As I said in a previous post, I learned a valuable lesson since my appraisal of Stranger Things. I cut myself off from new experiences by judging them too early and too harshly. Sometimes, a show takes some time to reveal its secrets, that’s the point of watching. I just need to be patient.
But gosh darn it this is my site and sometimes, I just need to talk about something, even before it’s finished. It’s relevant to me. Still, my thoughts come with a grain of salt. Enter First Impressions – a segment with enough grains of salt to open a mine. I can share my thoughts, decide if I want to keep watching something, and no one gets hurt feelings. It’s a win-win-win… or something.
I just want to talk about The OA, okay?
I started watching a few days ago. The advertising for the show claimed it was the next ‘Stranger Things’, which now I admit is high praise. Saying a show or movie is ‘like Stranger Things’ now means something mysterious with interesting characters, at least a premise with a good hook. I put it on my queue and waited for it to come out, and now that I’ve seen some of it, I have some thoughts I’d like to share after two episodes. Does it actually stack up against a show like Stranger Things?
Much like Stranger Things, it’s got a decent hook. Blind girl goes missing for seven years, when she suddenly shows up again in a video of her jumping off a bridge. When she wakes up, she has her vision, some weird looking scars, and calls herself the OA. So mysterious is check.
If we’re going to delve any deeper, this would be where I would throw up a spoiler warning, so if you think you’re interested, go check out a little of the show for yourself, at least a few episodes, and then feel free to come back. If you don’t mind some spoilers, then we can keep going.
Say what you want about the first episode, the ending transition got my hyped. Moving from her telling the story into her background with the opening credits of the show, all the way at the end, was smooth. Always love a good framed story, and that was just really well done. Besides that, the show has decent writing and a consistent tone. Brit Marling and Jason Isaacs are particularly compelling. They’re taking this seriously and putting their best face forward – watching them is the best part of the show.
But the devil’s in the details. I wouldn’t say the show is bad, but I thought there were some weird choices. Call it nit-picking, but when you’re just starting a show, you’re trying to build a consistent world with rules. The OA has rules, I just don’t know any of them yet.
For writers and showrunners, one of the most important questions you must ask yourself is ‘why now’? Why are you telling the story in the time you’re telling it. When creating a story, it should be during the most important part. Otherwise, why tell it? The OA has a good framed story, but the framing is a little blasé. The events in the flashback are much more interesting than what’s happening in the present. That’s where the show gets to be creative, with its depictions of NDEs (Near Death Experiences) and what happens on the other side of consciousness. In comparison, the events in the present just seem mundane and transitory. One could argue that’s the point of the show – the present isn’t as interesting as the past and it’s something the characters are dealing with, but it’s still not that fun for the audience. So why don’t we just focus on the past and forget what comes later? It feels like that would make an interesting opening to a second season rather than the first.
I think the main reason is because the show has misplaced focus. The characters in the present are less interesting than the ones in the flashback, and furthermore, they pick the most uninteresting characters to follow. Granted, only seeing two full episodes means there could be more ground to cover, but so far, the show seems to be gearing up for Steve to be the focus of the present-day group. One thing it does take from Stranger Things, the kid named Steve is still a total asshole. Completely insufferable, yet he’s the one we must follow and seems to be the one “destined” to bring the group together or some shit. What about the college-bound drug addict? He’s more interesting. Or the trans-guy getting his testosterone from a drug dealer? What’s his story? Even the weird teacher with some past personal tragedy would be more compelling to follow than the self-destructive school bully. Predictable and uninspired. Maybe he gets better, but the last Steve still only played out neutral for me. This one’s looking to be no different, maybe even worse. And that’s saying something.
The kidnapping is also something that bothers me. Captivity is already one of my biggest fears, so already it kind of puts me off when a story is about that. The actual captivity itself is absorbing at least in its design. But the act of taking Prairie seemed a little contrived. Sure, she’s lost and searching for something mysterious, but I felt like there were a lot of clues even someone as trusting as her would notice that Hap isn’t a dude she should trust.
Hap already seems a little weird when you first meet him, but he at least seems knowledgeable in his field. Likable. That made her agreeing to follow him home a little more believable. But when she gets to his house, perhaps something might have occurred to her – that something was a little strange? Maybe it was already too late for her, but some more questioning would have seemed more reasonable to me. The missed phone call was another clue, and she seems a little nervous afterward, but she keeps rolling with him. Maybe the fact that he says she has to sleep in his laboratory? How about that his laboratory smells like rocks and he says it’s a natural cave system below his house? No? What about the running water in the cave system? All ignored.
But I would be willing to forgive all of that if one of the captives had said anything to her right before he sticks her in the habitat. I don’t really care how accustomed you are to being this dude’s lab rats or whatever, you think someone would have said something before she’s trapped with them. The habitat is glass, they can see her coming down the stairs. And the lights are one, everyone is awake. Maybe they think it’s too late, but shouldn’t stop them from trying. Hell, they don’t know for certain she’s blind yet, and he talks to them standing outside the glass – they can hear what’s about to happen. Someone didn’t go, “hey, you’re gonna get trapped here with us” or “hit that guy over the head and take his keys” or even just “help!” Nope. They just let it happen, and then everyone is sad they’re stuck. She could have knocked him out, or at least tried? Thrown him off the stairs? I know that if something like that happens, it’s not much of a show, but she could have tried something first. Then he overpowers her and then locks her up? That would have been much more believable to me, and then they could have just continued with the rest of the show. Doesn’t totally sink the show for me, but that took me out of it. The Hell even was that whole sequence? It was all very contrived.
I haven’t watched as much to care about Homer, I’m not sure why she’s willing to go through so much after her escape for someone who’s so obviously out of touch. There are other people trapped there with her too. Does she not care about them? I guess she’s stuck there for seven years, I could take a guess what happens. The rest of the people die from his experiment, leaving the two of them. That would be the only way it would make sense to me. And I have no idea what the deal is with her “powers”? Sometimes, the OA is sagely and psychic – other times she seems totally clueless and out of touch. I don’t know what the switch is, but right now, it just seems to shift to fit the narrative, which makes her character feel inconsistent. I still have no idea what the deal is with the front doors having to be open for her to tell this story that isn’t really doing anything remarkable. It would be more interesting if she could literally transport them somewhere with the power of storytelling, but right now it doesn’t seem to be doing that. I don’t see what the big deal is, right now it’s just some weird girls story, and no one can prove its veracity. It must have some significance later, but it’s not apparent now.
The End of the Story
I haven’t decided if I want to keep watching it – the captivity puts me in a bad mood. It scares me. But there’s still unturned stones, I’m sure many of the things I’m irritated about become clear later. I just don’t know if it’s still worth it to put in the time. The show is okay, but I’m not wowed by it. I won’t give it a score, that doesn’t really seem fair. Do other people have some opinions? Does it have a stellar conclusion? Something that would make it worth to watch to the end? Or should I just leave it and move on?