Entertainment

Here's What You Need to Remember About 'The OA' Before Watching Season 2

the oa
O.A. looking for clues. | Netflix
O.A. looking for clues. | Netflix

It's been a minute since the first season of Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij's The OA blew through Netflix like a wild supernatural storm, making us question the nature of our own reality while also weirdly feeling the urge to tuck into a few Olive Garden endless pasta bowls. There was a lot of crazy stuff that happened in The OA, and Season 2 pretty much picks up right where Season 1 left off -- which means, if you're not up to speed on everything that went down back in 2016, you're gonna be real confused real fast. If you don't have time to rewatch all of the first season before diving into the new episodes, here is everything you need to remember to understand which universe we're living in this time.

the oa
Just walk it off. | Netflix

What does O.A. stand for?

It stands for Original Angel, and it's the name that Prairie Johnson a.k.a. Nina Azarova (a.k.a., series co-creator Brit Marling) calls herself -- and what her group of teen friends are taught to call her as well. She explains the meaning during a crucial scene in Season 1, after which her adoptive mother slaps her in an Olive Garden. Iconic.

How did O.A. survive the gunshot from the Season 1 finale?

When we first meet O.A. in the Season 2 premiere, she wakes up in a hospital and seems oddly overjoyed that her nurse has never heard of Barack Obama -- until we learn that her plan worked: She'd successfully slipped from one dimension to another, entering her own body in a different universe.

If you recall, the first season of The OA ended with a botched school shooting. By performing the five movements together in the school cafeteria, Buck, French, Steve, Jesse, and B.B.A. distracted the would-be shooter long enough for him to be tackled to the ground. His gun went off, and O.A. was seen standing at the window, a bullet hole having cleared the window and gone through her chest. It seems like she's pretty dead, but then, in the final shot of the show, she opens her eyes and says, "Homer."

Hmmm?????? What?? All throughout the final episode, the group of kids who had befriended O.A. were racked with doubt over whether or not she had made everything up after French found all kinds of books about parallel universe theory and the Russian royal houses in her home. Could her story about Hap and the other angels be a fabrication? But, when it all came down to it, it was belief that won out in the end, and when their school was under threat, the five did the movements together to, at least, distract the shooter. At best, what O.A. had said about them -- that they can transport a soul to another dimension -- would actually work. As it turns out, it was all true.

What are the movements again?

The five movements are the interpretive dance motions that O.A. and the rest of the prisoners in Hap's dungeon found through their N.D.E.s -- Near Death Experiences -- and were "given" to them by an interdimensional being known as Khatun. It's like Happy Meal toys, or Pokémon cards: Collect all five, and you have the power to travel between worlds. Okay, so, not exactly like Happy Meal toys.

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Homer, where are you? | Netflix

Who is Homer?

When O.A. wakes up in the hospital, the first thing she wants to do is to find Homer -- but who is this guy again? Homer was one of the other four prisoners in Hap's fishtank dungeon in Season 1, who turned out to be an angel like O.A., sent back to Earth after surviving his own N.D.E. After O.A. and Homer used the movements to save a woman's life, Hap left O.A. on the side of the road, saying that he and Homer and the rest of them would do the movements themselves, and Hap would be able to travel to another parallel universe. O.A.'s mission is to find Homer in the next universe, somehow following him and Hap and the rest of the prisoners, presuming they used the movements after O.A. was abandoned, and presuming she can figure out which universe they're in. 

What's with all the Russia stuff?

O.A. originally grew up in Russia as Nina Azarova, the daughter of a powerful oligarch, who lived a life of luxury with her father until an incident from her childhood caused him to send her off to America. While on a bus with other schoolchildren -- the offspring of mafia members themselves -- Nina was pitched into a frozen lake when the bus was sent over the side of a bridge. She was the only survivor, the rest victims of dangerous mafia organization the "Voi," who tried to use the children to intimidate the oligarchs.

Wasn't O.A. blind or something?

Yep! When Nina almost drowned in the freezing water, she had her N.D.E., during which she was transported to a kind of between-place where she met Khatun, who gave her the choice of remaining there (dying) or coming back and living the rest of her life. Nina chooses life, but before she lets her go, Khatun takes her sight, to protect her from the horrors that lie ahead.

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Nina and her foster mother Nancy Johnson. | Netflix

Who is "the boy" that O.A. mentions during the Skype call with her foster mother?

When Nina was living in the foster home in America with her aunt (who was basically selling foreign babies to American parents who wanted to adopt), she waited there for her father to eventually come join her. After he died, she continued living in the home because she had nowhere else to go.

When Abel and Nancy Johnson came to collect the baby boy they had planned to adopt from Nina's shady aunt, they meet Nina instead. Nancy falls in love with her, and they choose her over the boy. In the new dimension of Season 2, it was the boy they'd chosen -- which is why Nancy has no idea who O.A. is. She never would have met her anyway, because in this universe O.A. never lost her vision in a bus crash and grew up happy and rich with her father (hence, the nice ass apartment O.A. walks into in the Season 2 trailer), who also never died when she was a child. This is what O.A. is trying to figure out -- where in her past did her path diverge, creating the universe she was in in Season 1 and the universe she's in now?

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Emma Stefansky is a staff entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @stefabsky.