The O.C.: A binge guide to the series
Binge-Watching The O.C.
In the mood for 92 episodes of fancy parties, family drama, and Cohen-y Cohenisms? Check out our guide to all four seasons of The O.C.
You know what’s coming: Welcome to the O.C., bitch! It’s a magical land filled with McMansions, water polo players with shaved chests, Newpsies, Chrismukkah, and most importantly, the Cohens. In its first year, The O.C. introduces us to Ryan Atwood, the bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks — grainy Chino to be more specific — whose entire life changes when his lawyer, Sandy Cohen, becomes his adoptive father. With his new life (of insecurity and paralyzing self-doubt), Ryan gains a brother in the comic book-loving Seth, a love interest in the troubled girl next door, Marissa, and more drama than he ever thought possible. (And by that, we mean Oliver). Buckle up for 27 action-packed episodes! (And when you need a break, we hear the crab and brie phyllo is excellent.)
Best Episode, Season 1: "Pilot"
It’s hard to beat this pilot, which so perfectly draws a world filled with rich characters — often literally — and potential relationships. Seth loves Summer! Ryan’s somehow already part of a love triangle! What is Jimmy Cooper up to? It’s easy to see why Ryan could get in less trouble where he’s from, and we are hooked.
New season, new faces (and new places with the introduction of The Bait Shop)! This year, each of the “core four” gains a new love interest (or in Marissa’s case, more than one). Ryan’s return to Orange County comes with an attitude change: He’s trying to study more and punch less, but that all blows up in his face by season end thanks to his brother’s release from jail. Then there’s the resurfacing of Sandy’s ex, which causes the first real rift between Sandy and Kirsten and launches another heartbreaking arc: Kirsten’s alcohol addiction, which isn’t helped by a generous heaping of Caleb drama.
Best Episode, Season 2: "The Dearly Beloved"
If The O.C. knows anything, it's how to create great drama and how to use music to turn that drama into truly unforgettable moments. This hour is the best example of that when Caleb’s funeral leads to Kirsten’s intervention, and by the end of the hour, Marissa shoots Trey to the tune of Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek.”
Caitlin Cooper’s back, Julie Cooper’s poor, and senior year is, well, complicated. After the shooting, Marissa finds herself in public school, where she meets Johnny, a slightly nicer and definitely more oblivious Oliver. His eventual death drives a wedge between Marissa and Ryan, and by the time they find their way back to each other, Volchok is there to run them both off the road, a shocking moment that ends with Marissa dying in the arms of the man she loves. As for Seth and Summer, the college debate — along with Taylor Townsend — interferes with their happily ever after (but only temporarily).
Best Episode, Season 3: "The Party Favor"
Anna and Theresa are both back and ready to attend senior prom! Add on a drunk summer and the Ryan-Volchok showdown we’ve been waiting all season for, and you’ve got an hour to remember.
What does a Marissa-less Ryan look like, you ask? Well, he looks a lot like a cage fighter. (And not a very good one.) The fourth and final season takes each character through various stages of grief, focusing mainly on the journeys of Ryan — who eventually finds his way back home — and Summer, who’s channeled her love for Marissa into a love of the environment. (Cue Chris Pratt’s entrance as Che!) By the end of the series, the Cohens have another member — and a new/old home in Berkeley — Seth and Summer tie the knot, and Ryan comes full circle: He offers to help a distraught–looking youth who has a thing for bikes and hoodies.
Best Episode, Season 4: "The Night Moves"
In the series’ penultimate episode, an earthquake separates all of the central characters, forcing them to realize what matters most before bringing them all back together and perfectly setting the stage for the show’s final hour.