Tuesday, April 10, 2012

There is Only One Tree Hill

Julian said it best when he called it a show that “isn’t afraid to be quiet or heartfelt, a show that’s romantic and sexy and makes you feel like you’re not alone.” A show that in theory may have sounded a lot like many others – Dawson’s Creek, The O.C., or Beverly Hills 90210 - but would find its own voice and its own fans and end up spanning nine seasons. One Tree Hill may have been close to cancellation more often than not during its lifetime, and it may have had its share of psychopaths, car accidents, and kidnappings, but it also always managed to stay true to the characters and relationships that were always at the heart of the show, something that most shows can’t say. Last Wednesday marked not only TRIC’s 10 year anniversary, but the last time we would turn on our TVs and see what Nathan, Haley, Brooke and the others were up to. I couldn’t let the moment go without looking back at what made this show so damn good. And in my humble opinion, those things are:

The quotes: Whether it was Lucas quoting William Shakespeare, Karen poignantly telling her son that there is only one Tree Hill and it will always be his home, or Peyton’s voiceover telling us that “there are 6, 470, 818, 671 people in the world. Some are running scared. Some are coming home. Some tell lies to make it through the day. Other are just not facing the truth. Some are evil men, at war with good. And some are good, struggling with evil. Six billion people in the world, six billions souls. And sometimes, all you need is one,” OTH has always had a way with words. Yes, we all know that OTH was a vehicle to showcase great music, both as live guests and as the score for the series, but week after week, it proved that the words were just as important as the melodies. An episode just wasn’t an episode without the compelling voiceovers, the one-liners, or the heartfelt reflections.

The evolution of Brooke Davis: Oh, B. Davis. She started out as the stereotypical bitchy cheerleader who threw herself at Lucas even though Peyton had feelings for him, and ended up a confident and well-rounded business owner, wife, and mother, arguably becoming the show’s most lovable character. But the most wonderful part of it all was the journey that led her there; it was bumpy and painful, it was honest and authentic, it was funny and earnest and flawed. Once again, Julian said it best when pitching An Unkindness of Ravens to studio executives and he called Brooke a pivotal character. “Brooke’s heart is vulnerable, and that’s why she’s so central. And that’s why the audience will root for her; they’ll identify with her, her mistakes, her victories, her heartache.” Yes, we certainly did.

The throwbacks: Nothing excites a fan more than watching those little nods referencing a show’s past, and OTH has always been good at supplying those moments for us. From the quote hanging on the wall of Karen’s Café, “Somebody told me this is a place where everything’s better and everything’s safe,” to each female lead naming her child after her own maiden name (Jamie, Sawyer and Davis), to Skills’ (justified) paranoid behaviour during Brooke and Julian’s nuptials given the show’s history of wedding day mayhem, the writers have always hidden little gems like these within episodes for long-time fans to discover, and we have always enjoyed being in on the joke.  

The vision: OTH was a show about a group of high school juniors growing up into adults. It was a show about two estranged brothers. It was a show about the love story between Lucas and Peyton, Nathan and Haley, and Brooke and Julian. It was a show about music and sports and literature. But more than anything else, it was a show about hope. It was always clear that the show’s creator, Mark Schwahn, had a particular vision for how his show would progress – not in particular events, but in attitude and quality. And through all of its nine seasons the show stayed true to that vision and the characters within it and none of that would have been possible without Schwahn. Just look at Dawson’s Creek. It became a completely different show once it’s creator, Kevin Williamson, departed, and in those floundering last seasons, it was hard to watch the characters do such roundabout things that were no longer in line with who they’d become. I doubt that OTH would’ve been able to survive, or survive with integrity, after losing two of its main cast members, Chad Michael Murray and Hilarie Burton, at the end of season six without Schwahn at the helm. He was able to successfully shift focus completely onto the three remaining leads and still authentically carry on their stories while maintaining the same tone and heart that the show always had.

And now for the best things about the series finale:

SPOILER ALERT! It’s been a week since the finale aired, so you should reasonably be expecting to see spoilers all over the Internet, so you can’t get mad at me. But if you have yet to watch the episode, don’t scroll down.

Bevin’s cameo: With most fans hoping for an appearance from Lucas, Peyton, and baby Sawyer, nobody really thought about who else should or could return. So it was a welcome surprise to see Bevin working at City Hall and end up helping Quinn and Clay get married and then adopt Logan. As soon as I saw her face, I remembered what a weird and fun character she was, but it was good to see that Schwahn remembered too when he had her awkwardly blurt out that she was married once but then it turned out she hated her husband. But nothing was better than seeing her reunited with Skills in the Tree Hill High bleachers.

Dan’s mystery cheque: All season, I felt that Mouth’s “fat” storyline wasn’t really worth it. I mean, it could have been, but with all the other heavy things happening, it didn’t seem to have the, uh, weight, it should have. But all that started to change when he received a cheque from Dan’s estate for $500, 000, 000 with a note saying “What you do matters.” Using a throwback to a quiet and mostly forgotten, but important, moment between Dan and Mouth after Mouth got fired for refusing to report on the Nathan/Renee scandal in season 7, the writers finally revealed the storyline’s real purpose – Mouth honouring Jimmy Edwards and Keith Scott’s memory by founding the Edwards/Scott Scholarship Fund.

Chase and Chris Keller as BFFs: I wasn’t happy to see Chris back in Tree Hill this season, and his arrogant and selfish behaviour certainly didn’t help his case at all. That is, until Chase started to strike up a bizarre friendship with the playboy singer who likes to refer to himself in third person. Though it would have been nice to see Alex return to be reunited with him, I’m glad that Chase, who always been somewhat of loner and floater on the series, had someone by his side. Their antics provided a welcome, light-hearted tone to an otherwise intense season and bittersweet episode.

Brooke and Julian’s new home: It was a beautiful ending for a beautiful character. Not only did Brooke finally find a man who was willing to do anything to give her the life and family she craved and deserved, but in the house she always loved. Who didn’t get goose bumps when Brooke excitedly ran up the stairs to look in her room after Julian told her he bought her childhood home?

The return to Tree Hill High: Not only did I do a happy dance upon seeing the whole (okay, almost the whole) group together again in the gym where it all started, but I was overjoyed to see the series end how it began– with a Scott on the basketball court. As the camera panned from Nathan’s framed jersey to Jamie’s, we learned that Jamie had achieved his dream of becoming the school’s new all-time leading scorer. When a teenaged Jamie took the court donning a Ravens jersey, hearts of OTH fans everywhere exploded with happiness and the sense that even though we won’t get to see our favourite characters each week, everything was going to be alright in the Tree Hill world.

I’ll admit it. When OTH ended season six with their “believe that dreams come true every day” theme as Lucas and Peyton drove off into the sunset, I didn’t know how the show could ever top that episode. And last season, when Jamie dribbled a basketball over the bridge while wearing a hoodie in a nod the show’s original opening sequence, I wasn’t sure there could ever be a more fitting end. But I was wrong.

Thanks, One Tree Hill. Thanks for the music. Thanks for the memories. But most of all, thanks for barely including Quinn in this season.


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