About The OA
The OA is a show filled with twists and turns that ends with you questioning what is real. It has a very mysterious and otherworldly tone that makes it very unique. It centers on The OA, a young woman who has gone by three different names throughout her life. Her names are often used to differentiate different times in her life. The show uses an embedded narrative to tell The OA’s story. The viewer learns about The OA’s story along with the group of kids she is telling it to, but to make it easier I am just going to summarize The OA’s story chronologically.
Her story begins in Russia where she was born with the name Nina Azarov. She lived with her father, a wealthy businessman who provided Nina with whatever she needed. Nina was plagued with vivid nightmares during her childhood. One of her recurring nightmares was of her being trapped in an aquarium, unable to get out. Her father tried to help her get over this nightmare with some fairly questionable methods. He brought her out to an ice covered lake where he makes a hole in the ice and asks Nina to get in. She enters the freezing cold water and faces her fear.
As it turns out Nina’s nightmares weren’t just regular nightmares. They were warning her of events that were going to come. One day Nina and other upper-class children were going to school when the driver of the bus purposefully drove the bus off a bridge into a body of water. Nina was the only child on the bus who didn’t start to panic. She took in the situation and found a way out of the bus. Unfortunately the was was already too deep underwater and she died. “We were a message, see? From the Voi to our parents. And the message said, ‘You are powerful businessmen to be sure, but you are not all-powerful’. The youngest sons and daughters of every Russian scion was on that bus that day. They all died. Every single one of the. Including me” (The OA).
This is the OA’s call to adventure, this is where her story really begins. She travels to a different plane of existence where she meets Khatun, who asks Nina if she wants to go back. Nina is told that if she goes back she will not only experience great love but that she will also suffer. Khatun advises Nina to stay and not go back, but Nina chooses to go back. Khatun allows her to go back, but she needs to take her eyes because she can not bear for Nina to see what is going to happen to her.
“Then I will take your eyes. Because I cannot bear for you to see what lies ahead. It’s too horrible” (The OA).
Nina then awakens next to the river with her father unable to see anything. After this incident, Nina’s father sends her away to a boarding school for the blind in America to get her away from the Voi, basically the Russian mafia. It is here Nina’s father hopes that Nina can live in peace, but when he father is murdered she is sent to live with her Aunt Zoya. While living with her Aunt Nina is treated badly and was often just an afterthought.
After some time, an elderly couple comes to Nina’s Aunt, who runs a black market orphanage, to adopt a baby. While finalizing the details of the adoption, Nancy Johnson goes to the bathroom and finds Nina. Nina is sold to the Johnson’s and is renamed to Prairie Johnson. Prairie continues to have her dreams or premonitions where she saw her father at the statue of liberty holding 21 candles. The Johnsons brought her to a psychologist who recommended that they medicated her. The medication made Prairie feel numb but they didn’t stop her premonitions. When Prairie turned 21 she ran away from her adoptive parents to New York in hopes of finding her father. She waited for her father at the statue of liberty hoping that her father would find her, but he never showed. Prairie didn’t want to go home and have to face her adoptive parents having failed in her mission, so she stayed in New York hoping to find her father.
“I should have gone home but I was heartbroken and ashamed. Too proud. I didn’t want to give up, so I devised one last plan. If I couldn’t see my father, maybe he could hear me. I would play my violin in the underground until he stepped off a train, heard my song, and came running” (The OA).
Prairie continued playing her violin in the subway until she met Hap. Who can instantly tell that Prairie has had a near death experience or a NDE. Hap is warm and welcoming to Prairie. He takes her out and buys her dinner and eventually asks her if she would be willing to take part in his studies involving people who have had NDEs. Prairie has no reason to not trust this man so she goes with him. She fully places her trust in this man, because this is the first time that she has felt a sense of purpose in a long time. She gets on a small airplane with him that he flies to his house. He brings Prairie to the basement where he says he has a bed for her to stay in.
Once in the basement Prairie is lead to her “room”. She doesn’t realize anything is wrong until she hears the door shut and lock into place. She is trapped in a circular cage that is separated into five sections with a small spring running through each section of the cage.
“The biggest mistake I made was believing that if I cast a beautiful net I’d catch only beautiful things” (The OA).
It is at this point Prairie starts to freak out. She is blind and has no idea where she is. After Hap leaves she is introduced to three other prisoners in the enclosure: Homer, Rachel, and Scott. We also learn that there was another prisoner named August, but she had recently died. Once a day Prairie and the others are fed food pellets that look like something you would give a hamster. A gas is also pumped into one section of the enclosure once a day. The gas knocks out whoever is in that section and then Hap comes to collect them. When they return they have no memories of what was done to them.
Prairie is able to manipulate Hap into trusting her. She uses the fact that she is blind to argue that she needs to go outside to feel the sun on her skin. The captives use this to their advantage and they try to escape multiple times. Hap never notices them trying to escape so Prairie is finally able to push Hap down the stairs to the basement and run outside. She blindly runs through a forest not knowing what’s ahead of her. She stops when she reaches the edge of a vast deserted mine and Hap knocks her out with the back of a gun and for a second time in her life, she died.
“The sudden rush of loss made me realize that for the second time in my life I was dead” (The OA).
She meets with Khatun again who again gives her the choice of staying or leaving. Although this time if she stays she can be with her father. But again Prairie again chose to go back because she can’t leave the others with Hap. Khatun knows that if Prairie goes back as she is then she will never escape, so she gives her a way to get out. She gives her the 1st of 5 movements. She has no idea what these movements are at this point or what they will be used for, but she knows that they are important. When Prairie returns to the real world she realizes that she has her sight back. It is at this point that Prairie starts to call herself the OA, you later learn that it stands for “The Original Angel”.
The OA then works with the others to figure out the rest of the 5 movements. When they figure out the first 2 movements, The OA is able to use them with Homer to bring Scott back from the dead.
Eventually, they are able to learn all 5 of the movements, but they are unable to use all them together because Hap releases The OA, hoping to use the movements for himself. In an attempt to get back to the others The OA jumps off a bridge, but she was unsuccessful in killing herself and she wakes up in a hospital. From here she is reunited with her adoptive parents and is brought back to their house. They try to figure out what happened in the 7 years that she was gone, but she won’t tell them. They are also confused as to how she got her sight back. Instead of telling her parents, The OA tells her story to 4 local boys and a teacher from the local school. She teaches them the 5 movements and tells them that she needs them to help her get back to the others.
The show ends with the group using all 5 of the movements to potentially send The OA back to Homer and the others. At this point it is unclear if this attempt was successful or not, it seems like it was, but we won’t know until season 2 is released.
There are a lot of different concepts that go along with the idea of posthumanism, but at its core, it is the idea that we can become more than human. Whether this is through the means of technology or something else. In the case of The OA, they are becoming more in tune with a spiritual side of the world. The OA uses the 5 movements that are given to her and the other 4 prisoners to become more than human. The 5 movements allow The OA to bring people back from the dead. Something that she did with Homer twice. In the last scene of the show, The OA potentially uses the movements to get back to Homer and the others. In the show, the movements are treated like a new piece of technology that was recently discovered. Their origins are more spiritual and mystical, but that is what is furthering humans in The OA. Humans are becoming more that human because they are learning more about what happens after death. The OA is able to travel to what appears to be other planes of reality and learns about the existence of angels.
Along with the 5 movements being used to become more than human, they also need 5 people to complete them. This promotes another idea in posthumanism about being connected with others. The relationships that The OA forms with the other captives are essential to her story. It is why it is so detrimental to her that she gets back to the others because without her they can’t escape.
The OA calls herself “The Original Angel” meaning that she has somehow become more than human. Prairie gets the name when she asks Khatun: “Am I like you?” and Khatun responds with “No, you are the original”. It seems as if in the show you become more than human if you die and come back to life. All of the people that Hap studied had come back with a special talent that they didn’t have before. The OA came back with the ability to play the violin, Rachel and Reata both got the ability to sing well, and so on. While these abilities don’t make you more than human, the way that they got them do.
The main point of analyzing something with feminist criticism is to look at how males and females are portrayed and how they interact with one another. One of the main relationships in the show is between The OA and Hap. This isn’t a romantic relationship (at least not for The OA), but one where both The OA and Hap are constantly fighting for control. While it may seem like Hap has all the control over The OA since he is the one who has kidnapped her, The OA actually has quite a lot of control over Hap. During the first few months of The OA being held captive, she gains Haps trust. Enough that he lets her upstairs to go outside and eat something other than the disgusting food pellets. In exchange for being allowed upstairs, The OA does all of the chores around the house and cooks for Hap. This puts The OA in the position of a very stereotypical housewife. But The OA uses her time upstairs and Hap’s trust in her to make multiple attempts at escape. One of these attempts involved The OA trying to put Hap to sleep by putting a bunch of sleeping pills in a soup she made. While none of them ever worked it did lead to The OA getting her sight back. Once The OA gets her sight back she is able to deceive Hap into believing that she is still blind for quite a while.
Hap only gets real power when he releases The OA. Once they figured out all 5 of the movements Hap drove The OA out into the middle of nowhere and released her, he then drove away, presumably to go use the 5 movements with the other prisoners. At this point in their relationship, Hap had all the power. The OA had no way of getting back to the others and saving them because she had no idea where they were. The only way he could possibly get to them was to use the 5 movements, which is what she did at the end of the season (again we won’t know if it worked until season 2).
The OA is a character that changes what it means to be a heroine. She was often able to take control of whatever situation she was put in, even if she was put in a position that most people would crumble in. She used her what some would say is a disability to her advantage and never let her being blind get in the way of anything.
One big thing that I took away from The OA was her affect on other people. It seemed whoever The OA came into contact with was changed for the better after they met her. For example, one of the people that she tells her story to is a local teacher, Betty Broderick-Allen (also known as BBA). At the beginning of the story, BBA was a teacher who lost her passion for teaching, she wasn’t willing to put in the effort to help her students succeed.
But after hearing The OA’s story, BBA was willing to risk her life for her students. Overall I think The OA has changed how heroines are viewed, showing that no matter what situation you are put in there is always hope.