Skip to main content

Marissa Cooper was The O.C.’s It-girl. Played by Mischa Barton, the troubled teen was part of the TV show’s “core four.” She, along with Seth Cohen (Adam Brody), Summer Roberts (Rachel Bilson), and Ryan Atwood (Ben McKenzie) rounded out the program’s main characters. 

Ben McKenzie and Mischa Barton attend a kickoff party for 'The O.C.'
Ben McKenzie and Mischa Barton attend a kickoff party for The O.C. | Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

Years later, Barton’s exit and the way in which her character was written off the show is still a controversial topic with some fans. But even when Barton and Marissa were no longer part of Newport Beach, The O.C. continued to churn out top-rated episodes of TV.  

Mischa Barton left at the end of the show’s third season

Barton made her last appearance as Marissa in The O.C. Season 3 Episode 25: “The Graduates.” In the season finale, the show’s writers ultimately decided not to give Marissa a happy ending but a tragic one. She died in a car crash despite Ryan’s efforts to save her. 

Barton has since spoken multiple times about her exit and Marissa’s death. On one occasion, she shared that she fought hard for Marissa’s death on The O.C. because she felt anything else wouldn’t suit the character.

As for why Barton decided to leave, she’s said it was the right time for her to move on and explore other aspects of her acting career. Without further ado, here are the three highest-rated episodes of The O.C. before and after Barton’s exit and Marissa’s death, according to IMDb ratings. 

The highest-rated episodes of ‘The O.C.’ featuring Mischa Barton

The O.C. Season 2 Episode 14: “The Rainy Day Woman” and The O.C. Season 1 Episode 27: “The Ties That Bind” are tied on IMDb with 8.9 stars out of 10. Both episodes are memorable ones in the series. 

The season 1 finale, “The Ties That Bind” meant new beginnings for everyone. Originally airing in 2004, Ryan decided to return to Chino. Devastated with his new best friend’s departure, Seth can’t stand the thought of being alone in Newport again. Meanwhile, Marissa’s mom gets remarried and Summer’s heartbroken over Seth. 

'The O.C.' cast members pose together at an event for the show
The O.C. Season 1 Cast | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

How Old Is Ben Mckenzie From ‘The O.C.’ and How Old Was He When He Filmed the Show?

As for “The Rainy Day Woman,” The O.C. recreated the famous upside-down kissing scene in 2002’s Spider-Man. But even a superhero movie and a season finale couldn’t compete with The O.C.’s pilot episode. The show’s debut episode where viewers first met Seth, Ryan, Summer, and Marissa has a nine-star rating. 

The 3 highest-rated episodes after Marissa Cooper’s death

After Marissa’s death and Barton’s departure from The O.C., some fans wondered what would become of the popular teen drama. The show continued for another season before going off the air for good in 2007. 

The episodes IMDb users liked the most in the wake of Marissa’s death featured a return to the show’s original form. Seth once again demonstrated his love for Chrismukkah in The O.C. Season 4 Episode 7: “The Chrismukk-huh?” which has 8.7 stars. And in The O.C. Season 4 Episode 15: “The Night Moves,” there’s once again a major event — this time an earthquake — that could change everything. The penultimate O.C. episode, it has 8.3 stars on IMDb.  

Finally, the series finale is the highest-rated episode of The O.C. after Barton’s exit. With a 9.2-star rating, The O.C. Season 4 Episode 16: “The End’s Not Near, It’s Here” says goodbye to Newport. 

At the time of publication, The O.C. is streaming on HBO Max.