Un-Innocent, Elegant Fall into the Un-Magnificent Lives of Adults

It’s hard to believe we are 181 episodes into One Tree Hill, and there are only 6 more to go.

I’ve written about One Tree Hill a number of times on my blog – either in recapping my show-related trips to Wilmington, or during the campaign to save One Tree Hill from cancellation after Season 7. While I got a lot of traction writing about the latter, and still get emails from strangers asking me where to find Tree Hill locations in Wilmington, NC, I mostly wrote those pieces for my own benefit, without much idea of too many other people reading them.

So, I was both surprised and flattered when I started getting requests to write something about Season 9. Once I realized there was interest, I wanted to oblige, but I’ve mostly just been sitting back and enjoying the ride of this last season without discussing it verbally or in print.

But now that we’ve passed the halfway point, and we’re getting close to the end, I thought I’d go ahead and give you my thoughts on the season so far, and my thoughts on what may be coming. I’m not doing spoilers here, so feel free to share what you think is coming, but let’s keep those out of it, shall we?

First off, I’ll add my hearty “welcome back!” to the always-entertaining Chris Keller. I was really excited when I heard he was returning for the final season (and I knew he’d always been open to that idea), but I was a little concerned that having him as a regular would be a little too much. I was definitely wrong there. With all the drama going on this season, his humor has been a welcome reprieve, and I’m glad it’s coming in the form of an old friend instead of a new character brought in solely for comic relief. I grin every time he says, “Wellll, wellllll,” refers to himself in the third person, or says something totally smug and rude. It’s funny that he still flirts with any woman in sight (including Haley), and yet he tips his hand now and then, like when he stepped up to help Haley at the police station. Chris and Chase are funny as friends, too, although Chris’ womanizing ways play as funny, while Chase’s escapades just seem sleazy. Funniest moment of the season, so far, though, goes to Chris kicking Chase in the leg outside of Karen’s Café when he found out about Chase and Tara.

We got a few other funny moments out of Julian and Brooke early in the season as they juggled the twins and Brooke’s battling parents. Then Victoria took off (come back, Vicky!) and Brooke’s absentee father renewed his absentee status and seemingly took that storyline with him.

Speaking of Brooke and Julian, how great is Austin Nichols this season? He is blowing me away. We’ve already seen him exhibit his particular penchant for comedy in the previous seasons, and we got a taste of his drama power in that great mid-season hurricane episode last year, but this season, he’s shining in every arena. Julian always brings big laughs, but when his life took a tragic turn, Austin Nichols brought every emotion to the table and stole the show. Sadly, forgetting a sleeping infant in the car is a more common occurrence than we’d like to think, and I thought it was brave of One Tree Hill to tackle the subject, and to do it so well. Having watched it, I don’t think anyone could have done those scenes better than Austin. Now, with Xavier paroled, I am guessing we’ll be seeing yet another side of Julian before the season’s over – a protective and tough husband and father.

If Julian and Brooke’s near tragedy is the most poignant story of the season so far, Mouth and Millie win the prize for the silliest. This is not an Eddie Murphy film, so let’s dispense with the fat suit already. First of all, Mouth looks to have gained about 20 pounds, but even if he gained 40, he’s not so ridiculously overweight that Millie needs to be calling him fat live on the air of their morning show, and nor does everyone need to be whispering behind his back and making fun of him to his face. Speaking just to the storyline, given that Millie has had her own ups and downs with eating disorders, she is the last person who should be judging Mouth, who we’ve been led to believe she loves. He helped her through her turn as an anorexic, pill-popping crack-whore, and she’s going to have the nerve to disparage him for plumping up? It’s annoying, to say the least. And memo to One Tree Hill – your viewers are not all emaciated celebrities, and while your actresses are supporting True Beauty events to make girls feel good about themselves, you’re undoing that with this condescending and insulting storyline. Zero is not a size, remember?

I’ll give the “Most Improved Storyline” award to Clay and Quinn. It took me about half an episode back in Season 7 to be over their mushy, we-fell-in-love-in-10-minutes crap, and they have been the bane of my One Tree Hill existence ever since. This season, though, after a tiny bit of mushy and a lot of yelling, the saccharin couple were separated when Clay checked himself into the mental ward. I find them much more likeable when they’re not on screen together. Clay’s newfound friendship with fellow patient, Logan (who is the cutest kid on the planet, probably), is actually entertaining and heart-warming. It can’t be a coincidence that those two are bonding, so we’re left to wonder what the connection between them will be, and I am actually looking forward to finding out. I’m sure we’ll be back to “Clay and Quinn” before the season is over, but I am enjoying this reprieve from the montage of puppy dog eyes. Also, they seem to have finally sprung for a wardrobe for Quinn, so she doesn’t have to walk around awkwardly in her underwear anymore. Let’s keep it that way.

That leaves me with one storyline, which actually includes my favorite part of this season as well as my least favorite. To get the bad news out of the way first, it’s so disappointing to have so little of James Lafferty (and therefore, Nathan Scott) in the final season of the series that has been largely about him. What’s worse, we’ve barely seen Nathan and Haley in a scene together this season. I think they’ve been in the same room for portions of two episodes, and otherwise, we’ve had a few phone calls and a video chat, and then complete separation. And unlike Clay and Quinn, they are not two characters that need to be apart.

That being said, Nathan’s disappearance is still the best part of the season for me. It has nothing to do with that bizarre, Shakespeare-quoting Russian mobster, and a LOT to do with watching Bethany Joy Galeotti turn in one great performance after another as Haley becomes more desperate to find her missing husband. Joy has always brought the acting up a notch on One Tree Hill (in my humble opinion), and without much conflict in Haley’s life last season (and with a reduced role due to Joy’s real-life pregnancy), I’m glad to see her back on screen as a major player again.

The proverbial “cherry on top” of the entire season is the return of the great Dan Scott. Love him or hate him, he is the most compelling character on the show, and so much in this little town hinges on that man. Going from a callous, sad excuse for a father in Season 1, to public enemy #1, to a sad shell of a man who made every possible mistake and couldn’t find his way back, Dan has always been worth watching. Some fans have always hated him and will always hate him, but I’ve always found reasons to root for him. I like his Machiavellian presence on the show, and I love seeing his softer side when he’s around his grandchildren, or asking forgiveness from his family for the umpteenth time.

Now, this season, once again, Dan showed up down on his luck and desperate for help from a family that hates him. He found a brief and begrudging welcome from Haley before Nathan showed up and kicked him out in the cold once again. Ironically, Dan got a reprieve when Nathan turned up missing, a coincidence Haley noted before digging deeper to find out that Dan had been the architect of his own disaster as a ploy to gain sympathy, so she freaked, accused him of kidnapping his own son, and had him arrested out of her own home. Haley was being irrational, of course, albeit with good reason, but what really broke my heart is that, for fear of losing his Dad, Jamie turned against Grandpa Dan, going from his only ally to just the next person to consider him an enemy.

Dan didn’t have much time to mope over his situation, because he was busy taking action to find his son. He rented space and set up camp at Julian’s studio (just when Julian was in dire need of some business), and launched a full-fledged, Dan-style investigation into Nathan’s mysterious disappearance. I love seeing him make up a list of his enemies, and track them down, gun in hand, to find out whether he could be indirectly responsible for the kidnapping. It’s great that he has something of a partner in Julian, who seems to be in it partly for curiosity, and partly for boredom. I have no doubt that Dan will ultimately be the one to crack the case and bring Nathan home, and I am almost certain that it is going to cost him his life.

I’ve said before that I thought Dan had to die before One Tree Hill could end. And more than that, I want him to have that redemption he’s been so desperately seeking before he dies. I think that’s going to happen sometime in these next six episodes, and I am looking forward to it with a certain anticipation (because it’s going to make for great TV) and also trepidation (because I am going to cry like a big baby).

It’s still hard to believe it’s all coming to an end, and disappointing that we won’t get to see all the familiar faces we’ve been missing these last few seasons (like Whitey, Karen, and Peyton, who were all very high on my wish list), but I understand that it couldn’t all come together fast enough for 13 final episodes, taped straight through without a break, so I’m going to try to put the “if onlys” out of my mind and just enjoy the stories we’re given in the meantime.