All the way back in 2016, I wrote an article with the headline “Let’s Ponder the Ridiculous, Infuriating Interpretive Dance-Filled Finale of ‘The OA’”. Friends, I’m not sure I’ve ever stopped pondering the Season 1 finale of The OA since that day, surely have not stopped contemplating an episode of television that featured a surprise, near context-less school shooting get thwarted by four teenagers and a teacher aggressively pop-lock-and-dropping Brit Marling‘s Prairie Johnson into another dimension. Or maybe she just died. It was hard to say at the time. But now The OA has returned three years later for a second go-around, and part of my years-long ponder was to doubt, and doubt hard, that anything this show could cook up in a sophomore season would top the level of pure, blissful what-the-fuckery of that Season 1 finale.
And honestly, how dare I? How dare I doubt the absolutely batshit brilliance of Marling and frequent creative collaborator Zal Batmanglij. Season 2 returned not only wonkier in its dimension-tripping philosophy, but somehow also much more coherent and better-told, despite the presence of tiny dancing universe-hopping robots, a traveler who traverses the cosmos with the power of fucking, and an oddly horny telepathic octopus named Old Night. You can read Haleigh Foutch’s lovely full review of all that right here—plus an extremely handy explainer for Season 1 here—but I’m more interested in discussing the very last moments of Season 2. It’s probably the only thing I’ll be interested in discussing for the rest of my natural life, plus whatever comes after.
First, just the details, which I’m going to transcribe straight, thus making me sound like a crazy person: Having finally figured out how to inhabit the alt-Prairie body of Nina Azarova without suppressing her memories, Prairie, armed with Brit Marling’s A- Russian accent, confront Hap (Jason Isaacs). Hap helpfully explains he is not malevolent, he is simply keeping dead teenagers in his basement pool garden to construct a map of the multiverse, which you gain access to by eating the flowers that grow from the corpses’ ears. Prairie disagrees with this tactic. Things come to a head and a recently-restored Homer (Emory Cohen) gets shot. Hap’s giant robot companions start to perform the Five Movements. At the same “time” but in a different timeline, Steve (Patrick Gibson), Buck (Ian Alexander), Betty (Phyllis Smith), French (Brandon Perea), and Angie (Chloë Levine) start to perform the Five Movements. The wind blows. Private investigator Karim (Kingsley Ben-Adir) finally reaches the mysterious Rose Window. Prairie becomes a literal glowing ball of angel dust before plummeting back to Earth, and we are whisked off to yet another dimension. We are whisked off to…
The set of the Netflix television series The OA.
Yes, the inevitable finally happened. The OA went and OA’d so hard it burst out of The OA and into the real world. Production assistants rush over to an injured Prairie and call her “Brit.” The Golden Gate Bridge becomes a back-drop. Karim looks out from another dimension to glimpse the constructed wooden set of his own houseboat. Hap adopts—or recovers?—a British accent to tell a paramedic, “I’m Jason Isaacs.” If I’m not being clear, Golden Globe-nominated actor Jason Isaacs, Lucious goddamn Malfoy from the Harry Potter movies, is now being controlled IRL by his alternate-reality personality, a mad scientist with a lethal tomato paste allergy and a tendency to lock people in human-sized aquariums.
This season—this gloriously strange, endearingly pretentious mind-loop of a season—ends on an inverted version of Season 1’s finale, which closed on Steve chasing after Prairie’s ambulance. It’s the same image here, only—presumably—it’s the actor Patrick Gibson with all of Steve’s memories in his head who catches up to the ambulance, jumps aboard, looks OA co-star Jason Isaacs in the face, and says “Hello, Hap.”
I assume you have questions. I personally have at least a dozen specifically related to the crossroads in time that either spawns homicidal scientist Hunter Aloysius “Hap” Percy or the actor who played Captain Hook in P.J. Hogan‘s Peter Pan. But with most things OA-related, it’s almost better to let the questions, concerns, and confusion wash over you rather than search for any dimension where things make sense.
That might sound like a cop-out, and if you took Five Movements the fuck back to watching an easy-binge sitcom after this finale I respect and understand that decision. But insane as that ending is, it almost feels like the most accessible thing The OA has ever done. Season 1 had this odd air of self-seriousness about it that held it back from being something great. Part of that is on Marling and Batmanglij, who often come off like actual beings from another dimension here to tell the human race some unknowable truth via premium streaming drama. And that bled over into the writing. Season 1 was still gorgeous and mystifying, but it never quite let you in on its secrets, yet asked you to buy in any way. So when it ended with dramatic dancing and a horrific school shooting, it came off as way less OA and way more “Oh, uh?”
Season 2 proved to be the chaser for Season 1’s shot of ridiculousness. It did away with that infuriating “is this happening or not” veil and said, straight up, magic is real and it is wonderful. Traveling through time and space is real. Brit Marling is actually a celestial Lite-Brite who can talk to trees. Like its own characters, The OA finally let go of all the heavy foibles holding it back and was suddenly able to travel anywhere and any-when it wanted to go. Basically, the finale’s trip into the real world—and these actors’ real bodies—is an uncharacteristically unpretentious wink and a nudge, the perfect culmination of Season 2’s on-going mission to stop taking itself so damn seriously.
I loved it. I did not expect 2019 to be the year The OA went from a show I ironically tell people to watch if they plan on doing mescaline to a genuinely joyful, wildly worth-it ride through what-the-hecksville. With a finale that proved there is quite literally no place or time this sublimely wonky adventure won’t go, I feel like the recently-shot Homer dying in OA’s arms. “I’ll follow you.”