Watching TV used to be a relaxing, leisurely activity. It was a pastime that was often associated with laziness, stupidity and the killing of brain cells. But those days are long gone. Nowadays, TV shows are more confusing and cryptic than ever, leaving audiences bewildered and stunned with each episode.
If questioning the very nature of your reality is an indicator of good television, then Netflix's new series #TheOA is pure gold. In the vein of Stranger Things and Westworld, it's a show rife with infinite potential theories and deep subplots, and has spawned an entire online community of theory-crazed fans desperate for the truth.
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- Will 'The OA' Return For Season 2? Here's What We Know
Going Down The Rabbit Hole (Again)
But what is the truth? There's certainly a ton of theories out there, both intertwined and opposing. Let's take a look:
Prairie Is Mentally Ill
- 1. Prairie Made The Whole Thing Up
Prairie has been medicated for much of her life. Wether or not the incident with the bus really happened, she has clearly suffered quite a lot of trauma; just look at the neglected state that Nancy finds her in when she meets her at her aunt's house, an underground brothel.
The season ends with the strong suggestion that Prairie has made up her "angel" story in order to cope with a kidnapping experience, hence the books on the Russian oligarchs, near-death experiences and angels found by Alfonso under her bed.
This would also explain why she requested that the others left their doors open before meeting her in the construction site. When reading the instructions from the hospital, Nancy tells Prairie that the doctors suggest that "doors should be kept open". She may have appropriated that detail for her own story.
What's more, we learn that Prairie has enrolled in a creative writing course in the last episode. This is another strong indicator of her overactive imagination. She's basically tricked five random people into not only believing her outlandish story, but that she has superpowers that she can pass on to others. Wait, did Prairie just start her own cult?
- 2. It's All A Hallucination
An ever more complex theory on Prairie's mental health is that nothing in the show is actually happening as we see it. Instead, Prairie is in a psychiatric ward, and what we're seeing are her delusions.
There are a few things to suggest this. First of all, there are strong parallels between the events in Hap's basement and the show — characters seem to mirror each other, and so do events. Just look at the last seven minutes of the show— it seems almost identical to the seven years that Prairie was kept in captivity. It's possible that she's simply repeating the same story to herself, over and over.
When Homer pretends to be sedated in order to look through Hap's data, he listens to a recording of his near death experience (NDE). It sounds a lot like what we see later on: Homer, being chased through the bright white corridors of some sort of building (perhaps a hospital?) by unseen men who are shouting at him, while sirens wail in the background. In his recording, we hear the following dialogue:
If his name isn't Homer, then who is he? Is the real Homer Roberts a doctor? And if so, is Homer actually another patient in the same facility as Prairie?
The very last shot we see after Prairie is driven away in the ambulance is her sitting in a bright room, hair pulled back in a messy ponytail, wearing what looks to be pyjamas. She looks dishevelled and distressed, and calls out, "Homer?" This could be her having a moment of lucidity in the psychiatric ward after a hallucination.
While the idea of the most riveting elements of the show being nothing more than a fairytale written by a mentally ill kidnapping survivor is a pretty massive cop-out, it's got a fair bit of evidence to back it.
The FBI Are Angel Hunters
- 3. Elias Isn't So Innocent
Of course, the delusion theory has more than a few holes. Like, how did Prairie get those books mailed to herself without anyone noticing? Didn't she know who Homer was as soon as she got home, as we see by her searching for his video on YouTube? How did she predict the shooting so accurately?
The more likely possibility is that Prairie isn't really "crazy"— but the FBI is attempting to paint her as such in order to discredit her.
But aren't the FBI helping her? Well, we don't really know that. We see her therapy sessions with Elias, a kind and seemingly trustworthy counsellor who is helping Prairie to work through her trauma. While he seems like a genuinely good person, his appearance at Prairie's house raises some questions. For one, what the hell is he doing there? We never see him go to Nancy and Abel's home — Prairie always meets him at the FBI headquarters. Secondly, he was the one who encouraged the family to get out of the house, hence their dinner at Olive Garden. And most important of all, why did he look so damn concerned when he hugged Alfonso?
It's likely that Elias was planting the books under Prairie's bed, which means he's working with the FBI to cover up the truth about angels. This may all be sounding a bit too much like a clickbait conspiracy theories YouTube video, but we're only just getting started.
- 4. Rachel Is An Undercover FBI Agent
Rachel is one of Hap's captives, but she may be hiding a huge secret. While her incredible voice is evidence that she probably did suffer an NDE, she never receives a movement, and also doesn't practice with the others. We also never see her being experimented on by Hap, although there are tapes in his office. At one point, all plants in her cell are dead. Is this an indicator that something isn't quite right about the mysterious songstress?
Rachel could be an FBI agent who is also an NDE survivor, and has infiltrated Hap's experiment as a captive in order to gather intel for the FBI: an incredibly dedicated agent. That explains the tapes we see with her name on it in his observation room; She has been experimented on, but her NDE allows her to come back to life. Little does Hap know that she's a mole.
- 5. Hap And Rachel Are Both Working For The FBI
However, the fact that she never received a movement is very suspicious. If she isn't able to receive a movement, she may not be an NDE survivor at all — just a really great singer, no resuscitation required. That means that she's still an undercover agent, but her purpose is to actually gather intel on the other captives, who trust her. Hap is working with the FBI to reveal information on the angels, and the government is probably funding the whole thing — hence his insane lab set-up.
The biggest clue that Rachel is involved with the FBI is hidden in plain sight— or touch. In the FBI building, there's a large word written on the wall in braille:
It doesn't make sense for braille to be that large or high up on the wall, as a blind person wouldn't be able to reach it easily — let alone read what it says. And according to Redditor mporso, what it says is a name: Rachel. Does this connect her to the FBI?
This Is Not Reality
- 6. There Are At Least Three Dimensions
If Stranger Things and Westworld are anything to go by, multiple dimensions and worlds are the hot thing in TV right now. What's that, Game of Thrones? Your show only involves one dimension? Cute.
Apart from the idea that the entire show is just Prairie's hallucination while she's in a psych ward, there's the idea of different dimensions being more than what's real and what isn't.
The OA presents two clear dimensions to us: the real world, and wherever Hap's test subjects go when they die. But what if there's more to it than that?
It's highly likely that the the world containing Prairie's suburban family home, and the world where Prairie was imprisoned by Hap, are separate but parallel realities, with mirrored timelines. Just look at the connection between the last seven minutes of the season and the 7 years Prairie spent in captivity: The cafeteria and prison cells both enclosed in glass, the antagonist being snuck up on, and a central character chasing a car whilst begging not to be left behind. And then there's the incident of Alfonso seeing Homer reflected in the mirror — they even have the same scar.
Not to mention the box BBA draws around the doodle of her on the whiteboard, which almost suggests that she knows she's trapped inside one dimension:
- 7. Prairie Is In A Coma
If Prairie has indeed experienced an NDE, then she may not have just woken up. She might actually be in a hospital, in a coma — which would explain why she's seen in what looks like a hospital at the end of the last episode. That would mean that everything we've seen is her dream.
Better yet, it could be a lucid dream. Prairie knows that she has to cross the "border" (wake up from the dream world), and is actively trying to get back to reality (consciousness).
- 8. Prairie Is In Purgatory
Worse yet, Prairie's near death experience was more of a straight-up death. Her whole struggle to open up a portal to another dimension is her attempt to cross over to the "other side", along with the other captives who are also dead.
This also correlates to the theory that the fifth movement is death. After the sheriff's wife teaches it to Homer and Prairie, she is shot; And after the five perform it successfully in front of the high school shooter, Prairie is shot.
Unfortunately, that would mean that Prairie has managed to cross over. This is suggested by the "whoosh" noise heard by Scott as she's taken away in the ambulance — the same noise Hap described when he was talking about seeing his first flatline.
However, it still doesn't explain why we see her alive and well at the end of the episode. Will Netflix confirm Season 2 and give us the answers we're all desperately wanting?
What are your theories after watching The OA?