Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij have offered fans fresh hope that their beloved sci-fi show The OA could return to screens one day.
Speaking in an interview with NME ahead of their new show A Murder At The End Of The World, the creative duo reverted to an extended metaphor about seeds, plants and gardening – something both have commonly adopted in interviews when discussing the creative process.
The OA was cancelled in 2019 after just two seasons, having originally been written as a five-season story arc by Marling – who also starred in the show – and Batmanglij. The abrupt ending meant the show concluded on a spectacular cliffhanger, leading to worldwide fan protests and even a hunger strike outside Netflix’s LA headquarters.
“We’ve just started tending to the garden again, and so we’re watering, and we’re letting the sun hit the plants, and moving some of the plants so they get more of the sun,” Batmanglij explained. “But we stay neutral. We’re just gardeners side by side, Brit and myself, just gardening. And you know, OA 3 is a plant that is sitting there too, you know? We don’t think she’s dead. She’s just dormant.”
Marling continued the theme, referring to seeds that retain the potential for life, even in land destroyed by factory farming. “And so I think about OA sometimes that way; that right now she’s just a dormant seed in a desert landscape,” she told NME. “But conditions can change, you never know. And that seed, even though she’s dormant right now, can blossom again. Who knows what’s coming, right? I mean Twin Peaks came back, so anything’s possible.”
Marling and Batmanglij’s new limited series, A Murder At The End Of The World – renamed after initially being launched as Retreat – is a modern twist on the whodunit genre, set at a billionaire’s retreat in Iceland. The show sees Andy, an anxious tech mogul played by Clive Owen, invite a handful of great minds from various fields of expertise to attempt some solutions to humanity’s biggest problems. When one of them is found dead, amateur sleuth and true crime writer Darby Hart attempts to find out the truth, and the world of the show begins to unravel.
The pair had been contemplating a fresh take on a murder mystery four years ago, when a mutual friend told them about a tech retreat they’d attended. “It felt like the right time to do a modern, grounded version of the genre,” Marling said. “And then within that, Darby Hart as a character just formed very quickly and radically, and was a very vivid person between Zal and I – we found that the story came naturally when we thought about it singularly from Darby’s perspective.”
Marling also spoke about some of the themes explored in A Murder At The End Of The World, including the misogyny coded into classic detective shows. “And we felt like, okay, we want to do something in the murder mystery genre, but how do people like us inhabit that genre? Well, we have to completely turn it on its head.
“We have to take the young woman off the ground and give her clothes, and give her autonomy and identity; to stand her up and see if we can give her authority, and animate her to solve the crime, and explore the ways in which, when that young woman arrives at a crime scene, she might actually identify more deeply with the victim, and thinking more about the life that was lost, rather than the dark creativity of the killer.”
Addressing the new show’s exploration of late-stage capitalism, Batmanglij said both creators felt they had no choice but to address humanity’s biggest crises in their work. “People sort of roll their eyes when you talk about it, but it’s actually just the reality of what we’re living in, and we would be crazy not to talk about it in every single story we make. It’s that and the climate crisis. How can anyone tell a story these days without addressing the climate crisis?” he told NME.
“We felt the same thing with The OA – how could you make something without dealing with these mass shootings that are happening? How can we leave the things that are shaping our lives on the table, and just make stories about characters that don’t really stand for anything, don’t really experience anything?”
Batmanglij also felt there were similarities in writing both shows, explaining that he and Marling “basically wrote a novel, which is this story, and then we adapted it for the screen, and then we shot it”, adding: “It’s kind of like the first season of The OA – you know we always planned The OA as a set of novels, it had a novelistic feel, and that experience and this experience feel very similar to me, in the sense that it was fun to write a beginning, middle and end.”
A Murder At The End Of The World is available to stream now on Hulu and Disney+