The OA cancelled: ‘It showed the limitless potential of TV on a streaming platform’

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Scott Patrick Green/Netflix

**WARNING: This article contains spoilers for season one and two of The OA on Netflix**

“Netflix, you cannot leave us in a cliffhanger like this.”

That’s just one of the thousands of shocked responses to the cancellation of The OA, an original drama about cross-dimensional travel, life after death, angels and magic dancing.

Netflix axed Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij’s surreal sci-fi(ish) show after just two seasons, despite being a huge hit with critics and viewers.

The OA has an 84% rating from reviewers on RottenTomatoes, and 83% from fans.

By comparison, controversial teen suicide drama 13 Reasons Why, (which has been renewed for a fourth and final season), has a 52% critics score and 66% viewer rating.

“We are incredibly proud of the 16 mesmerizing chapters of The OA,” says Cindy Holland, Netflix’s head of original content, about the show’s premature ending.

“We look forward to working with them again in the future, in this and perhaps many other dimensions.”

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Nicola Goode/Netflix

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Brit Marling starred as Prairie Johnson – and she also co-created and co-produced the show

Neflix describes The OA as “a big creative swing we were proud to take,” but says that when it comes to deciding what to renew and what to cancel, “viewing versus cost” is always what it takes into account.

So for all the goodwill in the world, it seems like there just weren’t enough people watching it.

“Netflix can be cryptic and they’re at a time now when they’re going to be competing against Disney+ and potentially Apple’s new upcoming TV service,” Scott Bryan, co-host of the BBC’s Must Watch podcast, tells Newsbeat.

“I think they’re starting to cut shows that obviously don’t work for them as well as others.”

He says that axing cult shows like this to possibly “focus on another more mediocre show” runs the risk of betraying or alienating some subscribers.


Scott is, in his own words, “gutted” at hearing The OA won’t return for a third series.

He says it showed “the complete limitless potential of having a show on a streaming platform.”

Every episode was a different length leaving its creators to tell the story at the pace they wanted, without the usual time and production restrictions for each chapter.

And the show’s opening credits were only ever seen once – close to the very end of the first episode of season one.

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Nicola Goode/Netflix

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Emory Cohen starred as Homer Roberts, a kidnap victim and love interest for Prairie

“It was also a show that had an ambition and scale that I’ve never seen in pretty much any other,” Scott adds.

“I was so excited by the potential of where season three could go – and now we’re never going to know.”

What we do know is that there were meant to be five seasons of The OA, which Brandon Perea, who played French, confirmed on Twitter.

So, what was The OA about?

The plot of the first season of The OA went a bit like this: Prairie Johnson, a blind, adopted Russian girl who had grown up in small town America, returns home with her sight restored after seven years missing, abducted by a doctor obsessed with using his victims to travel to alternate dimensions.

She knows a set of dance moves that make this possible and tells her story – and the secrets of those movements – to a group of outcasts. It’s all in the hope of rescuing the man she loves who she believes is still captured.

Season two involved a detective, a mysterious app and a twist which Scott Bryan describes as a “huge moment.”

It’s a storyline which Hanna Flint, a freelance TV and film journalist, describes as more of a “fairy tale, a fantasy” than the sci-fi genre it was often forced into.

“Each episode feels very individual, like a Brothers Grimm fairy-tale as we learn about the OA, her background and whether she’s telling the truth or lying,” Hanna explains.

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Scott Patrick Green/Netflix

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Season two suggested that popular character Betty would jump dimensions in a third series

She says the show’s diverse main cast – from young transgender actor Ian Alexander to 68-year-old Phyllis Smith – was one of its biggest appeals.

“A lot of the actors in there were brand new, some people we’ve never seen, and some people in roles we wouldn’t imagine them in,” she says.

Hanna says she’s disappointed by the choice to cancel the show.

“Netflix has constantly positioned itself as a streaming service that’s looking to champion new TV shows and films that break the mould, stuff that supports diverse film-makers,” she says.

“It just feels that if you’re going to start championing new artists, you can’t rely on an algorithm to define what you’re going to keep on producing.”

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Nicola Goode/Netflix

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Season two of The OA was partly set in a different dimension to season one

But of course, there’s always the chance another network could pick up The OA and finish the story, but that – Hanna says – will depend on the contract its makers signed with Netflix.

“I hope places that are doing this kind of prestige television like HBO, Showtime or AMC are interested in picking it up,” says Hanna.

“I hope we get some sort of closure on this, but how many times in the past have we seen TV shows that never really got to do that?”

But in a goodbye message on Instagram, Brit Marling said that she had “had a good cry” when she heard the news, and says that “maybe, in some ways, it’s okay not to conclude these characters.”

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