Season 2 of Netflix’s metaphysical drama, The OA, is still over the horizon with no official release date. But while fans of the Brit Marling series wait for another season of interdimensional travel and hidden braille messages, there’s another show on television that quenches this unique thirst: HBO’s The Leftovers.
Although the two have basic plot differences, their similarities are surprisingly specific. Both tackle themes of the nature of belief and its consequences in a singular way that blends fantasy with reality.
The OA follows Brit Marling’s Prairie as she returns to her hometown after disappearing for seven years. She tells a group of misfit boys about the years she was held as a captive by a death-obsessed scientist who experimented on living subjects. The show adds a fantasy element by following Prairie through her Near-Death Experiences into an interdimensional plane where she receives guidance from a mystical being.
While The OA is a unique show, The Leftovers takes a similar approach to belief systems. Its premise is that 2 percent of the world’s population mysteriously vanishes. The show is not interested in solving this mystery; rather, it lingers on the emotional states of those left behind as they struggle to find meaning and make sense of their reality. One rational psychologist reacts by joining a nihilistic cult, which is the same group-psychology territory The OA dwells in, as the boys who listen to Prairies story rally around her like a pseudo-cult.
One pastor embraces religion more strongly than ever, and Justin Theroux’s Kevin Garvey spends his nights hunting wild animals and talking to ghosts that may be hallucinations. In the show’s most compelling episode to date (“International Assassin”), he too has a Near-Death Experience and visits a liminal realm between life and death.
Just like The OA, The Leftovers has a protagonist with a questionable mental state, and while some depictions of belief are beautiful, others are downright frightening. The leader of The Leftovers cult — known as the Guilty Remnant — even has one of her own people killed in order to further her cause, just a The OA’s Hap murders his colleague.
But while The OA and The Leftovers are linked in themes, they’re also linked in their tones and willingness to experiment. Both mix mundane settings — gas stations, diners, schools, hotels — with mystical events, and both are uninterested in conventional formats. The OA has episodes that vary from 30 to 70 minutes, and the opening credits don’t appear until the final 20 minutes of the first episode. Each Leftovers episode is roughly an hour; however, it varies between showcasing an ensemble cast and zooming in on individual characters in bottle episodes. In its second season, the main characters don’t appear until the first episode is nearly over.
If The OA enticed you with its mixture of science and spirituality, with its psychological depth and its byzantine narrative style, The Leftovers fills that gap while you wait for Season 2.
The Leftovers third and final season premieres on April 16, 2017 on HBO; a date for The OA Season 2 on Netflix has not been announced.