Friday, July 21, 2017

The OA, Season One, Episode Eight: Invisible Self

Image result for the oa

Okay, we've made it to the end of The OA and we still don't have any real concrete answers.  We learned how Prairie got away from Hap and in the process was seperated from the others but we still don't know the end result of the new fangled yoga moves, or if Prairie was even telling the truth. The only thing we know for certain is that French found a video of a blonde woman playing the violin in the NYC subway and that Prairie was missing for seven years.  

It begins with another meeting of Prairie's cult and she starts her story right where she left off, with Sheriff Stan finding them trapped in the basement.  At last, Hap has been caught.  Hap however isn't without cards to play because Evelyn, the Sheriff's wife is dying of ALS.  Hap explains that he's been doing research with people who have survived an NDE and that if given the chance, they can heal Evelyn.  At first, Stan wants nothing to do with this and demands that Hap stand to be handcuffed, but it turns out that the temptation to end his wife's suffering is just too much.  We watch as Prairie and  Homer are led upstairs.

Alone with Evelyn, Prairie and Homer discuss helping her. Homer rightfully understands that if they fail to heal Evelyn, that Stan will arrest Hap and they will go free.  Prairie argues that since they have the ability to help that they should. As Stan and Hap watch via CCTV, Prairie and Homer begin their weird yoga routine. It's not long before Evelyn awakes. It seems that Evelyn had her own NDE when she was just a child and was given the fifth movement. Evelyn was told that she would have to wait a long time and that she would be in a lot of pain before she was called upon to share it with others.  Evelyn sits up in bed, much to the amazement of Hap and Stan and she does the fifth movement, as Homer and Prairie watch.

Stan is so excited to see his wife sitting up that he runs into the room, leaving his gun behind.  Hap stays and watches the entire movement on CCTV. When Hap enters the room, he finds Prairie and Homer hugging and Stan hugging Evelyn. Hap promptly shoots Stan and Evelyn and orders Prairie to get away from Homer. Hap drags Prairie out of the room, as she desperately calls out for Homer. Hap then drugs Prairie.

When Prairie awakens, she's in the back of a car.  Hap stops the car and drags Prairie outside and dumps her on the ground. Hap climbs on top of Prairie and starts to scream about not needing her anymore and that she's not as special as she thinks she is.  Hap reveals that he now knows the fifth movement and he has Homer.  Hap slashes open Prairie's dress before getting back into the car and driving away. A distraught Prairie gets to her feet and tries to follow but she obviously cannot keep up with the car.

When Prairie finishes telling her story she finds that she's ripped open her top while telling her story and that she is surrounded by her parents, as well as the parents of the kids who have come to listen to her tale. Nancy takes off her jacket, puts it around Prairie's shoulders and then the two of them walk home silently.

Later, the Johnsons try to reach out to Alfonso's family, only to be rejected. Alfonso comes rushing outside and reveals that Prairie told them everything that happened to her and that he is going to make it his mission to prove that she was telling the truth.  Nancy is shocked that Prairie didn't confide in her.

Being caught in the house with a bunch of teenagers and BBA brings more unwanted attention to the Johnsons and so they are forced to retreat to a hotel to get away from the media. Tensions are high for the Johnson family but Prairie finally starts talking about what happened to her.  Nancy is moved to tell the truth about the note to Abel. Nancy says that the reason that she didn't give Able the note is because Prairie wrote that she was going to see her father.  Able isn't buying this excuse because what bothered him was that Prairie was missing, not that she called another man father.  Nancy is finally forced to come clean and explains that she wanted Prairie because she was blind and thought that Prairie would always need her. Nancy believes that it was her neediness that finally drove Prairie away. 

French breaks into the Johnson home looking for more information to prove Prairie's story.  Under Prairie's bed he finds an Amazon box containing books on Angels, Russian Oligarchs, NDE and Homer's Illiad.  It's enough evidence for French to believe that Prairie made the whole story up. Before French can leave the house, he runs into Rahim.  Rahim tells French that allowing Prairie to tell her story helped her and that what he did was to take on aspects of Prairie's pain. Later, an upset French meets with the group to show them the books and tell them that he now believes that Prairie made it all up. 

Some time has passed, and Prairie is working with Able in the garden.  She explains that she's tired and excuses herself to take a bath.  Prairie is now wearing an ankle monitor, indicating that the police got involved after she was discovered in the house. 

At the school, Gilchrist escorts BBA to her former classroom so that she can pack up her things. It seems that the board voted and BBA is now out of a job. In the cafeteria, French has gone back to sitting with the jocks, Jesse with the stoners, Buck is still alone and Steve is Angie, the girl he met in the class for troubled kids.  

In the tub, Prairie wakes from having another one of her premonitions.  Prairie gets dressed and races downstairs, only to find Able standing in the doorway. Prairie explains that she now knows what the premonitions means and rather than stopping her, Able gets out of the way. 

As Prairie is running down the street, BBA is making her way out of the school with Gilchrist.  An armed student crosses the campus and starts firing. Gilchrist makes a move to run out of the building but BBA heads straight to the cafeteria. French, Buck, Jesse and Steve all hide under the table as the shooter enters the cafeteria.  French, Buck, Jesse and Steve all make eye contact. In unison, they all stand and are quickly joined by BBA. The four of them begin Prairie's weird yoga moves which stuns the shooter into inactivity. A cafeteria worker sneaks up on the shooter and tackles him but it forces the gun to go off.  The bullet goes right through a window and hits Prairie in the chest.  Rather than falling to her feet Prairie thanks them. When we see Prairie again she is on a stretcher being rolled to an ambulance. Prairie thanks her crew and tells them that she has the courage to go through with this.  Prairie assures them all that what they did worked and asks them if they can feel it. Prairie is taken away in an ambulance and Steve starts to chase after it, begging Prairie to take him with her.

Prairie wakes up in a bright room and says one word, "Homer".

I must admit to being stunned by the fact that the season ended with a school shooting though I suppose it is appropriate because essentially this isn't a story about the supernatural, as much as it is about the stresses of youth and youth in peril. We have Prairie becoming an orphan violently as a child, Evelyn having an NDE as a child and of course Prairie's group of misfits are all high school students who are having trouble fitting in or reconciling their home life with their reality. The school shooting is simply the manifestation of youth pain that The OA has been playing with for the entire season. 

I suppose my first question is what the hell was Rahim doing in the Johnson household? Yes, he's Prairie's therapist but beyond talking with Prairie about her issues, we've been given no motivation for this action whatsoever.  Part of me believes that Rahim planted the books in Prairie's room but why would he do that? Why would he care what Prairie is telling people about her disappearance? Is it possible that Rahim is an angel? It just make no sense to me that Prairie would buy these books and then just put them back in the box and stash them under her bed. 

The one thing that makes me doubt Prairie's story is the revelation that Hap had a partner with whom he discussed his experiments with. How did Prairie learn about that? How did she know that Hap ended up killing his research partner and then arranging to ensure the people his companion kept locked up were freed? This is information that she wouldn't have known.  I'm also bothered by the fact that when French was looking for information to prove Prairies story that he didn't find even one news report about a group of people being captive because they had experienced and NDE. 

What the hell was up with having everyone leave their doors open so that they could hear Prairie's story? They were all in school cafeteria when Prairie was shot and because they weren't planning to meet with Prairie, and in fact had decided that she told them a long tale, it's safe to assume that their doors at home were locked. Was leaving the door open just putting them in the right frame of mind to hear Prairie's weird story? I'm really hoping that The OA isn't being random for the sake of randomness. 

Another theme that was prevalent in the story is disablism. It's an aspect that I've rarely seen discussed.  Nancy specifically chose Prairie because of her blindness.There are many acceptable reasons to adopt a disabled child but Nancy's choice was based in having someone dependent upon her for life. Did Nancy want a daughter or a pet? Nancy actively had Prairie medicated and even sought to do so when Prairie was an adult. Nancy wanted to take advantage of Prairie's vulnerability for her own ends.  There's no aspect of Prairie's life that Nancy wasn't trying to control in order to maintain the dependency. 

I know that Prairie had other fish to fry what with trying to get back to Homer but I do wish she had more actively called Nancy out for what she was doing, rather than trying at various times to silently subvert Nancy's will.  Prairie was a strong character in every aspect except this. Of all times to silently submit, why is it Nancy that brought this out in Prairie?

The OA has a lot of what I would call surface level inclusion.  It had POC and it had a trans* character but they were all simply witnesses to Prairie's drama. Sure, we got to see a little bit of their private lives to explain that they were all to some degree social misfits but we didn't really get to know them as people, with the exception of Steve, the least appealing cult member.  It seems that once again, the straight, white, cisgender able bodied male gets all of the attention. 

As antagonists go, I found Hap to be interesting. Sure he explained away the horrific things that he did as scientific experimentation but at the end of the day he's a coward, bully and a butcher. Hap believed that Prairie was vulnerable because she was blind and he wanted the power he had over her to become a relationship. It was Prairie's rejection of Hap that got her ousted from the group, more than her refusing to collaborate with him. Prairie's true defiance is that she used Hap's supposition of her vulnerability against him and she refused to empathise with him. Hap's feelings for Prairie made his experimentation about much more than science.

We'd better get some answers next season regarding the weird fake yoga. Did it open up a new dimension? If Prairie has left our world behind, what will become of her little cult?  Well she be able to get justice for everything that Hap has done to them?