Warning: Spoilers for The OA are ahead.
Netflix’s brand new season of The OA once again involves lots of different dimensions, movements, Prairie being a certifiable badass, and Hap being creepy AF all the time, but it also adds one more interesting layer: a story about a missing girl, Michelle Vu. At first, it appears as if this storyline is coming out of nowhere, because what does a missing girl have to do with the greater story of The OA? But this is The OA we’re talking about, and eventually everything makes sense — trust me. And when you finally realize the greater mystery about the missing girl, Michelle, everything clicks into place. Not only is Michelle missing, but there’s a greater mystery about Michelle. She might be a traveler herself. And Michelle Vu is also Buck from another dimension.
Bear with me on this. Most of the first episode of the season is actually about Michelle’s disappearance. We’re introduced to San Francisco Private Investigator, Karim Washington, who’s been tasked with finding her. This is easier said than done, because Michelle has gotten herself wrapped up with CURI, a mysterious company that’s not just tracking the dreams of patiences in a sleep study, but has also put out an augmented reality game for users to play. And, the purpose of this game is [deep breath] to prepare them to enter and solve the greater puzzle of Nob House, a mysterious property that will basically show you the wonders of the world if you properly solve it, or trap you forever if you fail.
Somewhere along the lines of trying to solve the game, Michelle goes missing. In a security video, we see her open the rose stained-glass window in the attic of the Nob House and it…. well, actually I don’t know what it does to Michelle at first. But it’s got something to do with her, Buck, and OA.
For the entire second season, Michelle and Buck operate separately from one another. They both appear to have no knowledge of dimensions, traveling, or even what The OA is up to (Buck at least knows she’s somewhere else; Michelle is actually in a coma for all of Season 2). This changes at the very, very end of the second season. Karim finally reaches the rose, stained-glass window and on the other side of it sees a new third dimension: a sound stage where the crew is filming a scene that looks startlingly like the location we just left on Treasure Island.
Buck/Michelle is in this dimension — but they’re not Buck/Michelle, they’re “Ian Alexander,” who is actually the actor that plays Buck/Michelle. In this dimension. Jason Isaacs is called “Jason Isaacs” and Brit Marling is called, “Brit.” I turned on the Netflix audio description to confirm this. The narration refers to the actor as “Ian Alexander,” but also says things like “In character, Buck [does this].” This is... widely confusing.
Karim is also really confused, and not at all clued into what’s happening below him. All he knows is that he suddenly spots Michelle’s face. He calls out for Michelle, and Ian turns to look up at the rose window. Ian responds, “in character as Buck,” and starts to climb the ladder up to the set piece of the house on Nob Hill. Karim can see Ian, but Ian can’t see Karim, however, they clearly feel drawn to the location and ascend. Upon reaching the top of the ladder and the window, as soon as these two go to make contact they’re sucked into some dimensional vortex.
Karim finds himself alone in the attic with a view of San Francisco. Meanwhile, Michelle wakes up in Pierre Ruskin’s bed, where she’s been since slipping into a coma.
While Karim and Michelle have clearly just had some sort of connection, it appears as if Buck feels/knows nothing about this as we don’t see him again for the rest of the episode. With the information we have right now, it’s almost impossible to figure out if Buck and Michelle are one in the same — clearly neither one of them has died yet, so they haven’t “traveled.” But Michelle’s now seen and experienced another dimension, and come back to her own. Is she going to retain what she saw and learned from this third dimension, and is it possible she’ll be able to help Karim out? Will she be able to help Prairie? Even Buck?
Also, what exactly happened to Michelle when she opened the rose window? While her body is at Pierre Ruskin’s, her soul is not because it’s still trapped in the house until Karim can basically “free” it. When she wake up, her ears ring just like Hap’s did both times he’s traveled. This implies that Michelle has died/traveled, too, but as far as we know she hasn’t. She’s the same Michelle that’s been missing this entire episode, because she immediately recognizes her grandmother. There's no one new in her body.
So in the end, are Buck and Michelle the same? Yes and no, and a concrete answer is still hard to pindown. They’re in the same body, and now exists across three different dimensions as three completely different characters, unlike Prairie and Hap who are the same through all of them. It’ll be interesting to see if, and when, they ever integrate, or if these three might meet together in a dimension somewhere. It’s possible that Michelle might now hold a key to unlocking the greater mysteries of The OA. We can only hope that Buck makes his way to the rose window, too, for a glimpse on what’s on the other side.