For years now, Britt Marling has been a master science fiction storyteller, starting with her impressive writing and acting debut, Another Earth. Her brand of speculative fiction culminated with the much-discussed first season of the Netflix series, The OA. Marling and director/co-creator Zal Batmanglij, who previously worked together on the films Sound of My Voice and The East, developed the show, which is centered on a mysterious woman named Prairie and a near-death experience that might hold the key to unlocking other worlds.
The first season was a bizarre, transfixing story about second chances, fate, and regeneration. The second season, which lands on Netflix this Friday, looks to follow-up on the finale's big cliffhanger. It appears that Prairie, or OA (the "original angel"), really did make it to another world.
But how did she get there? Here's everything you need to remember from season one of The OA, ahead of the second season's premiere.
Britt Marling plays a character named Prairie, a young woman with a mysterious past. Born Nina Azarov, she claims to be the daughter of a powerful Russian oligarch and suffered a near-death experience as a child, when she was knocked into the river during a mafia hit. She lost her eyesight in the accident but came to with the knowledge that she was destined for something greater. Nina eventually traveled to America, but after her father's death was adopted by a couple who named her Prairie and raised her in a rural community. She continued having premonitions related to her near-death experience, and on her 21st birthday runs away to New York City to meet her father, who's been visiting her in her dreams. He doesn't show up, but she does meet a scientist named Hap (Jason Isaacs), who tells her he is studying people who've encounter NDEs – or, near death experiences. Prairie travels with Hap on a private jet to his home, but he's actually kidnapping her. Upon their arrival, he traps her in a glass cage in his basement, along with other test subjects.
Hap is a former anesthesiologist who becomes obsessed with the concept of NDEs, and wants to use them to unlock the secrets of the unknown universe. This comes at a terrible cost for those trapped in his basement lab: Prairie, Homer (Emory Cohen), Scott (Will Brill), Rachel (Sharon Van Etten), and Renata (Paz Vega). Hap continues to drown and gas them, gathering information from each of their experiences to add to his master plan.
Prairie temporarily escapes, but Hap catches up to her and hits her on the back of the head with a rifle, which gives her another NDE. This time, she is visited by the same woman she saw during her first – a mysterious figure named Khatun – who tells her that she is the "original angel," or the OA, and restores her sight. When she is returned, she tells the others, and they begin to piece together what Hap knows; namely, that each of them were gifted with a movement during their NDEs, and when put together, the "dance" can unlock other dimensions.
The timelines get confusing in The OA, as Prairie's kidnapping is told as a flashback. In the present, she has assumed the name OA and is telling her story to a troupe of local school children and their teacher, BBA (Phyllis Smith). Hap has abandoned her after obtaining the fifth and final movement, and she is returned to her parents' farmhouse – unaware of the fate of her fellow captives, and especially concerned about Homer, with whom she's fallen in love. She is now something of a mystical character, and tells the kids that she wants to teach them the dance so she can travel to another timeline and rescue her friends. They struggle to believe her at first, but eventually come around – only to lose faith once again. But when BBA and the boys encounter an active school shooter, they perform the NDE "dance" in an act of desperation. OA arrives and is hit by one of the shooter's stray bullets.
The season ends with OA being transported to the hospital, but not before she lets the boys and BBA know that their dance worked and that she can feel herself transitioning to another dimension. The scene fades to black, then reopens on OA's face. "Homer?" she says, and the episode abruptly ends.
The trailer for season two insinuates that everything really did go according to plan, and OA has traveled to another world where her friends are alive and well. But is all what it appears? We'll know for sure when The OA returns this Friday, March 22.