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Netflix’s mysterious new show, The OA, has a puzzle for theorists to dig into right now

A deep dive into the unknown


Netflix’s new, mysterious series, The OA, will arrive on Friday, but,despite the immediacy of the premiere, there’s still quite a bit that we don’t know.

For example: what is the show even about?

According to Netflix’s brief description of the series on its YouTube page, The OA is “a powerful, mind-bending tale about identity, human connection and the borders between life and death.” The only other detail we know is the show is about believing in and trusting the unknown. The entire series is shrouded in mystery, and despite multiple requests from Polygon, Netflix isn’t about to release any information about the series ahead of its release.

There is a new interactive and intricate Instagram account that holds a few clues about the series. There are a couple of songs, quick voiceovers and interesting clips that, when pieced together, begin to tell a bit of a story. In an attempt to try and figure it out, Polygon dove into the Instagram account and pieced together a few clues.

It’s probably about aliens. Probably.

One of the videos that gives a big clue can be found within this particular grid.


You’ll notice that two of the squares are videos, but the most important one is the post located at the top right of the image, which can be seen below. There isn’t much to glimpse from the actual footage — which features a hand holding a Sonic Screwdriver-like device from Doctor Who. Instead, the focus should be on the words that are spoken between a man and a woman.

“Take me with you,” the woman says. “Study me.”

“Are you sure?” a man responds.

While this conversation is happening, the only other noises we hear are a machine booting up and the sound of a heartbeat. The woman also tells the man that’s what he sounds like and he can’t believe it. All of this seems to point to the unidentified man not being a human being. The easiest explanation: he’s an alien who has happened upon Earth to study humans.

Are you really listening?

A video posted by The OA (@the_oa) on

If that seems like a stretch, let me redirect you to creators Brit Marling (who also stars as the character who appears to be the lead, Prairie Johnson) and Zal Batmanglij’s filmography. In 2011, Marling wrote and starred in the critically-acclaimed independent movie, Another Earth. The film was about the existence of a duplicate Earth and a tragic accident that occurs between two people on the separate planets. Following that, Marling and Batmangliij worked on The East, which didn’t have aliens, but was full of interesting twists. Up until the release of the film, both Marling and Batmangliij worked pretty hard to keep it as much of a secret as possible, too.

In terms of the second video, seen above, there’s not too much to take away from the scene itself, but the caption is interesting. “You’re getting sleepy” could imply a couple of things, but it seems pretty likely that hypnosis will be involved.

Again, hypnosis is a tool that both Batmangliij and Marling know how to use in storytelling. It was used in parts of The East, and sci-fi has used hypnosis as a narrative tool for decades. Everything seems to point to aliens as being one of the main themes that will be brought up in The OA.

I mean, probably.

Memory loss will be a big thing

If you scroll further down the Instagram page, there’s another important section that includes two videos. Like the last block, however, only one of the videos is important. This time around, it’s sitting in the very last row.


In the video, we can see part of Prairie Johnson’s arm and hear the sound of a water dripping into a tub. It’s quiet for a few seconds before she gasps and the clear water turns red. Based on the bigger image that the creative team is building, as seen in the photo above, my best guess is that there are side effects from the abduction.

One of the big themes in sci-fi is memory loss and trying to remember what happened. If you go through each of the photos, there are various captions that allude to this theory. For example, the photo in the second row from the top, in the center of the row, has a caption that simply claims “I don’t know anything,” in response to the question on the photo: “Who did this to you?”


A video posted by The OA (@the_oa) on

The medication that the woman is taking also coincides with the major theme of the trailer that was released on Monday by Netflix. In the trailer, Johnson wakes up in a hospital unaware of where she is or who her family is. Several aspects point to this theory, form the photos of the happy family on the wall, to the medication that she can be seen taking in multiple photos.

The only exception to this theory is that Johnson claims to remember everything that happened over the course of seven years, three months and 11 days when interrogated by police. But, interestingly enough, she never claims to have disappeared. More than anything else, our guess is that the story will focus on Johnson, who thinks she’s remembered everything, while learning that she actually did disappear for some time.

It was all for experimentation

The really interesting aspect of this photo is seeing Johnson inside the same contraption that another unidentified man is seen in just above. If my theory is correct, then that’s the device being used to study human beings. She’s under experimentation that seems to last for years at a time, according to Johnson’s interview with detectives in the bottom video.


There are a couple of major takeaways from this massive collection of images and videos. The first is that the man in the top left corner is definitely connected to the experimentation; his photo is simply captioned “blind ambition.” If we combine this with the conversation between the unseen man and woman about wanting to be studied, it seems fairly obvious that this is his setup. Her desire to be studied could have put her in this contraption for seven years.

The second interesting aspect to this photo are the glimpses at whatever ship or container Prairie’s in. It’s a dark, narrow hallway: it looks insulated in a way that reminds me of a spaceship or an underground container. In the trailer, we saw Prairie float through the forest and run across a bridge, so it’s probably the latter. We can speculate that someone who has disappeared for seven years and comes from a pretty decent home life (based on those smiling family photos) would incite some kind of police investigation. Her container would need to be out of sight — and away from society.

The last facet of the photo that intrigues me is just the makeup of the device that she’s attached to. It’s studying her biological responses, as we can see from the wires that are hooked up to her, but her head is being held separately from the rest of her body. Based on the description of the show — “Trust the unknown” — and these photos, I think there’s a good chance the series is about human unconsciousness more than anything else.

The OA looks like it has the potential to be Netflix’s new Stranger Things or Westworld. Both shows relied heavily on theories and fan involvement, and they succeeded in large part because of that. The OA has a similar setup already going on pre-release. Unfortunately, we won’t know until Friday. The show will be able to binge in its entirety on Dec. 16.