To shamelessly borrow from the oft-used Anton Ego monologue, the world is often unkind to new talent and new creations. The new needs friends.
In the cinematic realm, be it the silver or the small screen, the new swirls around in the corpulent-like void of established concepts, spinoffs and vapid, moneymaking blockbusters. “The OA,” Netflix’s expansion on its science fiction enterprise that started with “Stranger Things,” is a new talent, a new creation.
The series, conceived by Brit Marling (“Another Earth”) and Zal Batmanglij (“The East”), premiered on Dec. 16 and revolves around the adopted Prairie Johnson (Marling), who re-emerges after having gone missing seven years prior.
Johnson returns with near-cannabalistic scars on her back, regained eyesight (she was blind for most of her childhood) and calls herself the OA. To add to the M. Night Shyamalan ambience, Johnson takes five high-school students into confidence, recounting her saga to the group and no one else.
To divulge much more would be to divulge spoilers — journalistic suicide. The show is a striking experiment in television, steeped in science fictional, fantastical and psychological nuances. In that sense, it is almost unclassifiable when it comes to identifying a clear-cut genre. It is “Stranger Things,” but it could also be “Shutter Island.”
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The script, developed and refined by the unfairly talented Marling and Batmanglij, expertly affords its actors the ability to act out the most irrational of scenes with considerable rationality. Although achingly slow in laying the foundation for disquietingly breathtaking shocks and an unprecedented twist to close the season, the wait is well worth the patience it demands.
Much like “Stranger Things” and “Shutter Island,” the conclusion of the eight-episode (called chapters, rather ambitiously) first season does not end one’s contemplation on the show’s content until long after. There is, after all, a valid reason for this review appearing more than a month after the show’s premiere.
“The OA,” then, is new. It is not a twenty-something comedy set in New York. It is not a “CSI” impersonator. It is not a fantasy-set-in-reality television spinoff, where the original movie’s lead actor makes “surprise” appearances to bait viewers (hello Bradley Cooper and “Limitless”).
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While the show may borrow elements from “Stranger Things,” such as the overt warring between science fiction, science and scientifically proven madness, it is in no way a pastiche of its contemporary. Johnson, as the prime protagonist and narrator, is questioned by characters and viewers alike as to the veracity of her claims. Viewers are invited and even expected to form personal opinions and judge characters for themselves.
It is a thoroughly original concept that impeccably muddles the demarcations of the border between fantasy and reality. “The OA” is self-made originality born from the highly intellectual minds of Marling and Batmanglij, executed to raw, realistic perfection by a star-studded cast of newcomers.
This is a thinking person’s show. This remarkably singular show has all the trappings of becoming a success, rolling with the Rockefellers of the small screen (Google it. It’s a very smart allusion). In this case, at least, new equals crazy. And, to quote the sheer brilliance that is Panic! At the Disco, crazy equals genius.