The OA (Netflix, 2016)


“Spoiler Alert.” This phrase neither excites nor deters me, because plot points are often the least surprising things about a given entertainment. “OMG – Captain America is Spiderman’s father-in-law!” Please. However… I started The OA knowing nothing, and was pleasantly (and consistently) surprised by the confident-verging-on-audacious storytelling. I expect the series, 8 episodes released at once on December 16th, will quickly become a hot topic – so watch before it’s spoiled.

Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij created The OA and wrote many of the episodes; Batmanglij directed all of them. It’s a story about stories, a kind of “nesting doll,” with several narrators of varying unreliability impacting our understanding. It circles back on itself, with visual touchstones that alternately drive home points or upend what we thought we knew. It’s frequently gorgeous – my eyes widened, my heart beat faster and my jaw dropped several times each episode.

The OA is being compared to Netflix’s other recent sci-fi/fantasy series, Stranger Things. I liked that one, but The OA is better. A more apt comparison is HBO’s The Leftovers, which carries similar philosophical heft. (Stranger Things is like Stephen King, great in setup and environment, but underwhelming in the unraveling.) The OA nails its climax – not every question is answered, suggesting the authors have more to come; even if they don’t, the wrap-up works on its own terms. Don’t trust anyone who cries hooey (who tries to spoil it) – the internal logic of the series is sound, whether or not you buy its more spiritual/fantastic elements.

The OA is one of the best of 2016.