The OA is back and crazier than ever.
The first season of Netflix sci-fi series The OA, Brit Marling's passion project with Zal Batmanglij, was delightfully bonkers — defying expectations with every strange twist and leaning into its sillier elements with such vim that it was easy to get sucked into, no matter how outlandish those dance moves were. Prairie (also known as Nina and OA) was an unreliable narrator who delivered her story in increasingly unbelievable pieces; she expected her audience on the show and at home to take a major leap of faith in believing what she had to say and committing to follow along for her next big move. For those of us who could surrender to the whole thing, it was terribly thrilling.
The second season is even more challenging, as it asks audiences to acclimate to new and even wilder layers of the show's puzzle — and this time, we're not just taking in her little midnight story sessions and practicing the moves alongside her two new squads. We are instead experiencing these massive new developments right alongside her.
Before you proceed any further, be warned that from this point on, this review contains mild spoilers for The OA: Part II — although as with the first season, even if you go in knowing every last detail about the show, it still won't quite prepare you for what's ahead.
Part II picks up right where the first season left off — OA has been gravely injured by the cafeteria shooter, and her merry band of misfits are left to wonder what happened to her. As the trailer reveals, OA has left her old body and woken up in an alternate dimension wherein Barack Obama was never president of the United States, and she grew up in the care of her "Papa" the Russian oligarch, with her original identity as Nina intact.
Meanwhile, Hap (Jason Isaacs) also gathered his remaining captives — Homer (Emory Cohen), Scott (Will Brill), Rachel (Sharon Van Etten), and Renata (Paz Vega) — to do the five moves in a field and jump into another dimension. He may have a new body and purpose in this new realm, but he's still horrible Hap.
OA eventually meets a private detective named Karim who's been on the hunt for a missing girl and has uncovered an entire subculture of gamers willing to give up everything to try to solve a virtual riddle. This eventually connects him to OA/Nina, of course, even if it's a bit of a slog through this underbelly of 28th-century tech. Meanwhile, BBA (Phyllis Smith) and the kids are also playing their own, more organic version of the same game as they regroup to try and solve the mystery of OA's fate. It takes a while for each of these narrative threads to start tying together, but the parallels are obvious from the start.
OA's travels also introduce us to some completely batty new features, like an empathetic octopus whose supreme wisdom is both convenient and absurd and an invisible tree of life that connects with everything and everyone. The mood is often bleak, but these jarring additions are sprinkled in just the right spots to ramp up how fascinating it all is.
But there is an unfortunate tonal shift in Part II: The lack of OA's pseudo-omniscient narration drags down the pace of the story and adds even more confusion to the back-and-forth dimensional swings. Also, the subplots involving the detective and the kid crew feel painfully protracted at times.
What helps make up for all of these displacing elements is the heart in the returning characters, who are as invested in their missions as we are in them. A few crucial cameos and long-overdue explanations will also satisfy any lingering questions from the first season — not to mention that there are at least two scenes that will send a genuine chill up fans' spines.
Just as viewers of Season 1 had to actively choose to leave their front doors open and let OA's story wash over them, Part II requires audiences to resist nit-picking and just let The OA happen, experiencing the show for the many oddities it has to offer. This series has never been meant for everyone, but for those who are true believers in the OA, Part II will be a welcome follow-up to the first.
The OA: Part II will arrive on Netflix on March 22.