Summary: Two car accidents that changed the course of Ryan Atwood’s life and one that didn’t.
It sounds like such a simple summary -- but it's the thing I've been looking for all summer. The singular definitive fic to explain how Ryan got from the season 3 finale to the season 4 premiere (also serving as a close companion piece to the first three episodes of season 4, where I have wanted in his head since forever). I've never found one that attempts to address either one at all, much less one that covers both AND is so beautifully in character and well written. It not only answers my 95 burning questions about the immediate aftermath of the lonely road and why Ryan didn't go to her funeral and how the hell he (metaphorically!) got into bed with Julie, it perfectly articulates and sews together all the scrabbling I've been doing trying to figure out exactly what's going on with him behind those broody eyes that I could never quite put into coherent thoughts, much less words.
And then it goes beyond. Because this is not just a story, it's a novella -- some 30,000 words long -- and it takes us all the way through to what Taylor and Ryan's status is in the series finale in the most realistic way, followed by how they turn out and where he is by age 30.
It's not the ending I would choose. It's no hypothetical headcanon. It's not even particularly an ending I like. But it's an ending that makes an unbelievable amount of sense, and just feels right. This is, without a doubt in my heart, how it happened. This is what the true series finale looks like.
And to that end, it seems to have finally broken the spell this show has had over me for the entire second half of summer (which is super good timing! I definitely don't have the remaining 5 O.C. tie-in novels on their way in the mail to me right now because I found the lot for under $7 on eBay with free shipping and a bonus book to throw in my sale bag).
I mean, I'm not saying that if I watch 2x01 tomorrow in order to make sure my review of The Way Back is accurate in my assertion of being all original material I won't get sucked right back in, especially as large swaths of season 3 remain shrouded in darkness. I have by no means exhausted the source material. But it occurs to me it's been a few days since I typed about or even looked at this show, and it centers back to the fact that this fic is basically heaven-sent catharsis, the last piece of a complicated puzzle, and has given me everything I need for now. And I thought I should record that fact ASAP, just in case it turns out to be 2 months [edit: or forever] before I mention the series again and it ends up looking like I just abandoned it for no apparent reason in the middle of reading TWOP recaps.
Meanwhile, I've got to figure out how to put this into words the author can read, because I feel like I should, and I want to comment on multiple chapters, even. Even if the author was last sighted in 2010.