Goodnight, One Tree Hill


One Tree Hill’s final episode was indeed the end of an era. One that is joyful given the happy endings that met each and every character we watched struggle over the last nine years. Mark Schwan considered this final hour of One Tree Hill to be a love letter to the fans and that’s exactly what it was.

I was a college freshman when I began watching One Tree Hill with my roommate. Sharing the TV meant sharing one another’s shows and at first, I had no desire to watch it. My inability to resist dramas filled with family problems, love triangles, and the ins and outs of high school won over and I was instantly a fan. And like every other viewer, I followed the show from that first basketball game that was split between Nathan with the Ravens and Lucas on the river court – to the Ravens game that ended Wednesday’s episode.

It was indeed the end of an era. One that is joyful given the happy endings that met each and every character we watched struggle over the last nine years. Mark Schwan considered this final hour of One Tree Hill to be a love letter to the fans and that’s exactly what it was.

The last hour of this show included numerous references to the very first season: Lucas and Haley’s predictions, the worn copy of Julius Caesar, the crackerjack box bracelet only this time with diamonds, Jamie playing on the river court at night, Jamie throwing water balloons off the roof, Bevin, Haley and Nathan kissing in the rain, Peyton’s bedroom set filled with records and the closet doors marking her and Brooke’s relationships, and that NOFX sticker that sparked one of the first conversations between Peyton and Lucas nine years ago.

It also brought new moments with these beloved characters. Haley and Brooke carved out a corner on Grace Street — Karen’s Café on one side and Baker Man on the other. Julian surprised Brooke when he bought the house she grew up in, the house she was heartbroken to give up all those years ago. Brooke got more than a house; she got the family and life she never realized she dreamed of having. Dan left Mouth $500,000 that he turned into the Edwards-Scott Scholarship Fund. It was an unexpected gift, but one that showed the support, strength, and friendship Mouth had provided to those around him and the goodness he brought to the world hadn’t gone unnoticed. I can’t keep from mentioning Chase and his inability to mix a proper drink. How hilarious were those slaps?

Nathan and Jamie also had a defining, full circle conversation on the river court where Nathan reassured Jamie that his life was his and he could do whatever he wanted. The Dan Scott pressure, the need to succeed in basketball and be better than his father wouldn’t be required. I never had any doubt that Nathan could have cared less what Jamie did with his life, but it was a wonderful moment that showed how his history wouldn’t be his son’s. And thankfully for Nathan, Jamie loves basketball anyway.

That conversation is what made the last five minutes of the show so impactful, that flash forward to the Raven’s court with Haley and Brooke and their husbands leaving their respective businesses and Julian’s caw as they headed to the game. We learned that Jamie had broken his father’s record, just as he predicted, and beyond that, the past and the hard and complicated places these characters came from were erased by who they became. Everyone was happy.

Say what you want about Peyton and Lucas being absent, but their characters and everything they meant to the show were eerily present. Peyton’s love for music, the soundtrack to her life that became the soundtrack to ours, drove the entire episode through an anniversary night at Tric. That copy of Julius Caesar that initially defined the entire dynamic of the show being placed yet again in Karen’s Café along with Haley sharing the sentiment there’s only one Tree Hill and it’s Jamie’s home, the same words Karen shared with Lucas, brought the show full circle. So much of Lucas’ legacy and friendship was passed on through Jamie and Haley’s relationship. The fans never doubted the impact of Lucas and Peyton on the show and Mark Schwan proved that he hadn’t forgotten either.

Speaking of music, Chris Keller’s stellar performance aside, how fantastic was the cast singing the theme song along with Gavin DeGraw? That single song not only defined this show, but helped launched his career, and it was amazing to think about how far everyone’s come since that first episode. We watched these characters grow from struggling, misunderstood teenagers into adults and then parents. It’s been an amazing process and that’s why it’s so hard to let them go.

Isn’t there a little bit of each of them in all of us? Nathan’s desire to be accepted and loved by his parents, his struggle to please those around him while staying true to himself. Or how he lost his biggest dream only to gain others along the way. Haley with her open heart, her willingness to give anyone a chance and help those who are willing to take the first step to help themselves. She’s a true giver in every possible way. Peyton’s deep love for music is a reminder of how meaningful music is too all of us. The songs we listen to become woven into our lives and define us. It’s similar to Lucas’ love for literature, how words have more meaning that the people who write them sometimes mean. Peyton also represents that mistrust, that fear of being left alone and how it affects the ability to open up and welcome love.

Brooke is beautifully vulnerable and scared of the good in her life not lasting forever. How many times have you felt that way when things are simply too good to be true, but are, in fact, true? I can’t say enough good things about her character. Anything I do will sound trite and cliché. When the show started, she was not my favorite character, but it was easy to write her off as the silly, slutty cheerleader. She has so much heart, intelligence, and kindness within her. What makes her so special to me is to look at who she was in those early seasons and this strong, capable, independent, and all around amazing woman she became. She’s more complex than people give her credit for and I’ll miss getting to be a part of her life, but I’m happy knowing she ended up with everything she wanted, which is exactly what she deserved.

Really, I’ll miss getting to be a part of all their lives. For nine years, this show and its characters showed us the importance of art, music, books, love, life, family, and happiness. And more importantly, that life is painful and hard, but it will get better and that everything we do, everything we are matters. There’s only one Tree Hill and it’s our home now too.

Thanks for nine great years, One Tree Hill. You’re already missed.


Amber Cunigan
Amber Cunigan is a sarcastic mid-twenties undergrad, extreme book hoarder, Netflix addict, and reality TV aficionado. She enjoys excessive amounts of chocolate and caffeine, tweeting, and all things Ezra Fitz and Ryan Gosling. When it comes to TV, she expects to be thoroughly entertained and when not, she will slam and mock you, but still tune in next week. She's a glutton for punishment. Basically, she's awesome.

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  1. Amazingly written. It’s definitely an end of an Era with this. I’m not ashamed to admit I totally cried while watching the series finale. I grew up with this show and the warm feeling that came from this ending was completely satisfying. Props to the cast and Mark who stuck with the show for it’s full run and proved to love it just as much as he did when the pilot aired. It’s a testimate to the show and it’s fans and it was just everything it should have been.

  2. Great article! Well said.

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