The OA is the latest weird and wonderful offering from Netflix, think Stranger Things with older kids and a Russian backstory, it does feel a little like a “wannabe” version of the wildly popular summer series. The keyword here is “wannabe” it has a few familiar faces in it but lacks the pop culture references that made “ST” so much fun.
Initially, after sitting through what must be the longest introduction to a new series ever, clocking in at a staggering 57 minutes and 34 seconds before the “opening” credits start playing must set some kind of a record, the series is slow to the point of frustration.
The first sequence is of mobile phone footage of Brit Marling (The Sound of My Voice, Babylon) as Prairie Johnson, aka “The OA” jumping off a crowded bridge. Thus begins the story of The OA, in the guise of a young blind woman who went missing seven years previously.
She has returned; older and different. Her sight has been restored and there is a lot going on underneath the surface which only comes to light later on; roughly two-thirds of the way into that long intro. Prairie, who tells those who will listen that she is “The OA,” can, seemingly read minds and can control attack dogs.
The young woman also has some sort of mojo thing going on with her eyes…
Prairie ends up connecting with the school psychopath Steve, who may actually get a chance to redeem himself from the looks of things and puzzles her parents Abel and Nancy. We do learn, in this first episode, that Nancy did not give birth to Prairie.
Despite a pace that almost encourages napping between significant moments, there is a lot going on. It should also be pointed out that while the age group of Prairie’s new pals is mid to late teens, this is an adult themed show.
There is a sex scene not too far into the first episode that, while not overly explicit, would be inappropriate for younger viewers. In terms of nudity, the camera catches a bare breast and Steve’s bare bum.
The OA‘s first episode also has a bit of violence. An attack by what looks like a Rottweiler and the show’s resident bad boy punches another lad in the throat. Like the sex quotient in the show, the violence is not too over the top or graphic in nature.
Marling is compelling as the returned girl with a secret and even before the last minute Russian ties, is reason enough to watch the series. Gibson is spot on as the bullying teen who really seems to need a good thrashing.
There really is too little of Scott Wilson and Alice Krige. It is early days yet and they may well become more than shadowy peripheral characters as the season goes on. It seems a real waste to have these two capable performers in the cast with so little to do.
The OA’s backstory is a real surprise and it adds a whole new element to the weirdness that permeates each frame of this mystery. While the show may not be on par with Stranger Things, it is odd enough to recommend as one of the new shows to watch.
The OA is streaming on Netflix with all eight hour long episodes available to watch now. A word of warning; the first episode felt much longer than one hour, such was the pace, and if the rest of the first season continues at such a languid speed, binge watching is not recommended.