it’s only going to add to the mystery as opposed to giving us a lot of answers, which I’m cool with. I know there are some new characters coming in too, which is fine, but I don’t want them to take away screen time from the characters we already love. I want more BBA and the boys; seeing them in the trailer has kept me hopeful that they have a big part to play in the story still. I’m interested to know what will happen to Abel and Nancy in this new season as Scott Wilson died last year. I have heard that he filmed some scenes before he passed, so I’m really intrigued to see what part he’ll play and if they’ll have the character die too.
Paul: I understand what you mean about the trailer. I was nervous and not sure what to expect. I am so attached to the characters that I would miss them if we left some of them behind. It was great to see them again…But I am needing a few answers too, and it looks like we will get some. It doesn’t appear that the creators are toying with the audience and not delivering on the premise of the show—but I also think we are guaranteed to have more questions too! And I may be wrong, but we would be disappointed if we didn’t have more mystery and more elements to be curious about, to talk about..? It’s part of the DNA of the show.
Anthony: Definitely. Season 1 felt like there was a new WTF at the end of each episode. I hope they keep that up.
Martin: Yes I absolutely want more mystery to dissect and discuss with people which is why I genuinely don’t want them to give us many answers.
Paul: OK. Last question! Is everything we have been told by Prairie true, given the doubts we may have (the books discovered under her bed, the knowledge of Hap’s run-in with his colleague Leon despite not having witnessed it, Buck’s dad closing the front door with no effect (the door was to remain open when visiting the OA) etc etc…)?
Anthony: I do still have that niggling feeling that it’s all in her head and she’s imagined the whole thing but I’m hoping it’s not that simple. If you look at it from a different perspective she could be a girl that pretended to be blind after a childhood trauma, who ran away and faced another traumatic event which sent her insane. She returned, dropped the blind act and made up stories to strangers to help deal with what had happened to her. Then she was shot. I don’t think it will be anything like that but there’s that little voice in the back of my head saying she’s a liar. I’m choosing to ignore it.
Martin: Can we be sure it’s even the real Prairie? Now that the trailer for Season 2 has opened up the door for multiple versions of themselves what’s to say the version we got in Season 1 was never the original/real one? The doubts suggest, to me, that it’s a different Prairie and these tiny mistakes have cropped up because she doesn’t know the real story or has told parts wrong as they aren’t clear to her. I feel like her real mother may have some part to play in the story at some point in the future as all we know is that she died during childbirth, but is that the same in every reality? Is she alive somewhere? The same can be said for her father. Perhaps in the new reality which looks like the main focus of Season 2 her father will still be alive. I’m glad we don’t have long to wait to find out.
Paul: Wow. Good points. For me? As the great line goes, “I want to believe.”
As always, lots to think about and definitely more twists and turns to come. Thanks guys. Not long to wait now!
The OA: Part 2 is due on Netflix March 22, 2019.
We will be covering it here at 25YL—stay tuned!