If you caught yourself binging Netflix’s newest mysterious thriller The OA this weekend, you weren’t alone. Netflix lovers everywhere found themselves diving headlong into the eight episode series created by Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij. The show featured a lot of twists and turns; viewers were never quite sure if what they were watching was real or all in the mind of Brit Marling’s character Prairie. And while we don’t have the answers to The OA mindfuckery, we can definitely help clear up a few confusing points: Here’s what the movements are and how they work.
The following contains spoilers for Netflix’s The OA.
Prairie first discovers the Movements after her second (as far as the audience sees) Near Death Experience. Prairie’s daring escape from Hap and her life of imprisonment ends with her being hit hard in the back of head as she stands on a precipice, a blind girl trying to feel which way to run next. When she wakes back up in Hap’s house, she can see again — one of the two gifts bestowed to her by Khatun, her guardian on the other side. During Prairie’s time in the in-between world (where Khatun and the room of galaxies appear), Khatun offers her the choice to stay there forever in peace with her Russian father or go back and help her fellow captives. When Prairie chooses her friends, Khatun gives the second gift, “a fish” for she sees that Prairie is hungry. The fish is actually a bird which Prairie consumes whole. Doing so gives Prairie the knowledge of the First Movement. When Prairie wakes up in the real world, and is with her fellow captives again, the Movement bursts out of her, her body compelled to follow the ancient ritual that looks like dance.
That was the first step on the captives’s road to escape. As Prairie explains to the others — when they die in Hap’s cruel experiments and go to the other side, they need to look for a live animal and swallow it whole. Homer swallows a fish from an aquarium in a hospital, Scott and Renata also find theirs even though we never see those journeys.
The captives discover that threading the Movements together form a dance, the combinations of which have different effects. For example, when piecing together the First and Second Movements with true intent (or feeling), Prairie — who is now known as the OA — and Homer discover that they can heal. Repeating the movements together for roughly a day, they spool the blood back into Scott’s dead body and give him life again. When Scott wakes up, he has the Third Movement and says they need all five before they have the key to their escape. All five Movements together is the key to moving between worlds; they can go from earth to the in-between, to whatever’s on the other unexplored side of that.
The captives spend years dying and trying to remember, learn, and teach all the Movements to each other before Hap gets a hold of the power of the Movements first. Rachel, who is supposed to get the Fifth Movement never does, and in a surprising conflation of events, the OA and Homer receive the Fifth Movement from a woman whose MS they cure with the first two Movements.
Though Homer and the OA now have the key to their escape, so does Hap. Because the Movements need to be performed with five people and pure intent, Hap tragically separates the OA and Homer. Homer goes back to imprisonment and the OA is left at the side of the road. Hap threatens her one last time, letting her know that she’ll never find her friends again, and even if she comes looking for them, Hap will have performed the Five Movements with them and taken them to another dimension. Confident that no one will believe her or help her on her interdimensional chase for her friends, Hap abandons the OA with nothing but the clothes he abducted her in.
What Hap doesn’t bet on is that the OA does have help, at first from her parents, but then mostly from a strange group of assorted people from her neighborhood who believe her. While she does teach them the Movements, and they do perform them, the first season ends before we find out whether the Movements work or not. The OA wakes up in a place that’s all white and whispers, “Homer?” before the screen cuts to black.
We’ll all be waiting anxiously for Season 2 to see if the OA managed to travel between universes and free her fellow captives.