The O.C. took the milestone one step further by incorporating a shocking death into the episode that the main characters said goodbye to high school. Marissa Cooper (Mischa Barton) — spoiler alert — died in the season 3 finale, shortly after surviving her days at Harbor School.
“It’s complicated,” creator Josh Schwartz explained during a reunion panel in June 2016. “There were a lot of factors involved, and it was something we really wrestled with. There were a lot of reasons, both creative and cynical. [Executive producer Stephanie Savage] and I, we still talk about it.”
Schwartz added that the backlash surprised the creatives behind the show. “The people who were the most vocal online weren’t speaking for everyone, and we realized that people were very attached to that character,” he said. “There was a lot of anger and fan art that came our way.”
Of course, not all TV graduations are doomed before they even begin. In fact, the episodes often serve as opportunities to acknowledge the love and support that brought the characters so far — and will continue to guide them after they earn their diplomas.
As is the case on Gilmore Girls, when Rory Gilmore (Alexis Bledel) graduated from Chilton Preparatory School in season 3. During her valedictorian speech, Rory thanked her mom, Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham), for believing in her. “My mother never gave me any idea that I couldn’t do whatever I wanted to do or be whomever I wanted to be,” she gushed.
Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester) and Serena van der Woodsen (Blake Lively) embodied similar emotions when discussing their friendship before graduation. “You are high school to me,” Serena told her best friend in season 2 of Gossip Girl. “All of the boyfriends and mean girls and tests and teachers and our crazy mothers. We went through it together. We raised each other. You’re my sister.”