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"M : Who are you?
R : Whoever you want me to be
—Marissa and Ryan Atwood meet and talk to each other for the first time.[src]

Marissa Cooper was one of the main protagonist of "The O.C.". She is portrayed by Mischa Barton.

Marissa was part of The Core Four, until her death, which took place in the final of the third season, entitled : "The Graduates".

Story of the character

Season 1 : The first meeting with Ryan, and the beginning of her alcoholism

Throughout the first season, Marissa was involved in an on-again, off-again relationship with Ryan, with the relationships being interrupted by Luke Ward and Oliver Trask, respectively. Oliver eventually was discovered to be mentally unstable and hiding an unhealthy obsession with Marissa.

During this time, her mother, Julie, was romantically involved with Kirsten Cohen's father, Caleb Nichol. During a brief break-up with Caleb, Marissa's mother had a fling with Marissa's ex-boyfriend Luke, which caused Marissa to run away — strangely enough — to Chino and Ryan's ex-girlfriend Theresa's house. This lead to Ryan and Marissa once again becoming romantically involved.

At the end of the first season, Julie and Caleb married, making Marissa stepdaughter to the most powerful, but also the most controversial, man in Newport. She was blackmailed into moving in with her mother and Caleb in their new mansion. Ryan also left her to go back to Chino after it was discovered Theresa maybe pregnant with Ryan's child. Theresa wanted to return there to be with her family and Ryan felt compelled to go with her, effectively ending his relationship with Marissa and leaving her. Marissa as a result once again restarted her drinking.

Season 2 : Her relationship with Alex Kelly and the shooting against Trey Atwood

During the second season, Marissa struggled with alcohol and depression, caused largely by Ryan's departure from her life. When Ryan returned it looked like they might rekindle their relationship, however after finding out about her relationship with DJ, the yard guy, Ryan decided they should just be friends which they remained throughout most of the season. Marissa's relationships in the interim period seemed somewhat specifically chosen to take stabs at her mother — first with DJ, the lawn boy, and then a lesbian relationship with Alex Kelly, Seth's ex-girlfriend. Marissa moved out of her mother's house briefly to live with Alex, returning home once she and Alex broke up. Her relationship with her mother improved little throughout the season. She did eventually rekindle her relationship with Ryan after a period of friendship and growing gradually closer, paticularly as she helped him with his brother Trey after he was released from prison. However this support Marissa provided Trey with for Ryan resulted in Trey getting the wrong idea, and under the influence attempting to rape her. This caused inevitable tensions between Trey and her, which Ryan picked up on and became suspicious of, causing difficulties in their relationship. Ryan eventually found out about the attempted rape, which lead to a confrontation with Trey and turned violent. Trey had Ryan pinned down to the ground and was strangling him, when Marissa, having been warned by Seth and Summer, turned up and pleaded with Trey to let Ryan go. Trey continued despite this, and Marissa picked up a gun and shot Trey to save Ryan's life.

Season 3 : The investigation for the shooting, her relationship with Kevin Volchok and her sudden death

As the series' third season opened, Marissa was under investigation regarding the shooting of Trey Atwood. In an effort to shield her daughter, Julie attempted to obstruct justice by bribing Trey into accusing Ryan. Marissa becomes aware of this, and convinces Trey to confess the truth, detailing that Marissa fired only to protect her boyfriend, resulting in Ryan being let free and Marissa facing no legal liability as she was defending another person's life using proportional force in the circumstances.

Despite a lack of legal repercussions, the event caused Marissa to be expelled from The Harbor School, as it was cited along with her past of flagrant shoplifting. She eventually was readmitted after a campaign to let her in from Ryan, Seth and Summer with the suprising assistance of Taylor Townsend as well. However while at Newport Union she befriended a local surfer called Johnny Harper, who eventually fell in love with her and caused rifts in her relationship with Ryan. However Marissa confirmed her committment to Ryan, and wrote Johnny a letter saying that whilst he was her friend and she cared for him, she would never love him. This resulted in Johnny falling to his death after a drinking spree, which eventually caused further riffs and distance for Marissa and Ryan from each other. They broke up shortly afterwards, conceding their relationship was not working. Marissa then fell for Volchok, whom she broke up with him when she found him cheating on her at the prom.

Some time later, Marissa decided to go to visit Berkley, the university where she would like to go to study, but the experience turns out to be a failure, and Marissa, begins to reflect on her life.

After thinking about it for a long time, the young Cooper decides not to continue studying, not feeling ready, to attend university. Just in those days, her mother Julie, received a call from her father, Jimmy, in which he asks her, if Marissa could come with him, to work in a boat, headed for Greece, she without thinking twice, decides to leave . After a couple of days, she and his friends graduate.

Just the day of departure, however, unfortunately, the fate, looming over her, and during his journey to the airport, which would have brought her to Greece, Volchock, still obsessed by her, spurs the car, on which, she and Ryan was traveling, and after having violently rammed the car, it rolled down an embankment, going to another street, Ryan pulls himself and Marissa out of the car, but the girl's injuries are too serious, and in a few seconds, the girl dies in Ryan's arms the only boy, whom she has ever truly loved.

Season 4 : The constant memory of Marissa

In The Avengers a ghostly Marissa appears to Summer, when she returns to the adjoining bedrooms they shared together, for the first time since Marissa's death, this causes Summer to fast track her trip back to Brown and leave Newport.

Marissa's death has a significant impact on the entire fourth season which is most explicitly examined in the episode The Chrismukk-huh? where Ryan and Taylor Townsend, both in comas, enter into an alternate universe where he has never moved to Newport Beach, and the lives of most major characters are completely changed.

While trying to find out what is happening in this reality, Taylor stumbles into Marissa's bedroom. She surprises Julie's maid, who tells Taylor that "Miss Cooper's" plane arrives at 3 o'clock from Berkeley. Taylor then sees a photograph of Marissa and Julie on her desk, which leads her to believe that Marissa is still alive in this alternate universe.

After Taylor tells Ryan the news, he immediately wants to go to the airport to see Marissa. Taylor does not want him to in, fear that Ryan who is still recovering from Marissa's death, would be willing to spend the rest of his life in a coma if he could be with Marissa. At the airport Ryan catches a glimpse of a girl with a pink Berkeley sweatshirt tied around her waist. The sweatshirt resembles the one worn by Marissa in The Day After Tomorrow. Ryan grabs her shoulder and realizes that it was not Marissa, but her sister, Kaitlin. Kaitlin then explains to Ryan that her sister died three years ago in an overdose in Tijuana.

Ryan then returns to Newport Beach, realizing that he can never be with Marissa again, alternate universe or not. At first, Ryan and Taylor believe they need to restore the relationships that existed before Marissa's death in order to wake up. However, it becomes apparent that both Ryan and Taylor need to battle their internal demons instead. For Taylor, her demon is her mother, for Ryan, it is getting over Marissa.

Back in the real world, Kirsten finds a letter from Marissa addressed to Ryan, but does not read it, and hands it over to Julie, who subsequently reads the letter. In the letter, Marissa wrote that she still loved Ryan, but would be leaving Newport because she knew that it was the best thing to do, so that they could both move on. The letter is eventually placed right beside Ryan, which allows the letter to be "delivered" to Ryan in the alternate universe.

Ryan then goes to the beach, and upon discovering the letter, reads it. He finally says goodbye to Marissa and exits the alternate universe.

In the final episode, Marissa appears as Ryan's final flashback as he reflects on his life in Newport. As he backs out of the driveway, Ryan remembers seeing Marissa standing on the corner watching as he and Sandy drive away when Ryan thought he was not coming back to Newport.


Marissa Cooper is characterized as the privileged yet troubled girl next door. Her designer-label-packed wardrobe masks her turbulent mood swings and hard-partying ways. Although Marissa is tall, thin and pretty, she is not much else. She is afforded all the privileges of a Newport Beach lifestyle, yet she fails to show any interest or engagement with the world around her. Like many of her peers, she is emotionally distant from her mother and becomes disillusioned with her mother's materialistic ways. As a result, she, like her sister Kaitlin, often rebelled against her mother. She is closer to her father, whom she stated was the "last thing keeping [her] sane" through the tumult of the first two seasons. Throughout the series, Marissa is rarely shown participating in clubs and organizations. The only interests she demonstrates with any regularity are romance and risky behavior, which in her case often go together.

Marissa's risky behavior was a factor in her on-off relationship with Ryan Atwood. For example, during Ryan's first Christmas in Newport Beach, he was furious to find her drunk due to his painful experiences as the child of alcoholic parents but she did not understand his aversion to alcohol and thought that he was overreacting.


See: Marissa Cooper/Relationships

Memorable quotes

See: Marissa Cooper/Quotes


Season 1

Season 2

Season 3


Season 4