I don’t. Quite know where to begin, y’all. I’m here to cover the last two episodes of maybe the most unusual, confounding show I’ve ever watched. I guess I’ve just gotta…give it a go.
Episode 7: Empire of Light
This episode takes place entirely in the present: there are no time-jumps in OA’s story.
It opens with OA having another one of her nightmares, the prescient kind that give her a nosebleed. She can’t figure out what’s happening in this one. She’s in a big room, lots of windows, and there’s silverware. We canny viewers recognize it as the cafeteria at the boys’ high school, but obviously OA’s never been there before.
Later she tells her therapist about it, and he advises her to “just go with it.” Whenever she’s had the prescient dreams before, they’ve marked a big turning point in her life. This time, he says, if she just let’s the dream happen and doesn’t struggle against it, either try to stop it or make it come true, then it means she’s living her life the way it’s meant to be lived. Or something.
He recommends that she and her parents do something as a family that they used to enjoy before her kidnapping, so Nancy and Abel take OA to the Olive Garden. A young woman comes up to them and asks to take a selfie with OA. Really she just sits down and takes the picture, even though Nancy is telling her to stop, which is extremely rude and I would’ve been mad too.
Nancy is angry with OA for not telling them anything about what happened to her, and when she tells them a little bit (basically that she’s an angel), Nancy slaps her. French is their waiter, and he grabs OA and gets her out.
Later he tells her she needs to go easier on Nancy and Abel. They’re her parents, and she needs to appreciate that and give them a break.
Steve, meanwhile, bonds with the girl in his special class, but when he gets home his father says he was forced to pay that kid from episode 1’s medical bills. Steve goes to take a shower and makes plans to apologize and pay his dad back, but when he comes downstairs, there are two goons from the military academy there to drag him away.
And they do DRAG him. Betty sees them hitting him and throwing him into the back of a van, and she follows. She comes up with a plan where Steve will say he’s being molested, but Steve refuses to go through with it. Instead Betty offers the men the fifty thousand dollar check she got from her brother’s inheritance if they’ll let Steve go.
Back at the abandoned house, Steve stabs OA with a pencil, but she just hugs him. He cries, she tries to comfort him, and then she says she’s going to tell them the last part of her story.
Episode 8: Invisible Self
Her story picks up where episode 6 left off: the cop is holding a gun to Hap’s head. Hap convinces him that OA and Homer can heal the cop’s wife’s ALS, and the cop is so desperate he agrees to try it.
Hap locks OA and Homer in a room with the woman, and they do the movements. The woman wakes up and tells them about a near-death experience she had as a little girl. She ate a moth, and now she knows the 5th movement! She shows it to them, and the cop is so excited he runs into the room and leaves his gun behind.
Hap kills the cop and his wife with just one shot (he’s THAT good) and drags OA out of the room. He drugs her and lets her go, because now he has the 5th movement and doesn’t need her. So that’s how she got away: Hap freed her. But of course she’s desperate to get back to Homer and the others, and ends up throwing herself off a bridge.
She’s standing in the circle with a knife (to illustrate the one Hap held at her throat) and for some reason she cut the top of her dress off. Suddenly the parents burst in: Nancy and Abel, Steve’s mom and dad, and Buck’s dad. Uh oh.
All the parents are super pissed at OA and her parents, but French assures Nancy and Abel he’s going to prove everything she said is true. Later, OA tells her parents the whole story, and it seems like her dad, at least, believes her.
French breaks into OA’s house and searches it. Under her bed he finds a box of books: Homer’s Iliad, a book about angels, a book about near death experiences, and a book about Russia. Double uh oh.
While he’s sneaking around, Riz Ahmed suddenly pops up. He tells French he’s suffering from second hand trauma, but he did a good thing by listening to Prairie. Why the fuck is Prairie’s trauma counselor in her empty house with all the lights off??
Back at school Betty’s been fired, and in the cafeteria the boys are back with their old peer groups rather than sitting with each other. OA is at home in the bathtub. She has a house arrest bracelet around her ankle. Suddenly she wakes from a nap and runs outside. She tells Abel she had the dream again, and now she knows what he means. He lets her go.
At school, one of Jesse’s friends noticed a kid outside wearing a bulletproof vest and carrying a gun. He tackles Jesse to the ground just as the kid starts shooting. Everyone hits the deck or runs, and Betty heads back to the cafeteria and “my boys.”
The boys and Betty all share Looks, and suddenly they jump up and start doing the Movements. I guess the shooter was so surprised like “wtf are these idiots doing?” that he doesn’t shoot anyone, and a cafeteria worker tackles him. He gets off a shot, and we see OA standing outside the window…shot.
She’s loaded into an ambulance, and she tells them that they did it. They’re angels now too.
It cuts to OA in a white room, the camera tight on her face. “Homer?” she says.
Aaaaand…scene. End of show. End of season 1. Maybe end of series, period.
Last week I talked about this show taking itself too seriously, and they really doubled down on that with these last two episodes. Between Homer and OA curing that lady’s ALS and the kids + Betty dancing down a shooter…well.
Obviously they left us with a huge number of questions. Was any of this even real? French found those books under Prairie’s bed; does that mean she made the whole story up? She does have the scars on her back, and she can see now, so obviously something happened during her 7 years away, but maybe she’s inventing a fantastical story to cover up her trauma.
What happened to Homer and the other captives? When Hap freed OA, he said he was going to take the others to another dimension using the movements. So, uh. Did he?
As the ambulance drove away, Steve said, “It’s happening. Can’t you feel it?” and chased after it, screaming for OA to take him with her. Was she literally going to another dimension, or dying? In the last scene…was she dead? Hallucinating in a mental hospital? She looked really healthy for someone who’d just been shot, so it doesn’t seem like she was in a regular hospital room recovering.
Why was Elias in Prairie’s house? No one was home; the family had gone to stay in a hotel because reporters were mobbed up outside. The lights weren’t even on. He was just there, sneaking around, like French, but French never even asked who he was or what he was doing there.
Okay, but. Don’t schools these days have procedures in place for if there’s a school shooter? Why would that cafeteria dude try to tackle him? Isn’t that a huge no-no? I know the kids were all scared and stuff, but it just seems like they scattered like headless chickens rather than following any set plan.
That aside, the entire school shooting bit felt forced. Contrived. It came out of nowhere. Apparently there are tiny clues sprinkled into earlier episodes, but like. Hap was the villain, not some rando kid at school. It brought the others back together in the most ham-fisted away, and our actual villain is nowhere to be found.
I know a lot of people were unhappy with the ending, between the shooting and the cliffhanger, but I wasn’t bothered by the cliffhanger nearly as much. My problem is the show suddenly introducing this doubt about OA’s story (the books) and then just…leaving it out there. Even as she figures out something’s going down at the school and the Movements apparently stop the shooter, we’re still questioning whether any of her story was real. That’s cheap.
As a whole I liked this series. At times it was entirely mesmerizing. Other times…it seemed to try too hard. The Movements were so ridiculous looking, but everyone was so earnest about them that it really took me out of the whole thing. Maybe if the Movements had been simpler? More like just simple hand gestures rather than full-body contortions? I know that they were meant to simulate animals, and were at least loosely based on certain martial arts traditions, but they just fell flat for me. Which is a problem, since they were a huge part of the series’ back half.
The series’ creators say they’re open to a second season, but I’m on the fence. What would it be about? I feel like it would be pure cheese, without any of season 1’s elegance or beauty. So I guess we’re all left wondering where OA is. Where Homer and the others are. And what’s gonna happen to Betty and the boys.
Oh, but here’s the answer to one question: “OA” stands for “Original Angel.” I’m trying not to roll my eyes at the subtlety.
Images curtesy of Netflix