The OA Season 1 Ending Makes The Same Mistakes As The Walking Dead
*SPOILERS FOR THE OA & THE WALKING DEAD AHEAD*
I have a friend who took a deep dive into LOST just before the 6th and final season premiered. He got a hold of the DVD box sets (this was a while ago) and started crushing 4-5 episodes a night. Conversations and breakdowns happened after nearly every cliffhanger. He followed every single moment and couldn’t wait to get home and spend another five hours with Jack, Kate, The Others, Polar Bears, Smoke Monsters and more… He was literally obsessed with Lost… Until they moved The Island.
It was a moment he wasn’t prepared for and he was instantly turned off. He gave a few ‘science-fictiony’ time travel episodes a shot before he totally lost interest and moved on.
The point is, there are shows that take sharp turns and lose their audiences in the process. The OA is full of moments like that for me but, thankfully, I never fully lost my curiosity as the story unfolded.
I didn’t watch the trailer above until after I saw all 8 episodes that make up the first season. I went in completely blind. (Pun intended) The first big turn revealed the idea of Near Death Experiences. I’ll admit, it was a bit of a turnoff when it was strongly suggested the titular OA is The (an?) Original Angel. What does that mean? The use of the first original implies she’s either one of the first or simply a catalyst meant to teach others?
The show deals a lot with the idea of fate and faith. Faith in something bigger than ourselves. It’s what makes Prairie (AKA The OA) such a fascinating character with an unbelievable story to tell. Like her companions, I was completely engrossed with her tale. Seven years of captivity in the name of angelic research was heightened thanks to the phenomenal chemistry amongst the captive cast.
What fascinated me most was the idea that these captives were being watched and experimented on while they completed their own research simultaneously. It made for an interesting dynamic as Hap could enable their research while simultaneously enhancing his own.
Then the show almost lost me again when they introduced the idea of movements. Continually dying over and over again to gain access to five powerful movements is remarkably brave but the movements themselves felt awkward. And really, other than healing, the movements haven’t demonstrated much other than the ability to distract.
So what began as a kidnapping story slowly morphed into a tale of angels, healing, inter dimensional travelling and miracles. To its credit, the show actually dances around the borders of reality with a high level of storytelling precision. Prairie carefully reveals her story through her experience and learn about the potential powers she possesses.
But then The OA made a big mistake…
During the show’s final moments, French discovers a collection of books that cast doubt on The OA’s story. The ever popular mental health themed twist: Did she make everything up?
The first thing I thought was ‘are they Glenn-ing us?’
In season 6 of The Walking Dead, writers went to great lengths to ‘convince’ us that Glenn had died under a pile of Walkers. I don’t think a single fan worldwide bought it and, sure enough, Glenn was still alive. It was a pointless twist that failed on all accounts. It’s uncomfortable when you can see the plot thread trickery during a TV show. It’s the first time The Walking Dead felt manipulative. Badly executed fake outs feel artificial and unfair in the place of creating a believable situation that fits the narrative. Someone simply said, ‘let’s fake Glenn’s death’ and they wrote it in without considering how truly fake it would feel.
That’s how I feel about the OA’s big ‘fake out’ potentially changing the dynamic of her entire story. If she made the whole thing up, it could completely undermine the show. There are obvious hints everywhere that she’s telling the truth. When she finally gets the internet, she immediately finds a video of Homer… Unless she made that up too? If that’s the case, the entire show is manipulating the audience visually and that’s a dangerous balancing act.
If her captivity was exaggerated was she alone the whole time? Did she spend 7 years in a single ‘near death experience?’ Was she ever captive at all? Is she Hap?
Or was this simply another case of ‘let’s add some doubt?’
It felt forced.
Thankfully, the show isn’t broken by this revelation. Fate intervenes and the movements are used to distract a school shooter successfully. But here’s my concern. Was the doubt planted to give season 2 a greater sense of hype for fans? Or was there a specific reason those books were under Prairie’s bed? They have to explain it now. Whether she’s lying or not those books exist.
Personally, I find it hard to believe she made it up BUT I’m okay with it if she did make it all up for a greater purpose. Perhaps HAP’s research helped her discover tortured spirits of his victims? (If he’s real) So she was actually communicating with them? The entire show deals with fate. Maybe her mission is to bring them back from another dimension where they ‘died’? This theory would support the final moments of the season as the ambulance speeds away before we hear her whisper ‘Homer’. Did she arrive in another dimension where Homer waits for rescue?
Or is she telling the truth and this Near Death Experience revealed where Hap took his subjects?
All of this is speculation but it allows the twist room to exist. If we get into season 2 and see Homer and co definitively alive and in THIS reality, then the puppeteer’s strings are visible. The twist was a storytelling device.
I want something different for this show. If you’re going to suggest she made everything up, at least run with it. I don’t want her to admit she researched convenient books and then the twist goes away. The show is all about finding a greater meaning all around us. It’s about the very essence of spirituality, death and, by extension, the meaning of life itself.
Season two debuts next year and we will get our (Read: some) answers. Until then, the seeds of doubt are planted fictionally and literally.