17 years ago, One Tree Hill first aired. To say it’s the one show I always go back to isn’t doing it justice.
I was 11-years-old when I started watching it. There was so much about the show and myself I didn’t understand then. But I knew how it made me feel – it was that thick feel-good threaded in with a sense of nostalgia, butterflies deep in my stomach, and an overwhelming sense of bliss as every season passed. That pure binging addiction, the need to see more, want more, constantly be in awe of every single episode. Even the ones that you never want to watch again (you all know which one I’m talking about – RIP Keith).
I’ve rewatched the show too many times to say. And the score, the characters, the dialogue – the town – One Tree Hill – all of it resonates with me. This was the millennial show. We grew up downloading the newest episodes on a USB at 6 am the morning before school, putting them onto a disc, only to come home and pop them onto our DVD players to watch. It was a different kind of viewing. The weeklong yearning for the next episode, the age of LimeWire, Jimmy Eat World, punk chic, and high school. Those years.
We grew up fascinated and obsessed with the lives One Tree Hill created on screen. Was it healthy? Maybe not. But the way the show affected us, with Lucas’s (Chad Michael Murray) narration leading us into an ease with every episode, with Nathan’s (James Lafferty) character growth and progression, Haley’s (Bethany Joy Lenz) soft heart, Brooke’s (Sophia Bush) candor, and Peyton’s (Hilary Burton) yearning.
Of course the show also introduced most of us to Chad Michael Murray, the classic teen heartthrob. And there are so many other characters that deserve acclAmation: Jamie, Karen, Keith, Rachel, Quinn, Julian, Chase, Skills, Quinten, Mouth, I could go on… and JAKE! Always Jake.
And yet every time Gavin DeGraw’s voice took over that screen with the silhouette of a 17-year-old boy dribbling his basketball across a bridge, I felt that connection to it. Are there any shows like One Tree Hill today? Will there ever be? Probably not.
Here’s a list of some of the most iconic scenes:
1. The State Championship (4×09)
Heartbeats playing in the background, confetti dancing in the air, and Lucas finally confessing his feelings to Peyton – this was one of the big ones. How can this scene not make anyone’s heart full???
“It’s you. When all my dreams come true, the one I want next to me, it’s you. It’s you, Peyton.”
2. When Lindsay leaves Lucas (5×12)
Lindsay realizes that Lucas’s book had always been about Peyton, and we flashback to the first moment Lucas and Peyton ever spoke to one another. And everything we, the audience, had been yearning for finally culminates in that scene. Yes, Lindsay was sweet and good for Luke, but she was no Peyton. She was no comet.
“The boy saw the comet and he felt as though his life had meaning. And when it went away, he waited his entire life for it to come back to him.”
3. Haley and Nathan’s first kiss (1×08)
One of my favorite moments ever. When Nathan messes up but he finally gets his shit together and realizes that Haley is the one for him. ‘Dare You To Move’ slowly plays in the background.
“At this point, there’s nothing you can say or do to surprise me.”
4. The Wannabe Dance (4×21)
This episode was probably one of the best episodes of ALL TIME. Hyperbole is needed because that’s how good it was. It was filled with so much love, and hope and nostalgia. Like the crescendo finally reaching its apex, like a story you’ve held close to your heart for so many years, finally finding its place to rest. Because, let’s be honest, after season four things just weren’t the same.
5. Haley and Lucas’s roof traditions (2×22)
I loved all of their traditions and their friendship as a whole. Their golf course, their balloon throwing, their opening up of letters before the first day of school. Ah, so many feels. And of course, let’s not forget that this is the episode that ends with the iconic ‘May Angels Lead You In’.
“Because losing our way would be the most cruel of things. This year, I lost my way.”
6. Nathan and Haley’s first tutoring session (1×03)
This culminated into not only One Tree Hill’s, but TV’s, greatest on-screen tv couples of all time. I loved Haley’s no bullshit attitude, her love of tutoring and helping others out, and her fierce loyalty to Luke.
“Don’t say I never gave you anything.”
7. Haley sings for Nathan for the first time (1×15)
Being introduced to Bethany Joy Lenz’s voice was a blessing for us all. And the first time she sings in front of Nathan is an intimate, warm and fuzzy scene that’s quintessentially One Tree Hill.
8. When they graduate from high school (4×20)
Seeing all your favorite tree hill babies graduate from high school was so nostalgic – I’ve always loved graduation scenes. The scope for so much more out there in life, the thrill of new beginnings and closely held memories: all coming together. And how can we ever forget Haley’s water breaking while she gives her valedictorian speech? And of course, quoting Julius Ceaser automatically won my heart.
9. Peyton and Lucas’s wedding (6×23)
Their marriage ceremony taking place where they first spoke – everything coming full circle. What the fans had been yearning for since season one, finally happened in the most beautiful of ways.
“Peyton Sawyer will become Peyton Scott.”
10. Jamie and Quinten dancing together (6×01)
Their relationship was literally one of the cutest ever – little baby Jamie brought so much joy to the show.
11. When Sheryl Crow sings for Haley and Nathan (1×17)
I could go on and on about every Naley moment ever and this article would still not be over. But this one definitely deserves a top feel good appreciation.
12. When Brooke asks Lucas to fight for her (3×13)
I loved Brooke and Lucas’s relationship while it lasted, and this moment was filled with so much angst and hope for this young teenage love.
“The difference is I love you Brooke.”
13. Nathan and Lucas at the river court (3×02)
When Lucas fights for Haley and Nathan’s relationship, it’s one of the first moments you see them coming together as brothers. Were there tears involved? You can bet there were. Every big marker of their lives happened here: the first moment Nathan and Lucas played against each other. The last game they had with all their high school friends. The day they all vowed to meet there again five years later. All those epic, astounding, unchangeable moments that happened there.
14. When Haley records her first song (2×08)
Even though it was with Chris Keller and their relationship came in between Nathan and Haley’s, it was one beautiful song and beautiful moment. And every-time “Where the stars go blue” plays, you can bet I’ll be scream-singing it.
16. Peyton and Ellie bond over music (3×10)
I loved Ellie, her bold fierceness and her nature, the way she was with Peyton. When they discuss how music connects to the first time you heard it, the weather and all the smells and all the tiny moments that brought it together – a reminder of why this show is epic.
“It’s like heaven. Only it sounds better.”
17. The grand re-opening of Karen’s cafe (8×22)
The trusted quote “somebody told me that this is the place where everything’s better and everyone’s safe” hanging on a sign board to greet everyone as they came.
Honestly, every moment on the show deserves a place on this list for me. These are just a few. Yes, it’s the best tv show that’s honored our screens. And it always will be.
The finale was the perfect ending to that show.
“It’s the oldest story in the world. One day you’re seventeen and planning for someday. And then quietly, without you ever really noticing, someday is today and then someday is yesterday and this is your life.”
Will I ever be over the fact that Luke didn’t make it to the end? Nope. Not okay.
Writing this piece alone is giving me goosebumps because this was the show my childhood consisted of. Every word etched a space in my heart, and I’ll never forget the impact it had on me.
There’s a moment you reach when watching a show, when you feel everything the characters feel, when the music lulls you into a blissful mood, and every episode is like taking another bite of your favorite food.
17 years later, this show still does that. After all, there’s only one tree hill, and it’s your home.
Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!