In eight episodes we follow the adventures of a woman who may or may not be crazy. Who may or may not have been held captive for seven years. May or may not have died countless times.
It has something to do with a bit of really bad Air Bending or maybe some Tai Chi performed by people who never really saw it performed properly.
The show opens up with a woman jumping off a bridge. When asked why, she says she was trying to get back to her friends. We never find out how she survived this jump or how she thought this was going to help. We later see that our heroine had died many times by drowning and then returns to life. This is an odd bit of business as well. She dies from drowning, but there is never any explanation as to how she comes back to life. When we do see her come back to life after drowning, all it takes for her to begin breathing again is for the water to drain away. Not sure drowning works that way. At least in Flatliners, they had to use a defibrillator.
But then, this is par of the course. The whole show is based on bait and switch. The old shell game and making you think one thing is happening, when maybe something else is happening. The last episode plays the untrustworthy narrator card.
There’s a long standing tradition in speculative fiction of leading the reader/viewer down the garden path and paving that path with plenty of red herrings. There was a very good episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer where Buffy wakes up in a madhouse and is told, yeah, vampire slayer, right. This was a popular trick on The Twilight Zone as well and at least one or two episodes of Star Trek. And yes, I am Keyser Söze.
The problem with a show that leaves most of the work of imagining the story up to the viewer is that throwing a twist at the end ruins our expectations of where that story is going. We expect Dorthy to get back to Kansas. If the Wicked Witch kills her and takes over OZ, we would rightly feel a bit cheated.
When we get to the end of The O.A. and our group of misfits don’t achieve their impossible goal, or at least don’t achieve the impossible goal we thought they were going to achieve, it seems kind of wrong. But then, they need to leave something to do in the second season.