I have just completed One Tree Hill, the last season; the series in its entirety. I will never see these characters again. I have been with some of them for nearly a decade. I grew with them since I was in high school to adulthood, through my own heartbreak and passion, my own struggles and success, sadness and joy; a life of my own, but mirroring all that Mark Schwahn created and the show embodied and maintained in this series. It’s over. And I’m strangely okay with this. The series ended strong and without realizing it was the last episode at first (the last season only has 13 episodes for its 22+ episode norm per season), it felt right. I didn’t want anything to touch or tarnish this slice of perfection that the last episode portrayed with such understanding.
The last season had a huge impact on me. One Tree Hill was my favorite show for years. Somewhere around season 7 life got in the way and I got behind on the show. It was actually a year or so before I had the chance to catch up. Season 8 was extremely emotional and heartfelt and helped remind me why I loved the show so much in the first place, that raw emotion through characters that felt so real. It is remarkable that the show managed to stay strong besides some bumps in the road. Season 5 was definitely the biggest bump, but they took a huge risk with it so I can’t blame them too much. This was when the WB became the CW and One Tree Hill was one of the only shows that made the transition. Post-high school most shows end anyway since most people don’t end up in the same place after high school and the creator clearly didn’t want to start over with fresh characters in the same town either. So it took place 4 years later, after college, when the characters had accomplished and fallen from their dreams, realizing new desires that urged them back to Tree Hill. It was an off season, cheesy at times even and a lot of rehashing and some characters at lows, but it was a huge risk even continuing the show. It made it past this hurdle. Season 6 was a definite improvement and from there it went on to material and new characters that challenged the show and brought it to new levels, at the very least restoring the best things about it.
So few shows are able to end with dignity. They’re pushed past their limits and all the greatness is drained from them. When Chad Michael Murray and Hilary Burton, who play two of the leads and were always my favorites in the show left, there was definitely danger of this. While I miss them, the show rose up without them and reminds us that this One Tree Hill is not about one person or relationship, it’s about this small town which is just a slice of life; the life we all go through. It’s the pain and terror that we pray never happens to us or the ones we love, a perfect representation of the love we all crave and deserve, and the determination and dreaming within us all that can be realized. The show is about life and it portrays it in such a poetic way that is both tragic and inspiration, depressing and heartfelt, dark and beautiful; all of the darkness and light in this life. While these characters do come across a great deal of luck and success, more so than you can argue is realistic (NBA player, best selling novelist, touring singer, record label owner, high end fashion line designer, or even the couple who marries at 17 and getting pregnant at 18 happening to both have great success and fame and being able to afford a very nice and comfortable life which is certainly not the reality to most who marry or get pregnant in their teen years), I would still argue One Tree Hill is one of the most beautiful, vivid, and life-like series that we have had at least in this generation. It has certainly touched me greatly over the years in so many ways.
Season 9 was a definite change for the series; it is extremely dark and bleak. There’s abduction, mafia-induced pain and suffering, child abuse, police corruption, self-loathing punishment, mental and psychological conditions surface, attempted rape, harassment…the list goes on and on. There is so much physical and emotional scarring and suffering that these characters we love and feel for so deeply are forced to deal it is heartbreaking. It’s so real, it more or less feel that you are experiencing it. During the viewing their emotions become yours. I don’t know how many tears I have cried over the years during One Tree Hill viewings, but especially towards the last seasons. Since we feel these feelings of heartbreak and bliss, we think of what this reality would mean to us and those in our lives we care about most. These moments make us count our blessings and realize the magic and love we have in our lives. Not many shows or art forms of any kind can really have this type of an impact.
The last season was a huge shift in tone, sometimes hard for me to believe all of the darkness that was encompassing my beloved characters. Then again, the show has always had its shades of darkness. There has cheating, lying, and deception that happens in mankind, especially in high school, but there was also school shootings, suicide, murder (one brother to another), control, kidnapping, stalking, abandonment, death, and loss of all kinds. The show began to bring out inspiration, finding yourself, and the complex people that all young people are, whether they seem this way or not. Just look at Nathan or Brooke. They both were popular and seemingly had everything they could have wanted. They both had great family issues that pushed them down and prevented them from being themselves or finding happiness for quite some time until they were able to embrace themselves and what they wanted for their lives. One Tree Hill was always a show about complexities and taking a deeper look at things than seem to be there. By season 3 it just took a darker route with it. While season 9 felt darker than most seasons, it still felt right. It didn’t feel like the writers were trying to just do something completely different for the sake of being different and the need for other material for ratings or to keep the audience’s attention. All hell broke loose in ways I never imagined could have happened on this show, wrecking havoc to those who were really pushed to their edge, dangerously nearly the breaking point. It wasn’t relentless and without reason though. There was resolution, the calm reached them, and a completely new and fitting tone resurfaced when chaos had left.
***This will be the one and only SPOILER!!!
Some of the most dominate and intense feelings this series has invoked in me over the past 10 years was my hate for Dan Scott, Nathan’s controlling father and Lucas’ illegitimate and shameful father. He was very selfish, egotistical, and fueled with paranoia and hate. Every life around his that he touched was worse off because of it. He murdered his own brother, Keith, then moved in on the woman Dan abandoned years ago who said brother was engaged to and was going to start his life with. He abandoned Lucas as a son and Keith was there to raise him and ensure he turned in to the man he should be. Dan was vile and tormented his wife, making her fear her life for some time. Dan pressured his son so much he put him in the hospital and once Nathan had the sense to get away and start a better life with Haley he set out to ruin their lives at any costs. Let’s not forget the murder! He was a disgusting man that fueled you to hate him with every ounce of your energy simply as a viewer let alone the people who really knew and had to deal with this man. So many lives were shattered because of him. Even before he killed Keith, you couldn’t help but hate him. Then once the dirty deed was done and he was the mayor and deceived everyone around him, this hate only grew, even when he got out of prison after only 4 years, he tried to get back in Nathan and his grandson’s life.
Up to the moment he was hunting for Nathan who we needed to be okay and come back so bad, I still couldn’t forgive him for what he was. I understood the need for him to be in Jaime’s (his grandson) life and I felt for Jaime who wanted him to be there. Everything he ever did was for Nathan, fighting to give him the best life he could have, even if it was all terribly misguided and the wrong approach to say the least. I have always known this, but even when he was putting his life on his line, hunting relentlessly for his son, I still didn’t forgive him. I have spent 10 years hating this man and I know for a fact that he’s a monster at his core; this is certainly what his actions have shown. Yet, somehow after all this time hating him and wishing for him to die, that seeming like the only just thing, when his time came, and he was about to die, I felt sorry for him. I felt sorry for Dan Scott! I cried for him, I wished that somehow he would make it out okay. I wanted Dan Scott to be saved! I spent 10 years hating this man with such passion. Even a few episodes ago, but definitely a few seasons ago I would have been glorying in the man’s death and cheering it on. Instead, I had tears and remorse for him, not because he deserved it, I know he didn’t, but because he proved that even monsters have shades of gray in them. We all have a heart no matter how tainted and buried it may have been in the past. It is our last moments, in the heat of danger and death that truly define who we are and our love for others. I never thought I would be typing or even thinking these words but Dan Scott surprised me and passed the test.
Bravo to one of the best developed and complex characters and to Paul Johanson who through this character has given the best performance he will ever give. He has fueled so much hate in me and yet he still won me over in the end. Even before he did I could still see how real his emotion, remorse, regrets, and love were. He has hit every angle with this character. If nothing else he has invoked a hell of a lot of raw, fierce emotion through the character. Whether you hated or loved him, he made Dan completely real.
***SPOILER END, It is safe to read!
I’m a huge romantic at heart, but I rarely feel like true love is really captured in movies or television. The love I have seen in this show is one of the most overwhelming things I have witnessed in my life. It is so genuine, unconditional, and stands the test of endless complications. One reason for this is these characters are so well realized; they’re complex, multi-dimensional, and real. Who they are, their pasts, their passions, and their desires in life and in love are what make them who they are and are what makes the other person understand them so fully. Most of them took them quite a while to get there and a lot of heartbreak. Again, that’s life. We get it wrong, we take time to find ourselves, but we end up with such a passionate, all consuming, and understanding love that we know everything else that led to this moment was worth it to get here, to know ourselves and the person we’re blessed to call our other half. They fill our world while still shining bright in our own skin.
I remember the first time I ever watched One Tree Hill. It was the summer after the second season had aired. I heard a commercial on the radio about the episode, “Dare Night”. I was amused by it so I decided to check it out. From that point on I was completely and utterly hooked. Of course, I didn’t know all the history and reasoning behind it (when I did go back and watch the first season it was shocking, entertaining, and like I was discovering a past secret that put everything in to perspective). I remember thinking Brooke was such a cold bitch. My opinion now? I think she’s one of the strongest characters on the show: beautiful, bold, immensely loving, ambitious, but ultimately a girl with simple desires such as the love of her friends and family and to give this love just as much as she receives it. Julian was a Godsend to her. He brings out the best in her and gave her every ounce of love she always desired. In return, she shows that unconditional love to him even when she’s scared, protective, and given reason not to. They have chemistry, such belief and inspiration in each other, and a love that is constantly bursting out of them. This is true of every relationship on this show, each shown in their own way, but always ringing so true and igniting so much emotion in the viewer.
I was a Peyton and Jake or “Jeyton” fan, but I can even appreciate Peyton and Lucas’ love. He was in love with her since he was 17. There was always something between them and they understood each other in ways most others never could. They certainly had many complications, fighting for each other at the wrong times constantly. I did get a bit aggravated with the Lucas-Peyton-Brooke love triangle, which was rehashed time and time again. Lucas would be with one of them and things would move towards one or the other developing feelings again, Brooke and Peyton’s friendship always at risk and worked to be mended every time he got in between them. Of course there were other things like Peyton following her dreams of pursuing music that could touch lives the way they touched hers, Lucas sometimes thinking more with his heart than his head and sometimes not with either as he had to go down the wrong path to find his way back to himself. Lucas’ book ended up bringing their love back again with Peyton putting everything on the line and fighting for him like hell even when it seemed he was the one who got away. That same book made Brooke and Julian realize their live and proved to be a great representation on how they all touched each other’s lives and what those early high school memories meant to not only their lives, but how relatable, human, and beautiful these moments were even to the masses (the eventually made a movie and TV show based on the book based on the lives we witness on One Tree Hill).
I can’t even think about mentioning One Tree Hill’s great perception and portrayal of love without mentioning Nathan and Haley. It is one of the strongest fictional examples of love I have ever witnessed. Most of the intensely emotional moments rely on Haley James-Scott in particular, a testament to the character and Bethany Joy Lenz clearly touching, real, and outstanding portrayal over the years. I have felt so much of her love and pain in the past decade. I think there’s a piece of Haley in us all, if so we should be so lucky. She is an incredible artist, wife, mother, friend, and woman all around. Most of her greatness is brought out through her family, especially her husband, Nathan Scott. He was the classic popular and talented jerk who got away with hell because of who he was; a basketball star with a guaranteed bright future ahead of him. He was just trying to get to his illegitimate and equally talented ball-playing brother, Lucas, by trying to get close to Haley in the beginning. She didn’t cut him any breaks and she never accepted any less than the kind of man she knew she deserved and she knew Nathan was deep down; eventually the man he became.
We all have our demons, she exorcised his and fought by his side every day to make sure they stayed away. They didn’t always. Post NBA and his drunken bar fighting recklessness years later, she had to take care of him when he didn’t take care of himself and didn’t care about anything anymore. Much like Haley when she had to deal with loss of a loved one that was like a best friend, guiding her, a loss that was so heavy on her heart that life didn’t seem to have any meaning or purpose any more, even those she loved and needed. They never gave up on the other no matter how bad things got, they were always there for each other. Haley saved him when he was 17 and she continued to save him, especially the terror and trauma that he endured in the last season. She struggled and fought for him, desperately needing things to turn out okay, for her to have him “always and forever”. There were troubles in them trying to figure out getting married and started a life out together so young and still having ambitions of their own, especially for Haley. She realized no matter how fulfilled, a life without Nathan, her first and only love, was no life at all. She fought for him and would continue to for the rest of her life. Luckily, it didn’t take that long and they started the next chapter of their lives together with their family and pursuing their passions with embracing their love for one another. They had everything together, but it took them awhile to get it right as well. They’re human like we all are. They just happen to be two humans that are so well suited for each other, keeping each other on track, loving and supporting one another, and embracing the romance and spark that will always glimmer in their eyes and surely their hearts.
The show started as a high school teen drama. I was this age when I started watching the show. I felt very misunderstood in high school, perhaps part of me always will. There was something in One Tree Hill that spoke to me, it was an outlet, it understood part of me that I might not have even understood myself. I always thought of myself as a bit of a mix of Peyton and Haley. At least at first they were both somewhat of artistic loners, they had their group of friends and Peyton was actually in the “popular crowd”, but they were pretty solitary people and unique in their desires, interests, and mindsets to those around them. I had Peyton’s style and personality, but Haley’s determination, belief, and heart. I think that remains very true today. I’m honored to embody a piece of the best of these amazing characters. Even more interesting though is despite both their lives changed throughout the show as well as my life and how much I have changed since then, those fundamentals of identity, who I am at my core, and more or less the people we all strive to be is still just as true 10 years later.
That speaks to the incredible characterizations on the show, but it captures something a bit deeper at the same time. In the last episode they’re reliving who they all were 10 years ago. Brooke is the one who seems to capture better than any of them that they’ve changed and went down the paths they were meant to in order to get where they are with all of the struggles and blessings. We change a great deal especially between high school to post-college to figuring out who we are and the lives we will live. Brooke acknowledges this, but also realizes that who they were then is more or less who they will always be deep down. As someone whose life has drastically changed in so many ways, I can honestly say who I was at my core then is the same girl I am today and who I always will be.
The show couldn’t have ended on a better note. In the last season, it challenged itself and was pushed to the brims of darkness and back to a much lighter, nostalgic, and loving place. It showed the worst and the best that life is capable of and will likely experience in great quantities, it has a way of being unpredictable like that. The TV show of Lucas’ book on their lives starting in production and the 10 year anniversary of Tric was the perfect opportunity to allow the viewers that closure that we desperately needed to say goodbye to such a remarkable show that we spent so much time with. For the anniversary of Tric, we get a goodbye from Haley, thanking us for being with her and performances from Chris Keller, Haley, and the one and only Gavin DeGraw. This show made me fall in love with Mr. DeGraw and his music and I ended up meeting him and you better believe the words One Tree Hill left my mouth during my brief moment with him. His music meant a lot for the show. He sang of being yourself among struggles whoever that person is. His music embraced the love on the show. Whenever I hear “More than Anyone” I will always think of Haley and Nathan passionately kissing in the rain as Nathan professes his love shortly before they get married and replayed when they got re-married after combating struggles and grow closer. Even in their toughest times, the rain which signifies gloominess for most of us, was a romantic, thrilling representation for them that washed away the bad, replaced with their love powering over all else. Gavin DeGraw’s music and wisdom continues to inspire me in a number of ways as did many things that surfaced on this show.
Through the TV show some of the characters look at their past selves directly and really take in this journey, while realizing it is far from over. Gifts and dreams are passed on and the magic of believing is put in to action for the spirit of Tree Hill to live on as strong as it always has. This show has meant a great deal to me for love, life, human complexities, ambitions, understanding, and so much more. We all have experienced and craved these things and dread the inherent evil and suffering that will hunt us down. With the strength and love that characters have embodied in this show, we too will fight. One Tree Hill was a great show because it embodied so much of what life is, the good, the bad, the struggle, the hope, the people, the love, finding yourself and everything in between. It’s good to remember while we find all this and fight and embrace so much that we will always have a home and understanding in One Tree Hill. It was not a perfect series, like us all it was flawed but breathtaking, one beautiful depiction of life in the small town of Tree Hill, North Carolina. I know it will always have a place in my heart.