The OA Season 2 (Netflix)
Written by Brit Marling, Zal Batmanglij, Damien Ober, Nicki Paluga, Dominic Orlando, Henry Bean, and Claire Kiechel
Directed by Zal Batmanglij, Andrew Haigh, and Anna Rose Holmer
Private Karim Washington is visited at his houseboat by a distraught Vietnamese grandmother. She hands him a photo of her granddaughter Michelle and explains that she is missing. Washington begins searching San Francisco and following leads about a mysterious game that teens are playing and which Michelle was involved with. The threads of this investigation lead our detective to Nina Azarova, a wealthy Russian expatriate with ties to a secretive tech developer. Meanwhile, Prarie, the young woman with a fantastic story from season one finds herself transported to this new dimension and placed in the body of Nina, herself having lived out an entirely different set of circumstances. Prairie is immediately confronted with familiar faces who also found their way across the multiverse to this reality. More is revealed about the nature of Prarie’s powers and the structure of these webs of reality leading her towards another brush with death and a whole new world opening up.
The OA is a show unlike most, sometimes feeling like a program you’d expect to come across on the SyFy Channel and other times brushing against the esoteric grandness of David Lynch. This is an impossible series to pin down as just one thing. The co-creators Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglji manage to navigate between the cosmic and human with such a deft touch, but they have been doing this since their film projects like Another Earth and Sound of My Voice. They have an innate understanding that to tackle ideas of profound existential importance you can’t be caught up on the technical details; instead, look at the emotional ones. It’s a way of writing and creating that made me love Lost and continue to enjoy that show despite some people’s disappointments with the finale. It’s also the same mindset that brought us The Leftovers, arguably the best television series of the 21st century.
With its second season The OA, having been deeply grounded for most of the first season, finally allows itself to get much stranger. Immediately we have the multiverse angled played up as Michelle is the same person as Buck, the transmale teen from season one. Washington is unaware of this, but the audience is meant to be aware of the connection. We learn in the season finale about the other teens’ whereabouts in this reality, while the show jumps back and forth between worlds. I found the couple of episodes that focused on Steve, French, Buck, Jesse, and BBA to be the best ones. The love and complexity of those characters’ relationships was the most endearing part of the season.
If you watched the first season and expected to get a deluge of answers, you’ll be wrong, but that’s another aspect of the show I loved. The more The OA answers, the deeper it dives and the weirder it gets. Just some of the things you’ll encounter in these eight episodes are a mirror that spirits can speak through, a Silicon Valley dream recording experiment, a large puzzle house in the middle of San Francisco, and a telepathic octopus. Everything is presented with such dedication to the story and characters that as ludicrous as some of these sound you will be swept up in the overarching story.
The season ends in a place that opens up the next collection of episodes to go somewhere incredibly wild, and I expect that will be the finale of the whole sequence. Marling and Batmanglji are daring in where they are willing to go and their dedication to spinning these ideas out. As a result, they are creating a new mythos built around an idea that could keep going on and on into perpetuity. I doubt they will keep milking the concept until it is stale, but that means when the ending comes, we’ll be caught up in what it all means and where it could go.