The OA is brilliant. I have not seen anything like it before now. It deals with life, death, and dying over and over again, in a way that is impossibly unreal but possibly real.
Brit Marling’s character Prairie Johnson is a little left of centre; somewhat spiritual. In the way she dresses, in the way she looks, and in the way she speaks. She is strange but intriguing, and at times comes across loopy – but viewers can’t help but want to follow her on her journey. Her narrative is a story inside a story, and the series unfolds during present day, however spends much of its time reflecting on Prairie’s past seven years. And it is these seven years that the whole plot is based on.
Prairie is kidnapped by a scientist called HAP, who is played by Jason Isaacs, and is held captive in his basement in a glass cage for seven years along with three other people. HAP – an abbreviated name for their captor, is suave, charming, endearing, intelligent and charismatic. He hooks you in and has you listening to his every word. Until, like Prairie, we wish we weren’t so naive, and we hadn’t listened to his every charming word. Who would think such a kind, and charming man could be capable of abducting four human beings, and then holding them illegally and against their will in his underground basement? I certainly did not see THAT coming at all.
But that is what he does. Because all of his subjects have one thing in common – they have all had near-death experiences – deathly experiences that have seen them all come back to life with beautiful talents and skills they did not possess before they died. And HAP has the machinery and resources to force these poor human beings to die time amd time again with one sole purpose in mind – to listen to their soundscapes as they die and once they have died. He wants to know where they go when they die – and what happens to them in the small interim between their forced drowning and their reawakening. He drowns them all many times over, and each time they all come back to life. Whilst the series does not go into detail about the processes and ingredients in his scientific experiment, it does show us that they are each gassed in their glass chambers before they are wheel-chaired away into an experiment room, which if I am honest looks like the cockpit of some sort of spaceship.
And the crux of these grand experiments is that the characters being held captive – along with Prairie – devise a way in which they can be present in their own experiments by remaining conscious, and not succumbing to the effects of the fluffy white gas that is pumped into their glassrooms at whim.
In The OA death is mysterious, beautiful, picturesque, and mystifying. Death looks a whole lot like our solar system or the Milky Way Galaxy. Death is a whole galaxy of brightly-shining stars that keep us company on our journey between this life and the next. The death and rebirth scenes in The OA walk the paths of reincarnation somewhat whilst leading viewers to believe that the near-death experiences people have in the real world probably have some credibility in them if we just opened our minds and tried to think about worlds beyond our own.
The OA encourages me to abandon my scepticism for so many existential themes and concepts that as human beings we will never be able to get answers for. I am not religious. I am a tiny bit spiritual. And I know the themes in this show are built upon tiers of fictional ideas, but these fictional ideas are not so firmly embedded in pure fantasy – if we thought about this show’s themes, long and hard enough, we would find some truth in them.
We may find some truth in the themes in 100 years time when technology has evolved and the human consciousness along with it. We may find the answers we seek about life and death when humanity reaches a spiritual plateau and we can traverse the multiple dimensions The OA creatively suggests the earth is susceptible to. None of that could happen. Or all of it might. None of us will know. Because by then, we will all be dead. Or traversing some higher dimension where we are dead but exist as something so much more than a body and a soul.
The OA is food for thought. It gets you thinking. It gets you watching and contemplating. It is an obscure, unconventional, mystical expression of existential theorising, and I just could not stop watching. Eight episodes was not enough for my desire for fictional knowledge. Or fact based fiction. However you want to look at it, the plot and the storyline are intriguing, addictive and absolutely satisfying watching. Five stars to The OA. A rare gem in an afterlife of galactical stars that reawakens the soul and nourishes the mind.