You Should Be Watching: Brit Marling’s stunning series ‘The OA’ (for The Buffalo News)


I was thrilled to ponder Netflix’s “The OA” for The Buffalo News’ “You should be watching column. Brit Marling is, quite simply, my favorite current actor, so I was probably destined to love it. Still, I was unprepared for how invested I became in this stunning series.

The best series of 2016 debuted in full on Dec. 16, just one week after it was announced. Since then, Netflix’s “The OA” has enraptured, overwhelmed, and frustrated viewers nationwide. A highly spiritual, quasi-sci fi drama told in eight parts, “The OA” is the brainchild of two stunningly talented individuals. The series is the latest creation from actress Brit Marling and director Zal Batmanglij, following the thematically similar 2012 mindbender “Sound of My Voice” and 2013 thriller “The East.” “The OA” represents their finest achievement to date, and it just might be your next pop culture obsession.

Title: “The OA”

Year it began: 2016 (December)

Where it can be seen: Netflix

Who’s in it: Brit Marling, Jason Isaacs, Emory Cohen, Phyllis Smith, Riz Ahmed, and Alice Krige

Typical episode length: Episodes range between 31 and 71 minutes

Number of episodes to date: 8

Brief plot description: A young woman named Prairie Johnson resurfaces suddenly after being missing for seven years. Blind when she disappeared, Prairie now has the ability to see. She also calls herself “OA,” and has unexplained scars on her back. Slowly, OA begins to tell her story — involving a scientist, an experiment, and similarly missing individuals — to four local high school students and their teacher.

Why it’s worth watching: For fans of the hugely talented Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij, the announcement that a new series created by the duo was set for release in one week’s time felt like a holiday gift. It became apparent after watching the first couple episodes of “The OA” that this series — a film in eight chapters, really — was even more emotionally resonant and adventurous than the great “Sound of My Voice.” Much of the joy that comes from watching the series comes from the constant story surprises/mega-spoilers that occur, but it can be said that the tale of Prairie Johnson involves near-death experiences, Russian oligarchs, the FBI, high school pressures, and the horrors of sudden imprisonment. In less than a month, “The OA” has earned the crown of most Reddit fan theory-friendly show since “The X Files,” and it shares “Files”’ innate conflict between faith and skepticism. To that end, it must be said that a leap of faith is required. Viewers who choose to buy-in are rewarded with an emotional, dramatically transcendent experience. A key part of this necessary acceptance involves the show’s “Movements,” a series of interpretive dance moves that are strange, a bit silly, and utterly enchanting. It all culminates in an already controversial ending — one critic believes the climax is “tasteless,” and you’ll see why — that is provocative and thrilling. In fact, the second it ends, you’ll have to fight the urge to binge-watch the entire thing all over again. And I guarantee you’ll be Google searching “The OA Season 2.”