Considering Westworld, The Man in the High Castle, and The OA, this last is the one that’s more worthwhile to watch.
But I state this while agreeing with these quotes, it’s enough to give a glance at the wikipedia:
“a series of offensive overreaches”
“The OA is bullshit, but it’s beautiful bullshit.”
“an admirably ambitious letdown”
“beautiful, realistic unease”
“an especially cryptic attempt to say very little of consequence.”
I’ve seen the whole thing deliberately without reading up on the internet, but I looked up the people involved and that lead me back to Another Earth, and also, next, to follow the thread to “Sound of My Voice” and “I Origins”. But I’d add, to those obvious sidetracks (just follow the trail of the actress, being the link between Zal Batmanglij, director of The OA, and Mike Cahill, the director of Another Earth), the more substantial and eerie Upstream Color. This last one is transcendental mystery done well, which is what The OA actually fails at.
I watched the first four episodes all at once, then the remaining (and shorter) ones across a few days. At that middle point I had the occasion to talk about it with some friends, and what I had to say was already on the same line of the quotes above.
If a show like Westworld has a very interesting and complex premise, stuff to talk about, that then is developed with the usual TV language that feels very clean, sleek and perfectly executed, but also fake. Instead The OA is the opposite. Its content is utter bullshit, but its form of expression is honest, it is real, it rings true. The language this show uses is different, you can feel it’s different in just a few minutes, from the very beginning. And because it’s fresh it feels so more interesting than EVERYTHING else on TV.
Despite its empty core, this show has given me emotionally so much more than the other two shows I mentioned. Watching it is an incredible experience, and once again I admire the sheer ambition even if this is another failure. Westworld succeeded, but it succeeded through tricks and by removing all its ambition to tell a simple, harmless story. Convoluted, but simple. It succeeded by being conservative all the way through. The OA instead fails, but it fails while trying to reach high, trying to search for something, embracing its ambition and putting its own trust in it, even if that trust isn’t justified or earned. The OA is a reckless leap of faith. It is inebriated with faith.
The OA is a story about real magic, and its real magic lies in language.
Yet you’d need to explain what you saw. You need to translate earnest emotion into meaning. Is The OA obfuscation? Not really. What I noticed, and what made me doubt my own impression, is that the show is self-aware, at least up to a certain point. It deliberately mocks its own bullshitting, and plays it so it appears fake. It’s not hiding, it’s not pretending. So I was curious, how do you walk this fine line by being conscious that the argument itself has no value. How do you believe in magic when you are the illusionist who knows and performs the trick? The showrunner knows it, the actors know, the audience knows. There is no make believe, yet there is faith? It’s like an impossible bridge that stretches on and on, but you know there’s nothing on the other side. There cannot possibly be anything, you already know.
My interpretation is that you find the overarching structure within the show, a macrocosm reflecting into microcosm.
[Homer] We’re gonna have a garden.
[Prairie] A what?
We’re gonna plant vegetables.
– I don’t want to plant vegetables.
– Fine. I’ll plant ’em.
Celery. Squash. Peas.
– Come on. We don’t know anything about vegetables.
They’d all die.
[Homer] You’re right.
There wasn’t enough rain. We, um…
We planted them too close together.
Not enough soil. Yeah, they die.
So we try again.
The second year, there’s rain,
and we get the spacing right…
but these mites come.
They eat ’em all up.
Their leaves are like tissue paper.
And they can’t feel the sun.
But the third year?
We grow this, um…
like, uh, a special…
A nettle plant… in between the vegetables.
The mites hate that shit, so they stay away.
– And the rain comes.
[softly] And the rain comes.
Between Westworld, The Man in the High Castle, and The OA, the show that might find something worthwhile to say along the way is this last one.
Brit and I figured out the whole thing. The whole thing’s a riddle. There are a lot of clues. Very few people have really picked up on all the clues. Our sound engineer picked up on a major one that kind of blew my mind. I was like, “That is designed for only the closest, creepiest viewer to find.”