Recaps of The OA Part 1 can be found HERE.
Welcome back, kids! Are we all ready to ride along with The OA as she questions the nature of reality and causes chaos in the world around her? Part 2 continues where Part 1 left off, with no time jump, though the extended opening segment introduces viewers to the new character Karim Washington, so it takes a while to find out what happened to the OA. Most of the rest of the original cast returns in some capacity.
While part 1 explored the interior of the mind, with themes of reality vs fantasy, the darkness inside, free will, captivity and willing sacrifice, Part 2 expands those themes, taking the dreams, visions and stories of Part 1 and turning them into an interdimensional reality where the boundaries between the dream world, the real world, and other worlds barely exist. It’s not quite as mind-bending as Part 1, but it’s still fun, with new ideas to ponder.
Let’s start with a quick video recap of Part 1, courtesy of Yiğit Sarı:
Angel of Death begins with the caption “7 hours 46 minutes earlier”, which refers to the time of Prairie’s shooting.
Pounding on a door can be heard, and a figure can be seen skateboarding at high speed on a rural road. The figure is lit from behind, as if a car is following closely with its headlights on. The skater passes a tall blonde woman wearing a red dress who’s standing off to the side of the road. It’s The OA. The skateboarder loses his balance and flies off the road, spinning through the air, out of control.
Private Investigator Karim Washington wakes up from the dream to answer the pounding on the door of his houseboat. It’s an elderly Vietnamese woman, who wants to hire him to find her missing granddaughter. He tries to send her to the police, but she refuses, because her granddaughter, Michelle, is invisible.
Karim doesn’t understand what she means, so he asks a friend to interpret. By invisible, the grandmother means they are homeless immigrants. The family was living in Michigan. Michelle’s father disappeared, and might have died. Her family was evicted and ended up in a shelter.
The literal meaning of saying Michelle is “invisible” is that the government has no official documentation for her, since she’s an illegal immigrant. In other words, she’s invisible to the government, and needs to remain that way, so the whole family doesn’t get deported.
But Part 1 also used the term “invisible self” frequently. It was the title of the final episode. Does Mrs. Vu also mean that Michelle has an exceptionally strong invisible self? Does she sense psychic sensitivity in Karim?
Michelle has been sending her Grandma money. She came to San Francisco because the money is better there. She was communicating with Mrs Vu frequently and sending money up until 2 weeks ago, then she just stopped. He grandmother came to search for her.
Karim asks to look at the texts, but they are in Vietnamese, so he can’t understand them.
Mrs Vu shows them a photo of Michelle playing drums and says she’s a great drummer. Then she asks if Karim will look for her granddaughter. Karim asks if she has any money. She shows him that she has $31,000 in an Ether account, a form of cryptocurrency, like Bitcoin, but not as safe or established. Michelle sent the money just before she vanished.
Karim tells Mrs Vu that most underage girls who have been missing for more than 72 hours are either never found or found dead. Mrs Vu looks deep into Karim’s eyes and tells him to look for Michelle.
Karim starts by having an associate check police, morgue and hospital records while he and Mrs Vu take the train to visit the family Michelle was staying with.
Bao and Denise greet Mrs Vu warmly, while their your son Donald stands quietly off to the side. Karim asks Mrs Vu to wait outside. She refuses at first, but leaves when he threatens to drop her case. He keeps her phone and tells her he knows her English is better than she tells people.
Denise and Bao tell Karim that Michelle was quiet, shy and helpful. They took her in because the church asked them to. She wasn’t the type to sell her body or get into trouble. She gave them $50 twice to help cover her expenses.
Karim asks Bao to translate Michelle’s texts. They are what you’d expect, telling Mrs Vu that she wants to come home, that she’s trying to be strong, and that she’s trying to raise money so they can have a home again.
When Karim is done, he makes arrangements for Mrs Vu to sleep at Bao and Denise’s apartment, telling her he’ll call when he has more information. He stops to buy some M&Ms, then shares them with Donald when the boy walks by the store.
He asks what Donald wanted to tell him. Donald takes his hand and leads him to a big green house that’s a few blocks away. The mansion is abandoned, so Donald leads him inside and upstairs, then points at a set of double closet doors.
Karim opens the doors, and discovers Michelle has built a nest inside, with bedding on the floor, and drawings all over the ceiling.
The drawings are of math equations, religious and spiritual symbols, scientific and geometric patterns, and other figures. There is a labyrinth, and there are other shapes with repeating circles.
Donald tells Karim that Michelle wasn’t doing bad things. She was making her money from playing phone games. She was making thousands of dollars from the game, but the game doesn’t have a name, so you don’t talk about it.
It’s the Voldemort of games.
Karim finds Michelle’s phone hidden in a niche in the wall, behind a poster of a red rose. The house has a stained glass red rose window in the attic.
Donald puts the code into Michelle’s phone and shows him the game. Green lines forming successive rectangles move within the screen, like doors toward the viewer, or the infinite line of doors that would appear when two mirrors were held up to each other.
Suddenly, a guy jumps Karim and Donald, then grabs Michelle’s phone. He’s filthy and emaciated. Once he picks up the phone and gets into the game, he begins ranting,”I’ve solved them myself. I’ve solved everything. My brain can hold all the brains. My thoughts can dry water. I’ve seen a million versions of myself… [Karim tries to help him.] These are mine. I did this.”
When Karim tries to rest a comforting hand on Liam’s shoulder, Liam panics and jumps out of a window, which had been covered by crumbling, old shutters. He lies on the sidewalk, bleeding from a head wound. Karim sends Donald to school, with the promise that he’ll visit Bao and Denise again later, and he’ll definitely find Michelle.
While the paramedics prepare Liam for transport to the hospital, the cops
harass question Karim. He’s been harassed questioned by these cops before, and every word he says is viewed as arrogant backtalk, no matter how innocuous. It’s clear that the police aren’t going to be of any more help than they have been so far, whether it’s investigating Liam’s jump and what goes on in the house or finding Michelle. Plus, they take Michelle’s phone into evidence.
Karim draws a quick sketch of the game on his phone to show to others when he asks around. His next stop is a warehouse of computer nerds doing black market work. A deaf security guard explains that the game really doesn’t have a name, but the kids call it Q Symphony and the players are called Q-kids. He confirms that the players make money from the game, then tells Karim he can find Q-kids at a house called Big Blue.
We’ve had red and green color references, but the only blue references I’ve caught are the sky. Now the blue references are about to start, with a giant blue tarp covering the front of what looks like a crack house, but is actually a gamer house, full of kids so absorbed in games, they’re physically wasting away.
Instead of looking to the sky or other people to dream, these kids look to their screens. They don’t even look up or at each other the see if they recognize Michelle, a gamer like themselves. There is no loyalty among gamers.
Come back in a few episodes and reexamine the wire sculpture.
Karim wanders through Big Blue, asking if anyone’s seen Michelle. No one has. In one crowded room, a kid sends Michelle’s photo to the rest of the kids in the room, who shake their heads “no” without looking up.
One guy does try to stop Karim, as he enters a room with handmade wire sculptures. Karim insists on entering, since he’s not a gamer. In fact, Karim hates games. The woman in the room, Fola (played by Zendaya), corrects him.
Fola: “It’s not a game. It’s a puzzle. A game is one side against another. There’s a winner and a loser. Puzzles don’t have losers.”
Karim: “Well, you lose if you don’t solve it.”
Fola: “No, you’re stuck if you don’t solve it. The designer wants the player to figure it out. It’s not a war. It’s a mystery.”
Karim, gesturing to the wire sculptures: “You built this?”
Fola: “We did, yeah.”
He pulls out the photo of Michelle, and explains to Fola that he’s looking for a girl who Made $31k playing Q Symphony. She immediately knows who he’s talking about, and tells him Michelle stopped coming to the house about 2 weeks ago- about the same time she stopped contacting Mrs Vu.
Fola: “Symphony doesn’t like people working together, and after a while, she did not need us.”
Fola doesn’t know where Michelle is, because Michelle surpassed her in the puzzle. Karim tells her he’s desperate to find the other girl. She explains that Karim will have to follow in Michelle’s footsteps, and “at a certain point, the game goes IRL- in real life.”
She takes him to a set of tall outdoor steps, decorated with a mosaic on the baseboards.
Fola: “The early levels on the phone are just about weeding people out. It’s really about getting here.”
Karim: “And that’s why Michelle came to San Francisco.”
Fola: “It’s why we all come.”
Karim: “How much can you make playing Symphony?”
Fola: “Well, there are five levels. Level one, it’s $50. Level two, 500. Level three, 5,000.”
Karim: “How many people do that?”
Fola: “Not many.”
Karim: “You?” Fola nods her head. “And they really pay?”
Fola: “Yeah, yeah, in ether. They want people to keep playing.”
Fola: “Level four is $50,000. I don’t know anyone who’s made it that far except for maybe Michelle. Level five is a million. Here. [Hands Karim back his phone.] Now that I’ve gotten you to this level, solve it.”
The first task is the solve the riddle “Above the sea, below the stars,” using a five letter word. The game turns Karim’s camera on and encourages him to view the world through the augmented reality it’s creating.
Karim tries “birds” then “plane”. Both are incorrect. Fola mentions that you only get three tries at the answer, then you have to wait a week before you try again. He realizes he needs to be more specific and gives the flight number of a particular flight he can see in the sky right now.
Possibly that serves to ground the player in this space-time?
He’s given the next clue: Three wise, man. To be solved with a six letter word.
Fola says that now he knows how good it can feel to solve the puzzle.
Fola: “Ultimately, a puzzle is a conversation between the player and the maker. The puzzlemaker is teaching you a new language. How to escape the limits of your own thinking, and see things you didn’t know were there.”
Karim: “Sounds like God.”
Fola: “Except it’s real.”
Fola tells us that this season, the game and puzzle makers will take the place of the gods and goddesses, like Khatoun, who guided the characters in Part 1. She assumes all puzzlemakers have a benign, selfless goal in mind for the player, and by extension, assumes that all gods and Goddesses do, too. Part 1 proved her wrong in that assumption.
Karim, on the other hand, always assumes the worst of everyone. He accuses Fola of helping him only so that she can advance in the game. She replies that she wants him to fall in love with the process.
Karim shows her a photo of Liam on the sidewalk after he jumped, and asks if that’s the way she wants him to fall in love. Fola replies somewhat coldly, saying that Liam was always unstable. If people climb mountains, some will fall. Something would have happened to Liam sooner or later.
The chance to find out what’s at the top of Puzzle Mountain is work the risk. She thinks Michelle won the game and her previous life doesn’t matter to her anymore, that’s why she hasn’t been heard from. They agree that only the people who’ve finished the game and the person who built it know what happens to the winners.
Pierre Ruskin sits in an expensive looking greenhouse restaurant and speaks with his fiance, Nina, on the phone. He speaks in English, she speaks Russian. Nina feels Pierre has betrayed her because of something that happened in a house. Pierre assumes that the woman who informed Nina has sent her photos or a video.
Nina asks how many were in the house and what he did with them. She says she can’t unsee the things she saw in that house. Pierre tells her to come to the restaurant, she’s still his partner in all things. Nina agrees to meet him, but she tells him that she’s not his partner anymore and she doesn’t want him near the house.
The scene shifts from the restaurant to a dock, where Nina Azarova is waiting to catch a ferry. When she turns her head, we realize it’s the OA, but not the OA. This is a different reality from the one the OA was born in. Nina hangs up and removes the ring from her ring finger as she walks toward the ferry.
As the ferry crosses San Francisco Bay, Nina looks back toward Alcatraz Prison and the Golden Gate Bridge. She hums the melody that Prairie frequently played on her violin, and fidgets with her keychain, which is decorated with a realistic looking blue eyeball.
Does she need to remember that she’s being watched? Or to keep her eyes open and notice everything?
Nina continues looking out toward the back of the boat, when she’s suddenly gripped by intense chest pain and collapses. She thinks she’s been shot, but a bystander tells her it’s a heart attack.
32:30 minutes into the episode, we transition to the ambulance which is taking Prairie Johnson, aka The OA, to the hospital, after she was shot in the chest during a school shooting 2 YEARS ago. Just in case you thought this was Nina/Prairie/OA’s story, you have now been informed that, in fact, she’s just a small cog in the machine.
I hope a few of you were smarter than me and fast forwarded to this moment, then went back later to watch the first half hour.
Prairie wills herself toward the light that is Homer, while Steve chases the ambulance, begging to go with her. Prairie flatlines, and a glowing light takes her spirit from this dimension.
Prairie: “They said it would be like jumping into an invisible current that just carries you away.”
There’s that word, “invisible” again.
Prairie gasps into consciousness in Nina’s body, her ears ringing intensely. She asks the paramedics where she is, they tell her San Francisco. Then Prairie has some unPrairie-like reactions and becomes upset because her hands and feet have nail polish on when she didn’t before.
The woman who was held captive and on camera in front of her captor for 7 years, who jumped dimensions on purpose, would be more clever than that in this situation.
Prairie wakes up some time later in a hospital bed. A nurse shows up within moments to test her sanity. She answers the questions correctly, except Joe Biden is president in this dimension, not Barack Obama, and she goes by Nina. The nurse lets her look at herself in a small mirror, and she realizes that her face looks like her, but not quite the same. She finally catches on that she must have jumped.
Prairie notices an orderly lurking nearby with a dose of a sedative for her. The nurse assures her that it’s just to calm her, but OA still has the same issues with doctors and medical care- namely, she gets panic attacks. The nurse won’t budge on the sedative, insisting it’s standard procedure for patients like OA, which I assume means patients who aren’t calm, cooperative and dignified at every moment.
The nurse tries to force the shot on OA, so OA tries to move away from her, then to run. The nurse calls out that she has a combative patient, a 5150. OA isn’t violent, just trying to avoid an unnecessary, unwanted medication, but she’s held in place by two huge orderlies and given the shot.
With that, we go to the opening credits, 38 minutes into the episode. Karim’s dream from the opening was 7 hours and 46 minutes before Prairie jumped into Nina. There’s still 30 minutes left in the episode.
It’s evening, and Karim plays basketball in the neighborhood with a bunch of computer types, so he can work them for information about the game. They immediately figure that it’s a recruitment tool. One woman, Tess, suggests that it could be about crowdsourcing a problem. She thinks sounds like something Pierre Ruskin would do.
She tells him that with his first company, Ruskin didn’t hire anyone. “Just posted a prize on some obscure message board. Five grand for the best low-cost carbon panel. Overnight, 200 people working for him, without a soul on the payroll.” She knows about this because, “I won the five grand for the best panel, and his name was on the check.”
Karim thanks her for the information. She says if he wants to thank her, to forget her name. She dribbles the basketball into the night.
Karim is on the phone before she’s out of sight, calling his associate for Pierre Ruskin’s address.
Piere Ruskin is trying to visit Nina/Prairie, his partner in all things, who isn’t easily swayed by spoiled men in any of her incarnations. The nurses fawn over Pierre, but Prairie declines his visit. He doesn’t take the news well, and trashes the waiting room. No one forces a sedative on him or puts him on a locked ward.
Next in line is Prairie’s newly assigned case worker, Melody, who has good and bad news. Prairie asks to hear the bad news first. Melody checked into Homer’s whereabouts for Prairie. There aren’t any in St Louis but she discovered there’s a psychiatrist in the Bay area with his name.
The good news is that Prairie’s other contact is waiting to speak with her on the computer- Prairie’s adoptive mother from her original dimension, Nancy Johnson. In this dimension, the Johnsons never adopted Prairie, so Nancy doesn’t recognize her and doesn’t know how to help her. She does answer Prairie’s questions, even when they get uncomfortably personal.
Prairie realizes that she never went to live with her Aunt Zoya in this reality, so Nancy and Abel adopted the baby boy they’d originally planned to in Prairie’s world. Prairie thanks Nancy for everything she did for her as a mother, even though it’s not the right Nancy. This Nancy seems to be feeling a connection to Prairie, just as her adoptive mother felt an immediate connection, but they aren’t allowed to continue talking.
When Prairie hangs up, Melody reveals that she now has very bad news. Prairie has been put on a 14 day psych hold. Prairie can’t bear the thought of another 14 days in that hospital, and insists she’s confused, not crazy. Melody explains they need to do this because Prairie threatened the nurse, but Prairie can go stay at a private clinic and it will be like a spa vacation. Prairie has no choice but to agree.
Melody’s bad news when she arrived to see Prairie was that Homer isn’t in St Louis. Then Prairie rebuffs Pierre Ruskin, he gets angry, and five minutes later, Melody has the hard news that Prairie’s on a 14 day psych hold. And, oh yeah, someone has pulled some strings to get her into a particular private clinic, Treasure Island. I guarantee that someone was Pierre Ruskin, who wants to hold her hostage until she cooperates with his control again.
Melody takes Prairie to Nina’s penthouse apartment to pick up a few things before they go to Treasure Island. Prairie can’t get her key to work, but the doorman, Al, is very kind and helpful. The penthouse is gorgeous. Prairie is overwhelmed that she’ll get to live there eventually.
Nina has a canary like the one OA swallowed in Part 1, and an aquarium, reminiscent of the one Homer found in his vision. OA examines Nina’s photos and realizes that her father and Nina were together until he was an old man. Melody tells her he died recently (shot in the bathtub). Then OA realizes that Nina wasn’t on the bus in Russia when it went off the bridge, so she didn’t go blind.
Melody reminds Prairie that they need to gather clothes and supplies for the clinic, so they look in Nina’s bedroom. Her closet is locked with a keypad and password that Prairie doesn’t know. Her clothing seems too formal for a clinic.
Karim has Pierre’s house staked out, and listens to an interview with one of his top executives, Bert Gabel. The interviewer says that the Wall Street Journal called Pierre “the prophet of the valley.” When asked how Pierre is able to accurately predict the next big thing, Bert says that Pierre knows where to listen and how to listen to the world, which is whispering its intentions all the time. Pierre hears things in a way that isn’t possible for most of us.
Karim gets a call back from his associate who does the research for him. She’s looked into the kids who are potentially playing the game and disappearing. We only hear Karim’s side of the conversation, which is cryptic.
Karim: “What did you find?… How many of them? Nationwide?… Those five kids in the Bay Area…. What do you mean f–ked up? All playing the game?… Yeah, but how many have a prior history of mental illness?… Yeah, so we don’t know it’s the game cracking them up… Yeah, cause there are like thousands of kids playing… High-strung, spectrum-y math types. How many would crack up anyway?”
He hangs up when someone leaves Rushkin’s house, and he follows them.
It sounds like she found some evidence that the game is messing kids up, but it’s hard to prove, given the types of kids who become obsessed with games and the societal prejudices against them. There were 5 kids in the San Francisco area that she took particular note of, but that’s all we know about them.
Now let’s take a scenic ride to Treasure Island. Two beefy orderlies escort Prairie inside. Her case worker isn’t invited in, which seems strange.
I think Karim’s soundtrack just went to Stranger Things for a second. That can’t be good.
He’s followed the car to a hidden, underground business called Curi. Michelle drew a picture of the sign in her closet, so Karim definitely wants to get inside. When a cleaning van passes behind him, Karim purposely backs into it. Once both drivers are out of their cars, Karim makes a deal to join the cleaning crew inside Curi for the night.
Once inside, the Stranger Things rhythm returns off and on, so we know we’re in big trouble here. Karim finds computer monitors with sheep and trees as the screen saver. In another room, technicians analyze audio recordings for key words.
He spots a young woman being escorted downstairs and through a set of doors, but the doors lock before he reaches them. They have a keypad exactly like the one on Nina’s closet, leaving no doubt that Ruskin is involved in both instances.
Karim peeks through a window into the room and sees exposed air ducts in the ceiling. He climbs a utility ladder to reach the ducts, then crawls through the ducts, in another callback to Homer’s vision. There is an ambient red glow throughout this sequence.
Karim finds an opening in the duct so he can spy on the room below. A dozen or so women are either sleeping or speaking into microphones, recording their dreams. There are other people in the room with them, monitoring them closely.
Prairie makes a diagram on the wall of her room in the clinic, illustrating the similarities and differences between her life and Nina’s. Nina got to live in Paris with Papa and go to college, while Prairie was a blind orphan adopted by an abusive family who made her think she was crazy, then she was kidnapped, held hostage and tortured for 7 years.
Getting on that bus really was a huge mistake.
Footsteps approach the door. Prairie sits down and waits to see who it will be.
It’s Homer!!! It’s Dr Roberts, the psychiatrist from this dimension with Homer’s name and face, but not his memories. He’s a third year resident at the clinic. The universe has played yet another cruel joke on the OA, and Homer has no idea who she is. She gasps out his name, shocking him, until he decides she read it on his name tag and instructs her to call him Dr Roberts.
They proceed to have a confusing, if brilliant, little walk and talk, in which everyone but Homer tries to figure out if they’re dreaming.
The rooms and halls are all institutional and white. Homer helps OA up, and they briefly stumble over who wants to be called what. Then, he begins his standard new patient speech as he brings her to meet the director of the clinic. As they walk by the other patients’ rooms, one by one, OA sees every single one of Hap’s other captives- Renata, Rachel, and Scott. They look as shocked to see her as she is to see them. They all seem sure they’ve entered a nightmare again.
Homer’s speech- you’ll appreciate it later:
“I’m taking you to meet the director. No, no, no. [Makes Prairie stop pawing him.] He’s a remarkable man. I’ve been studying under him for my entire residency. I first read his book back in med school. It’s actually the reason that I chose psychiatry. It’s okay. He’s had tremendous success with his patients. There’s really no one like him in the field. You’re in good hands. I’d like you to meet the head of the clinic- Dr Hunter Percy.
Hap turns around and says, “Hi.” He excuses Homer.
The Angel of Death has arrived.
Once they’re alone, Hap moves closer to OA. “It is you, isn’t it? Hello, Prairie.”
Prairie lunges at him.
Hap is standing in front of the aquarium in Homer’s vision. He’s literally blocking Homer and Prairie from spiritually moving forward or seeing the truth.
Karim said he hates games, but he seemed to enjoy the word game Fola gave him that was part of Q Symphony. I think what he hates are lies and manipulations, the games people play between each other in their “real” lives.
I quoted Fola’s entire description of the game levels and pay off because I have a strong feeling that the game is connected to the type of dimension hopping the OA was teaching the boys and Betty. If so, then that would suggest there are five levels involved with dimension-hopping. We are given a few clues: the game designer wants people to win but to do it on their own,without collaboration; and few make it to level five, but they receive a large cash payout when they do.
Are these the levels between heaven and h–l? Levels signifying travel expertise and ease or the number of possible lifetime jumps? Do they signify the steps toward self-actualization/finding the ideal self and an ideal dimension?
It has to be significant that the person who has a counterpart that’s involved with dimensional travel, who has practiced the movements, is one of the few to get the farthest. That could suggest that it’s better to collaborate, but the gamemaker wants the players in a weakened state when they win, for his own purposes.
OA is held prisoner and labeled mentally ill, again, after replacing a wealthy woman who should have been able to buy and lawyer her way out of that situation. Where were Nina’s Russian mobster attorneys? How can Hap and an upstart like Ruskin outmaneuver her old money? Surely her father left her set up with protection.
The kid in Big Blue who asks everyone if they’ve seen Michelle initially asks Karim if he’s the plumber. It’s an odd question, since they’re obviously squatting. Do squatters call in plumbers?
That could be a veiled reference to Homer’s vision, where the bathrooms were flooding. It could also have something to do with the game.
Liam said, “My brain can hold all the brains. My thoughts can dry water. I’ve seen a million versions of myself.”
My thoughts can dry water.- Is he the plumber? Before he lost it, could he control the invisible current one uses when dimension hopping, drying the flow to leave the current and enter a dimension?
My brain can hold all the brains.- Multiple personalities? Or multiple minds from multiple dimensions?
I’ve seen a million versions of myself.- If we assume Liam’s condition has something to do with the game, then something at a point higher than Fola has reached, either level 4 or 5 or both, appears to open the mind to the vastness of the alternate dimensions. Liam says he’s seen a million versions of himself, and his brain can hold them all. Did he touch all of those dimensions and now those minds have all jumped into him? Was he just driven crazy by the thought of so many versions of himself? Was he taken to millions of dimensions using time dilation, then returned? What happened to Michelle, and the others?
Images courtesy of Netflix.