Season 1, Episode 27
Date of airing: May 5, 2004 (FOX)
Nielsen ratings information: 10.72 million viewers, 6.7/10 in Households, 4.7/12 with Adults 18-49
There is something particularly sad about this episode, making this the most tearjerking of them all (at least of the first season). Maybe it’s because of all the goodbyes and soft drama plot points, or maybe it’s the way this episode was written to round-up the season, instead of trying to force one cliffhanger out of the next one. Ryan left Newport Beach the way he arrived — in the same clothes, in the same manner of looking at Marissa, about to get picked up by a car, with the sunlight behind her as he was being driven out of the driveway, by telling Seth he’s “gotta jet” and giving him back the map of the Pacific Ocean. Ending the season like it began gives these 27 episodes a wholesome feeling, and it’s like a true ending of a story you decided to begin and go through, and just in case there will not be a continuation, you at least got to witness the ending of this chapter. In a way, THE O.C. is a perfect one-season show. The final minutes served well as a potential series finale, and you don’t even need to know what happens to the characters after they’ve been planted into a sorta-hell reality. The characters started off their existence in an unimportant and unexciting moment of their lives, and Ryan slowly changed that with his arrival a year ago. Marissa was saved multiple times by Ryan, so of course she is back into her life of hell when he disappears (she starts drinking again, the sadness has returned into her life, and if Ryan won’t be around for the summer, chances are she will try to kill herself again and this time there is no Ryan to find her and bring her to safety); Seth was given an exit out of his lonely shell last year, and now that Ryan is leaving, he is going back into solitude; and Summer isn’t even involved in any of this, like she was not when Ryan first arrived. The characters have returned to where they were at the very beginning of the show. Like I said, the season is whole. It’s a perfect ending. Serialized shows barely finish a season on top like the first season of THE O.C. (and the fifth season of AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.), so we can all rise and applaud the writers’ choice to end the season with.
Of course, I was almost tearing up, when Ryan and Marissa danced during the wedding, and of course I was tearing up just a little when Seth was reminiscent about who he was before Ryan’s arrival, which were words Summer could do nothing with but understand fully, and of course I teared up when Kirsten cried her eyes out in the pool house, and of course my heart broke a little when it almost seemed obvious that Seth has been broken as well, and the thought of Summer being his girlfriend could cheer him up. It’s like he already made the decision to get on his boat and sail into the open, because there was no way he could sequester himself into his room once again, living the life he lived before Ryan arrived. He knows how terrible that life was, and he knows he never wants to live that life again. Not even with Summer happening to be in it right now. It was hard and emotional to see that the characters did not get to live a more fully and happier life, now that Ryan has given them something they have never dreamt of, but here they are with broken hearts, beaten down, ready to give up again.
But yeah, the way to those final moments of the episode was a bit too soapy for my taste. For about ten minutes or so, Theresa made the decision to have the kid, then to abort the pregnancy, and then to have the baby after all, because she can’t not have it. The back and forth was wild for a young woman like Theresa, and it seemed inconsistent, or just worthy of twists, because it’s what the writers needed to get Ryan out of Newport, but to not have it look like that ten minutes into the episode. In fact, it took the episode close to 20 minutes to tell the viewers where the finale of this season will be heading, because there was no chance that a season finale with a wedding reception will be a happy-go-lucky and cheerful episode.
Hell, the music producers even chose a somewhat sad and melodramatic song for the wedding dance, showcasing what the second half of the episode really was about. I don’t think using “Maybe I’m Amazed,” especially the way Jem covered it, was the best way to convey the message that this wedding was supposed to bring fun, but who knows, maybe even Julie and Caleb have come to realize that everything they have touched turned to crap, so they at least could give their “friends” a moment to reflect on the tiny dance floor. Oh, you are sad that these two have promised to love each other until their last remaining day on this planet? Well, so are we. Welcome to hell, my friends, because that is where Julie and Caleb have led us to.
By the way, mentioning that Caleb is going to be broke after the DA was done with him over Caleb’s Newport businesses seemed like the only real mention of a potential second-season storyline. The writers really applied some strength by making this episode seem like it could also be the final episode of the entire series, and this after THE O.C. turned out to be a ratings winner on FOX, and a second season was pretty much a formality. Maybe it’s a good idea to not watch the rest of the show at all and just let the first 27 episodes live in my mind. I faintly remember the second season, which I have watched only once (the first season however probably five times or so), and I know that the rest of the show couldn’t keep up with the surprise that was the first season. But man, Olivia Wilde… Although it wasn’t even her character whom I was always reminiscing about when thinking about the second season fo THE O.C. There was Lindsay after all, who should have been a regular in the next season.