Netflix’s newest supernatural drama “The OA” has jumped into our queues, and on a whim I called it up. And then blew through it way faster than I expected. And I honestly don’t know if I can recommend it or not.
(No spoilers, but I do talk around the edges of several scenes, so if you’d rather watch the show first and then head back here to tell me what you think, I’m totally okay with that.)
The OA (pronounced “Oh Ey” not “Oh Ah”) is about a woman who was missing for 7 years and suddenly reappears. That’d be good enough for a Lifetime movie but in this case she was blind when she went missing and now she can see. (Okay, that still might work for a Lifetime movie, but stay with me here.)
There’s mystical elements to the story, fantasy elements, even spiritual. At times it feels almost like a fairy tale. But there’s police procedural parts too, the gritty reality of an abduction and how family and the media will unintentionally persecute the victim.
It had an interesting premise, and it was never exactly boring, but my god did it move at a glacial pace. It’s been pointed out to me that the average Netflix show goes on at least two episodes too long, and this is a pretty stellar example of that.
There’s plot holes all over the place, inconsistencies that two or three lines of dialog might have cleared up. It’s possible that this was done intentionally by the writers, due to how everything played out, but the illogical parts yank you right out of the story. The scene with the soup? He bought that can. Also, there were surveillance cameras, so the bit with the blankets would’ve been obvious, and at no time should he have ever had to ask “what have you been doing?”
A new character was introduced in the fifth episode (only eight episodes, remember) who felt like filler, even if by all rights they were a crucial plot element. A potential “villain” was introduced three quarters of the way in and that plot line was wrapped up in a half hour. Why bring them in at all?
Not to mention there’s an interpretive dance element that is just beyond cheesy to me.
The acting was just spot on, especially considering how young some of the actors are. (Though I felt the best talent was probably Scott Wilson, who many will remember as Hershel from The Walking Dead.) Every emotion, every reaction shot, every actor, I bought it. Sure, some of the lines they were delivering didn’t ring true to me, but they took those lines and made you believe it.
The filming, too, is excellent. Whether it’s the real world or paranormal, everything looks more than realistic. Underground rooms and damp woods all take on this extremely textural feel. The angles and camera movement all combined to increase the tension.
Sometimes it felt like they were a little heavy handed with the DEEP and MEANINGFUL and POWERFUL MOMENTS, but sometimes I didn’t care; I was happy to be manipulated. For every scene that felt flat there’s at least one scene, like the one with a very sick person, that literally gave me chills.
And I cared about what happened to the characters. I’ve seen series with a much tighter plot where in the end I could not make the effort to care what happened to the characters after it was done. And now, days later, I still find myself thinking, what happened to him? And her? And what was real and what wasn’t?
So I have trouble recommending it because on some levels I think this is a thoroughly annoying show. But it took me less than two days to watch the whole thing, and I keep glancing at that Netflix “watch it again” queue going “…maybe…”