Brit Marling is a good fit for Netflix, the streaming channel that never saw an inter-dimensional portal it didn’t like (Stranger Things, The Good Place). Together with her regular cinematic collaborator Zal Batmanglij, she created one of TV’s most idiosyncratic shows in The OA, a weird and often wonderful sci-fi drama about an ordinary angel. Except there’s not much ordinary about Marling’s character Prairie, who we meet when she returns home to a small community, and recovering from blindness. Flashbacks indicate that Prarie’s background is Russian, but the narrative takes in a more recent period where she and a few other unfortunates are revealed as the scientific experiment of Dr Hap Percy (Jason Isaacs). Now released, Prairie uses her skills to teach a diverse group of people what she knows, for the purpose that isn’t clear until the end of the final episode. After that bombshell, series two goes off on a wild tangent into an alternate universe San Francisco where the populace use a Pokemon-style video game to seek out clues, and a giant octopus puts on a sexual show in a nightclub. The OA takes it’s time, and the second episode closer is something of a head-scratcher, but it’s all good stuff; more Sapphire and Steel than Dr Who. Yes, there are frustrating moments, but Marling is such an original creative force as well as a compelling performer that The OA marks her successful transition from cult film-star to mainstream powerhouse.
Time travel is once again the subject of this brainy slice of sci-fi, no less than expected from the partnership of writer and star Brit Marling and writer/director Zal Batmanglij. Journalists are intrigued by news of a woman claiming to be a time traveller, and attempt to infiltrate the cult around Maggie (Marling), who lives in an LA basement, eats only food grown there, and claims to have returned from the future where a civil war has resulted in catastrophe. Fans of The OA, and they are many and devoted, will want to check out all of Marling’s cinematic offerings, which add up to more than just dry runs. Whether Maggie is a real time traveller, or a witch, or a manipulative cult leader is up for grabs here, and there’s an edge to the proceedings that typifies Marling’s kooky but always smart take on the sci-fi genre.