The O.C. Wiki
The O.C. Wiki

Ryan Atwood (adopted Cohen) was the main protagonist of "The O.C.". He was portrayed by Benjamin McKenzie.

Ryan was a teenager from Chino. When the boy was caught stealing a car with his brother Trey, he was sent to juvenile detention, and it was there that he met attorney Sandy Cohen. Subsequently, Ryan is abandoned by his mother : Dawn, and this is how despite some initial grievances from Sandy's wife, Kirsten, he will eventually go to live with them, even if Kirsten will immediately make it clear, that it will only be for a few days. However, to the woman, it did not take long for her to become attached to the boy, and since then, the young man has lived with them, in Newport Beach. Subsequently, it will be officially adopted by the Cohen. Ryan begins a love affair back-and-forth, with Marissa Cooper, the classic: "girl next door". He is part of The Core Four.

Story of the character

Season 1 : From his life in Chino, until he is adoption by The Cohen's

Ryan has the tendency to punch people in the face and constantly has to back up Seth - a good example of this is at Holly's beach party after Holly's party, where Ryan punches Luke, the captain of the water polo team and boyfriend to Marissa Cooper, because his friends and he are pushing Seth around. Ryan falls in love with Marissa much to the dismay of Luke. Marissa is secretly attracted to Ryan as well, but remains with Luke and becomes very jealous when she sees Ryan kissing the girlfriend of his adoptive granfather, Caleb Nichol. She then proceeds to lose her virginity to Luke as a way of getting back at Ryan. Later on in the season, Marissa's parents get divorced and she finds Luke cheating on her in Tijuana, causing her to overdose of painkillers, only to be saved by Ryan. When they return to Newport Beach, Ryan and Marissa become involved, although Luke desperately tries to get back with her. They date steadily, but the arrival of the manipulative Oliver Trask drives a wedge between them, as the mentally ill and obsessive Oliver falls in love with Marissa, although she insists that they are friends when Ryan begins to suspect him; when he turns to Seth for support, Seth sides with Marissa. However, Oliver is eventually exposed as a fraud when he confesses his love to Marissa and threatens to shoot himself if they don't get together. Marissa is desperately sorry and apologises to Ryan, imploring that they "start over" - Ryan is unable to do so, and so they break up for the first time in the series. Ryan then becomes involved with an old girlfriend from Chino, Theresa Diaz, whilst Luke begins to have a casual sexual relationship with Marissa's mother, Julie. Marissa finds out and flees to Chino to Theresa, who she had met when she was in town with Ryan. Ryan finds her and convinces her to return, but she states that she hates them both and that she never wants to return to Newport. However, Ryan convinces her and she returns home, but does not forgive the two for what they did. Ryan and Marissa get back together after a kiss that they share on the boardwalk. Julie becomes engaged to Caleb Nichol, much to the dismay of Luke, who gets drunk at their engagement party and drives away from Ryan, shouting "Don't make me" when the latter tries to stop him. Luke then "wraps his truck around a lamp post" and is taken to hospital after vowing to leave Newport forever in order to allow Marissa to continue to live her life. Ryan then leaves for Chino as he finds out that his ex-girlfriend Theresa might be pregnant with his child. Marissa is heartbroken and takes to drinking, whilst Seth leaves because Ryan was all that he had in Newport.

Season 2 : His return to Newport and the problems with Marissa

Not surprisingly, Ryan returned to Newport Beach, after Theresa made him believe she had a miscarriage. He also convinced Seth to return from Portland to The Cohen household with him after he ran away too. Ryan is portrayed as much more mature in the second season. After he broke up with Marissa Cooper, Ryan had a relationship with Lindsay Gardner, who is soon discovered to be Kirsten Cohen's sister and Caleb Nichol's love child since he cheated on her mother for some time. After Lindsay moved, Ryan reunited with Marissa. Ryan brother, Trey, is released from prison moves to Newport Beach to be with Ryan. At the end of the season, Trey and Marissa were alone and they got drunk. Trey was high and attacked Marissa sexually. As she was struggling, she hit him on the head with a log, giving her time to get away. Eventually Ryan found out about the attempted rape which lead to Ryan turning to the "old Ryan" and to a confrontation between him and Trey. The confrontation turned and had Ryan pinned to the floor where Trey was strangling him. Marissa ran in and pleaded with Trey to let Ryan go. In a fit of rage Trey refused and Marissa shot him in the back as a result. It was left unclear whether he survived or not until the third season.

Season 3 : The graduation and Marissa's death

After being in a coma for two months, Trey wakes up and was offered money by Julie Cooper to blame Ryan for the shooting, in an attempt to save Marissa's future. He then however cleared Ryan's name afterwards when confronted by Marissa and subsequently left Newport. Ryan and Marissa both faced a campaign to expel both of them from parents at the prestigious Harbour Valley School as a result of the shooting. It ultimately resulted in the school board and the new Dean of Discipline Jack Hess to expel Marissa, and later Ryan after he assaulted the dean. Marissa then ended up going to Newport Union the public high school, with Ryan eventually being re-admitted to Harbour after Dean Hess was blackmailed over having an affair with a student, Taylor Townsend. While Marissa was at Newport Union, (until she was readmitted again into Harbour that is), she made friends with another boy Johnny Harper and his friend Chilli, which later complicated Ryan's relationship with Marissa when Johnny fell in love with her & Ryan was suspicious about whether the feelings were reciprocated. Marissa confirmed her committment to her relationship with Ryan, and told Johnny although he was her friend and she cared for him she would never be in love with him. This rejection prompted Johnny to go on a drinking binge, which resulted in Johnny falling off a cliff despite both Ryan and Marissa trying to talk him down. This resulted in Ryan and Marissa becoming distant from each other, and both of them admitting their relationship was not working and breaking up. Ryan then started dating Sadie Campbell, Johnny's cousin who moved down to Newport temporarily to help her aunt. The relationship was short lived however when Ryan was accepted into the University of California, Berkeley and they admitted they had little conceivable future together with Ryan due to leave for college in the fall and Sadie then left Newport. He recently became reacquainted with his waitress mother and had a one night stand with his mother's waitress co-worker. On graduation night Marissa told Ryan, that she's intending to leave Newport to work on her father's yacht in Greece. He wants to drive her to the airport, but then Kevin Volchok appears and tries to talk to Marissa. They have a terrible accident, in which Marissa dies.

Season 4 : The definitive maturation of Ryan

5 months after Marissa's death Ryan's life has changed completely. He didn't attend her funeral and left The Cohen's house. He is in a very, very dark place and throws out all of the photos with Marissa on it. He’s working as a bartender, and lives in the slum behind the bar. He won’t see the Cohens, but eventually he moved back home at the end of ”The Avengers”. When Julie asks him to find Volchok and avenge Marissa, Sandy solves the problem. Ryan confronts Volchok one last time, before he's imprisoned. Ryan returns to The Cohen's house and has a new job, but he still can't think of anything else than Marissa. When he has problems sleeping Taylor offers him help. She falls in love with him, but he's not ready to let go of Marissa, but then in "A Christmuk-huh?" he receives a letter from her in which she tells him, why she had to leave and that she loves him, he finally can start over and starts to date Taylor. Several problems arise with this new relationship. Taylor's ex-husband Henri-Michel from France appears with a biography about his love to Taylor alias : Peaches. Ryan starts to compete with Henry-Michelle and in the end wins Taylor's heart with a sweet poem. The relationship continues a bit weird as Ryan still has the "I love you"-problem. When his father, Frank Atwood returns Ryan is reminded once again of his dark past. After a few difficulties he and his father get along pretty good and grow together with the help of Taylor. During the devastating earthquake Ryan is seriously injured and rescued by Seth, who delivered him safe to the hospital and donated his blood as they are both "Type O".

In the series finale, following a 6 month flashforward, Ryan aids in finding the Cohen's a new home, mirroring the offer they had extended to him in Season 1. Ryan goes on to rekindle his relationship with Taylor, as they both face up to attending college in different countries. As the series reaches its conclusion, Ryan reminisces on his time spent in Newport with The Cohen Family, thinking back to when he first stepped foot in the pool house, his first look at the famous Cohen-house view as well as his first encounter with Seth. As Ryan drives off, he pays homage to Marissa, as the iconic final scene from the : "Premiere" is once again revisited. The final montage leaves Ryan's relationship with Taylor somewhat ambiguous, as the two share a smile at Seth and Summer's wedding. The last scene brings the show full circle, as Ryan, now a successful architect, comes across a down-trodden youth dressed in the familiar Ryan Atwood grey hoodie, on his bike next to a phone booth - mirroring the situation Ryan found himself in the pilot. Realising this, Ryan asks the kid if he needs any help, and that's how the series ends.


Ryan is a brooding, tough, cynical and quick-tempered, yet compassionate, a good listener, sometimes (mostly to Seth) and empathetic toward people in trouble and those less fortunate than himself. During his first months in Newport, he had the tendency to physically express his anger at the incessant teasing from his schoolmates by punching them, which led them intentionally goad him even more, but he gradually calmed down, after some serious lecturing from Sandy and being sent to anger management counseling. He at times appears burdened by an almost-compulsive need to rescue others at the expense of his own well-being, however, and is overly protective of Marissa and Theresa, his main love interests on the show. The product of an abusive household, he has difficulty trusting or getting close to people emotionally, which could also be due to the fact that his mother Dawn refused to get help for her alcoholism and brother Trey continuously broke his promises to stay out of trouble. He is extremely loyal to his family, both biological and adopted, and those he cares about. The fact that he rarely smiles or says much is something of a running joke among other members of the Cohen household; early in the first season when he first moves in with the Cohens, he often looks down and avoids making eye contact, likely a habit of self-preservation born out of his upbringing in an unstable home and would stiffen when hugged; by the final season, he becomes more open to his adoptive family. Despite his reticent nature and emotionless exterior, Ryan can be quite transparent, often "convey[ing] everything with just a look", and is virtually incapable of lying, as Sandy proved in the episode "The O.Sea" when he caught Ryan trying to cover-up for Seth and Ryan's "guilty face" gave it away.


See: Ryan Atwood/Relationships


Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4