The OA for Lent — Episode 4: Away

Martin Malzahn
Mar 17, 2017 · 5 min read

“To exist is to survive unfair choices.” — Khatun

Two quick thoughts before the episode summary… 1.) There’s a theory of numerology that some apply to Biblical literature. They believe that some verses, chapters, and books of the Bible are infused with greater meaning than others. For those who subscribe to this idea, halfway points are particularly meaningful.

Episode 4 of The OA, Away, is a middle passage. It is halfway through the series. It has several big reveals including one which occurs halfway through the 64 minute episode at 31–32 minutes: “Knowledge is rumor until it lives in the body.”

2.) As I wrote in response to Victor’s question about why the five left their doors open, I do think there is meaning beyond what we can see. I’m less invested in knowing how this reality works than acknowledging that it does. Viewers will bring their own sense of sacred, mystery, and meaning to the series. This episode is a likely point in the series where the story will fall together or fall apart…

Episode 4 is packed with information and action. The episode begins with Prairie awakening from a second Near Death Experience. Khatun, the veiled woman who acts as a guide in the spirit world, offers Prairie an opportunity to reunite with her father or return to her prison to save the four. She opts to return. Khatun gives Prairie a new name (her third) The OA, the Original; instructions that the captives must work together to find a way out; and a bird to swallow that shows a way of traveling unknown on earth. The OA returns to captivity with her sight restored and recounts her experience to Scott, Rachel and Homer. She tells them they are angels and models a movement that she says is not a way out, but a way in, which will lead to their release from imprisonment.

In present time Jesse asks his sister if their departed mother might be an angel. His sister doesn’t think angels commit suicide.

The BBA inherits a $50,000 life insurance policy from her twin brother. Jesse and Steve help clean out his room at a drug rehabilitation treatment center.

The OA meets Elias, an FBI agent (played by Riz Ahmed — the amazing actor starring in The Night Of), who says that the focus of her recovery should be to heal herself.

Returning to The OA’s story, the four inhale the ‘Devil’s Breathe’ gas Hap uses to knock them out in order to find out what happens when they are taken from their cells. They learn that Hap is recording the sounds of their experience as he repeatedly kills and revives them. The mission of the four: to die awake. After one year of unsuccessful attempts Homer finally succeeds. In an NDE he swallows a sea creature and learns a companion gesture to The OA’s after swallowing the bird.

Martin and Keith react to Episode Four and talk about the afterlife, angels, and more.

1 Kings 19:11–13 The story of Elijah climaxes as he hides in a cave from those who want him dead. Winds, an earthquake, and fire each call forth Elijah’s attention. God is in none of them; but appears instead in a still small voice. We often think of God appearing in technicolor theatrics. Yet, stories of scripture reveal more often God in vulnerability and quiet.

  1. The creators of The OA don’t depict the location of the NDE’s with high production values. What are they communicating with their focus on minimal aesthetics?
  2. What other scripture stories can you think of where God is revealed? What are the stories of your own experience when God is most present? What is the difference of God found in places of weakness versus God found in feats of strength and places of power?
  3. Why does Khatun give oblique instructions rather than simply rescuing the four in captivity?

John 3:1–17 This passage contains the most often quoted passage of the Christian New Testament, John 3:16. “For God so loved the world…” is almost always present at sporting events, revivals, and even on the hand written placards of the homeless. Yet, we often forget that the context of the passage of God’s love occurs in a midnight rendezvous. The nighttime visitor, Nicodemus, seeks spiritual instruction and doesn’t want religious authorities to know that he is asking an outsider for insight. He doesn’t understand Jesus’ message of spiritual rebirth. It is unusual for those Jesus heals or teaches to be given a name. Nicodemus is not only given a name, he also reappears at the end of the Gospel when he pays for Jesus’ burial site; a cave.

  1. What is your one verse summary of The OA so far? Is there a spiritual teaching? What is it?
  2. How are the names of the OA important in the telling of her story?
  1. How important is place in your spirituality? Do you have places in which you feel more connected to God? Are these places easily accessible or do they require effort to arrive there?
  2. Can you think of your experience in a place where time seems to stand still? What qualities of the experience stand out?
  3. What are the ritual practices of your prayer life? Stop to think about the connections between your fingers, hands, and arms. Think of the sequence of movements you make with your neck, head, and eyes. Are the postures and order in which they occur identical or are they spontaneous?

Depending on what part of the country you live in: Soul Cycle, Tai Chi, or Yoga have become exercise phenomena that are ubiquitous with middle age, middle-income households. Though most studios will be ‘exercise only’ (at least in the studios I’ve practiced in) there is also a latent spirituality. Instructors are not preaching Eastern spirituality. However, at the conclusion of sessions, leaders will often offer an image or phrase to guide the day.

Simple Tai Chi Movements

This episode’s spiritual practice is to create your own posture and mantra. Using one of the scriptural passages or the plot of this episode create a simple movement for your body and breath that tells a story. Name this movement. (If you need some help Tai Chi, Dance, Sufism, Davening, and Yoga all reveal the importance of movement in different traditions.)

Please share your suggestions for movements and postures in the comment section below or upload a video with a link.

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The OA for Lent

The OA for Lent is a digital Lenten study guide for the hit Netflix show The OA. Follow along this Lent as we explore the spiritual and religious themes in The OA. Created, written, and edited by Martin Malzahn and Keith Anderson.

Martin Malzahn

Written by

Chaplain & Director of the Center for Religion and Spirituality at Wagner College. Finds power in poetry, cinema, & the practice of faith.

The OA for Lent

The OA for Lent is a digital Lenten study guide for the hit Netflix show The OA. Follow along this Lent as we explore the spiritual and religious themes in The OA. Created, written, and edited by Martin Malzahn and Keith Anderson.