Saturday, September 24, 2005

The End of Innocence

That’s the great thing about this place…nothing ever happens.

I’ve stared at a blank computer screen for about the last ten minutes wondering how I should start this off. I like the above quote so much that it needs to be up there, though I’m not sure how to connect it with anything.

So I’ll just leave it there and move on. Just know that I like it.

Anyway, welcome back to another week of teen angst, parental melodrama, quick quips, and the most heartwarming family moments this side of Danny Tanner and the bunch.

And that’s all complimentary, I’m serious. It sounds pretty silly looking at that, you know? How can something successfully combine those elements into an hour of good television?

Well, The O.C. did it with “The End of Innocence.”

That’s not to say that the episode was perfect because it wasn’t. There are several flaws, including one glaring problem, that we’ll get to eventually. But overall, it was good.

Maybe it wasn’t good in the traditional sense. There were no big moments from Ryan where he knocks someone out, and there were no moments where Seth hit a real zinger of a one-liner. But there was gut-level writing, writing that hit on every emotion and that tugged on the heart strings. There were winning storylines, one that was bright and airy, another that was passionate. And it had an ending that we’ll likely all remember for a long time. I know that it’s already on my list of favorite scenes ever.

Sandy and Kirsten…

This story almost frustrated me. I had a feeling I was going to hate it. When Kirsten bought the bottle of vodka and Sandy was trying to find her, I had a sudden flashback to season two. I knew that they’d already had an episode where Kirsten gets drunk and Sandy has to find her and I figured they might do it again because let’s face it – this show is in love with itself. If any show is going to recycle a plotline and think it’s a good idea, it’s this one. Unfortunately, fans don’t always respond with a positive attitude.

And so the story took a turn. A simple one, to be sure, but a good one. Kirsten overcame her demons at least once and that’s an important character moment. She’s bogged down by emotion and there doesn’t seem to be a better time to drink. But she didn’t. And that was great to see. The writers could have easily had a relapse, forced her back into rehab, and forced her to become more dependent on Charlotte and more obsessed. The latter half of that idea sounds interesting – a twist where one of the main characters becomes the psycho as opposed to a recurring star – but the first half would have been painful.

It was also good that they brought some closure to the story between Kirsten and Caleb. It was always such a volatile relationship and to say that it ended badly is an understatement. I actually had my doubts about the letter – I figured it wasn’t too far out of character for Caleb to have been a dick even after Kirsten exposed him – but I’m glad it turned out to be the logical choice. A part of me wanted to hear Alan Dale narrate the letter because I just wanted his touch somewhere on the season. That probably would have turned out badly, though, so maybe it’s okay. Plus, I can’t imagine that these writers could have written a letter like that. It’s like the time the writers on 90210 wrote a prayer for the homeless guy who spent Thanksgiving with Walshes to say. It was brutally bad because the writers just didn’t know how to do that kind of thing. So yeah, wonderfully done.

That still leaves us with questions about Charlotte, though. What is her obsession with Kirsten? Is it simply an obsession or is there a deeper connection? She’s obviously had some type of contact with the outside world since she was able to rent that apartment. She’s an enigma and I’m kind of torn on the story. I want it resolved quickly just so I can know, but at the same time, if it’s resolved too soon, I’m going to feel screwed and I’m going to feel that the writers just got lazy and didn’t feel like elaborating more on who Charlotte actually is. I suppose, if they really wanted to shock us, we could find out that Oliver had a sex change and is now a 40-year old woman.

It could happen.

As for Sandy, I love him more now than I have in a long time. He’s got a lot to deal with. He’s running the Newport Group, he’s trying to be a parent, he’s trying to get his marriage to work. It’s a lot for someone, but he’s handled it well. He’s provided the moral center once again and that’s what has made him such an endearing character. His scenes with Ryan were excellent. He’s not terribly authoritative, but he attempts to assert himself. Still, though, he’s not irrational. He understands his kids and that’s more than most parents can say and it’s one reason this show is so successful – the parents and kids are on the same level.

Julie and Jimmy…

I figured the money was going to Sandy. That would have been an interesting twist. I didn’t expect that Caleb was actually broke, but it works well for Newport Beach, a place where no one is what they seem. It seems a little strange that no one would have known about Caleb’s money problems, but that’s okay.

It’s really interesting that the fact that Caleb was broke led to Jimmy’s exit considering he had to leave because he was broke. But the fact is that he never learned his lesson. He has no self control and he’s suffering. When Marissa told him not to come back, I cringed a little bit because the idea of never seeing Jimmy again is pretty disheartening, but it’s something that I have to agree with. No person should have to watch their father fail constantly when it’s something that could so easily be fixed. No one should have to lose a parent because the parent is too dumb to make adult choices.

This leads me to the glaring problem of the episode: why’d Jimmy leave so soon? This was the most abrupt exit on the show. Most other exits built for a while, even if it was subtle. There was ample time for preparation. Even Lindsay was already considering moving before she left. But Jimmy, in a matter of two minutes, decided he’d leave. The writers forsook the opportunity to deal with Jimmy as a character and I think that’s a horrible mistake. I think the story had at least one more episode in it. Julie could have dealt with Jimmy face-to-face. Have her be an ultimate bitch to him before breaking down. Jimmy would have had to deal with seeing Julie’s reaction and then, when he left, he would have seemed like a real heel. Unfortunately, they chose to send him packing quickly. It was never even really explained what he did wrong. There was just a lot of untapped potential. Josh said that people complain because stories are too short, so when they make them long, they complain. You know, there is a happy medium. Three episodes is too short, especially for a character’s exit. Had this drawn out for twenty episodes it would have been too long. Alas, Jimmy Cooper we hardly knew ye.

It’s really hard to feel sorry for Julie. She deserves every bad thing that happens to her because she’s always out to screw someone over. But you know what? I feel bad for her. She’s never gotten a real good break in life. Everything she’s ever had, she’s lost. In many respects, what she’s lost has been her own fault, so there’s an interesting connection to Jimmy. Still, she loves Jimmy and I don’t doubt that. The look on her face when Marissa arrived at the reception was heartbreaking. She wasn’t getting the storybook ending that she wanted. I believe she was ready to start over as a semi-new person with Jimmy. Now she’s going to have to start over as a new person without him. It’ll be interesting to see. Jimmy said, and I believe him, that he still loves Julie so I can only hope he sails back in some day, maybe in the final season, and they can finally make it work. Maybe if two people make enough mistakes, they can help each other attempt to be perfect. It’s possible.

Seth and Summer…

These two are so good right now that it’s scary. Fans are responding positively and there isn’t even a third person to create a triangle? Look, Josh, people don’t need triangles!

There isn’t a lot I can say about these two that you haven’t read everywhere else. Just watching them is fun. Their story is flat-out fun. It’s not heavy-handed, it’s not dramatic, it’s just exciting. I read a few complaints that Taylor is too much, that Autumn overacts when she does the character, but I just don’t think those people get the story.

She’s supposed to overact. As I noted last week, Taylor is a caricature. She’s an exaggerated version of elite society, just like Luke was when the show premiered. And she’s excelling at that because I love to hate her already. She’s a bitch, a cold, conniving bitch. She’s a terrible person. But I can’t get enough of her. Her comment to Seth about everyone still hating him was an absolutely perfect line that really sounded like something you would have heard in August 2003. It was incredibly scathing and personal, but true.

Adam Brody seems to be regaining a little more zest, so I’m thinking it was the scripts early on that were causing him to go through the motions. He’s slightly more involved and it was a great character moment when he took the fall for Summer. Our little Seth is growing up into quite the chivalrous man, wouldn’t you say? Chivalry may not be dead, after all.

Speaking of Adam’s acting, was that not a great moment when Kirsten walked in and Seth stood there and smiled? He looked as if he just needed a moment to soak everything in. His mom was back and it just seemed to thrill him. He played the scene remarkably well and it was just a terrific thing to see. Maybe now that Kirsten’s back, Seth will return to fine form, too. Just terrific stuff that paralleled how hurt Seth looked when he realized his mom needed to go away. Terrific symmetry.

Ryan and Marissa…

I don’t know when I decided to start having sympathy Marissa Cooper, but I’m scared. I’m scared because I’m actually starting to care about the character. I just don’t know how it happened.

Actually, I do. She seems to finally be growing. She seems more in touch with reality. She seems to understand the people around her better and that’s the only way a person can really grow. I don’t think you can better yourself unless you allow yourself to care about others and she’s doing that. Last time Jimmy left, she moped, but this time, she accepted it and accepted his failures and allowed him to leave but with an assertive stance. She recognized that she can’t allow herself to feel bad for someone who’s going to let her down and that she has to learn independence. She stepped up and broke the news to her mom and did so in a sympathetic way. She seemed far less concerned with herself, but rather, she was concerned with her mother’s well being and that’s not the Marissa we used to know. Growth is an amazing thing and Mischa has actually embraced the role in a way she never has before. She’s actually exuding emotion.

I’m not terribly keen on the sex scene because I felt the intercut with the other stuff – though it was supposed to provide a contrast – was distracting and it caused problems with lighting and tonal shifts. I understand what they were going for, but it just didn’t quite work for me. It was, however, a very fun moment when Marissa ran out and then peeked her head back in. I also like that the sex didn’t feel too overblown. No elaborate speeches, no corny morning-after moments, just a simple discussion and a nice shot of them holding each other in the morning.

That, of course, means the relationship is doomed, but I’m not going to predict anything yet. Let’s all just remember what a monumental moment it is that I finally enjoyed Ryan and Marissa and that I’m all for keeping them together.

Okay, I lied, I’m going to make the prediction that Ryan and Marissa will allow the school issue to come between them; Marissa will embrace her new role at her new school and will find that she doesn’t belong with Ryan until she gets in trouble, Ryan rescues her, she returns to Harbor, and they get together in time for graduation. That sounds about right, actually. I really should get a job on that show.

Other Stuff…

Stephanie Savage wrote this episode and I’m always thrilled to see her name attached. She wrote “The Best Chrismukkah Ever” and “The Mallpisode” – the first is one of my favorites ever and the second was a very strong episode after the turnaround last season. She needs to get her hands on more scripts because I feel that, next to Josh, she would know the characters best.

Julie Cooper-Nichol-Cooper would have been a fantastic name. I’m sorry we won’t get to see it used.

The make-up guys really freaked me out with the way they fixed up a battered Jimmy. Seriously, I cringed when I saw him.

I hope this isn’t the last time we hear “kiddo”.

Wasn’t it great to see a Cohen kitchen scene to end the episode? Those were the moments that defined the first season and moments that I think most people really love.

I love that Ryan ran to Kirsten when she came in. He’s really opened up with his emotions and I love how he’s embraced Sandy and Kirsten as parents this season. They’re far more than mentors.

Anyone watch the premiere of Joey the other night? It was basically the funniest thing I’ve seen on TV in a long time. Get TiVo and record it! It’s great.

What about Reunion? Any fans out there? The show’s second episode was far, far better than it’s first. The writing was so much better with far less exposition and more dialogue. I’m intrigued.

Please don’t send me any spoilers (yeah, I realize that’s an open invitation to get spoilers) but I’ve had people ask me how I feel about them and I hate them.

And that about does it for me this week.

Life’s been going on at a fast pace recently and so if these reviews start getting later and later, never fear – as long as this show remains even somewhat good, then I’ll be around. I enjoy writing about it way too much.

Thanks for reading and, as usual, feel free to head over to theocweekly.blogspot.com and leave a comment or e-mail me with any questions, comments, or death threats.

And hey, I had someone ask if I’d review the second season DVD set. Of course I will, but I have no money. So, you know, if someone wants to send me some money via Paypal, then my account is timmonsba@wofford.edu. Just saying. Worth a shot, you know?

I’ll see you all next week.

-Drew

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