There’s only One Tree Hill. If there’s one thing to say about this teen soap, it’s that it stuck around even if it never truly got the respect from critics or viewers it deserved. After nine years of love triangles, car crashes and psychopaths, the CW’s favourite small town family is packing up for good as the first episode of its final season begins tonight, so here’s a look at the very best the show has offered us in the past eight years: #10-1
#10 718 The Last Day of Our Acquaintance
The 7th season was very much a transitional one for our North Carolina friends. With Lucas and Peyton jetting off to tour the world, fans were given a fresh batch of talent to fill the void. One of these new characters came in the form of Quinn James, Haley’s kind-hearted photographer sister. For years we had heard about her Brady Bunch-sized family tree but now fans actually had to the chance to see where Haley came from (Haley‘s other sister, Taylor would also make an appearance later in the year). Things were cranked up 10 notches when Haley’s mother, Lydia came back to town to tell her family she was dying of cancer. With that came the most emotional episode of the season as the James girls came to terms with their mother’s death, delivering some of the best performances of the season (Lindsey McKeon [Taylor] especially). Oh yeah, and Brooke and Julian got back together.
#9 623 Forever and Almost Always
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, One Tree Hill knows how to do a wedding episode! To be honest, this episode started out a little ordinary. Nathan and Haley were happy as always, Lucas and Peyton were finally making their union official, Brooke was dating Nick Lachey to make Julian jealous, but who doesn’t get goose bumps in the final moments when Lucas bursts into his room on his wedding night to find his pregnant wife collapsed in a pool of her own blood? The soundtrack is also fantastic, the use of Ingrid Michaelson’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love” adding the perfect touch to a wonderful wedding scene.
#8 413 Pictures of You
In the nine years One Tree Hill has been on the air, they’ve experimented with the format of their episodes quite a bit from separate acts to out-of-order timelines and it doesn’t always pay off but when it does, it looks like this. Pictures of You simply centers around a class project. Each student is paired up with a classmate and forced to spend an hour getting to know them. It was one of the few episodes purely based on character development with little-to-no plot in the entire hour. Instead, fans got to know the characters on a deeper level while new relationships formed and old ones grew stronger.
#7 613 Things a Mama Don’t Know
A stark contrast from the previous one, this episode is almost all plot but what a plot it is! In the season six fall finale fans were left with one hell of a cliffhanger. Brooke’s pseudo-adopted daughter revealed to her that her boyfriend’s brother was the man behind her brutal attack and ran away with them (oh yeah, and that brother also happens to have killed Quentin). Furious at herself for letting Sam leave, Brooke embarks on a mission to find her, coming face-to-face with her attacker in an epic struggle. Peyton also finds out she’s pregnant but that’s not really important.
#6 510 For Tonight, You’re Only Here to Know
What would you do if the love of your life was marrying someone else? Now tell me what you’d do if you were locked in a room with her? In what was by far season five’s (or “the adult years”) most gripping episode, Peyton and Lindsey’s feud heats up when they’re locked in the Tree Hill High library with Brooke, Haley and Mia. After what feels like hours of arguing, things come to a head leading to a tear jerking monologue from Michaela McManus’s Lindsey and the inevitable resolution between the two enemies.
#5 309 How a Resurrection Really Feels
Sometimes a episode is great because it takes you to unexpected places, sometimes it’s great because it takes you where you’ve wanted it to go all along. Season three’s fall finale was all about long awaited resolutions as Nathan and Haley decided to give their marriage another try, Deb was revealed to be behind Dan’s dealership fire and Brooke finally let her guard down long enough to let Lucas. In what was one of Sophia Bush’s finest moments as an actress, Brooke gives Lucas 82 letters she wrote to him, one for every day they were apart. Awww.
#4 811 Darkness at the Edge of Town
Probably the most action-packed hour in Tree Hill ever, this episode is by-far the best of the post-high school years. When the Carolina town is hit with a massive hurricane, Brooke ventures out to the streets after an argument with Julian, where she finds Jamie trapped in a crashed car. Though she tries her best to save him, it’s up to Julian to save them both when a hit and run driver sends the car barreling over the bridge and into the water below. Meanwhile, Crazy Katie returns for a final face-off with Quinn.
#3 421 All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone
Remember when the “series finale” finales were a refreshing and novel concept on One Tree Hill? This is probably the only one to have truly been done right. Following an eventful graduation, the gang gets together at an end-of-school house party to contemplate the rest of their lives. Brooke plans to take the fashion world by storm, Nathan and Haley have a new bundle of joy to take of and Lucas and Peyton hope to realize their dreams together. It was an emotional, heartwarming ending to the high school years, an ending so perfect some still argue this is how the show should have gone out.
#2 322 The Show Must Go On
The best One Tree Hill finale. Ever. It’s a beautiful day for a wedding…or not. As Nathan and Haley prepare to walk down the aisle for the second time, everything seems to be falling apart around them. Brooke cuts all ties from Peyton after finding out about her feelings for Lucas and Lucas comes clean about their kiss, putting the final nail in his relationship with Brooke. However, nothing could prepare fans for the final moment when a drunken Rachel steals the bridal limousine and drives it off a bridge, forcing Nathan to spring into action and risk his life minutes after saying “I do.”
#1 316 With Tired Eyes, Tired Minds and Tired Souls, We Slept
Could there be any other number one? The most famous episode of One Tree Hill ever is also the best written, acted and most shocking episode to date. An episode that changed the series forever and started the show’s long downhill journey. Jimmy Edwards is a character that was always in the background. After being introduced as one of the river rats early on in the series, he was kind of forgotten about. Suffice to say it was a bit of a shock when his character resurfaced in the midst of season three only to shoot up Tree Hill High School. The episode featured three connected stories: Brooke dealing with her guilt of being the only person to get out of the school, Lucas and Peyton stuck in the library after she was shot in the leg, and the rest of the high schoolers held hostage by Jimmy in the tutor centre. However what was most beautiful about this episode was how heartfelt it was. With material that could have so easily been played for shock value, Schwahn used it as an hour of character building. Jimmy wasn’t a horrible, gun wielding monster, he was a misunderstood loaner, desperate for love. This was the hour that changed everything and in the final moments when Dan Scott picks up Jimmy’s gun and kills his brother, fans knew they’d be returning to a very different Tree Hill.