Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The OA, Season One, Episode One: Homecoming

Image result for the oa

The OA begins with a viral video of Prairie, who calls herself the OA jumping off a bridge.  When her parents see the video, they rush to the hospital. It seems that Prairie has been missing for more than seven years now and she has mysteriously regained her vision.  At this point, not much of what Prairie says to the FBI makes sense.  Upon her return home, Prairie tries to get on the internet, only to learn that her parents have changed the password and she has no access. When Prairie asks her mother about the wifi password, Nancy makes it clear that they are going to follow hospital orders and restrict her access to the phone and the internet.  They will for now allow her to keep her door as long as she promises not to lock it. 

The scene moves to Steve Winchell, a neighbourhood bully having sex.  Clearly, Steve wants someone to understand him and but the woman he's having sex with makes it clear that she's only doing this because he has a nice body. It's all about the booty call baby.

Prairie makes it to a failed building project in her community where she sees several kids hanging out. Prairie asks the first kid she sees if he has wifi and if she can get his internet password.  After being shut down, Prairie heads upstairs where she meets Steve, who is doing a drug deal.  The fact that she is carrying a camera, even though she's not using it, is enough to freak Steve out.  Prairie again asks about getting internet or a wifi password but Steve aggressively says no and threatens to loose his dog on her. When Prairie tries to get her camera back, Steve looses his dog on Prairie. Prairie manages to get the upper hand by biting Steve's dog right back which freaks Steve out but calms the dog. When Prairie gets to her feet the dog licks the blood off her hand, as she approaches Steve and takes back her camera.  Prairie makes her way out of the house without a word. 

Back home, Prairie is in the tub cleaning her wounds with her mother's help.  Nancy is upset that Prairie won't talk to her about what happened and Prairie says that things would be better if she would just be allowed online.  Nancy questions if Prairie is hearing voices again and Prairie is adamant that she is not hearing anything. This is when we learn that Nancy adopted Prairie, as she relates how she felt when Prairie as a child ran into a wall, trying to learn to navigate as a blind child. Nancy tries to touch Prairie's back but Prairie pulls back.  Prairie is adamant that she's not talking because Nancy would be hurt.

Steve bullies his way through the hall of the local high school.  It's clear that this kid is a douchebag. He stops in a doorway to listen to the choir sing, focusing in the kid his lover has feelings for.  Later, in the parking lot, Steve approaches Miles about hearing him sing but Miles makes it clear that he isn't interested in a conversation with Steve. It seems that Miles is not impressed because Steve has a history of homophobic comments.  Steve, like the asshole that he is, responds by punching Miles in the throat. That's a devastating injury for a singer.

Prairie is making a video and she talks about having a feeling and meeting a boy who has something to do with it.  Right on cue, Steve, who has scaled the Johnson house bangs on Prairie's window. It seems that he has scored a mobile router for Prairie and in return, he wants to pull a version of Strangers on a Train.  In exchange for the router, Prairie is to go to Steve's school and pretend to be his step-mother, to stop his father from sending him to a military school. Prairie says that in exchange,  Steve is to gather five people who are strong, flexible and brave. She wants everyone to meet at the abandoned houses.  Steve is quick to agree to this but is adamant that Prairie must complete her end first.

Prairie hops on the back of Steve's bike for the trip to a store to buy appropriate clothing. They end up talking about Steve's lover rejecting him and Prairie says that he needs to work on his invisible self. Steve reveals that he wants to be a trainer to celebrities and is quick to call Prairie "crazy" when she again brings up Steve's invisible side.  In the change room, Prairie tells Steve to close his eye more often because she found that being blind was powerful and made her listen.  Steve catches a glimpse of Prairies scars as she changes.

All cleaned up, Prairie walks through the halls of the high school.  Prairie introduces herself to Betty, Steve's teacher, as Steve's stepmother.  It seems that Betty is going to petition the school board for Steve's expulsion. Betty makes it clear that she's there to teach the kids who want to learn and that Steve is impeding the progress of these students.  Betty is adamant that Steve has mental health issues and that he be removed from the school. No Betty, how about Steve just being an asshole.  Prairie pauses for a moment and then asks why Betty became a teacher. Prairie suggests that maybe Steve cannot learn because Betty lost track of the reason why she became a teacher in the first place. Prairie then says that Betty lost someone close to her and that she can relate.  Betty now plays hardball and brings up that Steve punched a kid in the throat. Prairie believes that Steve is angry and lost and that in order to teach him, Betty would have to decide to teach again. Prairie argues that it's easy to focus on the kid who sings like an angel and that if Betty truly wants to teach, she needs to teach Steve. It's clear that she's struck a nerve with Betty. 

Steve is now back in class and when Betty sees him, she smiles and winks at him.  A surprised Steve smiles shyly and looks out the window.  

A barefoot Prairie makes her way back home and sits at the computer to look up Homer.  She listens to the story of Homer, who was in a coma and dying before suddenly waking up.  Tears stream down Prairie's face.  A crying Prairie touches the screen saying, "Homer where are you?"  Prairie isn't left to her grief for long because Nancy interrupts to say that there's an important phone call for her.  It's Steve, so Prairie asks for a moment alone.  Steve is suitably impressed because it seems like Betty is a different woman. Now that Prairie's done her part, she's adamant that she needs five people tonight. Steve is full of questions but Prairie only says that they need to meet at midnight tonight and that everyone must leave their front door open. Steve tries to get out of the deal, suggesting that the router makes them even but Prairie makes it clear that he didn't tell her about punching someone in the throat.  Prairie again asserts that she chose Steve because he's strong and repeats her demand for five people at midnight. 

Betty runs into Steve's father in the grocery store and brings up meeting his wife and her belief that Steve's life will be turned around. The gig is up because of course, the woman Betty met was Prairie. When the real Mrs. Winchell shows up, Betty is shocked.

The Winchell's knock on the Johnson's door determined to discuss the scam that Steve and Prairie pulled.  The Johnson's point out that Steve is 17 and that this was Steve's parent teacher interview. Prairie listens in from upstairs, as Steve throws her under the bus, claiming that Prairie came up with the idea in exchange for internet. 

The Winchell's are adamant that Prairie, who is a grown woman is pursing a boy.  Steve finally speaks up and says that Prairie is a friend and that all the sick weird shit is coming from his parent's brain. Steve admits that he is the one who asked Prairie for help and that she's been the first person to be on his side and that she actually helped. The Winchell's are not about to stop though and they bring up the fact that the doctors believed that Prairie should have been hospitalized. Nancy and Abel are adamant that Prairie needs to be home with them and not to be attacked by people who have no understanding.  As a last effort, the Winchell's demand that Prairie stay the hell away from Steve.

Yeah the Winchell's are assholes and the Johnsons know this but that doesn't stop them from taking Prairie's camera away and removing the door to her bedroom. 

Betty is at home in bed and she decides to google The OA and she sees the video Prairie posted before he parents took her camera. Steve is following through on his part of the deal and he sends Prairie's video to a few kids at school.  On the video, Prairie talks about helping people meet their fate and she gives a location for the meeting and states that people must leave their front door open.

It's 12:20 and Prairie waits by herself in the abandoned house with candles lit. Steve is walking his dog, when his lover drives up to confront him about punching Miles in the throat. She invites him to a party and Steve starts to hop in the car when he notices the door to a house is wide open.  Steve asks his lover why she doesn't want to be his girlfriend and she explains that he's only practice and she wants to be good at sex for the day that she falls in love.  Steve says that he's had enough and asks her to pull over when they drive by his place.  Steve runs up to his door, opens it and takes off to the abandoned house to meet with Prairie. 

Prairie is starting to blow out the candles when the kids begin to arrive.  Steve explains that his parents flipped out but he's here anywhere.  Prairie says that there's not enough people here because only four showed up. Prairie explains that she needs to get somewhere and believes that they can help her get there but it only works if there are five. This is when Betty arrives much to the surprise of everyone. Prairie relights the candles, saying that she is going to tell her story from the beginning and that they must pretend to trust her until they actually do.  Prairie asks them to imagine everything she tells them as if they are her. 

Strangely enough, this is when the opening credits start playing for some bizarre reason. 

Prairie begins by explaining that she was born in Russia in 1987. Her father was a wealthy man but they were always being watched.  Prairie grew up in a enclave with much of the recently rich. Prairie says that people always want to know how she regained her sight but explains that the better story is how she lost her sight, before describing Moscow in the winter to them.   Her mother died in child birth and Prairie was plagued with realistic dreams. In one, Prairie finds herself trapped in an aquarium and is unable to breathe and cannot get out. 

A terrified Prairie tells her father about her nightmare and he cancels all of his appointments.  What does Roman do with his terrified daughter? Well, he drives her to a lake, still dressed in her nightgown.  Roman digs a hole in the ice and Prairie gets into the freezing water. Prairie says that her father taught her about bravery that day.  Call it what you want, but I found that to be abusive. That was the last night she dreamed of the aquarium. Months later, on a bus to school, Prairie feels like she wants to got off the school bus and her nose starts to bleed.  The bus bursts through a railing and all of the children end up underwater.  The kids go into full panic mode as the bus begins to sink.

It's Prairie who remains calm and starts looking for a way out.  Prairie tries to encourage the other kids to follow her and then she swims through the windshield out of the bus alone.  Prairie says that they were a message from the void to their parents because everyone on the bus that day died, including her. Despite how powerful the parents of the children are, the deaths of the children apparently is meant to teach them about limits. Prairie is now suspended in the water.  When Prairie regains awareness, she's in am amazing realm. 

Khatun reaches out and takes Prairie in her arms, asking if she wants to go home. Khatun explains that if Prairie chooses to do so, she will know great love but that it will be very hard. Khatun makes it clear that she wants Prairie to stay but Prairie chooses to return.  Khatun consents but takes Prairie's sight because she doesn't want Prairie to see what's coming. 

When Prairie awakes, she's on the beach in her father's arms and just as Khatun promised, Prairie is blind. The people gathered to hear Prairie's story area all crying. 

Okay, I found this to be a very long overdone episode. It actually took well over fifty minutes to get to the point.  It's telling that the credits started to play when the writers actually began the damn story. I'm not sure that all of this build up was necessary and if it will even relate to the rest of the story now that we are in full flashback mode learning Prairie's life story. 

I really dislike the idea that Steve is just a misunderstood kid in need of someone to be on his side. The very idea that he's being violent because he's sensitive to all the violence around him sounds like straight up cis, het, able bodied, white male apologism to me.  Steve may be young; however, 17 is old enough to know that you cannot simply punch someone in the throat because you see them as a sexual competitor. I particularly dislike the way that Prairie shifted the blame to Betty's supposed inability to teach, as an explanation for the situation that Steve found himself in. Why does Steve get to ignore personal responsibility for his actions, particularly given that he's absolutely swimming in privilege?

There's a lot of casual abelism in this first episode.  Steve repeatedly refers to Prairie as "crazy" and there's never any push back about this label.  In fact, Prairie doesn't call him out on it even once. It's clearly that whatever Prairie has gone through means that she's got some PTSD that she's negotiating because she cannot stand to be touched by everyone.  This is all exacerbated by her parents, particularly, Nancy's controlling behaviour. Taking away Prairie's door and refusing her access to the internet are all mechanisms of control and it's abusive.  Prairie cannot even have a thought in peace without Nancy demanding to know what is going on. 

I further take issue with blindness being magically assigned.  Khatun phrases it as a sort of kindness because the years ahead will be rough on Prairie but then Prairie herself suggests that it gave her wonderful insight. Can we not do the whole thing about being disabled gives heightened senses and understanding please? It's just such a trope and has been done to freaking death. 

Thus far, I'm not sure that The OA is all that inclusive. Sure, there are hints that the people that Prairie has gathered to hear her story are marginalised in some way. At least two of them seem to be POC but they haven't really been integrated into the story.  As of episode one, it's Prairie and Steve who are driving the story and we don't even know all of the listeners names.  The listeners have been given no characterisation beyond the fact that they are tied to Steve in someway.  A White man as the gateway to POC doesn't work for so many damn reasons. 

We'll see where this goes, but thus far, I think it's safe to say that I am not enthused.