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The OC’s most controversial twist “came from the top” to get season 4

When it comes to the most divisive plot twist in 2000s drama series The OC, executive producer Stephanie Savage revealed that the order came from Fox.

marissa in the oc

Welcome to The OC, bitch. 20 years on, The OC remains one of the most iconic (and quotable) teen shows ever, but even the best TV series have some controversial moments. Set in affluent Newport Beach, The OC followed troubled teen Ryan Attwood (Ben McKenzie) as he adjusted to life under the care of the wealthy Cohen family and navigated high school along with his adoptive brother Seth (Adam Brody) and their friends Marissa (Mischa Barton) and Summer (Rachel Bilson).

Although The OC was rich with plot twists, one of its most controversial moments came in season 3, when series regular Marissa was sensationally killed off.  In a retrospective with Vanity Fair, showrunner Josh Schwartz and executive producer Stephanie Savage explained how the game-changing twist came to be — and whether they regretted it.

“It’s something that we regret, and looking back on it, we wish we could have come up with a different solution,” Schwartz explained. “We didn’t see an alternative path at the time, which is why we went down that road. But obviously in hindsight, there were lots of other ways we could have written the character off the show—and given Mischa the break that she needed and wanted—that still would’ve allowed for that character to return.”

He continued, “When Marissa shot Trey, everyone was very upset in a way that was fun to experience. They were shocked, and I heard from parents who said their kids were crying about what had happened. Ultimately it was the reaction you wanted to get out of the audience. And when we saw the reaction after Marissa died from that audience, it did not feel good. It did not feel like that audience had been served or respected in the way that we always wanted and aimed to. Immediately, we had regret at that point.”

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Echoing Schwartz’s words, Savage added that there was a degree of pressure coming from higher-ups to secure the show’s future. “We were […] under tremendous pressure to do something with that level of drama,” she explained. “Killing a series regular came down from the top. If we wanted a season four, we’d have to do something like that.”

Unfortunately, due to declining ratings, The OC was ultimately canceled after its fourth season. But you can watch all four seasons of The OC now on streaming services Apple TV Plus and Amazon Prime Video. When you’re done with those, be sure to check out everything new on Apple TV Plus and new on Amazon Prime.

Or, immerse yourself into even more teen drama with our guides to theHeartstopper season 3 release date, Ginny and Georgia season 3 release date, and XO Kitty season 2 release date.