rabbit holes

Is The OA Fake-Canceled or Am I Just Losing My Mind?

Me on Reddit at 3 a.m. Photo: Netflix

When I got off an eight-hour flight on Monday and read that The OA had been canceled while I was in the air, I cried for an hour straight in a cab on the way home. Yes, I was jet-lagged, and, yes, I had just watched The Greatest Showman against my will, but this is objectively an embarrassing thing to admit and I should be appropriately owned for it. But the thing is, The OA was embarrassing! To attempt to describe the central premise of The OA to a friend is to sound like an absolute lunatic. The OA required a deep suspension of disbelief, but if you gave it that suspension, you were rewarded with so much: psychic octopi, omniscient trees, houses that were actually portals to other dimensions, dance movements that transported people across space and time, the obliteration of death, flowers growing out of people’s brains, a blind woman who calmly saws beautiful sandwiches in half under extreme duress.

But most of all, if you allowed yourself to be swept away by The OA’s strange, gentle poetry, you were rewarded with an increasingly rare sort of hopefulness. Comparisons are often made between The OA and Twin Peaks another absolutely unhinged show I adore about time, space, and blonde women trapped in interdimensional rooms — but Twin Peaks wasn’t a hopeful show. Twin Peaks held a mirror to humanity’s darkest, most nefarious impulses; it ended with its main characters trapped eternally in the wrong dimension, howling infernally. Conversely, The OA was a show about believing in impossible things (and I don’t mean psychic octopi and brain flowers). The OA was one of the only contemporary shows I’ve ever seen that leaned on the notion — as creator-writer-star Brit Marling put it in her mournful post-cancellation Instagram post — “that the collective is stronger than the individual,” that “there is no hero,” that “humans [are] one species among many and not necessarily the wisest or the most evolved.” It was one of the only shows to grapple directly and beautifully with things like toxic masculinity, American gun violence, PTSD and trauma, the pitfalls of capitalism, impossible ethical quandaries — all this on top of coming up with that freakin’ octopus and staffing one of the most diverse casts and crews in TV history.

It’s embarrassing to be hopeful in 2019 — to believe, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, that we might someday fix our shit and strive toward a better world, a world where our children will not calmly slay one another in a public arena for access to vegetables. But I felt that way, watching The OA, just like I felt that maybe in another dimension, another me was a wildly famous pop star with 17 pools. In other words, beneath all of its surface absurdities, The OA was really a show about vulnerability.

In the spirit of that vulnerability, let’s dive deep into the realm of the internet conspiracies together, shall we? The fact that Netflix canceled The OA, then handed $200 million to Game of Thrones failbros D.B. Weiss and David Benioff, felt like a plot twist so on the nose that Weiss and Benioff could’ve written it themselves. Which is why so many of the show’s die-hard fans are determined to believe that The OA isn’t actually canceled — that instead, this whole thing is a long con or publicity stunt executed by Netflix, Marling, and co-creator Zal Batmanglij. Five days into my own personal shiva for The OA, I began to wonder: Could these people be right? The answer: Well, no, absolutely not. But let’s hop onto Reddit and examine the evidence anyway because I’m very sad.

1. The Meta Finale (Originator: Reddit)
In the second-season finale, the OA and her captor, Hap, travel to another dimension where actors named “Brit Marling” and “Jason Isaacs” are filming a TV show called The OA in a dimension that looks very much like our own. Brit falls and hits her head and is rushed to the hospital; the last time we see her, she’s unconscious. Some redditors believe that the show’s “cancellation” in our dimension is part of the setup for the third season — a way for Marling and Batmanglij to indicate that the show is, in fact, taking place in real life, and that it’s “canceled” because Brit has smacked her little keppie. This seems cruel and unusual, but also fine with me. I accept being manipulated by a corporation in this profoundly extra fashion.

2. Jason Isaacs’s Instagram (Originator: Reddit)
Jason Isaacs has posted several suspicious items on social media over the past few days. Just days before The OA’s cancellation, he posted a video of himself and co-star Emory Cohen doing “the movements,” or the dance moves that allow the characters on The OA to casually travel between dimensions. “To the many obsessed and wonderful devotees who approach me all over the world to ask if and when we’re carrying on the story: I’m in the same club as you — I think it’s utterly brilliant, I’m dying to know what happens next and I’m waiting for the phone to ring. Don’t ask me #AskNetflix!” Later, after the show’s cancellation was announced, he tweeted, “Farewell Prairie, who I loved, Homer, who I feared, Steve, who confused me, Scott, Rachel and Renata who I hoped would forgive me and understand in time, somewhere.” He ended his message as follows: “Practice the movements, and I’ll see you on the other side.” Some fans believe that because Isaacs’s good-bye posts are written “in character,” we’re supposed to read them as if they’re from “Jason Isaacs,” not Jason Isaacs; and “Jason Isaacs” is sad because the show is canceled because his dumb wife fell from a wire. Do you follow? Cool.

3. Zal Batmanglij’s Response (Originator: Reddit)
Batmanglij replied to Isaacs’s post by referring to him as “Jason or Hap or whoever is in there.” Either the sweet, forlorn words of a bereft creator — or a clue that we are all just pawns in Netflix’s wild-eyed, late-capitalist game.

4. Brit Marling’s Instagram Post (Originator: Reddit)
In her absolutely devastating Instagram post announcing the show’s cancellation that made me cry for 63 minutes straight in a stranger’s car, Marling makes reference to the “last text message to Grandma Vu,” sent by Buck, who sends it before becoming trapped in another dimension. It’s a series of emoji: an octopus, a glass of wine, a crying face, prayer hands, and a key. As one redditor explained it, “Michelle/Bucks last text to Grandma was referenced in S2 episode 1. BUT we eventually see that it clearly won’t be her last text ever to Grandma because at the end of S2 she’s alive and sitting right next to Grandma. It’s a clue.” This one is a little stretchy, but I will accept it because I am desperate and unwell.

5. Netflix’s Non-Statements (Originator: Reddit)
In the days since the cancellation, fans have been flooding Netflix’s social media accounts with pleas to #SavetheOA, often posting screenshots of themselves canceling their accounts in the process. But Netflix’s social channels have been mysteriously quiet, and redditors have been posting alleged conversations they’ve had with customer-service representatives who won’t confirm the cancellation, explaining that Netflix “hasn’t released any official statement” or press release. The only statement Netflix has made on The OA’s cancellation comes from vice-president of original content Cindy Holland, who merely said, “We are incredibly proud of the 16 mesmerizing chapters of The OA, and are grateful to Brit and Zal for sharing their audacious vision and for realizing it through their incredible artistry. We look forward to working with them again in the future, in this and perhaps many other dimensions.” UM, WHICH DIMENSIONS, CINDY? CINDY? HELLO?????

6. Everybody Loves The OA, Including Kehlani (Originator: Reddit)
#SavetheOA has been trending on Twitter for days, and a lot of extremely important celebrities are very upset, including Rob Delaney and Indya Moore. If the show actually had a numbers problem, why are so many people freaking the fuck out about its cancellation — for example, me and Lea Michele? I, for one, do not want to see what happens when Lea Michele is crossed. The sheer amount of support online is proof that people were and are watching the show. Nobody has given us any real reason why it was canceled. STILL NO ARRESTS?? HOW COME, CHIEF WILLOUGHBY???

7. Tarot Cards (Originator: Reddit)
One redditor wrote, “I’ve been reading tarot cards for 16 years and I’m quite proficient. I just threw down some cards on ‘Have they already filmed S3 of the OA?’ and the answer was a VERY clear ‘Yes, in secret’ (sun and seven swords) and then showing the contract being solid. ((herophant+world).” If you want to come at whatever paranormal force operates tarot cards, be my guest, but don’t come crying to me when you are permanently cursed.

8. Brit Marling’s Birthday (Originator: Me)
Netflix canceled Brit Marling’s show just days before her birthday. Nobody would do this unless they were kidding or actual demons sent from hell to incite a civilian uprising against God himself. It’s her birthday!

9. Netflix’s President’s Name (Originator: Me)
The CEO of Netflix is named Reed Hastings. So … he reads hastily. So he makes mistakes! This was a mistake and he’s embarrassed to say it. Please tweet at him to say he shouldn’t be embarrassed, but he should read more slowly.

10. It’s Actually Our Responsibility to the Universe to Save The OA (Originator: Reddit/Me)
What if, just like the characters on the show, it’s our responsibility to save the fucking OA????? Like on a metaphysical level, I mean — Netflix is not even involved here. This is bigger than Netflix. This is about the universe!!! What are you doing? Go outside on August 12 at 12 p.m. ET and do the movements! Sign the petition! Stop working! Quit your job! Shed all earthly belongings and attachments! It’s what The OA wants!

Is The OA Fake-Canceled or Am I Just Losing My Mind?