Many films end with a well-crafted twist that leaves the audience with a thunderous "aha!" moment. Suddenly, the entire story makes more sense. Think The Sixth Sense, The Usual Suspects, and Fight Club. Then there are less clear, but more thought-provoking twists that leave something up to viewers to decipher. Was Andy Dufresne guilty in The Shawshank Redemption? Did Ray die in In Bruges? But the ending of Netflix's The OA doesn't quite fit either category. Instead, The OA's twist may have made the entire series more confusing.
Unlike the cinematic spoilers mentioned above that raised a single major question with potentially unthinkable answers to audiences, The OA presented tons of questions throughout the first season that were never answered. Its final twist is less like The Sixth Sense, which retroactively explains the entire movie, and more like the classic Japanese film Rashomon, as it leaves the very fate of the main character and everything we saw through their eyes open to interpretation (though that's where the comparison between the two ends).
By the end of The OA, the audience has been spun a tale by Prairie (aka Nina, aka The OA) about her life and supernatural abilities, which led to her being held captive by a mad scientist obsessed with studying near-death experiences. While telling the story in the present timeline, Prairie gets a crew together who basically become her disciples. They believe that she is an angel and that they can save her former fellow captives through a series of movements. The audience rolls with all of this for the most part, just waiting for an explanation to bring all of these plots together. However, the ending of The OA comes shortly after a twist that feels out of left field. One of Prairie’s disciples finds books and information about her mental health that suggest that her entire story was made-up. But was it?
Whether Prairie was telling the truth or not, viewers are left with a ton of questions by the end of the first season. If she's lying, certain parts of the series don't make sense. But if she's telling the truth, there are other elements that need explanation. No matter which side you fall on, you were likely left confused by the end of The OA, and have been seeking answers to some of these 19 questions.
1If Prairie was lying, how did she regain her vision?
If Prairie gaining sight was meant to be evidence that her story was in fact true, it is still odd that no one would question this further or bring her to a doctor for more information about how this could have happened. And when her followers and parents believe that she is lying, they make no effort to figure out the truth behind this baffling medical miracle.
2Why didn't jumping off the bridge kill her?
Once again, if Prairie is not an angel, how did this happen? How did she barely sustain any injuries after jumping off a bridge? Even if she was telling the truth, why was she allowed to leave the hospital so soon after what appeared to be an attempted suicide?
3Why did she jump off the bridge in the first place if it was all a lie?
If Prairie s an unreliable narrator, then her entire backstory about the bus accident may not be true either. If that's the case, why the obsession with bridges and water?
4Is she Russian?
Prairie never speaks Russian or does anything to prove that this part of her story is real, which is strange. It would've been extremely easy to prove, especially since she claims that her adopted parents found her at a Russian orphanage. Instead of letting other characters ask these questions to prove or disprove individual pieces of the story, The OA makes Prairie's story all or nothing — either everything she said was real, or the entire thing was fake.
5Who is her biological father?
The only solid evidence of Prairie's father being alive in the recent past is the note that her adoptive mother found and her dreams about finding him. She obviously had a biological father at one point, but did she ever really know him? And did he really raise her in Russia before going into hiding? Whether the rest of her story is true or not, this is one storyline that can still be resolved if the series returns for a second season.
6If Prairie was lying, where did her scars come from?
Even if she was lying, The OA may be building to reveal what really happened to Prairie after she went missing. Her doctors did say that there was medical evidence of her being held captive, so maybe it was a form of abuse. Or a way to remember fantastical movements. Or none of the above and we'll never know.
7Why are the movements so... odd?
I'm sorry, but all I could think when watching these dance scenes is that the gifs of them must be haunting these actors. Whether Prairie made them up herself or they were given to her during an NDE, did they have to be so strange? And did they really need the accompanying grunts?
8Why did Prairie's followers believe her?
If Prairie is lying and so sly that she can convince five random people that her story is true, then she may actually be a sociopath or burgeoning cult leader. If she's telling the truth, she's extremely lucky that she found a group of people willing to give this tale a chance.
9Does she believe her own story?
So, does Prairie believe her own story or not? If she's lying but believes she's telling the truth, it makes her a much more sympathetic character than if she's knowingly lying. But the books suggest that if fake, this whole story is extremely calculated. But when her nose bleeds and she realizes what her dreams meant, she runs to the school to save her followers. It could really go either way and is another aspect that needs to be more thoroughly examined in future seasons.
10Whatever happened to that journalist?
Did Prairie's mom move forward with a book about what happened to her? Does the journalist believe Prairie?
11Why didn't Steve go to military school?
As far as we know, this has nothing to do with The OA's fantasies and is instead an overlooked or missing detail. It seems strange that one failed attempt to get Steve to military school would cause his parents to just give up and let him return to his high school. Wouldn't that just further piss off already angry parents and school officials?
12Why did there have to be exactly five people?
Jesse and Renata both felt extraneous to their respective groups, which brings me to the question, why did there have to be five people doing the movements? It was incredibly convenient that there happened to be five cages in Hap's bunker, but one captive, Rachel, never even received a movement. Plus, Homer and Prairie supposedly brought Scott back to life and cured a woman of ALS themselves. Does it really matter how many people are doing the movements, so long as they're performing all five? If the movements are real, there's still no explanation for why they require five people.
13What was the deal with that tomato allergy?
A few people online have pointed out that Hap's tomato allergy could be a plot hole. In the scene where Hap and Prairie get oysters, they have fries too, and Hap lists all of the condiments for Prairie, including ketchup. So was Hap not eating the ketchup? Why'd he even risk having it so close to him if he has a deathly allergy? Also, Hap ordered his own groceries, so why would he order something with a tomato base in the first place?
14And the suspicious books?
Did Prairie really buy them, or were they planted, as many viewers suspect? If Prairie is telling the truth, it'd be very strange if she also bought the books, especially since the only thing The Iliad has in common with her story is the name Homer.
15Are the other captives still in Hap's basement?
No matter how much of Priarie's story was true, we know Homer exists because she watched a YouTube video about his near-death experience — we just don't know if she actually ever met him. If not, how did she become obsessed with him? Are the other captives real? If so, are they still being held by Hap? Why didn't her followers make more of an effort to find them?
16Who was the shooter?
This was the biggest WTF moment of the entire show. There wasn't much foreshadowing about the school shooting and if the unseen shooter is really someone we don't know, it doesn't connect to the main plot at all, except for the fact that Prairie's followers use the movements in an attempt to stop it. Was this scene essentially a plot device meant to give the characters a chance to put the movements to the test, or could the shooter end up being someone with a link to Prairie's story?
17How did Prairie live after being shot in the chest?
That was a pretty fatal wound to leave Prairie conscious long enough to talk to her followers — and we know that when she has NDEs, she dies and then comes back, so it's not proof that her story was true. It's just a weirdly long death scene.
18Where was she in the end?
Another dimension? A mental institution? The afterlife? With Homer? I am just confused.
After spending eight hours watching The OA, I was left scratching my head at these and even more questions. All we can do now is wait to find out if there's a second season, and see if it clears any of these lingering plotlines up.