The One Tree Hill series finale was less an episode of television and more of one very long feeling transmitted through the airwaves. It was a montage of emotions as the characters remembered their pasts, looked to their futures and said goodbye to all the fans. If a television show could give its viewers a hug, this episode would be it.

Before the actual final episode, the CW aired a special look back at One Tree Hill‘s history, and it did a great job putting the series in context. It started with low ratings, but slowly grew into a hit. It’s easy for people who aren’t fans to dismiss One Tree Hill as a silly teen soap, but the truth is that very, very few shows, especially serialized dramas as opposed to procedurals like Law and Order or CSI, make it to nine seasons. If anyone ever asks you why you love One Tree Hill, tell them to watch this hour-long retrospective, “Always and Forever.” It explains why the show is so great better than I ever could.

The Beginning of the End

The finale begins with a montage of all the characters literally looking back at their pasts. Nathan sees himself playing on the River Court. Brooke sees herself in the hallways of high school  (because Julian is filming An Unkindness of Ravens). Haley remembers writing her prediction about being back together with Nathan for her senior year. It’s a perfect sentiment to start the finale on.

10-Year Anniversary for Tric

Nearly the entire episode is told in flashbacks or vignettes placed around the party for the 10-year anniversary of Tric. We get musical performances by Chris Keller, Haley James Scott and Gavin DeGraw to accompany the scenes.

We also get two fantastic callbacks to the opening night of Tric. Mouth remembers taking Brooke home even though Felix got the credit (Chase asks who that is, and in a brilliant commentary, Mouth says it doesn’t matter). Haley also reminds Brooke that she was broke at the time and raised money to buy a new dress, even selling her own blood.

The Tric party also has the funniest moment of the finale. Chase hands Chris Keller his horrible tasting drink. Chris takes one sip, spits it out and slaps Chase. Then Clay does the same thing. God bless -physical comedy.

Goodbye to the Scott Family

Now that Nathan is back and safe, it’s time for the family to live happily ever after. Nathan prepares a special dinner for Haley (macaroni and cheese, her favorite) and for dessert he has a box of Crackerjacks. She opens it first, just like on their first date, only this time the prize inside is a real bracelet. If that doesn’t make you cry, Nathan revises his statement from their first date, saying “Don’t say you never gave me anything,” because the love and family he has is greater than any gift.

Things are also good for Jamie. His father gives him great advice about doing whatever makes him happy, and Jamie decides that he wants to break Nathan’s scoring record for Tree Hill basketball. He even writes it in the Box of Wishes, which she passes on to her son.

Goodbye to Brooke and Julian

Things are looking good for them to. Julian is making An Unkindness of Ravens and Brooke is back in business with Baker Man. She even buys the store across the street from Karen’s Cafe. To add one more great moment, Julian buys Brooke’s childhood home (with the red door) because the house deserves to have a happy family.

Goodbye to Clay and Quinn

In the story that makes me cry the most, Clay and Quinn decide to get full custody of Logan. They head to the courthouse and find that Bevin works there. She reveals that she’s divorced because she hates her husband (that would be Tim) and that Clay and Quinn must wait an hour to file the paperwork. Quinn starts to plan her wedding, but when Logan calls her “mom,” her heart (and mine) melts. She decides that she can’t wait one more minute and marries Clay right there. So Mr. and Mrs. Evans legally adopt Logan and they become one big, happy family.

Goodbye to Mouth, Millie and Skills

Mouth is shocked to learn that Dan Scott’s estate left him $500,000. It turns out being a good guy and doing the right thing really does matter, because Mouth refused to report on the scandal about Nathan and the woman who said she was carrying his baby. To honor the past, Mouth starts up a sports scholarship named after Jimmy Edwards and Keith Scott. Well done, Mouth.

Goodbye to Chase and Chris Keller

The token comedic relief in the finale comes courtesy of these two knuckleheads who are in love with Chris Keller’s goth twintern sexcretaries. They even stalk them by peeping into their window where they learn the girls cry while watching The Notebook.

It’s all good fun, but the real story is Chris Keller, who wows a record executive at the 10-year anniversary of Tric. He also gets his old guitar back (the one he sold so he could buy back Haley’s masters) because Nathan bought it for him.

The End

The episode ends with everyone singing along to Gavin DeGraw’s “I Don’t Want to Be” at Tric while we see everyone gathered at Karen’s Cafe, having fun. It’s sweet and beautiful and the perfect way to just fade out on everyone at two of the show’s most important locations with the show’s theme song. But that’s not the real end.

The Epilogue

After that ending, we get a scene set somewhere in the future. Appropriately, U2’s “One Tree Hill,” the song that gave the show its title, plays. The characters all head to the Tree Hill gym while narrating about the importance of following your dreams. Millie is pregnant and Skills and Bevin are back together (I wonder if he’s going to adopt Nathan, the son Bevin had with Tim). The final image we see is of a grown-up Jamie Scott, wearing number 12, the new all-time scoring champion, running onto the court.

One Tree Hill has had many great endings when the writers weren’t sure it would come back, but this one is definitive. It was one very long farewell, a collection of images, memories and stories that lets us know dreams come true. Happy endings are real. Everything will be OK. It’s the heartwarming, uplifting message you’d want from a show like this.

Goodbye, One Tree Hill. I’ll miss you, as will many others, but you gave us nine seasons and 187 episodes to keep us happy and smiling for the rest of our lives.

(Image courtesy of the CW)

John Kubicek

Senior Writer, BuddyTV

John watches nearly every show on TV, but he specializes in sci-fi/fantasy like The Vampire DiariesSupernatural and True Blood. However, he can also be found writing about everything from Survivor and Glee to One Tree Hill and Smallville.