“So many people watched the show, like it was sort of in the upper range of their midrange shows, which was for Netflix, huge numbers,” Marling says. “It used to be that a show on broadcast would maybe get canceled if like 1 or 2 million people watched it, but you could have a show on Netflix that upwards of 20 million people watched, and somehow when the business model changed there, it just didn’t quite fit their new economies of scale.”
That created what Marling calls a “complicated dissonance” where she could go all over the world and meet people “whose devotion to the story is deep, and then to not be able to finish the narrative for them.”
Neither subscriber numbers nor fan momentum moved the needle—Netflix did not change its mind—but the fan base remained. There are still Reddit subs dedicated to the series. The original Save The OA Discord is no longer active, Paris says, but a new one called Angel Neurosis launched this summer where fans talk about OA, Murder at the End of the World, and the work of Marling and Batmanglij.
Next March, there will be an online conference dedicated to discussing the show as it relates to topics spanning Homer’s Iliad, LGBTQ+ representation, ontology, the metaverse, and dance. It’s a demonstration that sometimes fan dedication doesn’t show up in viewership numbers, and while that was also true for Firefly, My So-Called Life, and scores of other canceled shows, the perception that streamers will just focus on good enough shows with decent ROI can have an impact on how loyal those same viewers are to the streamers themselves.
“In recent years it feels like Netflix has become an impenetrable fortress in terms of how it interacts with its viewership as a whole and series fans in particular,” says Marisa Hates, a film scholar at the University of Brighton and one of the organizers of the upcoming OA conference. “We’re all left to wonder why wonderfully innovative and popular shows are canceled.”
Those fans may never know why Netflix axed The OA (the company didn’t respond to a request for comment on this story), but as the streaming wars plod on, all of the services are going to need to do more to get and keep viewers. As Batmanglij and Marling take their new show to Hulu, it’s likely their most devoted fans will follow them. Maybe. “This is so silly, but I’m scared I’m not going to love [A Murder at the End of the World],” Paris says. “Or, rather, I was really scared, and then they finally released a trailer, and I was like, ‘Oh, this feels OA-ish.’”