The following contains spoilers for Netflix’s The OA.
Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij’s The OA is a show of many layers. Not only does it have a story within the story, but its ending raises questions about the line between truth and fiction.
After French (Brandon Perea) finds the books beneath Prairie (Brit Marling)’s bed, audience and characters alike are left with doubts about Prairie’s story. Was she truly a captive with Homer, Rachel, and the others, or was she simply a disturbed runaway who made up a story to cope with a traumatic ordeal? If you’re looking for definitive answers, some aspects of her tale has onscreen evidence while other aspects leave us hanging. The creators say they kept it mysterious to “let people come to the show and unravel it for themselves.”
But if you don’t have time to rewatch it, there are plenty of small moments you might have missed.
1. The wolf sweatshirt
Prairie’s wolf sweatshirt shows up every time something significant happens in the plot. It’s there when French finds the books beneath her bed; she wears it at the end as she rushes to the school. It could be symbolic, as the wolf is connected with the Slavic god of the underworld.
2. Russian Sleepwalking
In the second episode, after Nancy and Abel adopt Nina and rename her Prairie, there is a scene where she sleepwalks and talks in Russian. Her adopted father Abel films her, commenting, “She’s sleepwalking. She’s been doing it for a couple weeks. I’m taping it so we can show a doctor.” If you rewatch the first episode, when Prairie picks up the video camera to make a recording for Homer, she scrolls through the audio of that video. It doesn’t register the first time you see, as you don’t yet have the context for the snippet of Russian chanting. Ergo, there is definitive proof that the Russian part of her story is legit.
3. Rachel’s plants
Rachel stands apart from Prairie’s fellow captives for several reasons: She is the only one who does not access one of the Movements they use to travel between dimensions, her name appears in braille in the FBI therapist’s office, and the plants in her cell are dead. Some fans are theorizing she’s secretly an FBI agent herself in disguise. While there’s nothing to definitively prove this, the plants are certainly a sign that Rachel is different.
4. Suspect camera angles
Many fans are theorizing that the FBI therapist Elias Rahim (Riz Amed) is not as altruistic as he seems, and planted the books to mislead Prairie’s friends. While there is no definitive proof, but the seventh episode contains camera angles that are the universal sign for “someone is watching from inside the house!” Rahim is the most likely suspect, thanks to his suspicious presence lurking in Prairie’s house in the final episode. Has he been watching them? Or is it someone else? The show is keeping its cards close to its chest, but it’s clear that someone is watching them.
5. Fish Tanks
Fish tanks are a repeated motif. They show up in Nina’s dreams as a child. At the beginning of the second episode, when Nina is studying snakes in a classroom, their set-up looks exactly like the fish tank-like enclosure Prairie later finds herself in. A similar fish tank set-up shows up in Homer’s Near-Death Experience. Most obviously of all, the cells in Hap’s basement resemble a fish tank. They appear too many times to merely be a random choice.
Prairie says her Russian father got his wealth through mining precious metals. “My father was a very wealthy man. He ran a mining company. He took precious metals out of the ground. There are frequent references to Hap’s prison being in a mine. Connection?
Gardens come up an unusual amount too. Homer tells Prairie they’ll have a garden when they escape their captivity, we see Prairie gardening at the end, and the show goes out of its way to specify that Prairie’s awkward family dinner — which is interrupted by a girl taking a selfie with Prairie — is at the Olive Garden. This could tie into the show’s biblical references.
8. “Probably a girl.”
When Hap meets with his former mentor who is also conducting NDEs, it’s a curious scene for several reasons. It shows us that Hap’s work is not as isolated as it seemed, and it calls into question the story’s point of view, as it’s unlikely that Hap told Prairie about this incident. He also has this peculiar line about his research: “More likely we’ll lay the groundwork for someone new, maybe — no, probably a girl, to dig into and uncover the truth.” Singling out “probably a girl” is awfully specific.
9. “Your name is not Homer.”
Right before Homer’s NDE, he sneaks into Hap’s office and listens to an eerie audio that correlates with his NDE. In it, a man’s voice says, “Your name is not Homer” and, “Do you know Dr. Roberts?” Speculations abound, because the show ends with Prairie waking up and saying “Homer?” He could be a doctor in another “reality.” Regardless, if a Season 2 happens, there’s no way this line won’t be significant.
10. The red backpack
In the “prison” reality, Rachel — of the mysterious braille messages and the dead plants — is a singer whose NDE involves a car accident with a red backpack. In the “real world,” Buck — who is also a singer — bikes past a car accident with a red backpack one night on his way to the abandoned house. Could this be a sign one dimension is leaking into the next? Or a sign Prairie saw this on her own way to the house and made it all up?
11. The Bermuda Triangle
When Steve and French are trying to make sense of Prairie’s story, they do what all teenagers do: Turn to Google. When Steve googles the word combination of “pilot” and “anesthesiologist,” the top result involves the Bermuda Triangle. For a show about other dimensions, a nod to the most famous real world “dimensional portal” is a red flag.
12. An angel in the cafeteria
When Steve, Jesse, Buck, French, and Betty convene in their school cafeteria, there is an angel on the wall behind them.
Make of these moments what you will — we’re just pointing them out as your angelic spirit guides.