If The OA Part 1 was about Near Death Experiences (NDEs), then Part 2 is about dreams. The NDEs become another kind of dream, of which there are many, all of which can be examined for important information about ourselves, our culture, the future and reality itself. Part 2 takes the concepts introduced in the first part and deepens them, turning dichotomies into continuums and turning movement into quests.
The OA remains a mysterious show that needs to be approached with an open mind and a willingness to follow the spiritual metaphor, not the need for logic and continuity. Metaphorically, this is a world of magic and spirit, and our rules don’t apply. We learn the rules of the universe with the characters, and they are applied logically once introduced, but they are complex. I’m not sure that any one character has all of the information in Part 2.
Much of Part 2 is spent moving characters from place to place in a spiritual quest for answers. Where Part 1 took place in enclosed spaces and single communities, Part 2 opens up to a wider world, traveling through mountains, deserts and oceans; meeting a giant octopus and communing with ancient trees; finding life in the form of gardens, water creatures and birds throughout.
“It’s all connected” seems to be a growing part of the current zeitgeist, which The OA Part 2 picks up on as a major theme. The show uses the “We’re all connected” interpretation that most shows actually mean by the statement, but they also bring in the rest of the ecosystem, connecting humans with the plant and animal kingdom. Then they go one step further, including parts of the earth we usually consider inanimate, such as water, as part of the spiritual realm that is all connected.
The standard lessons of tribalism are included as well, such as loyalty and support through troubled times. This season finds the gang that OA left behind in the present day struggling to make sense of their experiences in Part 1 and eventually turning to a quest that becomes an epic adventure. OA finds herself in a new environment and must once again deal with Hap, his controlling nature, and his band of captives. They aren’t underground or in cages anymore, but they find that makes it harder to work together and believe in each other.
Most of the original cast returns in some capacity, though some only for a brief cameo. New addition Kingsley Ben-Adir plays Karim Washington, a private investigator who is searching for a missing girl and joins forces with OA. His story receives significant screen time and carries much of the exposition for the season. He takes part in another of the season’s major themes, the need to accept all sides of the self in order to be whole and function at full strength. Karim and OA complement each other’s talents and abilities, bringing a balance to their partnership that I don’t think she’s had with anyone else, with the possible exception of Homer.
The season starts off a bit slow, as the characters get their bearings following the events of Part 1, Episode 8, Invisible Self. By episode 3 of the season, the pace has picked up and we’re in the thick of this season’s plot and mysteries. The season is a delightful meditation on the themes, but it does have some Netflix bloat in the middle. I enjoy exploring these themes with these characters and binge watched the season in two sittings before writing this review. Part 2 is not as mind-blowing or suspenseful as Part 1, in part because this is the second outing so the concepts aren’t new, but it still left me wanting a third part and a slow rewatch to sort out the details. `
I don’t want to say much more, since this is a spoiler-free review, and to say anything spoils the results of the gang’s interpretive dance at the end of Part 1. I will say that the cast are all in fine form and their chemistry is on display. I found Karim hard to warm up to, but I think that was intentional.
The emphasis on Karim’s character means that OA spends most of her time surrounded by male characters, which is disappointing. Betty/BBA is also featured, but the characters around her are also almost all male. Although OA is the star, and women pop up here and there in intriguing smaller roles (I’d especially like more of Mo and Elodie), this is a male dominated season.
One of the eight episodes was directed by a woman (five were directed by co-creator Zal Batmanglij). Each episode has two or three credited writers, one of whom is a woman. Star and co-creator Brit Marling (OA/Prairie) is the co-writer on six episodes.
There are some amazing visuals and a great soundtrack. The motifs which began last season continue and evolve this season. Light and sound are used particularly effectively. The set design adds more creatively metaphorical spaces, while echoing the spaces from Part 1.
I’ll do in-depth analysis, with spoilers, in my recaps of each episode, coming soon.
The OA stars Brit Marling as OA/Nina Azarova, Emory Cohen as Homer Roberts, Kingsley Ben-Adir as Karim Washington, Will Brill as Scott Brown, Sharon Van Etten as Rachel, Paz Vega as Renata, Jason Isaacs Dr. Hunter Aloysius ‘Hap’ Percy, Zendaya as Fola, Patrick Gibson as Steve Winchell, Hélène Patarot as Mrs. Vu, Zoe Chao as Mo, Phyllis Smith as BBA/ Betty Broderick-Allen, Brendan Meyer as Jesse, Brandon Perea as Alfonso ‘French’ Sosa and Ian Alexander as Buck/Michelle Vu.
Part 1 and Part 2 each contain 8 episodes and are available to stream on Netflix now.
Grade for the season: A-
My full season 1 meta commentary and analysis is HERE.
My recap of Part 1 Episode 8 is HERE.
Image courtesy of Netflix.