Season 2 of Netflix’s THE OA is high concept TV at its finest

Brit Marling‘s The OA has returned for a second season after a mind-bending first season that was weird, mysterious, intense, and inherently original. The first season ended on a cliffhanger with a tonne of questions and no clear direction on where it was going.

Season two goes to places you cannot possibly predict. It takes the story to a new dimension where Brit Marling’s OA is a Russian heiress who is being held captive by Jason Isaacs‘ Hap. It also introduces private detective Karim Washington (Kingsley Ben-Adir) who crosses paths with OA while investigating the disappearance of teenagers from a mysterious house.

OA

The story of this season continues to embrace the weird, high-concept, and metaphorical story beats from last season, only this time it’s a little more extreme. It runs or, shall I say, walks at a very slow pace through all eight episodes but incredibly builds an immense amount of tension at the same time. Whenever you think you know where the story is heading it throws you a curveball and all of a sudden you’re heading in another direction. It’s fantastic storytelling that gives you enough information to be able to follow along and slowly piece things together, but not so much to where you have all of the answers before they’re revealed to you.

One of the most engaging aspects of this world is the lore and mythology associated with this complex universe of realities. Season two does offer a number of answers to questions from last season as it delves more into this mythology making for plenty of genuinely engaging scenes. There is a lot going on throughout the season and the slow pace allows you to take it all in without feeling like you’ve been left behind.

The story builds and builds with each episode right through to the final episode which I need to highlight specifically. This season gets to a place in the last episode that is so ambitious that I need to applaud it because it’s rare to see high-concept TV go so far down the rabbit hole. Twin Peaks is one show that has gone further than this, but for a Netflix show it’s amazing to see The OA try this.

The newest element to the series is the introduction of Karim Washington, whose journey and investigation is the central story arc for the majority of the episodes, especially early on. I found myself thoroughly engaged in his character arc from the get-go which is a testament to the writing considering he’s an all new character. He grows and becomes more involved through the season, and the performance from Kingsley Ben-Adir is so great he just slides right into the tone of the show with ease.

This season also gloriously delves into supernatural horror territory, specifically in the fifth episode, which is completely bonkers (for lack of a better word). It’s a very dark show with heavy themes that may be slightly confronting but, as with the first season, theres a very uplifting, positive, and hopeful tone to it that outshines any of the darker content. It’s a weird shifting tone that works perfectly for something like The OA.

The OA

When it comes to the performances, the main cast deliver in every one of their scenes. Brit Marling is phenomenal, and since the series is, in part, her brainchild she navigates every scene as the main piece of the puzzle. The season revolves around her and the turmoil and conflict she’s going through and she carries it. Jason Isaacs is menacing but also compelling in his performance as the antagonistic Dr Hap. Alongside Marling, the back and forth chemistry they share is constantly the shining light of the season.

The rest of the crew, including Emory Cohen (Homer), Patrick Gibson (Steve), Ian Alexander (Buck), and Phyllis Smith (Betty) among others are also great. The strength of this group of characters is what makes their story so engaging. It’s not any one character that stands out here, it’s the group as a whole and the relationships there that make their journey such an emotional one. Emotion is a core part of the series as the bond shared with each of the character is strong enough to have you feel what they feel across many scenes.

In the end, season two of The OA is stellar from beginning to end. It’s very slow and at times can feel like it’s dragging, but one thing to note is that the tension never lets up. The mystery is always present, there’s always questions, there’s some answers, and the characters are interesting enough to take you along this great story.

The frustrating problem surrounding high-concept TV series’ is that not many people tend to watch them because it requires too much thinking. Even more frustrating is that, as a result of this fact, Netflix has since cancelled The OA despite the distinctively positive reviews. This leaves the series ending on a cliffhanger which thrusted the series in a totally new direction. It’s disappointing, but what this season gave is worth a watch regardless.

9/10

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