Friday, May 20, 2005

Our Darker Angels

I'm going to be talking about The O.C. season finale in this post, so if you don't want me to spoil what happened, don't read. Unless, you're Philly, in which case I already ruined it for you. Also, don't read this post if it annoys you when people overanalyze stuff like The O.C., although if any episode was worthy of a Philip Caputo quote, then its last night's.

Last night while driving home, I caught the end of Fresh Air with Terry Gross in which she interviewed journalist, novelist and all-around fascinating guy Philip Caputo. Caputo may be best-known for his seminal memoir A Rumor of War, which dealt with his time as a lieutenant in the Viet Nam War, and his subsequent military trial for murder (if you have never read a book on the war, I highly recommend Rumor. It is impossible for any of us who are not vets to really understand the adage that "war is hell," but we can come close to an understanding by reading stuff like Rumor). Anyway, Caputo went on to become a journalist who covered the Kent State massacre and won a Pullitzer for coverage of the 1972 Chicago election fraud.

So, Caputo was ostensibly there to speak about his new book Acts of Faith, which is a fictional account of real events in Africa. He and Terry got into an interesting convo about war in general and he said "Those who do not realize the darker angels in their own soul will fall prey to them." He's borrowing somewhat from Nietzsche's "when you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes back" so that if you fight monsters you must take care lest you become the monster. In other words, we all ought to take an honest account and realize some of the terrible things we are capable of, if we ever hope to control it.

I was reminded of this while watching The O.C. last night as this ep touched on several characters' darker angels and conversely made me ponder my own. Here's the recap.

The whole Kirsten is a giant drunk thing felt like it came on a little quickly this season, and in real life, I think it's wholly unlikely that Seth would have no clue. But this is The O.C., so I'll back off from the whole whiny realistic thing. You don't watch The O.C. for a realistic representation of anything, and just the same, when they do handle a situation realistically, it's great. So even though it came out of nowhere, I thought everyone's reactions were spot on - Sandy thinking he might be overreacting and wondering if he could fix it himself, Seth's initial anger and blaming his dad, Ryan's resignation, and Summer's sad, knowing look when she see Kirsten at the funeral.

It is with this huge reminder of his own mother's inability to kick the habit that hangs around Ryan as his brother continues to make a mess of things. So that when Ryan finally learns about what Trey did to Marissa, you can see him blinded by the rage. It's not just what Trey did to Marissa - it's everything that Trey has ever done to hurt and disappoint Ryan that rears up and sends him speeding to the apartment. We all knew Ryan was a puncher... and he's also the teen who frequently acts like he's 40 while surrounded by his typically dysfunctional and crazy friends. He is no longer able to hold it together, no longer able to let the "good kid" archetype stand. It was, quite frankly, an amazing tail spin.

The final scene in which Trey is choking the life out of Ryan and Marissa shoots Trey was fantastic and I can't wait for next season. This show is usually about the over-the-top and it does it well. But there are subtler themes and character development that The O.C. also really hits well. Kudos. And make sure your confront those darker angels.

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