I know I said I wouldn’t do reviews, but this show more than deserves it.
Netflix has a very long and very damning track history of axing good shows. You know this. I know this. Everyone knows this. It’s the bane of any subscriber’s existence, because it’s like having the sword of Damocles over our streaming experience at all times. At any moment, our favourite show could be on the chopping block and no amount of protest is going to save it. It’s an endless cycle: good show appears, good show gathers a small but enthusiastic following, Netflix guts the show after one or two seasons for monetary reasons, rinse and repeat. The OA was one of those shows. It amassed a medium-sized but very dedicated following of fans, leading to a massive protest and Internet crusade after it was gutted before the story could wrap up. Looking at it from the outside, I’m sure a lot of people saw this coming. But why was The OA such a big deal? Why do people—fans—talk about it with such reverence? What was the secret code that The OA cracked to amass such a cult-like following?
From the very beginning, The OA was an experience. It starts off strong and pulls you in with a compelling mystery. There are hints of the supernatural and the impossible, but these are only teases. You keep watching because you want to know how these little bits of story—these tiny threads—fit together in a way that makes sense. It’s a surreal experience the first time you watch through the first season. There is this otherworldly feeling that permeates the whole series from the beginning. And unlike a lot of movies and shows that try to be “artsy” over substance, The OA toes the line. It feels very human underneath all the “artsy”. It feels more real and down to earth than a show with this level of surrealism ever should. And it really works on your brain from the get-go. So many little details, hidden messages, and pieces of story that nearly fall through the cracks. If watching this show was an experience, watching it again and seeing all the foreshadowing and possibly important details you missed is a ride.
Season Two starts and everything makes less—and also somehow more—sense. The story keeps going and it gets more bizarre, yet it never crosses the line. It’s always grounded, even when we’re dealing with pure surrealism. There is a distinct focus on the people in the story, their lives, and how the events unfolding are effecting them as human beings. We see characters break down, characters suffering from PTSD, and characters mourning loss. It’s all exceptionally human, even as the story bends more towards the otherworldly. That is a big reason why so many people grabbed onto this show: the characters are remarkably real and you root for them. And that is kind of the point: the cast is diverse and each character has their own unique story, yet they fit into the central storyline like puzzle pieces. The show reminds us constantly that everyone has a life and a personality outside of the OA. It’s not all about this grand journey towards something greater. It’s also about small journeys towards something small, like acceptance or self-actualization. It’s a coming of age story. And it relies on the audience being smart and aware enough to notice the deeper themes without throwing anything in their face. There’s no such thing as a detail just for the sake of it. If something is there, it’s because it fits into the central plot in some way. The storyline never stops making sense for the sake of keeping people hooked or fabricating a mystery. It invites analysis with something that can actually be found.
The OA had the potential to be one of Netflix’s greatest shows. The fact that it got axed just when the story was truly starting to ramp up is a travesty. The writers never got to tell the story they’d planned out. It’s really a shame. At the very least, it was awesome while it lasted. Cheers to The OA, Tuca and Bertie, Santa Clarita Diet, and all the other cancelled Netflix originals that could have been amazing if they’d been given a real ending.