Seth Cohen (Adam Brody) defined “geek chic” during The O.C.‘s four-season run, without a doubt. But where would he have been without Ryan Atwood (Ben McKenzie), his brother-from-another-mother? While Seth hardly stops talking long enough to breathe, Ryan is insular and brooding. He’s fond of punching people. He wears a hoodie like it’s his job. But he’s also fiercely protective of his foster family and even known to occasionally crack a joke. (Usually at Seth’s expense.) He’s Jordan Catalano, just less disaffected. Help us appreciate Chino’s finest export, won’t you?
He loves the Cohens. Hard.
Ryan was a victim of his circumstances, pulled into delinquency by his older brother. Though Kirsten is initially reluctant to accept the stray her do-gooder husband brings home, she caves. Because you just can’t look at baby Ryan Atwood and not want to protect him. Look at that stifled joy on his face. He’s so happy to be a part of this family that it actually hurts.
“You totally had my back.”
Seth/Ryan is one of the finest bromances to ever be on television, and it all started right here. From day one, Ryan stands beside Seth, no questions asked.
The most dramatic New Year’s Eve since Harry met Sally
Marissa never deserved Ryan. Admit that you silently cheered when she dropped out of our lives (and life in general) in season 3. But at least her budding friendship with Oliver (a serial killer in training if there every was one) inspired this grand, romantic gesture.
Ain’t nobody messin’ with my clique.
Violence isn’t the answer, friends, but it is really freakin’ hot. For a while there, we felt some serious (and seriously inappropriate) sexual tension between Ryan and Kirsten. And with him protecting her honor like that, can you really blame her?
Ryan hearts Taylor
Instead of having Ryan grieve for Marissa for the entirety of the show’s last season, The O.C. stumbled upon its most perfect couple. (Bring it on, Team Seth/Summer.) Marissa was such a victim. It was a delight and a relief to see Ryan let loose with sexy weirdo Taylor. Related: Ben McKenzie gives a hell of a screen kiss.