8 questions about The OA that may never be answered
From the identity of a mysterious animal to its massively meta season two finale, here are the biggest mysteries of the now-cancelled Netflix sci-fi series
*Warning: contains major spoilers for The OA season 2*
For the moment at least, it’s all over: The OA has been cancelled by Netflix after 16 dimension-bending, mind-scrambling episodes chapters. Unless a Lucifer-inspired fan campaign to revive the Brit Marling and Jason Isaacs drama takes off, we’ll never see exactly where the show’s five-season arc finished.
And this is quite a problem considering the multi-verse of mysteries the second season opened up. From THAT mega-meta ending to whatever on Earth Old Night the talking octopus was, here are the biggest OA riddles that may never get solved…
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Did season two finale jump The OA's characters to OUR universe?
Let’s tackle that mind-boggling ending straight off the bat. In the final moments of season two, Prairie and Dr Hunter 'Hap' Percy (Jason Isaacs) jumped across from their universe into another new reality – the third we saw in the show.
Rather than finding themselves in a mental asylum, as in universe #2, the two characters emerged on a TV set… apparently the one where The OA is being filmed.
So far, so weird. But then we learned that Isaacs’ character was actually called Jason Isaacs in this universe – and spoke with his natural British accent. Marling, too, was referred to as “Brit” (her actual name, not anything to do with her accent).
Unsurprisingly, this meta-twist left a lot of questions. Did it mean we would have seen most of the cast playing themselves in Part III? Could co-creator Zal Batmanglij have appeared as himself in the show? If universe #3 is our dimension, then were you part of the story in some way?
Also: although there were cameras around Isaacs and Marling at first, we saw them off-set together too – but who was filming them then? In this new universe, did the characters simply not notice a camera crew following them around? Or were they filming another TV show in a TV show?
Whatever the exact answers, we can be sure that however meta the ending, there were some key differences between our reality and the one The OA portrayed...
Did Prairie die? Did she suffer a real accident on set?
Despite suddenly becoming stars of their own Netflix show, Isaacs and Marling didn't have a great start to universe #3. In fact, almost as soon as Isaacs regained consciousness, he saw Marling falling from a great height on the soundstage.
Knocked out cold from the tumble, an ambulance was soon called and Marling was whisked away in a head brace.
Fortunately, this serious injury wasn't something that really happened while filming The OA – or at least, it's not something a member of the cast has mentioned.
One big clue this didn't happen in our exact reality was Marling’s hair in this scene: it’s short. Before being fitted with her brace, paramedics took off a long blonde wig (which we’re imagining as Isaacs' Lucius Malfoy's wig, since it's likely Harry Potter exists in universe #3).
Although we can't confirm Marling wasn't wearing extensions in real life at the time, she hasn’t been seen in recent years with a short bob.
Also, we can reason this accident was part of the in-show universe considering the parallels it drew with the close of season one. Not only did we see Marling fighting for her life in the back of an ambulance, we also saw Steve (who at season two's close was probably called Patrick Gibson, the actor who played him) running behind the vehicle – just like the end of season one.
The season two conclusion might have therefore demonstrated the “ripple” effect between universes that was hinted at throughout the show.
Following on from this idea, there was a possibility that Marling/The OA/Universe #3 Marling/Prairie performed the same universe-hopping feat she pulled off at the end of season one. But we’re slightly sceptical about this. Unlike in Part I, nobody was performing the five movements nearby.
However, we’re still betting universe #3’s Marling pulled through in the end. Not only did Prairie see somebody that looked an awful lot like her in her Old Night vision (more on that below), but the character was the audience’s only anchor in the ever-shifting world of The OA. As storytelling goes, it would have be an extremely strange move.
But hey, if any show was going to do it, it would have been The OA. RIP.
Is Jason Isaacs married to Brit Marling in real life?
As he clambered into the ambulance with Marling during season two's final moments, the universe #3 version of Isaacs insisted (in his British accent) that he’s Brit Marling’s husband. However, this wasn't true in reality. Instead, Isaacs has been married to producer Emma Hewitt since 2001 (for “insurance purposes”).
Who actually was Elodie?
Among the many mind-melting mysteries of season two was the identity of the “traveller” played by Irene Jacob. Elodie appeared to have a complete understanding of the five movements and inter-dimensional travel, something she was easily able to achieve with the help of some crafty robots.
And not only that, but Elodie was able to detect others who leapt across realities, crossing paths with both Hap and Prairie. How? Although she suggested it had something to do with spotting individuals with tinnitus, it seemed far more likely that she met Hap and Prairie in another dimension and knew their backstory.
Also, there’s the possibility she wasn't actually human, but something more supernatural. Perhaps she was Khatun, the mysterious woman who spoke to Prairie during her near-death experiences (NDEs) in Part I?
Why? Well, apart from her vast knowledge, we glimpsed Elodie in the same dimension twice. In episode five we saw her hook up with Hap and collapse on the floor, seemingly travelling to a new dimension. Remember, this was a process that probably – as far as we know – killed a host before they move on.
Yet later in the season, the same character chatted by Marling in a bar. Did she travel to another universe after meeting Hap and then jump back again? If so, how did she survive? Had Elodie worked out a way to travel across the multi-verse without killing versions of herself – perhaps as Steve did during the season finale? But if she could have pulled this off, why did she collapse in front of Hap before?
So many questions, all of which may never be answered.
What was the Tree Internet?
In one of season two’s many WTF moments, during the hunt to find Michelle (Buck from another universe), Prairie found herself falling through the rose window into a web of talking tree roots.
But rather than chatting about moisture levels or soil nutrition, fiction’s now-weirdest talking trees (sorry, Ents) were eager to caution Prairie about some upcoming dangers. Saying they were waiting for her, the “tree internet” warned Prairie about Hap’s plan to use a damning piece of information against her – and recommended she build a team.
What exactly happened here? Well, it’s possible that this tree was part of another universe. After all, Prairie found the tree internet through the rose window that, as we know from Karim Washington’s experience in the season finale, is a portal to other realities.
Interestingly, the tree internet (which should definitely also be known as the ‘woodwide web’) is an actual natural phenomenon – although it probably isn't a talking entity that entangles inter-dimensional travellers, though.
Perhaps Marling and Batmanglij took inspiration from the threads of fungi, known as mycelium. This underground network is said to allow trees to share nutrients and protect one another: if one plant becomes affected by disease, it can use the 'tree internet' to encourage neighbours to boost their immune system in advance.
Were the talking roots we saw in The OA trying to save a neighbouring universe? Could we have seen something really bad happening to a universe in season three that would have sparked a dangerous rippling effect on other realities? Alas, we may never know.
What were the plants in Hap’s pool?
In the season two finale, Prairie finally got to see what was locked in Dr Hunter’s office: the world’s worst teen pool party. Jesse, French, Steve and more of her friends from the show’s original universe, apparently dead, floated on the water with flowers growing from inside their bodies.
However, the plants in this garden of horrors were actually, according to Hap, an inter-dimensional map: “Every human mind contains the multiverse. An actual garden of 14 paths within a soul, just waiting to be fertilised.”
Does this mean that The OA's multiverse contained just 14 universes? Or that each of these characters existed across only 14 realities?
And, more interestingly, did these plants have some connection with the tree internet? Like the tree roots Prairie fell into, did they hold answers to inter-dimensional travel? It's a mystery that might die with the show.
Who/what on Earth was Old Night?
In short: a giant talking octopus. In a bit longer: Old Night was the creature that wrapped its tentacles around Prairie to hand her some, shall we say, puzzling messages. For starters, he set out that his name was really Azrael, the name of the Angel of Death in certain holy texts.
Then he warned a terrified Prairie that “in the future, you don’t know who you are”. He continued: “You forget your true nature. I want to send you there to the moment you can show yourself your true face and reawaken to your mission.”
Cue the octo-psychic strangling Prairie with enough force to transport her into an aeroplane bathroom. Stepping out into the passenger cabin, Prairie then approached a short-haired woman who looks an awful lot like herself from behind.
Judging from the fourth-wall-breaking finish to the season, we can be pretty confident this woman was actually Marling from universe #3, who has the same short hair.
And bearing in mind Old Night’s hints that she wouldn't know who she is in future, it seems reasonable to guess that – if she did survive after all – Marling from universe #3 wouldn't have remembered her identity as Prairie from the original universe.
Just as Homer struggled to embrace his universe #2 consciousness in his universe #1 body in season two, Marling might have been unable to access her memories from universe #2 and #1 in her universe #3 form. Which isn’t confusing at all.
What about Old Night himself? Where did this octopus come from? Was he always telepathic? If not, where did he get his powers? Why was he kept inside a giant tank? And why did he give Prairie that vision?
We have absolutely no clue. And probably never will.
Where did Riz Ahmed’s character go?
It wasn’t too much of a shock when Ahmed’s FBI therapist Elias Rahim popped up in season two – the showrunners announced months before Part II that he would feature. However, it was a surprise how little screen time he had.
Appearing briefly at the close of episode five, Elias paid a visit to the school disciples – Steve, Buck, French, BBA and Angie – after Jesse accidentally died from an overdose.
However, he didn't make an awful lot of sense. Despite the group being wanted by the law, Elias, a federal agent, didn't want to arrest them. But he didn't want to help them either.
Ahmed's character appeared to offer some advice about the nature of inter-dimensional travelling, but it was too cryptic to be useful: “What is a space? A house? A school? A church? A motel? A clinic? Part of you knows. Part of you has always known, hasn’t it?”
Was he holding back information deliberately? Or blagging for some hidden reason? Unfortunately, Elias didn't hang around to give us any more clues: after this five-minute scene, he disappeared from the show and wasn't mentioned again.
While it seems likely there was more to the character we saw on screen, it was never certain if the in-demand Riz Ahmed would have returned to the role for Part III.
But, hey, by this point we’ve learnt never to second-guess The OA: there’s every chance Elias and The OA could make a comeback – in this universe or the next.