Sometimes you just find a TV show that resonates with you. Something that fits so perfectly in your mindset and morality that you feel at peace watching it. This is the effect The OA had on me. Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij’s creation was just about the best story told on our screens since Twin Peaks. And just as Twin Peaks was cancelled by the network it lived on thirty years ago, The OA is cancelled now too.
The OA wove a coherent narrative with an overarching message while exploring complicated subjects. It never got lost in its own brilliance. And so it breaks my heart to hear the announcement that Netflix will not be renewing the show for a third season. Painful memories linger from when ABC cancelled Twin Peaks after two seasons, then again when HBO cancelled Carnivale. This is a history that did not need repeating. Peaks fans waiting 25 long years to get their beloved show back, we pray to the OA that we don’t have to wait that long for the show to return to our screens.
I don’t usually get upset about cancellations. Most TV is throwaway or gets to the end of its life and it rightly gives up the ghost. But when something so perfectly written, marvellously acted and beautifully filmed is ended — on a cliffhanger, when there are still three seasons left of story to tell — it is a genuine travesty.
Starring Marling as Prairie Johnson/The OA (the “Original Angel”) — a young woman who resurfaces after having been missing for seven years and can now see, despite having been blind before she disappeared—this intricate and mind-bending tale goes so much further than what it appears on the surface. Expect Near-Death Experiences, alternate dimensions, body movements that can resurrect the dead, even a psychic octopus. But even all that wouldn’t go anywhere near explaining the emotional impact this show has.
Each character has a detailed and interesting backstory. There are no characters in this show that you won’t love or at least feel empathy for. You find yourself championing every single one of them. The teenagers and their teacher BBA (Phyllis Smith) from the ‘Crestwood 5’ have difficulty dealing with mental health issues, coming to terms with their sexuality and gender, frustrations their families and their emotions in the wake of death and relationship breakdowns. Yet, never is the show preachy or patronising. It deals with human problems with sensitivity and spiritual grace.
The OA was a brilliant and imaginative take on the genre. It was visually spectacular and intellectually satisfying and blended romance, crime, thriller, and science fiction.
Brit Marling took to Instagram to share her thoughts and disappointment at the news.
A Statement from Cindy Holland, VP of Original Content at Netflix, read:
“We are incredibly proud of the 16 mesmerizing chapters of ‘The OA,’ and are grateful to [co-creator/star Brit Marling and co-creator/executive producer Zal Batmanglij] for sharing their audacious vision and for realizing it through their incredible artistry. We look forward to working with them again in the future, in this and perhaps many other dimensions.”
I can only speculate that money is behind the decision, as viewing numbers were good, and the show has a big cult following — a following that may bring some hope. Netflix has a relatively high Season 1 to Season 2 renewal rate (around 80%), but the threshold gets significantly higher after Seasons 2 and 3 as series get more expensive for Netflix and the cost vs viewership is heavily scrutinized in the renewal decision-making process. The majority of Netflix’s original scripted shows last two or three seasons. But knowing that there is such a dedicated following for the show, there is always a possibility that another network could pick it up. Fans across the world will be practising their movements to make that happen right now.
We absolutely need to know what happens next to Nina/Prairie/Brit/The OA and all her friends. The exceptionally exhilarating and meta ending of Season 2 left viewers gasping for breath and desperate to find out what happens next. I have faith in Brit and Zal that they will find a way to finish their story, for together, they are the greatest storytellers in the world right now. Until then, keep believing in angels.