The newly-released Netflix series "The OA" hooked me in because in the first episode, the OA (aka Prairie Johnson) talks in a very Yoda-like manner, profound and philosophical. For instance here's what she tells Steve in the mall:

Well, it's okay. You don't want to go there until your invisible self is more developed anyway.... You know, your longings, the desires you don't tell anyone about.... You spend a lot of time on the visible you. It's impressive. But she probably thinks the invisible you is missing.... That's stuff on the outside, though. What about the stuff on the inside?

And here's what she tells Ms. Winchell while pretending to be Steve's mother:

Well, it's not really a measure of mental health to be well-adjusted - in a society that's very sick.... What was your first reason? ... Why did you become a teacher? ... But it is. It's about you and Steve, and the play, cast of two, setting, classroom, over many dimensions through time.... Maybe Steve can't learn because you lost track of your reason.... Betty Maybe I can help you remember. You lost someone. Someone important to you.I lost someone important to me, too. Who'd you lose? ... Was it your first love? Or a parent? Someone you loved young? A sibling? ... You're right. This dimension is crumbling to violence and pettiness and greed, and Steve is sensitive enough to feel it and he's angry. He's angry and he's lost. And in order to find him, you'd have to teach yourself again, and you decided somewhere along the way that you were done learning. It's it's too painful to stay open. Well, I think we all face the same hopelessness, Mrs. Winchell. It's what we decide to do with it. You're right. So what are you gonna do? If you want to do your job, expel the bully. Focus on the kid who sings like an angel even though he doesn't need you. If you want to be a teacher, teach Steve. He's the boy you can help become a man. He's the one you lost. He's your first reason.

But in subsequent episodes, both in flashback and in the present day, she doesn't really seem possessed of much wisdom or insight. Her therapy sessions, for instance, do not feature any discussion of invisible selves and sensitivity to the inherent violence of the world.

In any case, my question is, where did the OA acquire the wisdom that she displays in the first episode?

Is it the transformation she experienced after swallowing the bird, thereby changing from Prairie to the OA and learning the first movement? That would be my default assumption, but she doesn't really speak with much wisdom in the flashbacks subsequent to that moment. The only insight she offers after that moment is that the people who have had a near death experience are angels.

3 Answers 3


Not to be demeaning, in any way whatsoever, but I think that there is a fatalistic flaw in the assumption of the question that eloquence of existential thought is a form of learn-ed wisdom that is atypical of the rational mind.

With or without her consumption of the light creature when in the other realm, I think that The OA (Prairie) has insight. She was raised intensely as a private-school educated child, a clear Violin virtuoso, and with a physical fortitude (the icy lake scene, and the survival of the bus crash) that most adults would be envious of.

Even if she was raised for months or years in a brothel, and then lived blindly as a suburbanite with common education; she is of a transcendent mind, as the show suggests and reflects.

Most of what she states is -- albeit elegant -- a simply beautiful collection of existentially egalitarian and respectful insights. Instead of seeing Steve "the bully", she contextualizes Steve as "the tumultuous". He's literally tumbling, stumbling, and crashing through life. He's in love, but he won't admit it, and he lets his heart get broken. Instead of admitting it, he smashes, literally, his perceived rival. He wants to exist and be noticed, but instead of doing good and learning and participating in the world, he feels -- justifiably, if arguably short-sighted -- that the world is disrespectful and indifferent to him, if not downright distrustful, so why should he put is faith in it and stick it out?

What The OA says is wise, it is wisdom, for sure, but I don't think it is necessarily a kind of wisdom that is unattainable without education or supernatural ability. I think that's kind of the point. In the first episode, she is presented simply and concisely, if vaguely, as someone with simple but blunt insight. She's kind to the dog and it doesn't attack her; is this because she's an angel, or because the dog's "owners" would beat and threaten and manipulate the dog to be vicious to the point of a seeming loyalty, and yet with kindness and patience and a lack of fear and a display of self-assuredness, The OA could "bite" the dog (read: speak its language) and bring each other into the same plane of emotionality and respect. It's a TV Show, of course, but still, there's a kind of naturalism to everything she says and does.

So yes, while it's clearly a kind of transcendental wisdom that she appears to possess, I think the broader explications of the show are about how easy it can/could be to obtain this kind of wisdom in every one, in everyday life.

It is sourced from the writers of the show, obviously, but within the context of the show, I think that the real idea is that wisdom is simply another name for perspective and respect. If you took the time to step outside of yourself, step beyond the confines of your life's worries and anxieties and pressures and frustrations, and if you carried patience and respect and honesty with you, you (anyone) could find a kind of transcendental wisdom. It's a central aspect of most religious, faith-based, or practical spiritualities; the notion that enlightenment in this life is an attainable characteristic of goodness, rooted usually in notions of truth and love and patience.

I think that is the wisdom you are seeing her display, and I don't think it has (or needs) an extra-normal explanation.


You suggest that it might have been the swallowing of the bird that gave her this 'verbosity' - but I'm not sure it really stands, as in many of the other scenes post-bird-eating (in fact, the bulk of the show which is not a flashback) she does not speak in this manner.

I felt it was one of the TV show's weaknesses. We also don't find out what happened to her in between being dumped at the side of the road by Hap and jumping off the bridge.

Obviously, we knew that the bridge-jump was coming, but it isn't clear how much time elapses before that happens. Perhaps she had another NDE. It still wouldn't describe why she had these two random outbursts of faux-sage sermonising, and then cease them altogether.

So my answer is that I hope there is a Season 2 and that it will explain!

  • 3
    I think the real explanation may simply be that when they were developing the pilot, they had the idea of making her profoundly wise, and then after the pilot was picked up they dropped the idea in the subsequent episodes. Jan 18, 2017 at 14:42
  • @KeshavSrinivasan I disagree a bit. I think the idea of her being or becoming a conduit to the universe(s) [so far] relies on not being in control of when and what sensory or transidental information she recieves--and that might include changes in laungages or speech patterns---Also in some rare real life NDE or people waking up from comma expiriences, sometimes the person may know a laungage never learned. So I think the show is playing with it intentionally, despite not being able to pinpoint modes. cnn.com/2016/10/24/health/teen-spanish-new-language-trnd/… Nov 20, 2017 at 20:31

Turning my comment into an answer, I think the idea is that Prairie is a conduit for "cosmic knowledge" and that knowledge extends itself into "other selves" that live across a multiverse, in which there are clusters of close parallel universes, and universes more far removed, as explained in season 2 by another more seasoned fellow traveler.

Prairie is not always in control of when she gets this cosmic sensory information, but because it's coming from elsewhere (and in various ways: random thoughts, actions/mystics in NDEs, Dreams, etc) and is a metaphysically transcending process, the difference in language or speech patterns is a way to emphasize and differentiate that mysterious whole BIGGER picture, because it's all Prairie and "not Prairie" at the same time.

In fact season two was in part about Prairie coming to terms with her counterpart Nina, because as Homer exposes at the beginning of the season, Prairie had no compassion for Nina, seemingly being afraid of her. Prairie learns at the end of the season how to embrace Nina and find commonality. Prairie also learns how knowing Nina, helps her to become stronger and more knowledgeable about herself. As they say, knowledge is power.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .