Netflix’s The OA seemingly came out of nowhere when its first season dropped in December 2016 with little in the way of promotional pageantry save for some questionable last-minute tweets. Created by Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij — the duo behind the films Sound of My Voice and The East — the show almost literally became an overnight sensation thanks to its same-day release of eight easily binge-able episodes. Bizarre yet absorbing, perhaps earnest to a fault, it wore its aspirations on its sleeve, probing the mystery of near-death experiences and leading viewers on a merry chase through a garden of forking narrative paths.

Now The OA is back with a second season (“Part II”) that doubles down on all the eccentricity of the first and sees it joining the ranks of dimension-hopping shows with elaborate mythologies, such as Twin Peaks, Lost, The Leftovers, Legion, and Castle Rock. If you thought the sight of basement prisoners and cafeteria kids engaging in synchronized, choreographed “movements” (don’t call it interpretative dancing) was wacky and woefully ill-advised, The OA: Part II wants you to know that you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Have you been practicing the movements in front of the mirror at home for the last two-plus years? Has The OA: Part II left you scratching your head this week with its telepathic octopus digressions and yet another contentious, downright bonkers season finale? Fear not, recovering cult TV show watchers: we’ve got your exit counseling (with heavy spoilers) right here.

Belief vs Doubt

The OA: Part I mined tension on two fronts. First, there was its flashback storyline about a scientist named Hap — played by Jason Isaacs — holding survivors of near-death experiences (NDEs) captive in glass cells in his basement. Then, there was its present-day storyline, with a kidnapped woman, Marling’s character, Prairie, returning home, mysteriously cured of her blindness.

Much of the tension in this latter part of the narrative arose out the interplay between belief and doubt, with a group of local kids getting caught up in Prairie’s teachings as the OA (an acronym that was already spoken for by the twelve-step program Overeaters Anonymous, but that the show in its tunnel vision sought to redefine as “Original Angel.”) For all we knew, the kids’ and OA’s whole quest to open a portal to another dimension together could have just been a shared delusion.

The show left open the possibility that Prairie had used a box full of books to invent her story—with her fixation on the name Homer coming from the author of The Iliad and not from a star-crossed lover in the glass cell next to hers. In the finale, the kids used the movements to avert a deus ex machina school shooting, but not before Prairie took a fatal shot to the chest.

The ending was controversial, even before the real-life school shooting last year in Parkland, Florida put student activists like Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg in the national spotlight. It’s hard not to have the thought of that event enter one’s mind, at some point, at least, during The OA: Part II as the story picks back up and has strangers in Goodwill centers recognizing the kids like celebrities.

What’s crucial is that the end of Part I left the tension over Prairie’s sanity (or lack thereof) unresolved. Ultimately, the viewer had to decide what he or she believed was true.

With Part II, we’re now in an alternate reality and the fundamental driving question of the first season is gone, as we now know that Prairie is not just a delusional trauma victim spinning some cockamamie story. She’s actually done what she thought she could and consciousness-jumped into a parallel universe, one where it’s 2016, Joseph Biden is President, and no one has heard of Barack Obama.

To compensate for the resolved sanity question, the show introduces a new mystery element into its second season as a detective (Kingsley Ben-Adir) investigates the disappearance of a girl, which is linked to an augmented reality game. Meanwhile, doctors flag Prairie’s reality-jump confusion as a disassociative episode and she lands herself in a psychiatric clinic headed by none other than Hap, the same scientist who imprisoned her before.

A TV Blind Date Gone Wrong

There’s a scene in The OA: Part II where Homer’s alternate-reality self is on a blind date. It seems like it’s going well at first, but toward the end, he does a couple of things that are turn-offs: being too exact about splitting the bill and then making an ingratiating attempt at humor. His date gives him this look where you can tell she’s decided, right then and there, that she’s not really into him.

That scene is a microcosm for the experience that some viewers may undergo with this show. By my count, The OA has already had at least three solid jump-the-shark moments in its 16-episode run. Depending on how hard up you are for a good TV date, you might be willing to forgive things like the dance-off against a school shooter in favor of the show’s other redeeming qualities. I know that’s how I felt going into Part II.

The second season almost seems like it wants to invent new terms that will render old ones like “jumping the shark” and “nuking the fridge” quaint and obsolete. When a telepathic octopus named Azrael, or Old Night, wraps its tentacles around a Russian blonde woman in a red dress and encourages her to confess her true nature as an interdimensional traveler on stage, you know you’ve wandered into something weird.

Undoubtedly, that weirdness is part of the appeal for some viewers of The OA, but for me, the octopus scene was the tipping point where I went from being patient with the show and intermittently enjoying it to resenting it. I say that without any high and mighty critical intent, but just as a viewer who has watched episodes of wildly variable lengths spread out over 875 minutes, or fourteen and a half hours.

As the octopus feels up Prairie, or OA, or Nina, or whatever she’s calling herself these days, it telepathically says, “My brothers and sisters in the sea think communicating with your kind is a waste of time.” Soon it asks her permission to kill her for 37 seconds.

Maybe it’s just the tentacle porn overtones, but it sounds like they tried to give the octopus a Japanese voice. I found myself thinking, “C’mon, now. Why’s he’s gotta be Japanese?” It reminded me of Nute Gunray, an obscure character from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace with a stereotypical Asian accentNow’s as good as time as any to point that the repetition of the soundalike name “BBA” in The OA constantly invokes the image of a soccer ball droid named BB-8.

I should stress that The OA plays scenes like the octopus groping in the most straight-faced manner possible. If anything, that might be the show’s fatal flaw: how utterly po-faced and lacking in self-awareness it is. If the show had more of a sense of humor about some of the off-the-wall things it presents, one might be inclined to go along with the zaniness a little longer.

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