Why Netflix's The OA Is Better Than Stranger Things
Stranger Things is a great show. It seemingly came out of nowhere and for the most part was universally loved. And how could it not be? The show was retro, it was cool, yet it was different, and it surpassed many demographics to be a bonafide hit. But guess what? There's a better show on Netflix that hits the same nerve. And many of you haven't seen it yet.
The OA (starring/co-created by Brit Marling) came after Stranger Things. At least, that is how Netflix released it. So it would be very easy to watch The OA and see it as being behind the curve. And, if you look at both shows from the lens, maybe The OA is. However, if you simply hold up both shows with unbiased, indifferent scrutiny it would be hard not to say that the OA (created by Zal Batmanglij, who also directs) is the better show.
I say this because, taken as a whole, The OA is making statements, asking questions, and exploring themes that are, frankly, too strange for Stranger Things. Again, Stranger Things is a very well done show. However, where the Duffer Brothers scratch the surface of grand ideas, The OA is in and of itself a grand idea.
One of the most interesting things about this show, and something that speaks to the freedom of platforms like Netflix, is just how confusing The OA can be. Stranger Things, even though it is from Netflix, is in many ways everything we have seen before just strung together differently. The OA feels fresh and alive because it takes the idea of traveling through dimensions, and literally makes it something comprehensible and incomprehensible at once. Where Stranger Things takes two dozen movies from the 70s and 80s and puts them in a blender, The OA only hangs itself on the thinnest skeletal remains of The Breakfast Club and Helter Skelter.
So for those of us who have seen both shows, sit back and enjoy 9 Reasons Why The OA is Better than Stranger Things. For those that have seen one but not the other, watch the other and reread this list. And if you haven't seen either show, could you please write your own list of what it's like to live under a rock.
The OA has more sophisticated storytelling.
The first episode of The OA is deliberately baffling. It honestly feels as if Zal Batmanglij and Co. didn't want viewers to have a clue...At first. One literally doesn't know who the star of the show is. Is it the awkward teacher? The girl (Brit Marling) that just returned after being gone for 7 years? Is it the punk kid that loves a girl that will only sleep with him? Just who are we supposed to follow here? Then it zig-zags back and forth between these and other characters, eventually going into a title sequence some time before the first episode ends. It would have been very easy for the show to get simpler from there. It could have told us these people's stories in a faux confusing way. Nope. Not The OA. It stuck with confusion for the rest of the season. Compare that with Stranger Things. The Duffer Brothers have created an incredibly cinematic show. They have underscored this with a soundtrack that perfectly compliments it. However, for all of its solid presentation points, it just isn't showing us anything we haven't already seen. This is part of Stranger Things cachet. In these confusing times that's probably why something so familiar was so well received. The OA is more fluid and as a result it is freer. It can challenge us more. The stories are literally not bound by space and time. As such they are more intricate and, at the same time, gloriously uneven. Brit Marling, who co-created this show, really seems to like having all the characters revel in this.
The OA has a more epic premise.
Stranger Things did a very good job leaving us scratching our heads. The OA does this as well but for two completely different reasons. For whatever questions we might have about Stranger Things, we genuinely know what happened in the beginning, middle and end of the story. We have a solid understanding of who these characters are, their motivations and what we can expect from them. So the questions we have is what will happen to these characters? The OA is a meditation on humanity. Zal Batmanglij seems to be positing the idea that if our energy is harnessed correctly, human beings can literally do ANYTHING. It isn't just about how we interact on the surface. It is about the energy that we have and how that energy plays off itself. From there we see how it expands and allows for inter-dimensional travel. This is simply the premise of the show. It says nothing of what happens with the characters, their complexities and how they play into that premise. You may have liked Stranger Things more. However, from purely a story standpoint, The OA is truly a grand undertaking. And if you've seen Another Earth, which Brit Marling also starred in, then you know that this is a running theme with this actress. The gamble is huge. It isn't a given that it will even pay off. Is there even a pay off for a show that allows characters to die in one scene and then be resurrected through "movements" in another? I honestly don't know the answer. One thing I do know, is that Stranger Things may be grand in its presentation, it just can't compete with The OA on cerebral, transcendent level.