Look. You know who got killed off on "The O.C." last night. It's been speculated about and rumored and "accidentally" leaked by "Access Hollywood." If, however, you don't want to know any more, just don't read this posting. Skip it. Come back later. It's really all good. See? I'm even not putting a picture with the post, so you'll totally never know.
"Baby, I've been here before," begins the lyric from Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," the lyric that played as Ryan carried Marissa's body away from the flaming wreckage of his graduation gift from his mother. Just in case we didn't recognize that it was the exact same image that closed Season One's semi-classic "The Escape" episode, which ended with a Marissa drug overdose in Tijuana and forced dozens of tweens to wonder at the time if the series had somehow killed off its most marketed and recognizable actress ("Hallelujah" didn't play in that episode, but at the end of the first season finale as Ryan returned to Chino to briefly be a construction worker and a baby-daddy). That was September of 2003 and Josh Schwartz was smart enough to know that he couldn't REALLY kill off Mischa Barton because Adam Brody and Rachel Bilson had yet to prove their star power and Ben McKenzie couldn't carry the show himself. Flash forward three years and again, Schwartz was smart enough to recognize the utter disposability of Marissa, a character who had gone through too many roller coaster loops of alcoholism, depression and recovery. The only thing that could have happened if she'd stuck around was a repetition of the exact same themes.
It ended up being about the most prolonged death ever. Since Marissa decided early on to take work peeling potatoes on a passenger yacht with her unseen father and she was already set to leave that night, everybody got to have several tear-filled goodbyes with her. Given that the show probably doesn't have more than one more season in it anyway, dead or on a cruise for a year, it basically amounted to the same thing -- Mischa Barton was going off to discover the difficulties of pursuing a film career with minimal range. So be it. So everybody kept hugging her and remembering past moments with her. Just doing a clip show and calling the episode, "The One Where Marissa's Shockingly Killed Off" would have worked the same way and been a bit cheaper.
I have to say that in terms of the death itself, Marissa deserved better. The Surf Nazi was a bad character from Day One. He was badly wedged into the plot with Johnny (R.I.P.) and badly wedged into the plot with Sadie (Where are you now, Sadie?) and then he got grafted onto a plot with Marissa. But the idea that the character was this hair-trigger psychotic, rather than just a weak hoser doesn't wash with me. If Marissa died, it had to be drunk driving. It had to be another drug overdose. It had to be Crazy Oliver escaping from the loony bin with a gun. And since they went to the trouble of mentioning Oliver in the episode, it almost would have worked. But Volchak nudging Ryan's car off the road with the precarious flip and obligatory explosion? Bah! Give me something shocking! A pane of glass slicing Marissa's head clean off? Not only would it have been brilliant, but FOX could have used it as a promotional opportunity for the remake of "The Omen." Or maybe she could have suddenly started vomiting blood and Dr. House could have come in, shrugged his shoulders and said, "You've got me" and walked out. Heck, Bernie Mac, in his final act of revenge for the way FOX treated his sitcom over the years (before finally cutting the chord on Thursday) could have gone on a Mac Attack of some sort. Ended things with a bang. But the Surf Nazi? Why even give him the pleasure? Plus, I can't help but feel like Ryan's Mother is going to blame herself for the whole thing. Why did she give Ryan a cheap used car? Surely she must have known that the Cohens would have given him an expensive hybrid of some sort before he headed off for college? Sigh. And then Marissa couldn't just die of a broken neck. She had to suffer massive internal bleeding, go pale, twitch for a few minutes and force Ryan to hover over her waiting. That's not convenient. Plus, Ryan really got off light. He's gonna be tormented as heck.
The ultimate irony? Mischa was looking really good her last few episodes, not at all anorexic. The bikini chicken fight? Classic! That, like Mischa's arbitrary school girl outfit a couple weeks back, is just brilliant writing. Well, maybe "brilliant" is the wrong word.
The teaser at the end of the episode promises lots of changes for next year including, obviously, a full-time role for Willa Holland as Mini-Cooper (I liked the "since my B's became A's, I was hoping you could make my A's, B's" line). Funny how 15-year-old girls can just ditch boarding school at their own leisure and whatnot. There's also the sense that Taylor, once again largely funny, is going to truly enter the inner circle next year, which may be a mistake. Her part should be kept as it is, appealing and limited. And is Sandy going back to work as a public defender a tacit confession that absolutely everything they've done to his character since Season One has been a big mistake?
My final thought on the "O.C." finale is that Schwartz took the whole "harkening back to earlier episodes" thing a little too much on the nose. The last few episodes, in fact, have all been bathed in nostalgia, nostalgia for that brief period before FOX decided to move the show to Thursdays and left it as a sacrificial lamb, using the endlessly viable excuse "Well, it does better than anything else we'd had there for years." That's true and I've been a very good boy, keeping up and whatnot. But with the addition of "Grey's Anatomy" to the slot next season (I'll continue to assume that "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" will eventually go elsewhere), I may need to buy a new TV or else Schwartz and company will have to give me a reason to stick around.
Hey Josh, you know what would be a great idea for next season? A 'Muppet Babies' version of the show!!!