One Tree Hill ended its eighth season on a very happy note. Brooke (Sophia Bush) and Haley (Bethany Joy Galeotti) re-opened Karen’s Cafe. Nathan and Haley enjoyed the arrival of their new daughter Lydia. Julian (Austin Nichols) and Brooke got married mid-season and had twins in the finale; a welcome surprise and source of joy after anguishing over the possibility that Brooke would not be able to bear children. Chase (Stephen Colletti) and Alex (Jana Kramer) were looking forward to what lay ahead for them as they re-united after being apart for a year. All was basically well in Tree Hill for the core cast of characters. Quinn (Shantel VanSanten) and Clay (Robert Buckley) recovered from their near-fatal gunshot wounds early in season 8, which they received from the psycho Sarah look-alike in the season 7 finale and aside from a car accident off of a bridge in which Brooke and Jamie (Jackson Brundage) nearly drowned, it was a very blissful season for the characters. The season ended with a wonderful shot of Jamie bouncing his basketball across the bridge while wearing a Keith Scott Body Shop sweatshirt just like his Uncle Lucas (Chad Michael Murray) used to do. It was a nostalgic moment for fans, and potentially a perfect ending to the series, especially for those of us who have seen every episode since the pilot.
However, as with real life, these times of bliss are eventually shaken by unforeseen circumstances. Unsavory characters eventually show up to disrupt our reveries. Thus, season 9 begins on a dark note with a brilliant and chilling opening montage of chaotic scenes of non-linear future events; probably toward the end of the season, possibly even the finale. We see Dan Scott and Chris Keller loading semi-automatic handguns in a car on their way to some sort of confrontation, a blood-splattered Chase in the back of a police car, Brooke going on a rampage inside of a restaurant, and Haley identifying a body in a morgue.
But who is under that sheet? What in the world just happened? These questions are racing through our minds as these scenes are thrown in our face and perfectly scored with “The Sun” by The Naked and Famous. I thought it was a perfect opening to the season. It was riveting to watch and it created more active participation for us as the audience. Now we have questions about why all of those scenes happen and we will be looking for the clues as the season progresses. Little by little with each passing episode the pieces of the puzzle will begin to fall in place. Mark Schwahn made a smart choice by opening the new season with non-linear scenes. It heightens the suspense and interest for us as the audience. That montage is already one of my favorite scenes from a One Tree Hill episode. There will definitely be a dark cloud, as it were, hanging over this season as we wait and watch for whatever horrible things are going to happen. We’ve tread this dark path before in past seasons such as with the school shooting episode. But One Tree Hill runs the gamut of emotions and life experiences. There are many light-hearted and hilarious moments to look forward to and even this episode is mostly on the lighter side. There are some funny scenes between Victoria (Daphne Zuniga) and Brooke’s father (Richard Burgi joins the cast this season in this role).
The capstone is the return of Chris Keller (Tyler Hilton) who has the funniest scenes in this episode. Haley hires him via email to oversee Red Bedroom Records, not realizing it is him because of his alias. Their back and forth banter is a blast to watch with many laugh-out-loud moments. Chris Keller’s interactions with Alex (Jana Kramer) are just as funny as he begins work on producing one of her songs.
I’m really glad Dan Scott (Paul Johansson) will be given more prominence this season. Dan is such a compelling character and we are never completely sure which direction he is moving in. All of the writers have done such a fabulous job writing his scenes over the past seasons and Paul has always executed (well, yes, pun sort of intended…) them perfectly. What a great role for an actor to have. I’m really looking forward to seeing how he will affect the lives of the others in Tree Hill this season. From my own perspective as just one fan, I would like to see him have some sort of reconciliation with Nathan. However, I know from past seasons of this show that whatever Mark Schwahn has decided to do with this character will be satisfying so I look forward to watching how it all plays out.
Dan approaches Haley and asks if he can stay at her home for a couple of days since his diner and home burned down. It will be interesting to find out how that happened.
I’m really glad we were given one more season of One Tree Hill. At the time the season 8 finale was written, there was uncertainty as to whether the show was going to end or get picked up by the CW for another season. For this reason, the season 8 finale has closure and does not have a cliffhanger. It was clearly written as though it were the final episode of the show. However, many of us fans wanted one more season. A couple of months later, phone calls and emails from fans to the CW network (I made a couple myself) paid off and the show was picked up for a shorter and final 9th season. Sure, many of us would have liked a full season with 22 episodes but we can’t always have what we want, now can we? Besides, there is a silver lining to having the show begin mid-season. Sometimes less is more. With only 13 episodes, Mark Schwahn and his fellow writers had to be more concise with each episode. They also knew ahead of time that this was going to be the final season. This no doubt informed every plot and character arc decision they made when they wrote each episode. I’m sure they had some intensive pre-production meetings in the late spring and early summer last year and mapped out the whole season ahead of time. All 13 episodes will probably play out like a long, epic movie.
Please see my previous article about the special event “An Evening with One Tree Hill in LA,” an advance screening of the season 9 premiere and Q&A with Mark Schwahn and the cast at the Arclight theater in Hollywood, which I attended. Just click the “previous post” button below.
To find out more about the music of One Tree Hill, visit the official One Tree Hill Music website. To get a list of the music in this week’s season 9 premiere episode (901-“Know This, We’ve Noticed”), click here.
(Note: If you are new to One Tree Hill, please go back and watch all of the previous 8 seasons on DVD. You will have a much greater appreciation for the characters when you know all of their backstories. This will greatly enhance your enjoyment since One Tree Hill is a serialized show. You can also subscribe to season 9 in iTunes now.)