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‘The OA Part II’ successfully builds on the strange beauty of season one

The show dares to go to crazy places, all to tell a very human story.

Spoilers ahead if you haven’t watched The OA Part II on Netflix.

Last friday, March 22nd, more than two years after the release of season one, The OA Part II came out on Netflix, with eight more episodes of dreams, angels, and heartfelt relationships. Season one is about a young woman returned home from being kidnapped for seven years. The power of her story brings together five people: Steve, Jesse, French, Buck, and BBA. With Russian oligarchs, near-death experiences, and strange gifted movements, OA’s story is hard to believe. But just like the boys and BBA, we do. Season one ends with OA getting shot and hopefully transporting to another dimension.

Image: Netflix

Given the beauty and thoughtfulness of season one, my expectations were high, and season two surpassed them. Part II answers all the remaining questions of season one (and there were a lot), like why there were the books under Prairie’s bed, and it answers ones I didn’t even think to ask. Of course, with the new season comes a bunch of new questions as well.

How far can we go in pursuit of knowledge before our morals are compromised?

Season two starts by introducing us to a new character named Karim Washington (Kingsley Ben-Adir), a private detective looking for a missing girl. This is the new dimension OA’s arrived in, an alternate reality where Nina never got on the bus that day so many years ago. She grew up with her father in Russia and now lives in San Francisco, rich and very influential.

The new location creates a more worldly, less enclosed feeling than season one, and given San Francisco is known for technological innovation, it helps introduce the season’s storyline, about exploring dreams and consciousness through natural and unnatural technology.

Image: Netflix

Last season, Hap (Jason Isaacs) used technology to study near-death experiences and where people go after death. It’s pretty clear that Hap’s already well over the moral line with his experiments. I mean, he had five people kidnapped under the ground for years. In the new world, Hap’s a highly respected psychologist with resources and a protege that adores him, Homer Roberts (Emory Cohen).

This season expands on the question of how far we can go for discovery. When is it too far? In San Francisco, there’s a strange house that someone’s drawing kids to, risking their lives to figure out its secrets. OA helps Karim with the case, while also trying to bring the real Homer to the surface, as he doesn’t seem to remember anything about his old life.

Scott, Rachel, and Renata

Turns out the situation isn’t any better for the others. Scott (Will Brill) and Renata (Paz Vega) are patients at the Treasure Island clinic, and Rachel…Poor Rachel (Sharon Van Etten) is stuck in a body unable to speak or communicate in any way, a result of the car accident years earlier. Rachel’s role in season two reiterates Hap’s penchant for underestimating women with disabilities.

In season one, Prairie used her blindness to her advantage, and he gave her access to his house. Here, he takes Rachel to help in his lab, knowing she can’t spill his secrets. But when OA appears, she finds a way to communicate enough of what he’s doing, and even after he kills her, her spirit manages to get to the boys and BBA and deliver an important message.

So what are Steve, French, Jesse, Buck, and BBA doing?

Though OA’s in another dimension, the show successfully keeps the boys and BBA (Phyllis Smith), who we all fell in love with in season one, involved and important to the story. They go on their own journey, from their small town all the way to Treasure Island. There learn a lot about themselves on the way, paralleling OA’s own journey of self-discovery.

French (Brandon Perea) has a wonderful focus in episode three, as a sexual encounter with a random man brings comfort and a push in the right direction. It’s not given too much attention, and when French basically comes out to Steve (Patrick Gibson), there’s a cute exchange, as he accepts it and uses humor to tell French that nothing’s changed from that.

Image: Netflix

Through Jesse (Brendan Meyer), we see a young man trying to help OA with his friends, all while facing his own depression and PTSD from a hard life and the school shooting. When he commits suicide, nothing magical can save him, and it’s a honest portrayal of a hard issue.

Steve, who’s desperate to find purpose, desperate to reconnect with the first person to ever believe in him, experiences huge guilt after seeing his best friend dead. He blames himself, thinking if he wasn’t as focused on OA he could’ve seen what Jesse was going through and stopped him.

It’s a testament to the power of Marling and Batmanglij’s writing that on top of creating an interesting and understandable storyline about angels and alternate dimensions, there’s a continuous underlying story about love and family told through these dynamic characters and relationships.

Love conquers all

The OA will always at its core be about love. Whether it’s between OA and Homer, the boys and BBA, or anyone else, it remains the heart of the story. OA recruits five strangers with an insane story about inter-dimensional travel, all in order to get back to her soulmate, Homer. She builds a tribe around her, and teaches them to accept themselves and the strange world around them.

Image: Netflix

OA leads them out of their hardships. Buck (Ian Alexander) finds solace with her, away from parents who don’t accept his gender identity. Steve sees OA as the first person to tell him he’s worth something. To Jesse, they’re all a family he’s never had. OA teaches French to value himself, and pulls BBA from her grief. She’s a guardian angel, literally, and makes everyone’s world a little brighter.

The science fiction genre has always garnered less respect than something like straightforward drama. People assume that there’s no substance to it, nothing worth really talking about. But it’s slowly changing, and The OA Part II is an example of what can happen when we respect all genres, and give creators the freedom to create their story exactly as they envision it.

The OA Part II is now streaming on Netflix!

(Featured Image: Netflix)

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Devon Forward

Devon is an artist, writer, and current student of film/television development. She loves anything science fiction or fantasy, and her favorite show is Charmed, which kick-started her obsession with powerful yet imperfect female characters. You can usually find her somewhere analyzing a tv show or reading a good book. On Twitter @dev4wrd

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