Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Pilot Review: The OA

The OA (Netflix)
Premiered December 16

It’s hard to keep track of everything that Netflix and Amazon are putting out these days, and during my research on, I made special note of this show’s debut, which I’m catching up to about two and a half weeks after it began. As soon as I saw that Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij were the creative minds behind this project, I knew I had to check it out. They left a lasting impression on me after I interviewed them for their work on “The East,” a terrific thriller about a group of ecoterrorists. I enjoyed and greatly appreciated Marling’s subsequent role in “Babylon,” a fantastic show that was cancelled far too soon. Now they’re back with Batmanglij and Marling penning the episode and the latter starring in it as a formerly blind young woman who returns home as someone else with the gift of sight. I’ll admit that while I’m wildly intrigued, I don’t really understand what’s going on and I’m not sure that the answer is going to please me. I don’t think I’ve seen a show before where the opening credits don’t roll until about ten minutes before the end, but what a scene for them to cover, which totally changed things in a way that I’m not sure I loved. Why she goes by “the OA” is the first question, and whatever notions of reincarnation this show has appeal to me less than the general air of mystery that will continue to satisfy me as long as it doesn’t swing too far to the supernatural. There are some dependable faces in the supporting cast, including former Borg Queen Alice Krige, “The Walking Dead” patriarch Scott Wilson, and Phyllis Smith from “The Office.” Ultimately, they’re just background to Marling and whatever this show is trying to be. I’ll give it another shot, but the final act didn’t go the way I would have wanted it to as far as a reassuring and affirming ending and redirect goes.

How will it work as a series? There are eight episodes commissioned for the first season, and after that trip to Russia, I’m not sure what to make of things. I suspect that we’ll find out more about what her name means and how this whole thing works, but that might take a while and could prove frustrating. It doesn’t seem like this show will withhold too much; I’m just not sure how thrilling and worthwhile the answers will be.
How long will it last? Relatively positive reviews for the show serve it well, and the fact that Marling and Batmanglij have their names on it should assure it a decent future. I don’t know if this show will find the audience it wants, but as a companion piece to “Sense8” that’s a bit more grounded and put-together, I think that this show could work and earn another season or two.

Pilot grade: B

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