Two years on from its cancellation, ‘The OA’ is still missed

Here's why the cult Netflix sci-fi deserves a comeback

Theoretical physicists will tell you that our linear concept of time and space is a fallacy, that the speculative worlds we dream up when we imagine different choices – catching that train, getting that job, kissing that person on that night – are not only possible, but happening right now in concurrent dimensions. Which means, of course, that there’s a world out there somewhere in which The OA is still going. So why isn’t it this one?

When Netflix announced they would not be renewing Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij’s ambitious TV drama back in August 2019, the ripples spread far beyond the typical fan outcry. A campaign was launched by fans to save the show, with efforts ranging from inspirational to horrifying; some even began speculating whether the show’s premature cancellation was actually part of a mind-bending meta-narrative inspired by the season two finale’s revelations.

Two years on, many fans – and some of the show’s stars – still haven’t given up hope that the story of The OA might one day be revived. Here’s why we need it back on our TV screens in this dimension…

The OA
Will we ever get to see how the story ends? CREDIT: Netflix

The story was always intended to be told across five parts

Not only was the show carefully structured to be five seasons long, but creators Marling and Batmanglij knew exactly how it would play out from start to finish. Jason Isaacs, who played the show’s brilliant but cruel scientist HAP, told Collider in 2019 that the pair had it “all mapped out,” to the extent that certain scenes from season 2 were actually part of season 5’s story arc.

“I knew exactly where the third season was going to go, and it’s utterly brilliant,” he explained. “When they told me the end of season two, I went, ‘Wait, guys, are you actually sure? That sounds nuts to me. What can you possibly do afterwards?’ So, they sat me down and told me, and 15 minutes later, my jaw was hanging open.”

Fans have even lined up scenes from different seasons telling the same story and discovered that they sync perfectly. Knowing that one of the most beautiful and intricately plotted shows of all time has so many more twists and turns to take, but might never be revealed, feels unbearable.

It was cancelled after a spectacular twist

After jumping into another dimension, the characters found themselves on a TV set where lead actor Brit Marling plays an actress called Brit Marling, and co-star Jason Isaacs is a British actor called Jason Isaacs.

Some fans have pointed out that Isaacs claims to be Marling’s husband in the following ambulance scene, suggesting they haven’t quite jumped into our own dimension. What spurred on some of the more imaginative fans’ theorising is that Isaacs continued to wear the same blue shirt from that scene in subsequent interviews, and repeatedly talked about his character in a bizarrely sympathetic light, portraying him as a misunderstood genius when most consider him a villain. That you, HAP?

It’s still the weirdest show on Netflix

While season one took fans on a carefully-plotted journey, The OA‘s second part raced off in various new directions, asking more questions than it answered. Various new characters and concepts were introduced, not least of which was a telepathic Japanese octopus in the form of Old Night – an even weirder step that proved to be too much for some fans, while others revelled in the fresh layer of mystery the scene offered.

In a show that was constantly challenging fans to stay with it as new layers of reality were peeled off, its weirdness never felt performative or gimmicky, but instead added to the beauty of the show. “I asked you to believe in impossible things,” Marling’s protagonist – variously known as Prairie Johnson, OA, Nina Azarova, and of course Marling herself across the show, which in itself gives you an idea of the show’s dense narrative tapestry – says to her young audience in season one. In some respects, perhaps, she was speaking to the viewers at home as well.

No show rewards fan engagement as well…

Part of the reason that fans believe the show isn’t over for good is that the show’s creators – particularly Zal Batmanglij – continue to tease fans with real-life puzzles, in much the same way that the second season’s ‘Q Symphony’ game enraptured curious young players. The creators have worked hard to associate storm imagery and language into the show – going as far as getting The OA‘s main characters to tweet enigmatic references weeks before the show even arrived back in 2016 – and Batmanglij has previously said that it would take “a new storm” for the show to return.

Needless to say, when he deleted nearly all his Instagram posts except a new post of a lightning storm, fans could only interpret it one way. There’s much, much more – the symbolism surrounding the number 37 in the show is fascinating  but we’ll leave you to dive down that rabbit hole at your own peril.

…and they’re hungry for more

There are some fandoms that go beyond mere adoration and become something closer to an entire identity, a world upon which one’s own personality might be painted. (Manic Street Preachers fans know what we’re talking about here.) For fans of The OA, the series tapped into something beautiful and elemental that no other work of art has accomplished – not just a wild sci-fi tale of interdimensional travel and some weird dance moves, but a real exploration of what might exist at the outer corners of our own reality, rendered into an elegant but unstable fiction.

We must find out how The OA continues and concludes – not just to provide a satisfying resolution to a brilliant TV show, but because its fans deserve closure.

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