Nora Dominick ’17/ Emertainment Monthly Executive Stage Editor
Five years ago today, Gavin DeGraw performed for the final time in Tric as One Tree Hill came to a close. Over the course of nine seasons, One Tree Hill helped define the teen drama and created some of the most beloved characters and relationships. Fans fell head-over-heels in love with the town of Tree Hill, NC, the music and the unbelievable bonds between characters.
The show originally followed the lives of two half-brothers Lucas Scott (Chad Michael Murray) and Nathan Scott (James Lafferty), who competed for positions on their school’s basketball team: The Ravens. As creator Mark Schwahn stated, One Tree Hill is like “Cain and Abel on the basketball court.” What started as a show about a brotherly rivalry evolved into a show about the magic of sport and a small town.
One Tree Hill first premiered on The WB in 2003. The series survived the fateful switch from The WB to The CW and would go on to be one of the networks longest running series. Before an era of binge-watching, the show thrived off of fans and their passion for the series. Beginning with low ratings, fans of One Tree Hill fought for the show and became an integral part to the success.
Five years after the Tree Hill Ravens played their final basketball game, more and more people continue to fall in love with One Tree Hill thanks to the power of Netflix. In honor of the remarkable teen drama’s five year finale anniversary, executive stage editor Nora Dominick lists her top twelve favorite episodes to celebrate.
Beware, spoilers ahead!
12. “The Wind That Blew My Heart Away” (3×13)
Some of the best episodes of One Tree Hill seem to feature storms that put our characters in danger. In this episode, a violent rainstorm knocks out the power in Tree Hill and leads to several important storylines. From Nathan arriving on Haley’s (Bethany Joy Lenz) doorstep after several episodes apart to Brooke (Sophia Bush) confronting Lucas over his past love with Peyton (Hilarie Burton). Also, Peyton gets a heart wrenching storyline when she learns the truth about Ellie’s (Sheryl Lee) illness.
It’s an episode with a lot of emotions and iconic moments. Nathan reveals he kept all the newspaper clippings talking about Haley’s tour and Lucas tells Brooke he loves her, not Peyton. While all those moments are iconic, Peyton growing closer to Ellie only to have her die at the end is what makes this episode so heartbreaking and one of the best. “Say hi to my mom. Mom.”
11. “One Tree Hill” (9×13)
In order to encapsulate nine seasons of incredible storytelling and characters, One Tree Hill had to deliver a series finale worthy of such an incredible journey. “One Tree Hill” brings not only the storylines in season nine to a close, but also the series as a whole. While simultaneously honoring past seasons and looking to the future, this episode is one of the series strongest. Using the anniversary of Tric and Julian (Austin Nichols) filming his TV show “Ravens” as backdrops, each character receives a full circle conclusion. A great episode to celebrate all the characters and storylines One Tree Hill gave us. It also gave us this iconic Nathan Scott quote:
“It’s the oldest story in the world. One day you’re seventeen and planning for someday. And then quietly and without you ever really noticing, someday is today. And that someday is yesterday, and this is your life.”
10. “Hundred” (5×12)
Hitting 100 episodes is a milestone for any series and One Tree Hill delivers a favorable episode to celebrate this. It’s Lucas and Lindsey’s (Michaela McManus) wedding day, but that doesn’t mean it’s all smiles. At the wedding, Lindsey finally realizes that Lucas still loves Peyton after reading his latest book: The Comet. Elsewhere, Crazy Nanny Carrie (Torrey DeVitto) steals away Jamie (Jackson Brundage), Brooke reveals to Peyton she wants to have a baby, and Dan Scott (Paul Johansson) makes a heroic return. It’s an episode for long-time fans as characters make decisions that will affect them forever.
9. “Remember Me As a Time of Day” (6×24)
When season six came to an end, we knew we would be bidding farewell to two iconic characters: Lucas and Peyton. It was hard to imagine the show continuing on without them, but this episode gives them a picture perfect send off. After finding out carrying her pregnancy to term could kill her, Peyton gives birth to her daughter, Sawyer. She finally has everything she ever wanted. She has a beautiful family and is married to Lucas. It’s the perfect ending for P. Sawyer.
While this send off is touching, it’s actually Nathan Scott that makes this episode truly incredible. After suffering a spinal injury, Nathan finally rallies back and wins a spot on the NBA team, the Charlotte Bobcats. A moment One Tree Hill fans have waited years for is finally realized in the perfect way. It brings tears to our eyes just thinking about Nathan standing center court for his first pro-game.
8. “The Show Must Go On” (3×22)
One of One Tree Hill’s many stunning season finale’s, this episode holds some iconic moments and also some heartbreaking ones. Nathan and Haley renew their vows in front of their friends and family. It’s the “Naley” wedding we will always remember. Their vows will no doubt bring a tear to your eyes and you’ll constantly be wishing to find a Nathan Scott of your own. Elsewhere at the wedding, Brooke learns Lucas kissed Peyton and the “Brucas” romance comes to a heartbreaking and crushing end. Bush delivers one of her bests moments when she delivers the speech, “I am not pushing you away, Lucas. I am holding on for dear life. But I need you to need me back.”
Also, what would a One Tree Hill finale be without a car crash? One of the most iconic in the series history, Rachel (Danneel Ackles) steals a limo and drives herself and Cooper (Michael Trucco) off a bridge. It’s one of the biggest cliffhangers in OTH history as Nathan dives in the water to save them leaving a screaming Haley on the bridge, in her wedding dress.
7.”Darkness on the Edge of Town” (8×11)
Arguably the most visually daring episode on One Tree Hill, “Darkness on the Edge of Town” gives us one of the best performances from Bush, Nichols, Brundage and Shantel VanSanten. Once again, a terrible storm rocks Tree Hill causing a serious car accident and a psycho re-appearing in Quinn’s (VanSanten) life. With the water rising, Julian desperatly tries to rescue Jamie and Brooke from a car. Nichols gives his best performance on One Tree Hill during this moment. Watching the desperation in his face as he tries to revive Brooke is enough to have you sobbing. Bush and Brundage also give unbelievable performances.
Elsewhere, Quinn goes up against Katie (Amanda Shull), who has comes back to kill Quinn once and for all. It’s an epic battle set up against the violent storm racing through Tree Hill. This episode is filled with action as Quinn is essentially hunted in her own house. Between Bush, Nichols, Brundage and VanSanten performances, this episode is one of the best.
6. “All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone” (4×21)
An episode that encapsulates the early days of One Tree Hill, our favorite characters graduate high school and are faced with the future. Haley gives birth to Jamie, Karen (Moira Kelly) gives birth to Lily and Dan turns himself in for the murder of Keith (Craig Sheffer). It’s an emotional rollercoaster from start to finish as One Tree Hill reaches this crucial milestone. This episode is a definite ode to childhood and the people you leave behind once you graduate high school and move into the real world.
While most of the episode is set at a final senior year party, each character gets to say goodbye to their younger selves before does a now iconic four year time jump the following season. Haley and Nathan look to the future with their son as they select godparents, Lucas makes a decision regarding his future as writer and basketball player, and Peyton struggles to leave Tree Hill altogether. It’s emotional, especially after watching these characters grow for four seasons. Each character goes through the stages of leaving behind their former selves, but Brooke hits us particularly hard when she reads what Luke wrote about her.
“She was fiercely independent, Brooke Davis. Brilliant and beautiful and brave. In two years, she had grown more than anyone I had ever known. Brooke Davis is going to change the world someday, and I’m not sure she even knows it”
5. “Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly.” (6×03)
One Tree Hill has had several sob worthy episode over nine seasons, but this one is definitely one of the hardest. In the previous episode, Quentin Fields (Robbie Jones) is tragically shot and killed in a convenience store. It’s a moment that rocks the future of One Tree Hill and all the characters. Nathan and Haley struggle to explain this tragedy to Jamie as the entire town is in mourning. Nathan finds Q’s copy of Les Miserables in his locker, Lucas and Skills (Antwon Tanner) struggle to rally the Ravens together, Haley reflects on the impact Q had on everyone and Sam (Ashley Rickards) pens a tragic essay about Quentin. It’s emotional to say the least.
Every single actor has us crying in some fashion, but it’s Brundage and Bush that have us on the floor sobbing. Brundage doesn’t even need to utter any words, at the funeral just the moment of him putting the red cape on Q’s coffin and hugging Brooke as she cries is enough. On the other hand, Bush gives a breathtaking performance as Brooke comes to terms with the sudden loss and the aftermath of her attack. It’s heartbreaking in every single way.
4. “Pictures of You” (4×13)
This is an episode of One Tree Hill that doesn’t feature any fancy locations or epic basketball games. Instead, it focuses on every single character. It’s an impressive episode to say the least and arguably one of the most iconic in the nine year history of the show. In a senior year class, everyone is paired off and forced to get to know one another on deeper levels. Penned by Schwahn, the dialogue speaks volumes as the characters deepest secrets and desires are revealed.
This is another episode that shows the power of the young actors One Tree Hill assembled and the power of a great ensemble cast. Every character is given their moment in the sun and that’s honestly the best part. Brooke confronts her deepest fear that maybe she isn’t truly loved. Nathan must learn to put himself first. Skills and Haley worry about the future and Lucas learns there are more people at Tree Hill High that need noticing. It’s One Tree Hill at its purest and simplest form: a story about real people.
3. “Some You Give Away” (4×09)
While the relationships on One Tree Hill had us coming back week after week, the game of basketball was also essential. As Mouth (Lee Norris) says:
“You know, say what you will about the ravages of sports in this corporate age where overpaid athletes expect prima donna treatment, but there’s still something so unifying about sporting in it’s purest form, when athletes rise above themselves and touch greatness, and in doing so remind us all that we all have greatness inside of us.”
This episode has the perfect balance of sport and relationships. Nathan, Lucas and The Ravens fight to win a State Championship before Whitey (Barry Corbin) retires. It’s a heart-racing game, especially since Nathan is put in the position to throw the game. On the relationship front, Lucas finally realize he wants Peyton and Haley learns the sex of her baby. It’s emotional on multiple levels and one of the best episode for its ability to combine basketball and characters in the perfect way.
2. “Danny Boy” (9×11)
Dan Scott had one of the biggest character arcs in the history of One Tree Hill. Starting as Nathan’s basketball obsessed father to Keith’s killer to Nathan’s savior, it was a rollercoaster. You loved to hate and hated to love Dan Scott from beginning to end. This episode is a true love letter to one of the most iconic characters on One Tree Hill. After saving Nathan from his kidnappers, Dan is shot protecting his son. It’s the perfect ending for Dan and full circle moment to say the least. As Dan lies in the hospital dying, Nathan, Haley and Deb (Barbara Alyn Woods) get the closure they need. You need several boxes of tissues to get through this one.
Johansson and Lafferty give their characters the perfect send off in this episode. Starting out as enemies, Nathan and Dan finally get to play a basketball game without keeping score, just as father and son. It’s a moment One Tree Hill needed before coming to an end. One of the series finest hours, “Danny Boy” is all heart as Dan Scott is remembered as a flawed man who would do anything for his family.
1. “With Tired Eyes, Tired Minds, Tired Souls, We Slept” (3×16)
Hands down the greatest episode of One Tree Hill, or dare we say any teen drama. This episode was larger than the show itself as it spoke poignantly about school shootings. When Jimmy Edwards (Colin Fickes) enters Tree Hill High School with a gun, the entire show would never be the same. An episode that didn’t glorify gun violence and gun regulations and didn’t shy away from talking about the gun owner. While fear played a role in the episode, it was actually the moments where students tried to convince Jimmy to put the gun down was what made this episode so iconic.
From Brooke being locked on the outside to Peyton bleeding out in the library to Nathan and Haley pleading with Jimmy to stop, every moving part made this One Tree Hill’s finest hour. Every single actor gave the episode their all. From the writing to the acting, One Tree Hill gives arguably the best depictions of a school shooting on TV to date.
Not only did the episode touch on school shootings, but it also said goodbye to one of the series most beloved characters: Keith Scott. The consequences of the Tree Hill High School shooting lingered until the shows end in 2012. It’s an episode that fans need at least five boxes of tissues to watch. It’s poignant, simple and effective.