Released in December 2016, this program follows the life story of a woman named Prairie Johnson as she recounts her perceptions of the events therein. Prairie Johnson is portrayed by series creator Brit Marling. The series deals with issues of the supernatural and the idea of angels in a unique and often perplexing manner.
At the beginning of the series, Prairie Johnson has returned to her home after she has been missing for seven years. We find out, as the series progresses, that she was adopted and had lost her sight during her childhood. Upon resurfacing, we find that she has regained her eyesight after years of blindness, which she acquired during a near drowning. In an attempt to perform a strange mysterious ritual, Prairie, who refers to herself as the OA, gathers a group of students and a teacher to tell them her version of her life story. The group of followers that Prairie enlists are quite diverse, including a teacher and a transgender student. Throughout the story, the difference in experience between the characters is highlighted as their common experience with the “OA” serves to unite them and cast their differences aside.
Prairie claims that her real father is a wealthy Russian man with ties to the Russian mafia. Prairie claims that during her childhood, she was nearly drowned when a car she was riding in veered off a bridge and into the water. Though she escaped the wreck with her life, Prairie was rendered blind. Though her Russian father is very fond of her, she is put up for adoption by her relatives in order to shield her from the wrath of the Russian mafia. Prairie is then adopted by a couple who raised her for most of her life until she mysteriously went missing. Prairie is missing and presumed dead for several years when she resurfaces unexpectedly.
After being gone for so long, Prairie has inexplicably regained her eyesight and suffered a great deal of emotional strife.
Prairie goes on to explain that she and a group of others were kidnapped by a scientist who kept them locked up in an old mine shaft. She further explains that the scientist believed that those who had near death experiences could tap into special powers. While incarcerated, one of Prairie’s fellow victims is killed and Prairie and the others find that they can heal them back to life by performing a series of maneuvers that supposedly had supernatural qualities. While a key element to the plot, the sheer absurdity and goofiness of these motions did serve to take the viewer out of the story a bit. This effect was further validated when the validity of Prairie’s claims is called into question. While this narrative is compelling, its validity within the storyline becomes somewhat ambiguous as others come to challenge Prairie’s account. Outside of Prairie’s storytelling, there is never any indication that her self-proclaimed healing powers exist. While Prairie and her followers practice the maneuvers extensively, their healing qualities are never truly put to the test which becomes increasingly suspicious as Prairie’s character and mental wellbeing are continually challenged by others. While Prairie and her group of followers believe that she is an “Original Angel,” or “OA,” the parents of the town and others believe that she is unhinged and could lead the kids astray. When discovered in the unfinished house where they have been congregating, the students are warned to keep away from Prairie and the teacher is ultimately fired.
Though the students had become closer with one another in the presence of Prairie, they are once again split when they have left her. The differences that once set them apart serve to divide them anew when they have become disillusioned by the fall of Prairie. However, when a shooter threatens their school, the students and the teacher respond by performing the maneuvers that Prairie had taught them, and they are able to distract and subdue the shooter. While this certainly doesn’t confirm the validity of any of Prairie’s claims, it certainly leaves one wondering if any aspects of her story were true. While ambiguous in nature and at times hard to believe, the “OA” is an interesting and compelling take on divinity and the supernatural that leaves one to think.