Below are some spoilers. If you’re going to watch the show in its entirety, as I recommend, you’re probably better off waiting to read these.
Without exception, these Top 5 episodes (in order of season chronology) were written by Josh Schwartz, the creator of The OC.
Pilot – As I said in my prior entry, I wasn’t a fan the first time. I think if you go into it not expecting the world, you’ll be better off. Months of anticipation tends to leave people a bit dry. But there are some wonderful moments. With very little effort, I can picture Ryan and Marissa talking out in front of the Cohen and Cooper houses. The cigarette lighting the cigarette. Ryan seeing Seth for the first time, as Seth plays video games. Ryan waking up to this relative paradise. You’re introduced to the world. And it feels real. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how hearing the theme gets me every time.
The Escape – The finale of “the Summer Season” (the original 7 episodes). The shot of Ryan holding Marissa in the alley still haunts me. When you watch with the ability to get to Episode 8 by just pressing a button, you lose the drama of wondering what might happen. The scenes with the kids in the hotel are funny. The shot of Ryan and Marissa spooning is sweet. And we get a glimpse into the past and remaining emotions between Jimmy and Kirsten.
The Countdown – Dice plays at the end, with Ryan running in to save Marissa from the terrible fate of having to kiss Oliver. A happy ending in this string of episodes is a rarity, and a welcome breath.
The L.A. – One of the funniest episodes of the series. Full of self-reference, but while it still hasn’t dominated the series. Throwing the characters in the far-off land of Los Angeles lets you see them in a world other than the one that has been established. The subplot with Luke and Julie is also a keeper.
The Ties That Bind – The 1st Season Finale. The emotion of the end, as all of the pieces fall in such a way that breaks all the connections. Heartwrenching. And what sadder song is there to play as everyone says goodbye and Seth sails off than Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah?