Series finales are always a point of contention among fans. It is a rare occasion that a series can manage to go out on a high note. One Tree Hill is one of those exceptions.
One Tree Hill not only managed to stick the landing with its series finale, but it pulled off not one, not two, but THREE other finales that would have served as perfect closers to the series along the way.
What made One Tree Hill’s finales stand out among the rest? Join us as we discuss.
Raise your hand if you ever invested years of your life in a show, only to get to the final episode and be left completely and utterly disappointed. If you’re raising your hand, you are not alone.
The legacy of many great shows has been tainted by lackluster final episodes. Why is it that writers who were able to entertain us for years just can’t seem to get it together to say goodbye to the characters that they created?
Sometimes it is because they push for shock value. Dexter’s series finale saw our favorite loveable serial killer riding off on a boat into a hurricane with the body of his dead adoptive sister, only to cut to him hidden away, working as a lumberjack.
You should always expect the unexpected, but when the unexpected leaves the worst taste in your mouth, it is kind of difficult.
How I Met Your Mother treated fans to a similar fate. After spending years building to the reveal of “The Mother,” fans were introduced to her, taken on their love story, and forced to watch her tragically die in the series finale.
The whole premise of the show is centered around finding out the identity of “The Mother,” so it is no wonder that fans weren’t exactly happy about that twist.
Not only did they kill off the mother, but Ted confessed his undying love to Robin to close out the series. Robin, who he couldn’t make it work with after multiple attempts, and who used to be married to one of his best friends.
As someone who was fully Team Robin and Ted throughout the series, even I couldn’t get behind this move.
So how did One Tree Hill manage to avoid the mistakes of shows like Dexter and How I Met Your Mother? It gave fans exactly what they wanted.
Throughout its run, One Tree Hill always felt like a love letter to the fans.
To this day, the cast is highly appreciative of the fans and still regularly attends conventions together. The fans are what make a show, and by catering to them, while remaining true to the essence of the show, it was impossible to have a bad finale.
The first “could be” finale came at the end of One Tree Hill Season 4.
After spending four seasons watching our favorite characters navigate high school together, through all the craziness that living in Tree Hill threw at them, all we wanted was to see these characters be happy.
You would think given that this was the end of their high school years, the finale would center around their graduation, but instead, they got that out of the way during the penultimate episode and were allowed to wrap things up.
Peyton was headed to LA to have an internship at a record label; Brooke was headed to LA with her to spend time with her estranged parents; Whitey accepted a coaching position at a college to help Nathan be able to continue to follow his dreams; Nathan and Hayley got their first taste of being parents, and Mouth finally kissed Brooke Davis.
All was right in the world.
The final scene of the cast at the River Court promising they would be friends forever with hope for what the future holds was the perfect end to their high school years. Even watching as an adult, that scene can make you nostalgic for that time in your life.
I, for one, could have been happy with that being the finale scene of the series.
We luckily were treated to five more seasons, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that the One Tree Hill Season 4 finale could have served as an amazing series finale.
In many ways, it did, as the show transitioned to the adult years of the characters. The shift in the show allowed the viewers to grow with the characters. As the audience was facing a more mature set of problems, so were the residents of Tree Hill.
The next potential series finale was my personal favorite. The One Tree Hill Season 6 finale is a big one.
Lucas and Peyton’s baby is born, Whitey shows Dan that redemption is possible, Millie returns to Tree Hill to be with Mouth. Victoria gives Brooke the apology she always needed, Brooke tells Julian she loves him, Nathan joins the NBA, and Peyton and Lucas ride off in the Comet that brought them together.
This episode was the resolution of multiple, up to that point, series-long storylines -- Lucas and Peyton got their happy ending, Nathan finally got to realize his dream of playing in the NBA, and Brooke found true love.
Like how the One Tree Hill Season 4 finale felt like it was a series finale because it was a reset, the One Tree Hill Season 6 finale was the same in many senses.
With the departure of Chad Michael Murray and Hilary Burton, One Tree Hill Season 7 brought us multiple new characters to the core cast, and the tone of the show forever shifted.
Shows are left with a decision when they aren’t sure they are getting another season. They can hope for the best and leave things unresolved, or they can wrap things up just in case.
It's fine when your show is on solid ground to give fans a cliffhanger ending to a season to leave them on the edge of their seat. When your show is on rocky ground, though, you need to leave things resolved.
Many fans have spent years tortured thanks to their favorite series being canceled and leaving them without answers.
I still feel personally attacked by ABC for never giving us an answer to who shot Santiago on the Grand Hotel Season 1 finale.
One Tree Hill Season 8 made the smart decision of giving us a solid ending to the series, just in case it was their last.
Brooke not only got to have a baby as she had always dreamed of, but she got to have twins, Mouth and Millie got to start their morning show together, Hayley and Brooke reopen Karen’s cafe, and Chase leaves for the airforce, getting to live out his dream.
The One Tree Hill Season 8 finale gave us the perfect send off to the characters we have come to know and love, but it also left us wanting more.
I could be happy with just knowing that Brooke was going to a mom, but I still wanted to see her do it. I could rest easy at night knowing Karen’s Cafe would be a staple of Tree Hill again, but I wanted to see Hayley and Brooke make it their own.
By approaching it that way, the writers allowed for closure but also potential, which is why it was able to get one final send-off.
There is no denying that One Tree Hill Season 9 was interesting, to the say the least. There was a kidnapping plot, Chris Keller helped save the day, Hayley dressed up as a hooker, and Julian got drunk and let people beat him up.
By the end, though, One Tree Hill had found its way to a satisfying ending.
We got to spend one last night at Tric, Brooke got to open up another store across from Haley, Julian brought An Unkindness of Ravens to the world through a TV show, Millie and Mouth were pregnant, Clay and Quinn got married and got to be a family with Logan, and Jaime became a Raven.
I’d be lying if I didn’t shed a few tears as the gang sat in the Tree Hill High School gym with a trademark One Tree Hill narrative speech playing out, and Jaime running onto the court in his Ravens jersey.
There was nothing about that finale that I would change.
Throughout these four killer episodes, One Tree Hill could have gone for OMG moments and cliffhangers, but instead, they delivered endings that felt natural and authentic to the characters and the world they had built.
If One Tree Hill can do it four times, surely other shows can manage to get it right just once.
What TV shows do you feel got it right, and which ones do you think got it very wrong?
Hit up the comments section with your thoughts!
Meaghan Frey was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She retired in September 2020.