Saturday, December 17, 2016

Review of TV series OA



I watched this series on Netflix, one episode after the other for the eight episodes and then looked for a review – found one but wasn’t happy with it.  The reviewer didn’t like the series, didn’t think it worked.  I on the other hand did like it and did think it worked. 

The relationship of OA to the 1990 movie Flatliners bothered me a bit, but the NDE’s (Near Death Experiences) in OA weren’t the horror-filled experiences of Flatliners.  We only hear the details of OA’s flat-line experiences but have to assume that Homer was there before her and learned the first couple of dance movements. 

Perhaps the series stands or falls on Brit Marling’s performance and I thought she did okay.  She is also credited with co-creating the series along with Zal Batmanglij.  And perhaps the reviewer who didn’t like the series wanted a bigger ending, but the ending was okay, if not big.  The goal of the wise-woman in OA’s NDE experiences was to equip her with the dance steps that would accomplish something OA would learn later on.  For what purpose?  We learn that it takes five people dancing these steps together to generate the power needed to accomplish something (although it only took two to bring the Sheriff’s wife back to life).  In two cases these dances raise someone from the dead.  In the third case it stops a kid with an automatic weapon from massacring a huge number of kids in a cafeteria. 

Prairie, OA, is the one fatality of the attempted school shooting, but we learn earlier that she wanted to “pass over to the other side to be with her father” whom she is assured will be waiting for her.  One of the five (a boy who has been a bully) runs after the ambulance yelling “take me with you,” but the ambulance drives on and he is left behind.  Will one of the five become the leader?  Perhaps it will be French.  He is a persuasive kid as we see, especially in the last event where he initiated the dance that stopped the planned mass-murder.  Also, it creates one of the story’s twists to have him be the one who finds some books among OA’s belongings that cause him to think she made everything up – and yet he is the first one to start the dance to stop the shooting in the cafeteria.  Which suggests he doubted her intellectually but believed her at a more visceral level. 

What becomes of the mad doctor Hap (excellently played by Jason Isaac) who wanted the secret of the dance for himself?  We aren’t told.  He kept Homer with him planning to get Homer to do the dance with him in order to wield the power, but will Homer cooperate?  It seems doubtful, but Hap has throughout the series come up with clever blackmail to keep Prairie and the others in line.  Hap’s motives seemed benign at the beginning but toward the end he has become a murderer.  Perhaps his own flatline experience will be more like those in the 1990 movie.

What do the letters “OA” mean?  At some point near the end of the series we see Greek Letters being used: Omega/Alpha which is a reverse of the letter symbols used for God “I am the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end,” so we may perhaps be permitted to guess that OA’s “endings” precede her “beginnings” because she is brought back to life after her NDEs.  Also, she is the one described as uniquely equipped to assemble a group of five in order to learn the dance steps.

It is a bit strange to see Phyllis Smith, who was 65 in 1916 doing these dance steps until one looks her up and learns that in her youth she was a ballet and jazz dancer until well into her 30s.  OA (whose name before her captivity was Prairie Johnson) puts out her request on the internet and readily accepts the five who show up. 

I watched the 8 episodes thinking OA was a mini-series and that 8 was all there would be, but I read just now that some people are at least discussing a second series.  I considered everything satisfactorily closed, but it is possible to see enough open for a second series.  Yes, we hear the sound of a machine indicating that Prairie has flatlined, but after all her NDE’s she could have another return to life – or French could get the rest of the five together, do the dance and restore Prairie to life.  And, to fill out a second series, perhaps the evil doctor Hap has forced Homer to do the dance with him in order to accomplish some interesting end.  

Will all these actors be up for a second season?  Alice Krige, who played Prairie’s (OA’s) mother was born in 1954.  Scott Wilson who played Prairie’s father was born in 1942.  These two actors wouldn’t be critical to a second series if one or both didn’t feel up to it.  But Phyllis Smith was born in 1951 and does seem critical.  Would she be up to a second season.  She doesn’t look in good health, but she did do a lot of dancing so maybe she’ll be okay.

If there is a second season, one would think that Prairie would need a love interest, but it can’t be any of the males on her team of five since they are too young.  There was already the allegation of pedophilia in this series.  It seemed improper for the late-twenties Prairie to have gathered a group that includes under-aged boys.  Homer is the likely candidate to be her love interest in a second series.  He is more her age and she is already in love with him.  Could a whole series be built around Prairie’s getting Homer away from the evil Dr. Hap?  Perhaps.