‘The OA’: Let’s Talk About Homer’s NDE and What It Means for The Mythology

     March 23, 2019

Be aware there are spoilers for Season 1 and Season 2 of The OA.

Poor, sweet Homer (Emory Cohen) just can’t catch a break. No matter what dimension The OA travels to, it seems like everyone’s favorite puppy-dog-eyed angel boi just keeps getting screwed over. In Part I, Homer was Hap’s captive, trapped in a glass cell for years and used as a pawn to manipulate his fellow cellmates. In Part II, The OA takes its characters to another dimension, but unlike the rest, Homer’s consciousness doesn’t travel with him, introducing us to a new spin on the character — one from a dimension where he never had a near death experience, where he was never kidnapped by Hap, but idolizes Dr. Percy, as he calls him, and seeks his approval as a mentor.

However, even if Homer can’t recognize their new dimension, it’s intrinsically tied to him — it’s the dimension we visited during Homer’s Part I NDEs. Which is one heck of a revelation for a show that built its entire first season around the mystery of whether these dimensions even really existed in the first place. But Part II makes it clear: yep, they’re real and now we’re traveling through them in an epic novelistic fantasy from the wild imagination of creators Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij.

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Image via Netflix

If there’s one thing the finale makes clear, it’s that we’re just starting to see the insane directions they’re going to take the series, but stepping inside Homer’s NDE dimension marks a crucial step forward in understanding the mythology of the series, so let’s take a look at exactly what it means. For clarity, I’ll refer to Part I as the “Lavender Dimension” and Part II as the “Orange Dimension”, and I’ll refer to the Homer from the Lavender Dimension as “Homer”, and the Homer from the “Orange Dimension” as Dr. Roberts. Whew, got all that? Then let’s proceed.

Much of Homer’s narrative in Part I was built around his and OA’s attempts to escape Hap’s clutches, something they eventually realized they would have to go through their NDEs and the Five Movements. They spent years trying to figure out how to stay awake through Hap’s experiments, slowly getting closer to the truth. Before we actually see his NDE, we hear it. Homer plays a tape with his name on it and hears someone telling him: “Your name is not Homer… Look at me. Do you know Dr. Roberts?”

Soon after, Homer finally succeeds and we witness the world of his NDE for ourselves. After drowning in Hap’s machine, Homer wakes up in an unidentified crawl space that serves as his “tunnel” to another side. Surrounded by pipes and insulation, Homer crawls through an unidentified ceiling space when an arm reaches up through the panels and grab at him. Since Prairie sent him with a mission to eat a living creature, he lunges for a spider that crawls past and ends up falling through the ceiling.

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Image via Netflix

He lands on the floor of a white bathroom, where the urinals are overflowing with grotesque neon sewage. Pulling a pink jacket from the trash, he makes his way into the sprawling sterile corridors, running from an unseen assailant, who chases him down the halls. When he reaches the end, he walks into a room with a view of the San Francisco Bay and spots a giant five-sided fish take that looks almost identical to Hap’s prison cells.

Just before he runs out of time, Homer grabs a sea anemone from the fish tank and swallows it whole, choking down the creature, its glowing tendrils twisting outside his mouth. It’s an essential step towards their escape, giving the group the second movement — which allows them to bring Scott back from the dead, receive the third movement, and so on. At the time, fans speculated that perhaps Homer was visiting purgatory — after all, it was far from the celestial plane OA visited in her NDEs and between the chasing, the leaking urinals, and the arm aggressively reaching for him, it seemed like kind of a bummer place to be.

But as we learn in Part II, it wasn’t heaven or hell or anything in between — it was an entirely new dimension and the place that our key characters travel to in the new season. Since Homer’s consciousness doesn’t jump with the rest of the group, Dr. Roberts is completely unaware that there’s another version of himself crawling around the ceiling. But OA puts it together immediately. “That’s you up there,” she says and Dr. Roberts can’t conceal his bemused smile. To test her theory, he climbs up on the table and reaches up through a panel — yep, that was Homer’s own arm reaching for him in Part I. “You described that exact moment to me,” OA explains. “You said a hand was reaching out to grab you, we just didn’t know that hand was your own.”

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Image via Netflix

Finally, in one of the series more comical indulgences, Darmi (Bria Vinaite) bursts in and seals up all the missing links in a cheeky bit of dialogue: “A patient in his underwear and a pink coat is running around the halls. He’s pretty fast, Diego can’t catch him. Also, we got a bit of a plumbing issue happening.” And Lavender Dimenson’s Homer would be fast — after all, he’s a championship football player.

Their NDEs were never glimpsing the afterlife, they were offering peeks into alternate dimensions — with an important wrinkle: they’re not just looking into another dimension, they’re looking into the future of that dimensions. That’s key because it means that the Lavender Dimension Homer from roughly 2011 is running around in the Orange Dimension institution in the year 2016 while his other self is right there. Could we eventually see past versions of the characters interact with themselves? The concept of jumping into the future becomes even more important after OA’s visit with Old Night, who kills her just long enough to glimpse her future in yet another dimension — seemingly the one they jump into in the finale episode. You know, the one where OA is an actress named Brit Marling shooting a series called The OA. Honestly, what even is this show?

It’s confusing, that’s what it is. And while Homer’s NDE is the key to understand crucial elements from both Part I and Part II, it also open up a whole new box of mysteries. After all, we heard in Homer’s NDE recording that the hospital employees didn’t recognize his face. That’s a bit confusing since we see that Nina’s pictures look exactly the same between dimensions and that the fellow travelers recognize each other. Do travelers wear different faces in different dimensions, or was it a Clark Kent in glasses situation? Is it possible the hospital staff simply not recognize Homer without his beard? Bit of a stretch, but it’s something we’re likely going to see come into play again when we see how OA’s Old Night NDE plays out in yet another dimension.

For now, at least we know what purpose the NDEs serve and what exactly they’re seeing during their moments of death — dimensional travel, a peek at the future, and gimpses into the other worlds that don’t require Hap to grow a human garden in his lab. But that’s a whole other can of worms!

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Image via Netflix

TLDR? Here’s the short version: The NDEs in Part I weren’t glimpsing the afterlife, they were glimpsing other dimensions; specifically the future of other dimensions. When Prairie jumped at the end of the first season, she jumped into the dimension of Homer’s Part I NDE, as did Hap and his captives at the start of Part II. In the episode ‘Treasure Island’, we see those realities collide when Prairie and Dr. Roberts hear Homer crawling through the ceilings. That means two versions of the same character can exist in the same dimension at the same time, and could possibly even cross paths.

Which is exactly what might be coming our way in the future. In Episode 4 of Part II, ‘SYZYGY’, Old NIght strangles OA so that she can glimpse her own future in another dimension — seemingly the real world-adjacent dimension we glimpse in the Part II finale where OA is Brit Marling filming a television series The OA (ouch, my brain).

The OA Part II is now streaming on Netflix. Be sure to sound off in the comments with your best theories.

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