Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The OA, Season One,Episode Five: Paradise

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Paradise reveals some pretty specific elements to the story, though we still have many unanswered questions. When Prairie first made her deal with Steve, she made it clear that she absolutely needed five people to hear her story.  We now know that five people are necessary in order to teleport off this world to a new dimension. This is why Khatun made sure to tell Prairie in her last NDE that there would be five of them. Five people must work together and this is how Prairie plans on saving the rest of the captives.  What we still don't know is why the hell everyone had to leave their damn front door open?

At the school, the odd pairing of Prairie's little listening group has come to the attention of Principal Gilchrist. Having spent a lot of time around teenagers, Gilchrist cannot fathom why it is that they are suddenly all hanging out together or what they could possibly have to talk about.  It's like the Breakfast Club is happening in the cafeteria.  This little group seems to be one of the few things that this motley crew having going for it.  Alfonso should be on top of the world what with getting a full ride scholarship but having to work two jobs to support his family is a huge responsibility. If that were not enough, when he attends a ceremony to celebrate his achievement, his mother arrives late and drunk and then spends her time in the parking lot flirting with one of the married fathers of a student.  Alfonso is not impressed but his mother refuses to recognise that she has totally ruined his special night and instead makes it all about her, talking about her own unfulfilled dreams. 

Fortunately for Alfonso, Buck was performing with the choir that night and so he's there to accompany Alfonso when carries his mother home and puts her to bed.  Buck has come across as very timid but watching him sing in the choir makes it clear that he's come into his own.  It however isn't lost on me that Buck got to perform as the lead in the choir because Steve punched the former one in the throat in a fit of rage.  Buck's gain comes at someone else's loss. 

When Prairie tells her story that night she talks about the way that she and Homer bonded over their shared experience of swallowing an animal and learning their two movements. Scott continues to be resistant to what they are doing and is still far more concerned about his own mortality.  Prairie questions if he spoke to others about his NDE (near death experience) and Scott makes it clear he didn't for fear of being thought of as "crazy". Scott is openly dismissive of the idea that they will learn movements during and NDE which will lead to their freedom.

While they are looking for a way out, Hap is in Cuba busy trying to fill the empty cell that August left behind.  Hap approaches Renata, a young Cuban guitarist, who learned to play after an NDE.  Renata is composed, confidant and is more interested in life's pleasures than being a part of Hap's experiments. Hap makes his best pitch but is soundly rejected.  Even when he offers her safe passage to America, Renata says that she prefers to remain unknown, even to herself.  Renata then ditches Hap to dance with a group of young sexy men. Okay, I'm team Renata.

A disappointed Hap is left but with no choice but to return home. He spies on his captives and sees for the first time that they are practicing the series of movements they learned in their NDE. His curiosity leads him to question them and all of the captives claim that they made it up and that they are a form of exercise. None of them are forth coming and they whistle in response to Hap's threats.  Suddenly, Rachel starts banging on the walls of her cell and screaming for help. On CCTV a cop is knocking on Hap's door. Hap quickly turns up the music and runs upstairs to answer the door. Rather than inviting Sheriff Markham in, Hap steps outside claiming to need a smoke break.  Hap is clearly nervous but Sheriff Markham doesn't pick up on it because he's more concerned about his sick wife. It seems the sheriff's wife has become "trapped in her own body". Markham asks Hap if he knows any sort of treatment and Hap agrees to look into it, promising to do what he can.

Things have progressed between Prairie and Homer.  Though they cannot touch each other, it's clear that they have begun to have feelings for each other. Hap watches the relationship blossom on CCTV.  You know damn well that he's going to use this against them. While there's a level of scientific curiosity in his observation, there's clearly some jealousy there. Of all his captives, it's impossible to deny that Prairie is his favourite.

Hap continues to obsess about Renata and listens to her music.  When Prairie awakes one morning, she finds that Homer is gone.  Scott reveals that Homer was taken upstairs. It turns out that Hap is taking Homer to Cuba to act as a lure for Renata.  As you might expect, after being held in captivity for so long, everything about the outside world is overwhelming to Homer. Simple things like eating real food instead of pellets is disturbing to him.  He's desperate to get away from Hap and tries to get help. Hap goes as far as to tell the hotel staff that his son has a mental illness to forestall Homer's attempts to get help from them, when Homer makes an escape attempt. A desperate Homer makes his way outside, desperate to find help but is quickly cornered by Hap. Homer threatens to call the FBI and report Hap's actions but he doesn't even know where Hap is keeping them and hasn't even really registered the fact that they aren't in the U.S.. Hap makes it clear that if Homer stops him from returning home that Prairie and all of the others would starve to death. Feeling that he's out of options, Homer returns with Hap.

Homer and Hap sit down and have dinner, as Renata plays the guitar, unaware of what Hap is planning for her. Hap instructs Homer to dance with Renata when she is done playing and invite Renata to his room because she likes handsome young men.  Alone in a room together, Homer is awkward and uncertain of how to deal with Renata coming on to him.  When Renata touches Homer he trembles, overwhelmed by the sensation. It's important to keep in mind that Homer hasn't been touched in years.  Renata has to help Homer to sit down.  A teary Homer tells Renata to please go but she stays to comfort him because he's so upset.  Renata brings up the story circulating about a "crazy man running through the hotel." When Renata kisses Homer he responds. Hap being the nasty asshole that he is, opens the door to peer at the couple as they begin to make love.  Hap returns to his room and listens in on what is going on through the mic he left in Homer's room.  And because Hap is the definition of an asshole, Hap then broadcasts the lovemaking to people he's keeping in captivity. Prairie is hurt hearing the sounds of the lovemaking and Homer calling Renata an angel.

In the present, Prairie's crew is hurt on her behalf and see Homer's actions as betrayals.  Prairie however does not mirror their feelings and instead defends Homer because she believes he was in an impossible situation and overwhelmed. Prairie believes that captivity is a mentality, something which is carried with the individual.

Renata is now occupying the once empty cell and has no problem telling Homer how much she hates him.  Prairie has disconnected from the others, even as Rachel tries to reach out to her and remind her of the things she said.  Prairie refuses to even make eye contact with Homer.  Gas is released from the vents and Scott tells the others that if Hap selects him he won't be coming back. Sure enough, it's Scott who is selected by Hap for experimentation.  Scott, afraid that he will really die this time tries to negotiate with Hap and reveals that Homer and Prairie are trying to escape using the movements to open a celestial door.  This new information does not stop Hap from preparing because Hap believes that the work is the most important thing. In a rage, Scott then reveals that Prairie regained her sight and has been playing Hap for a fool. In a parting shot, Scott tells Hap that Prairie will never love him and that she calls him the angel hunter. Just as Scott predicted, this time he dies.

Hap takes Scott's body back to his cells and dumps it on the floor for the others to see. Scott's blood pours out onto the concrete.  Hap accuses Prairie of lying to him and blames her for Scott's death before heading back upstairs. Prarie may have been broken by listening to Homer and Renata having sex, but Scott's death has reignited the spirit of rebellion in her. Prairie stands and begins doing the movements and is then joined by a teary Homer. Together they repeat the movements as a despondent Rachel and Renata look on. They keep up the movements for hours. When Hap awakes the next morning, he checks the CCTV and watches them perform the movements. Slowly at first, Scott's blood begins to travel towards his body. A stunned Rachel and Renata cannot take their eyes off of Scott. The wounds on Scott's body begin to close and all signs of illness disappear as he takes his first breath. Scott opens his eyes and tells everyone that Prairie is right and that there are five movements which will allow them to do things they cannot imagine. As Scott sits up, he reveals that he was gifted the third movement.  Having watched Scott come back to life on CCTV, Hap rushes downstairs in shock and amazement.

In the present, Prairie tells the group that she's going to teach them all the movements and then open up a tunnel to another dimension so that she can free the others.

Prairie is still doing her counselling sessions but she is carefully editing what she says, certain that the FBI cannot help her.  Prairie says that sometimes she doubts that what happened and is assured that based on the evidence and the scars on her back that she was indeed abducted.  Riz Ahmed questions why Prairie believes she has to do this alone and Prairie is adamant that she isn't.

I would be remiss if I didn't say what an amazing job Emory Cohen did in this episode.  Emory absolutely sold Homer's fear and confusion being in the outside world after so many years of captivity.  He made us see just how vulnerable Homer is after being held in captivity and how deprived his senses have been. Sure, it hasn't been in isolation but robbing humans of touch and even the feel of sun on the skin or the comfort of showering has got to be so much.  If that were not enough, Homer's experience with temporary freedom didn't even occur in an environment in which he was familiar.  There was nothing he could have said to the front desk staff to explain why he was panicked and so desperately needed their help that they would have believed.

I must admit to being two mind on Homer's complicity in the kidnapping of Renata. On one hand, I think that he should have found a reason - any reason to send her way so that Hap didn't gain another captive.  This is the one thing it seems to me that he could have accomplished.  On the other, when Renata began to touch Homer, he actually trembled.  I cannot imagine how starved he must have been for simple human contact after so many years.  We take touch for granted because for most of us, it is offered freely but for someone like Homer the loss of it must have been debilitating. I don't even think he could have predicted what it would have felt like to be touched again or to have the ability to become lost in another person.

Nancy continues to bother me.  It irks me that though Prairie was granted an hour a day to walk by herself.  It's a passive aggressive method of control.

This episode seemed to drive home exactly how evil Hap is. Hap bonded with Prairie because of her blindness. He saw in her blindness a submission that most certainly did not exist.  Hap clearly wanted to encompass the entirety of her world and when he saw that Prairie turned to Homer for comfort instead of him he lashed. There can be no other explanation for him allowing the group to hear Homer and Renata having sex than that. When Scott revealed that Prairie can see, Hap then felt betrayed. Hap may tell himself that he's only in it for the science but his complex feelings for Prairie and his own inadequacies, clearly fuel at least part of his actions. As much as Hap may want an answer to what happens to us after death, he also wants power.

We now know why Prairie has assembled her little group and why she won't tell anyone what happened when she was kidnapped. Prairie was incredulous when Scott revealed why he didn't tell anyone about his first NDE but it seems that with time and space, she's at least come to understand why. Obviously, the people listening to Prairie's story are all broken in some way but how is it that not one person has called bullshit?  Why are they simply accepting everything she is saying? Yeah, I know that they are trying to verify what they can but when someone tells you that they are going to travel to another dimension not questioning it seems beyond strange.