The OA season two review

The OA, Netflix’s bizarre, otherworldly drama, first appeared on our screens in 2016. It was a whirlwind ride of near death experiences, strange dance moves and teenage angst that ended on a cliffhanger which allowed it to transcend its mythical realm and echo terrifying real life trauma. Cut to three years later and the series has finally made its eagerly-anticipated return but it’s more confusing than ever and strangely detached from its predecessor.

Brit Marling’s sci-fi drama series was gone so long that, much to the relief of its returning fans, it began with a lengthy reminder of what took place in season one. We were collectively reminded of Marling’s Prairie / OA, a beguiling young woman who returns to her small town after disappearing for seven years. Season one mixed two major storylines: flashbacks to OA‘s life as Hap‘s (a brilliant Jason Isaacs) prisoner and her new life in the present among a mismatched group of outsiders. The formula worked well but series two loses itself to big budget moments, forgoing the touching dialogue and in-depth study of human nature that season one thrived on. Instead, this new incarnation takes us on a confusing journey towards giant octopus, interactive games and mysterious houses. It’s still engulfing as a narrative, but feels, oddly, like a totally different creation from that of the first season. The only moments that echo the first, in terms of direction and narrative tropes, are the three episodes that centre around BBA, Steve and gang, and the whole piece suffers because of this.MV5BZjVhYTMyYTktZGFhMi00M2ZmLTlhMTAtZWM2NzNiZDkwYmZlXkEyXkFqcGdeQWFybm8@._V1_CR0,68,3600,2025_AL_UX477_CR0,0,477,268_AL_

While the effects are impressive, and something to be marvelled at, they don’t feel as though they belong in this piece. Series one was so gritty and played on this idea that certain aspects could indeed happen; it mixed harrowing drama with fantastical elements and turned out something that scared us with a strange kind of sci-fi realism. Series two loses touch with its humanity, instead focusing on seemingly unrelated (not to mention unexplained) sub-plots. While the season suffers because of this, it redeems itself with the return of the fabulous Phyllis Smith and the introduction of Kingsley Ben Adir as new character Karim. The best moments of this suspend-your-belief series come from both actors and Adir is a total joy to watch as he steps his way to stardom. There are moments of horror in this new series too, but not the real-life kind, the best-of-the-genre kind. The slow-creeping dread and jolting scares are effective and enjoyable and make for a welcome addition to a show that tries to cram a lot of unnecessary moments into what was, initially, a relatively simple starting point.

The OA is still an interesting watch; Brit Marling is a fierce talent as writer, actor and producer, alongside artistic partner Zal Batmanglij. The pair dive deeper into the unknown, exploring the multiverse with probing interest which translates enthusiastically, if a little confusingly. The heart of this show lies with OA‘s motley crew from series one and with not one scene shared in series two comes a lack of sentimentality, not to mention apathy.

Still intriguing, if a little misjudged, The OA will return for a third series but will its viewers? I for one am no longer sure.

British television at it’s best – E4 brings us Glue

Yesterday evening saw the arrival of E4‘s newest offering, Glue; an eight-part teen-drama series set in a small rural town, known as Overton. Broadchurch meets Skins was the word on the street, and while those whispers were certainly right in some ways, Glue, in one episode, managed to present itself as a whole different kettle of fish. Starring a plethora of up-and-comers, including one half of Rizzle Kicks’ Jordan Stephens, there were plenty of teen cliches and mayhem ahoy, but in a gritty, real way. The initial strength of episode one lay with the surprisingly good acting ability of these apparent new-comers. By the final moments though, the mystery of the plot and dark nature of several of the characters left viewers with a sweet anticipation for next week’s offering.

What do we know so far? A thew things; the drama will be focused on a group of eight young adults (Annie, Ruth,Tina, Dom, Eli, James, Janine and Rob), while they come to terms with the murder of one of their own (a younger boy named Cal, brother of Eli, a Romany), drugs, petty-crime and underage boozing are the norm, and betrayal and adultery are a plenty. The most interesting element so far is the large number of Romany inhabitants in the village, something which was an  unexpected element of the drama. Were these people involved in the killing? What brings them to this town? And, will there be a divide between them and the police as the investigation gets going? These are just several pressing questions brought up during the much-too short 50 minute episode (eager beaver, right?).

With the beginning of Glue Channel 4 have yet again highlighted themselves as leaders (perhaps even, pioneers) in Brit drama. When you look at the unique subject matter of shows like Top Boy,  and strength of writing in dramas like Utopia and Shameless, there is little competition elsewhere. Dramas like these are the rare percentage of TV that America cannot compete with – grit and somewhat uncomfortable issues are brought to the forefront of viewers minds, and this kind of genre of television cant quite seem to be replicated in the same way by the yanks.

Not for the fainthearted (featuring full-frontal nudity, animal killing and many more shocks) if Glue can continue to bring the same level of mystery, the sense of teen urgency to experience everything all at once, and the intriguing setting of life on a farm, it will be up there with the best.