The End Of 'The O.C.': What Did It All Mean?

Last night, we made Doree watch the final episode of The O.C., the show that explains California to New York, even though she hadn't been watching for like two seasons or whatever, so she could 'splain it to us in turn.

So The O.C. has been degenerating for, what, two years now? Something like that. Nonetheless, I thought I should be feeling melancholy for this, the final episode of the most important television show of our time, and so I drank a couple glasses of red wine and ate some cheese before settling in. Here's what went down.

After an earthquake, the Cohens' house was uninhabitable, and the episode takes place six months afterwards, and they're staying in the Roberts' (that is Summer's parents') mansion. Julie Cooper is about to marry a man named Bullit, because Frank (Ryan's dad!) got her pregnant and then left her, and Ryan and Seth try to get the original Cohen family homestead back from the two gays who live there now (and it's in Berkeley), and then Kirsten and Sandy come to Berkeley, too, and then Kirsten has her baby (oh yeah, she's preggers)—in Berkeley—and Julie's about to get married, but she can't do it without Kirsten there. So everyone flies up to Berkeley, thanks to the super-rich Bullit. But then Frank called Kaitlyn (Julie Cooper's other daughter) on her cell phone in the middle of the ceremony, and inexplicably, she answers it and puts him on speakerphone. He proclaims his love for Julie, but then Bullit throws away the cell phone. But then Julie decides not to get married at all! And then the Cohens get to buy the house! And then Summer goes on a bus called G.E.O.R.G.E. (seemed like some sort of activism thing) and has a sad farewell with Seth, and then Ryan and Seth hug goodbye.

Got it?

As I watched, I thought: "Hmm! I used to like Seth—he was so rumpled and charming. Now he seems kind of annoying, and did he always talk out of the side of his mouth like that?"

Then I thought, "Hmm! Maybe it's not Seth who's changed...maybe it's me." Maybe there used to be something endearing—attractive, even—about skinny, sweet, overly sensitive Seth and his oversharing. But last night he just seemed wimpy and boring. At least Ryan was sexy! Ooh, Ryan. Yes, you're nice and muscular! And you just threw Taylor down on that bed and started ripping off her clothes, like a real man. Mmm-hmm!

But overall I was reminded why I stopped watching the show in the first place. What had once been a tender and honest show had become cheesy and convoluted—not to mention tired. And why did it all have to end with Ryan going off in a Six Feet Under ripoff montage, peering into the future? (SPOILER! Seth and Summer get married! Ryan becomes an architect! Sandy is a law professor! Blah blah blah.) Are we supposed to believe that in the end, the show wasn't about Seth and Summer, or Sandy and Kiki, or Julie and Marissa and Kaitlyn—but about Ryan? Disaffected, strong and silent Ryan, the outsider? And seriously, that last shot of him asking a kid—a kid much like himself—if everything was okay was kind of creepy.

It made me think, from here, that the original Sandy-Cohen-picks-up-Ryan thing, which is how it all started, of course, was a little creepy in and of itself. A middle-aged dude approaches a kid who goes to live with them? Weird, right?