There’s a moment in the first couple of episodes of Season 2 of The OA where you’ll find yourself wondering if the show has gone mainstream. It even has a straight-forward mystery powering the plot: a private detective is hired to find a missing girl. But then along come the weirder and weirder curveballs, and you can breathe a sigh of relief; this is still very much The OA.
Cast your mind back to 2016, when Season 1 ended with OA (Brit Marling) getting shot in a school shooting while attempting to jump to another dimension. Season 2 opens with the confirmation that she succeeded, but being in a new dimension does not automatically free her of her previous worries, especially as Hap (Jason Isaacs) and her fellow captives have followed her there.
To say much else would rob you of the fun of getting repeatedly slapped across the face with WTF moments. Marling and Batmanglij played their cards close to their chests on this one, and the series is full of surprise after surprise. They could have easily jettisoned the characters and stories from season one’s dimension, and yet we return to them to watch them deal with their trauma. Season 2 not only gives all the returning characters great material, but also finds room to introduce Karim (Kingsley Ben-Adir), the PI who brings a much-needed audience viewpoint – and an immediate likability – to the show.
Season 2 comments on Season 1’s puzzle box structure by presenting both the characters and the viewers with puzzles to solve. Characters contend with the addictive nature of games while viewers get their minds boggled again and again. But it’s not just a dry escape room of a TV show – it also offers a slow and beautiful meditation on identity and loss, and OA is a more emotionally compelling central character now that her reliability is no longer a key component of the puzzle.
If dimension-jumping via interpretive dance was too much for you, then you probably won’t be sold on Season 2’s blend of magic realism, fantasy and existential exploration. But if you were a fan of Season 1, you’re in for a long-awaited treat.