Can Fans Save ‘The OA’? They're Pushing The Boundaries Of What A Rescue Campaign Can Be
On Aug. 5, Netflix announced that cult-favorite sci-fi series The OA wouldn't be renewed for a third season after a cliffhanger ending for Season 2, which dropped in March. It spurned fan outrage on a level that surpassed most rescue campaigns, but can fans save The OA? They're really going above and beyond for the tiny show that takes huge swings.
As Anglea Watercutter reports for Wired, what makes The OA's fan campaigns unique is their willingness to go offline to ensure their message is heard. The general course of action for shows that have met an untimely end is for fans to make a huge deal about it on Twitter, in online petitions, and in any other form of viral digital protest they can manage. But The OA's fans are staging IRL protests to get Netflix's attention with an interesting dual effect. Showing up with your physical body to stage a flash mob or go on a hunger strike suggests a deeper commitment to purpose than firing off a tweet. But it also "[speaks] in the language the streamer understands: viewership numbers," as Watercutter puts it.
"This shows a deep understanding of how TV works now," she writes. "They believe the streaming giant didn't do enough to promote their show, so they're doing it themselves."
The OA creators Brit Marling (who also stars in the series as its titular angel) and Zal Batmanglij originally pitched Netflix execs a five season arc for the show, according to IndieWire.
"The OA is fantastic," Netflix Vice President of Original Series Cindy Holland said in a promising July 2018 interview, ahead of Season 2. "We were really excited and sat at the edge of our seats when they started talking about Season 2. I’ve seen some early cuts and the fans will be very happy."
But despite Netflix's apparent enthusiasm for the quality of the show, it remained a niche title, and its gorgeously made episodes didn't draw enough of an audience for the streamer to continue the series.
A common refrain from The OA's Season 1 reviews was that the show played out more like a seven-hour movie split up into episodes, rather than a season of television. But Marling and Batmanglij said in a 2016 Variety interview that that was by design. "The OA is one long story being released in chunks," IndieWire noted, "rather than a developing narrative that shifts to a new direction after each season." Marling and Batmanglij referred to it as "a riddle." It's entirely possible that this genre-smashing work of television was just a little too ahead of its time to resonate with audiences on a large scale.
In the meantime, fans are doing everything they can to bring awareness to the show in the hopes of resurrecting it. Last month, #SaveTheOA organized two flash mobs of people performing the "movements" from the show: one staged in front of Netflix's Los Angeles headquarters, and one staged in front of a #SaveTheOA billboard in Times Square, paid for by a #SaveTheOA GoFundMe. Fans also picketed the Netflix LA offices, with one protestor's sign revealing that she was on a hunger strike. The show's Change.org petition has nearly 85,000 signatures.
On Aug. 28, Variety reported that a potential plan to give The OA a wrap-up movie à la Sense8 had also fallen through, so for now, it seems like there's a very long road to resurrecting the show, if fans can get there at all.