It’s already been a couple of weeks since The OA hit Netflix, but fans are still trying to decode its cliffhanger ending. Though captivating, the sci-fi thriller’s slow-build, maddeningly ambiguous narrative left much to be interpreted. Eagle-eyed viewers have since pieced together clues about The OA’s ending, but the evidence is far from definitive. Depending on how you viewed it, The OA is either a complex meditation on the aftermath of trauma or a fantastical, supernatural epic.
Protagonist Prairie Johnson, a 20-something who mysteriously reappears after seven years spent missing, spun an enthralling tale about her time in captivity, where she uncovered supposed truths about her life as an angel and multi-dimensional travel. The finale sees her finally enact the five movements that fuel her visions, but not before placing a major question mark on the validity of her story. Because Prairie is painted as a delusional, deeply troubled woman by some, there's an assumption that she concocted an aggrandized tale, but there’s also a lot of weight within her story.
Creators Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij have been vocal about the breadcrumbs they left behind. As Batmanglij told Variety in December, "Brit and I figured out the whole thing. The whole thing's a riddle. There are a lot of clues. Very few people have really picked up on all the clues.” Is that so, Zal? Well, challenge accepted.
The Books That Supposedly Inspired Prairie Look New
Toward the end of the season, French (Brandon Perea) breaks into Prairie’s house in a frustrated attempt to figure out if she’s telling the truth. He finds a collection of books under her bed, which cover subjects like Russian oligarchy, near death experiences, and Homer’s Iliad — all touchstones from her story that seem to indicate she fabricated the entire ordeal. However, they’re all pretty lengthy volumes, so it’s unclear when Prairie would have had the time to blaze through all of them amidst her whirlwind return. They also seem to be in pristine condition and look largely untouched.
Prairie Probably Can’t Read English
Prairie grew up reading and writing Russian before she went blind, and was reading Braille exclusively by the time she relocated to the U.S., so when exactly would she have learned enough plain sight English to understand 500-page novels? As seen in the goodbye note she left her parents before running away, she could barely write her name in block letters.
French Runs Into Elias At Prairie’s House
The book scene also incites suspicion around FBI therapist Elias Rahim (Riz Ahmed), who French finds skulking around Prairie’s house at night. Many have theorized that Elias planted the books in order to deliberately throw Prairie’s cohorts off the trail. Prairie seemingly never told Elias about her supposed life as an angel, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t surveilling her outside of their meetings. He also refers to Prairie as “The OA” at one point, which implies she may have told him more than what we saw onscreen.
The Braille On Elias’ Office Wall Is Fishy
During Prairie’s time in captivity, she alleges she was held with four other angels, one of whom, Rachel, never received a movement from her guardian. That just so happens to be the name written in Braille on a wall in Elias’ office. Coincidence? Probably not. Fans have since postulated that Rachel could have been an undercover agent, and that Dr. Hap’s work is potentially tied to the government.
Prairie’s Story Is Different To the Public
While Prairie is out to dinner with her parents, an obnoxious girl interrupts her to take a selfie. She goes on to hail her as an inspiration, citing her strength in surviving “being beaten and raped.” This is the first and only time the show addresses an alternate reason for Prairie’s disappearance, so it very well could be a rumored assumption. However, Redditor flowlowland postulates that it could be the truth, and Prairie dreamt up much of her experience as a coping mechanism. We never see Hap make any sexual advances toward Prairie, but he does take a special interest in her compared to the other captives, which could be a watered down version of what really happened.
Prairie's "Real Life" Followers & Fellow Captives Are Similar
Just after French discovers the books under Prairie’s bed, he looks in the mirror and sees a reflection of Homer, who has a cut in the exact same spot on his forehead. This clue can actually back either side. As Inverse explains, some posit that it’s evidence that Prairie worked Homer’s cut into the story after seeing French’s, discrediting her account. Others think it could be a sign that Prairie’s real world friends are her captive family, just in another dimension: the jock (Homer/French), the singer (Rachel/Buck), the stoner (Scott/Jesse), the older woman (Renata/Betty), and the original (Prairie and her first recruit, Steve). In another telling scene, Buck — who is a singer like Rachel — passes flares in the road alongside a red backpack. It’s eerily similar to the NDE Rachel describes: she was in a car accident, and recalls seeing a red backpack in the road.
At Least Some of Prairie’s Story Can Be Proved
Whether or not you believe Prairie’s story in entirety, there are some facts that can’t be dismissed as delusion. She was blind when she went missing, but her vision was miraculously restored by the time she returned. Whatever happened to her while she was gone led to malnourishment and vitamin D deficiency. And a prophetic vision led her to the high school just as a shooter was opening fire on her friends and their classmates.
In all likelihood, the truth lands somewhere between blunt reality and Prairie’s imaginative account, but The OA’s storytelling isn’t so much about the ending. Because, as Prairie says, she doesn't have one yet. Instead, it’s about what happens in the middle: the faith and community we surround ourselves with, and the stories we tell ourselves to survive.