Reviewed by Steve McGowan
The OA is back for season 2, and it’s weirder than ever. Created by Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij, this series was quite a surprise when it hit Netflix in 2016. It was a mind-bending mystery which straddles the genres of sci-fi, supernatural fantasy and psychological thriller, and somehow made it work in a twisted, zany way. Season 2 ups the ante on the weird, and by the end of the season it takes the weird up to eleven.
Be warned, for there are spoilers ahead for both seasons.
At the end of the last season of the OA, we saw a school shooting take place in the town where Prairie/OA (Brit Marling) lives. The shooter was stopped by a cafeteria worker after he was presumably perplexed at watching the mystical “movements” performed the four boys, Steve (Patrick Gibson), Jesse (Brendan Meyer), Buck (Ian Alexander), French (Brandon Perea), and their teacher, Betty aka BBA (Phyllis Smith), but sadly Prairie was shot through the heart by a stray bullet. She believes she’s crossing dimensions, and the series ends with her awakening in some bright room. Audiences were left to ponder whether or not she was telling the truth about dimension hopping, or whether she was just an unfortunately mentally troubled woman who was making the whole thing up. Did she wake up in a hospital, or did she wake up in the afterlife, or did she actually jump across reality? Fans have been chattering for months, and we wondered if we would ever find out.
However, as Season 2 starts, all those questions are laid to rest. Everything the OA told us was true. She really is in another dimension, or at least her consciousness is. Her body back in this world has died, but the boys and BBA know better, because they believe. Meanwhile in the alternate dimension, OA’s mind is inside the body of a Nina Azerova that never had the bus accident and never went blind. She is a wealthy, hedonistic Russian woman living in California, and it is hinted at that she has ties to some pretty shady people. When OA takes over her mind, she is at a loss to where she is and what to do, but she has one quest and one alone: to find her love, Homer, to see if he is in this dimension too.
Turns out, OA’s arch nemesis and mad scientist Hap (Jason Isaacs) jumped to this dimension too, along with all of his captives; Scott (Will Brill), Rachel (Sharon Van Etten), Renata (Paz Vega), and yes, Homer (Emory Cohen). They jump into different versions of themselves in the alternate dimension, where Hap is a psychiatrist, Homer is his understudy, and the rest of them are mental patients. All of them make it… except Homer. As OA tries to find Homer, she ends up crossing paths with Hap, and in turn gets committed by him to his mental clinic, trapping her all over again. And to make things worse, her beloved Homer isn’t the Homer she knew, but the one from the alternate dimension who never knew her. Where her Homer’s spirit is, well, we aren’t quite sure yet.
Meanwhile, there is another major plot to this season: a private detective named Karim Washington (Kingsley Ben-Adir) is hired to find a missing girl; this universe’s Buck! However, Buck in this reality is not a trans boy, but instead is a cis girl and goes by Michelle. Michelle disappeared after playing a mobile game designed by an evil Silicon Valley techbro named Pierre Ruskin (Vincent Kartheiser), who is basically every single douchey tech billionaire you’ve ever known rolled into one. The game is a lure for him to bait people into a mysterious house that he’s trying to unlock the secrets of, and his girlfriend and collaborator is… this universe’s Nina Azerova, the woman whom the OA now inhabits.
In OA’s original dimension, the four boys and BBA try to come to grips with what happened to OA. After Buck gets a message from the other dimension, they go on a reckless road trip to figure out how to reach OA, and possibly cross over themselves.
The different plot threads weave in and out and around each other, and it all comes together in the end for a finale that’s so much of an outlandish story choice that I wonder if they can even make another season work. The show is as beautifully weird as it was before, but it tries to up the ante with haunted houses, mediums, spirits, and at one point, a psychic octopus that fondles the OA with its tentacles. It’s just bizarre.
Despite the incredible amounts of weirdness, the OA still manages to be a gripping, engaging story. It shines best when it showcases the connections between the characters, whether its love or loathing. Just prepare yourself for a mindfuck of an ending.