I recently discovered that my old high school classmate Kristi Dickson (now Krisd Mauga) and I share a LOT of favorite network and streaming television programs. So much so that I have asked her to do a series of discussions about each of several recent favorites for “Todd Flora’s America.”
Since our days together at Brea-Olinda High School in Orange County, California, Krisd – who was incredibly peppy and kind to everyone – has had a very interesting and active life. She’s a painter, and professionally a terrific photographer (check out http://krisdmauga.com) and, since her daughter found an interest in acting, an art director and producer (http://refinedrebel.info). She lives in Long Beach, CA, which she enjoys for small town feeling despite being a big city.
Our first show to discuss is one that I found by stumbling into a review of it on “The Ringer” website, and became quickly fascinated by – Netflix’s “The OA.” The show centers on “Prairie Johnson,” a young woman who went missing and has just returned home to her older parents. From there, layers unfold, starting in the first episode where we learn that Prairie can see, something she could not do before. Her return represents the first time she is seeing her parents in the flesh.
Warning … spoilers lie ahead …
Krisd, I’m so delighted we have bonded over our politically progressive views on Facebook lately, and even more pleased to get reacquainted with you over a little mutual love of strong, scripted television. I’ll start by saying one of the most impressive things about The OA is the passion actress Brit Marling, who plays Prairie and is a Co-Creator of the show, clearly brings to the role. She’s clearly created such an original story. It’s grounded in both humanistic values of teamwork and courage, and the fight for survival, but also with strong metaphysical and spiritual elements.
Marling is a bit of an “Indie Darling,” and I first became familiar with her in the movie “Another Earth,” whose premise is that the citizens of Earth discover there is a duplicate planet in the solar system. It’s kind of a trippy movie, and makes me wonder if she’s just personally very interested in metaphysical, science fiction “what ifs?” in general. To create and write The OA, she clearly has a fascination with both spirituality and human nature, no?
So overall – what did you like most and least about the show?
WOW! The OA was incredible!!! I love the “what if” notion, because really, What if? The combination of metaphysics and spirituality literally opens your mind to the possibility this could happen. It is an incredibly unique and provoking show. At first you worry about their abductions but one point it seems poetic so at point while you should hate the captor you have to thank him for bringing them together or none of this could be possible. I love how each episode slowly builds and unfolds the story. Their ability to wrap you in was intoxicating. I had to watch the entire season in practically one sitting ( a few breaks for popcorn, wine and toilet stops of course).
I am trying to think of what I liked least about the show? Honestly I don’t know. It has everything I like about a show. It challenges you to think and explore your mind, your soul and emotions. I love how characters may start off as “bad” and then in the end you fall for them. It makes you question death and life, loss and hope. I guess I don’t like that I don’t know what will happen in the next season and I can’t wait for it!
What would say you don’t like about it if possible?
It seems we see the show in a very similar fashion, and it evokes some of the same emotions for us both. But – letting our readers in on a bit more of the story – I LOVED how she seemed to attract such an interesting grouping of 5 to hear her story (more on that in a sec.) But then – BAM! – all of a sudden, we learn that she: 1) was born in Russia to a rich oligarch; 2) could see as a child; and 3) is therefore NOT the natural child of Abel and Nancy Johnson. We get the impression she was an incredible music talent, and the world would be her oyster. But then, suddenly – BAM!, again – her father is killed (by likely Russian competitors / mob types), she loses her sight from circumstances from a tragic bus accident, and she goes to live with her aunt, who essentially runs an illegal buying-of-children style chop shop that can’t even generously be called an orphanage. She wasn’t even the Johnson’s first choice, but they knew there was just something special about her. And all of a sudden, she’s a blind adoptee of an older Michigan couple.
You do tip our readers to the abductions, yes. After the bus accident, Prairie essentially dies but is revived by a mystical woman in some corner – for all we know now – of heaven or the universe. She returns to her father, but blind, and then the events above take place. She grows up with Abel and Nancy and we get the sense is in her late teens when … Enter Jason Isaacs, the great Liverpool born actor (most recently seen in FX’s “Dig,” another FANTASTIC and mysterious/spiritual show that unfortunately didn’t get the ratings for a Season 2), who, despite a wide body of work, will probably always best be known as the evil English Dragoon who served as Mel Gibson’s nemesis in 1998’s “The Patriot.” Isaacs plays “Dr.” (do we really know?) Hunter Hap, a “scientists” (again, he is clearly smart and knows technology, but is he a total quack?) who lures Prairie to return with him so he can research her near-death experience (NDE, as they begin to say often in the show). All of a sudden, she’s a prisoner, kept in an odd, wagon-wheel shaped glass pod along with 3 other young people who have experienced “NDEs.”
As she retells this story of 7 harrowing years as a captive in Hap’s “cave,” she does so for 5 seemingly disparate characters: 1) a slacker kid with absentee (or dead?) parents and a bong-smoking older sister of a guardian; 2) a student-athlete with great college scholarship promise but a hard-living, less intelligent mother; 3) A transsexual student with singing talent; 4) the high school bully, and 5) The teacher who was about to expel the bully before Prairie intervened, pretending to be his step mother.
What did I like least about the show? If I have any complaints, they would be that from a production quality standpoint, it IS a bit choppy, structurally speaking. Why were most episodes an hour, and yet 1 or 2 :30 or :40 minutes? I would have also liked to have seen more flashback and backstory on Isaac’s kidnapping Hunter Hap and his twisted motivations.
Now, before we get to “what’s next?” guesses for the show, some questions for you to ponder:
- Why is 5 people important? Did I miss something obvious as to why Prairie needs or is best with 5 people?
- How do we feel Hap justifies the captivity of these promising young people? Was his or a family members NDE so important that he feels the ends justifies the means? And if he were able to publish his work, how would he ever expect to without the truth of his ill-gotten gains/insights coming to light?
- Are the 5 captives Angels? And did Nancy Johnson slap Prairie because she saw ego and hubris in declaring herself The Original Angel? Is she telling the truth in the first place, given the doubts thrown out in the finale’s final minutes?
She needs 5 people for the 5 movements. In the episode where they introduce “Renata” played by Paz Vega, Jason Isaacs character Dr. Hunter Hap discovers her ability which once he captures her brings in the final power and movement of 5. I don’t know the reason of 5 and I don’t think they truly explain it but it the initial 5 healers (I call them other than angels) that then translates to Prairie when she regroups with the new misfits she gathers from her town. This kind of reminds me of the misfits of Breakfast Club which also numbered 5.
As for Hap, he feels justified of course and at some point you almost thank him for creating this amazing discovery. That gratitude is short lived as we see the torturous avenues he takes these kids through to discover their gifts. The show again then places even more distance between us and Hap when he kills his mentor. It was a bit scary to learn of is mentor showing that there are more of “them” and they will use any means to fulfill their “work” (a whole lotta crazy out there). I think at some point we have to realize they are crazy and their work is futile because it can never be explained or necessarily proven without consequences to the 5, the work and Hap.
The 5 captives I believe to be healers who can transcend to a different dimension, a spiritual dimension. The show expresses them as angels, possibly but again to me more as healers with exceptional senses. As for the slap, I feel it was more about fear from Nancy of the not knowing, not understanding. Possibly she felt disrespected as well from her “daughter” now claiming she is someone / something other than her daughter.
In the end they unleash the possibility that all of this is a lie, a tall tale with Prairie losing the faith of her 5. ….. AND THEN at a moment, a feeling, a glimpse into the near future the 5 align for what they had been “training” for the moment to unveil their power. Prairie of course shows at this time and well the end without giving it all away leaves us now with the possibility that she was telling the truth. Let’s hope season 2 has some answers for us though I feel they will continue to thread us through this weave of truth or fiction.
Ahh…. Yes. The 5 movements. Of course.
As for Dr. Hap, Oooooooo, do we really ever thank him for his discovery and work? I can’t help but wonder what kind of creepy college he went to and gave him his M.D. or Ph.D… “And if you’ll just sign here, sir, we’ll give you your diploma and kidnappers license.” (They must have skipped the Hippocratic Oath at Creep College – “First, do no harm.”)
That’s an interesting point about Nancy and the slap… she either hates the idea of not being needed by a daughter who can now see and is independent, or perhaps she was trying to slap a little humility back into her? I mean, who has the chutzpah to claim their an angel?! J
I’m going to take a stab on her leaving some doubt at the end so that they would NOT rely on her and try to work together on the movements all on their own. Of course, the only hole in that theory is if they now felt she was a fraud, why bother with the movements? So I also hope Season 2 provides more of the full story on the limits of Prairie’s (and the other’s) supernatural and spiritual power.
Any last thoughts? What should we discuss next?! As I recall, you had to catch up on some episodes of the following, and I need to keep watching Sneaky Pete.
- Designated Survivor
- Sneaky Pete
My last thought is in regards to the ending. I feel as if the misfit 5 have a new found faith in Prairie and doubt has been laid to rest. Maybe more followers shall join? Will the search or try to rescue the “angels”?
Ooh Sneaky Pete or Blindspot!
Perhaps our (thousands of, I’m sure) readers will weigh in using “Comments?!”
I can’t wait for our next show review! Thanks for QnA!