Warning: Spoilers ahead for “The OA” season finale.
If you’ve already finished watching Netflix’s newest sci-fi series “The OA” odds are you have some pretty strong feelings about the final episode. Based on reactions people are sharing online, “The OA” either left you feeling duped and frustrated, or emotionally drained and eager for more.
The finale ended with a chaotic scene in the Crestwood high school — an unnamed character with a gun came to the campus and opened fire. While their classmates tried to take cover under cafeteria tables in fear, Steve, Jesse, Buck, French, and Betty all stood up together and performed the movements (modern/interpretative dance) taught to them by the OA — movements she said had the power to heal and open a portal to another dimension.
Among the drama were some scenes designed to suggest OA had been lying about the reality of her experience when she told the group of five her story. Read more on that in our full breakdown of the finale.
Both the uncertainty in OA’s story and the juxtaposition of five people dancing in front of a school shooter were the sources of frustration for some fans. The top two comments on “The OA” subreddit’s discussion for episode eight are a perfect summation of this:
“Am I the only one that started sobbing uncontrollably when they all started doing the movements in the cafeteria?” Redditor Blazingjans wrote.
“I just laughed because it looked stupid and silly…” Redditor Annaroia replied.
We can see why the movements — especially when performed in such an unexpected scenario — may have come across as “silly” to people. But if you are a fan of modern dance, the moment could have a profound quality to it. I’m among those who were brought to tears by the finale, and it’s probably no coincidence that I’m also someone who watches Sia’s recent music videos on repeat.
Ryan Heffington is the genius behind Sia’s “Chandelier,” “Elastic Heart,” and other music video choreography (usually performed by the indelible Maggie Ziegler). And Heffington is the choreographer of the movements in “The OA.”
His style of movement has a graceful quality often punctured by a sort of spasticity. It’s primal and expressive in a way most people aren’t used to seeing emotions displayed, especially in the pop culture sphere of dance. So it’s no wonder the movements are the most divisive part of “The OA.”
Critic’s reviews for the series reflect similar tones. The New York Time’s reviewer James Poniewozik said: “To me, the ending of ‘The OA’ was ludicrous and cheaply provocative; some folks wired differently may find it haunting and profound. Just beware.”
The choice of a using a school shooting is the focus for some critics who believe it to be a disrespectful way of handling the supernatural narrative. “Using a school shooting, especially one invoking the worst in America’s history, to make a point about angels is not only wrong, but also it’s reckless,” Polygon’s Julia Alexander wrote. “It’s a sign of lazy storytelling.
Others recognise the flaws with “The OA,” but can’t help admiring the uniqueness of the series.
“As much as I feel compelled to, I can’t hate this experimental TV series that scooped out an endearingly bizarre niche out of a pile of treacle,” Evan Narcisse of io9 wrote in his review.
And you can find equally diverse opinions on Twitter. Some people are enraged or irritated:
While others are expressing a profound appreciation for the storytelling:
So if you finished “The OA” and were left with conflicting feelings (or outright delight or frustration), know you’re not alone. But I remain one of the fans who found many aspects of the finale moving in a way I didn’t expect. From Betty’s soft cry of “my boys” as she ran towards an active shooting, to the masterful way director Zal Batmanglij conveyed panic and terror in the cafeteria and OA’s cyclical journey of self-healing, I’m sold.
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