Where Have We Seen This Ending Before?

Back in late January, /Film’s Hoai-Tran Bui wrote about how the new movie Serenity already had the wackiest twist of 2019, even though we were only a month into the year at that point. For some viewers, the ending of The OA: Part II might be a contender for the new wackiest twist of 2019.

At the end, Prairie/OA/Nina jumps to an alternate dimension yet again, just as she did in the finale of Part I. It seems entirely possible that this is how every season of the show will end, by jumping to a new reality so it can reinvent itself next season.

The twist is, Prairie and Hap wake up in the real world. This time, they’ve really gone and done it by jumping to our reality, where they’re actors on a film set, presumably shooting a Netflix show called The OA.

OA is addressed as “Brit,” as in Brit Marling, and Hap comes right out and says, “I’m Jason Isaacs,” as in, the actor who played Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies and Captain Lorca on Star Trek: Discovery. (As they say on the BBC, hello to Jason Isaacs.)

This real-world film set twist might be more shocking if it didn’t bear a certain resemblance to one of the multiple endings of another high-profile Netflix show that literally just hit the streaming service a few months ago. What we’re left with in The OA: Part II is a gimmick finale that looks novel on its surface until you stop to ponder the full implications of what the show might look like next season.

Are viewers really prepared to sit through another whole season as Brit Marling goes full M. Night Shyamalan and writes herself into the show as a version of this all-important character, the Original Angel, OA? If that seems like an unfair comparison, consider the fact that Zal Batmanglij directed a couple of episodes of the series Wayward Pines, which was instrumental in helping rescue Shyamalan from movie jail.

Shyamalan’s had one hell of a bumpy filmography and The OA has already established itself has one hell of a bumpy show. It, too, suffers from a painful undercurrent of narcissism, one that’s centered on a beautiful woman who serves as writer-showrunner-star, much like Shyamalan has served as writer-director-actor on some of his films.

Frequently frustrating, The OA is never less than ambitious, but maybe it reach exceeds its grasp … especially if that reach will see the show morphing into The Buried Secret of Brit Marling next season. Personally, as the ambulance drove Marling and Isaacs away in the finale of Part II, I had already checked out mentally. My mind was far less blown than it was by some of the other ill-conceived storytelling decisions that the show had already made in its previous fifteen episodes.

Time to Travel to a Different Show

The OA makes a habit of testing the viewer’s patience with cringe-inducing lines and licking tongues and just a general sense of self-indulgence on the part of the showrunners. In one episode of Part II, when the show unveils a set of travel-sized robot dancers to mimic the movements (and thereby affect interdimensional travel), it does so to the tune of the song “Lightning Crashes” by the alt-rock band Live.

As a ‘90s radio listener, when I heard that soundtrack selection in 2019, everything suddenly clicked into place. I realized that The OA’s writing is on the same messiah-complex wavelength as Live’s song lyrics. Now don’t get me wrong: I actually have a soft spot for Live. They’re one of those guilty-pleasure bands whose early albums I bought, only to become aware, through my music snob friends as I got older, that they were uncool in a Creed or Nickelback sort of way.

The OA is the Live of mythology-driven TV dramas. In the end, like the Original Angel herself, the show caters fundamentally to a cult following. It gathers fans around itself in a candlelit attic and seeks to regale them with a tall tale.

The show has big ideas, but its characters are all too quick to chase magic mirrors on blind faith. If you’re invested in those characters, then you might be willing to drink from the same pitcher of Kool-Aid that they do.

However, even within the context of a fictional reality where interdimensional travel is possible, the characters don’t adhere to any kind of recognizable logic. It’s fine to put them in a far-fetched situation, but the audience needs to be able to identify with how they react.

If you’re a fan of Stephen King, then OA’s alternate-reality predicament in Part II might also harken back to the time-traveling scenario in another eight-episode web series: namely, Hulu’s adaptation of the King novel, 11.22.63. That show taught that the past was perilous. Its protagonist was an undercover time traveler who was smart enough not to show up in the past and immediately start babbling about how he was from the future.

By contrast, it’s not a surprise when OA lands herself straight in that San Francisco psychiatric clinic after she crosses dimensions. She can’t seem to recognize that maybe she should keep her head down and get her bearings before she starts spilling her story in the earshot of doctors with the power to have her involuntarily committed.

Some positive reviews I’ve read of The OA: Part II sound like they were written by unabashed members of the show’s cult following. Some negative reviews I’ve read sound like they were written by deprogrammers hellbent on convincing the cultists they’ve been brainwashed.

I’m content to live and let live as an exit counselor for other alienated viewers. If you enjoy The OA and will continue watching it next season, that’s your reality and you’re certainly entitled to it. As for me, I’ll be the interdimensional traveler over here, gearing up his kit of robot dancers to do the movements so I can jump across the TV multiverse to another, less pretentious show. The willing suspension of disbelief has to be earned, and from where I’m standing, The OA doesn’t earn it.

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