If there’s one rule that governs releases on Netflix, it’s that there are no rules, and “The OA” certainly went against standard television rollouts. The new show from longtime collaborators Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij (“Sound Of My Voice,” “The East“) arrived seemingly out of nowhere on the streaming service, with only one trailer and a couple of clips landing in the days before its release last week. And right from the start, Netflix were on board with keeping the series a complete mystery.
“Zal and I were always kind of secretive about protecting it, because we’d spent so long just daydreaming all the story mathematics and plotting out the riddles of the world. And I think everybody got in on that. Netflix were excited about it, so there were no casting announcements, and the signs that would lead us to set were all in braille. It just naturally evolved that we would keep it mysterious, and let people come to the show and unravel it for themselves,” Marling told Esquire.
Part of this decision was bound to the idea of thinking of “The OA” less as “television” than a big story where the “hook” doesn’t necessarily come in the opening frames.
“We were interested in the similarity between novels and long-form television, and we wanted to approach this more like you would writing a novel. You certainly wouldn’t have all your main characters in the first chapter of a novel, and you wouldn’t have a nuclear reactor of a story engine in the first chapter of a novel either,” Batmanglij said. “And like a novel, we did want it to climax quite precisely at the end, not just sort of finish up the storyline for the first year, but really have it be a transformative experience.”
Indeed, that ending has prompted no shortage of discussion, with “The OA” arguably walking the highest narrative high wire we’ve seen all year. Some just couldn’t roll with it, like our own Jessica Kiang, but I loved it and found it quite moving and spectacular. In fact, without going into spoiler territory, there are elements of “The OA” that play with the nature of storytelling itself, not unlike HBO‘s “Westworld” (albeit in a slightly different manner). With the series, Marling and Batmanglij have created a rich world that has many threads that could be explored in future seasons, and they’re certainly hoping they have the chance.
“Oh yeah, we’d of course love to keep telling the story, and we’ve spent some time thinking about the mathematics of where it would go,” Marling said.
“We planned out a larger story when we started, because we didn’t want to go into it without having the larger picture planned out — I think the audience can always tell that, or feel it. But we also wanted it to be its own standalone piece,” Batmanglij continued. “So again, I think the novel analogy works really well, it’s a novel, but it could easily be a series of novels. And I think it would be best as a series of novels!”
Finger crossed for more. Have you watched “The OA”? Let us know what you thought of the series in the comments section.