Throughout the past nine years, the hit television series One Tree Hill has taken millions of viewers through a roller-coaster coming-of-age trip following the lives of high schoolers in a quaint town in North Carolina. On April 4, that journey—spanning 187 episodes and uncountable moments of drama—came to an end.
The series finale lasted two hours, with the first hour incorporating clips of the cast and crew answering questions and reminiscing over highlights of their nine highly melodramatic, emotion-filled seasons.
Creator Mark Schwahn discussed the show’s multipurpose aims: to relate to struggling students nationwide by tackling difficult issues, to create a platform for talented up-and-coming musicians and to create a cast of characters with whom viewers can become “pseudo-friends.”
Whether an episode dealt with topics of school shootings, drugs or eating disorders, lead actor James Lafferty notes, “The show has helped [fans] through tough periods in their lives, and I think that’s a testament to where the heart of our show is.”
Other cast members, such as Sophia Bush, commented on the family-like bond that has developed on and off the set. Multiple actors broke down crying at the thought of bidding farewell as behind-the-scenes footage from the taping of the finale aired.
The set was shown being taken down—including Tric Club, Karen’s Coffeehouse, and the River Court—as the actors and actresses reminisced on the landmark backgrounds which had served as the backdrop of their lives for nearly the past decade.
The destruction of these sets was poignant for loyal fans as well. By focusing on themes of sports, romance and realistic teen scenarios throughout the course of the series, Schwahn commented on the diverse and devoted fan base that contributed to the TV show’s popularity and longevity: as he says, “There are not many more greater underdog stories than us,” alluding to the show’s slow beginning and mounting recognition, gaining over three million viewers at its peak in 2008.
For these ardent and committed admirers, the series finale incorporated all necessary elements to provide a completely cohesive, sentimental and heart-warming culmination: memorable flashbacks, cameos of first-season characters, tear-jerking voiceovers and a perfect “mix-tape” soundtrack that OTH is well-known for.
Various storylines were smoothly wrapped-up as characters contemplated the meaning of “home” in the comforting neighborhood of Tree Hill. For the character of Brooke (Sophia Bush), the idea of “home” involved moving back to her childhood house to start raising her own family. For Clay (Robert Buckley) and Quinn (Shantel VanSanten), “home” meant finally getting married and legally adopting a child. For Haley (Bethany Joy Galeotti), the uniqueness of “home” comes when she reflects on the fact that “there’s only one Tree Hill” and her happiness that she chose this picturesque, charming life over a glitzy music career. As Brooke says in the show describing Tree Hill, “We did a lot of growing up in here, wishing and dreaming, figuring who we were going to be.”
The culminating factor that truly provided closure for fans was the on-air performance of “I Don’t Wanna Be” by Gavin DeGraw, which served as the show’s distinguished and distinctive introductory song since its debut.
The song continued playing through the end of the episode as spectators witnessed a hopeful, foreshadowing scene. One of the main characters, Millie (Lisa Goldstein), was visibly pregnant while the other individuals were older and reunited by the activity that initially brought them all together: basketball.
In the end, the series finale of One Tree Hill lacked many of the exciting moments that have contributed to past episodes—no fiery car crashes, abrupt deaths, kidnappings or murders—but it did have a sentimental touch of nostalgia that provided a bittersweet ending for fans and cast alike.