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) by defeating Peyton’s psycho stalker turned hostage taker via cheerleading camp moves on prom night. Okay, there are two other words in season four that better highlight its strengths: “It’s you.” Yes, season four is when Peyton and Lucas finally get together FOR REAL and kiss under falling confetti after the Ravens win the state championship. The first season also does a great job of establishing two of the enduring relationships of the series: Nathan and Haley, who end up married by the season finale, and Nathan and Lucas, the reluctant brothers.Could a high-school soap opera be summed up in one scene any better than that? Sure, the acting leaves something to be desired, and some of the story lines err very close to teen show clichés, but both the kids and the show grow into it.With all the insanity, however, come some powerfully emotional moments.

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Its pilot episode deftly lays out the cast of characters (okay, so we don’t meet Brooke Davis until episode two) and tone that would define the show throughout its nine seasons. Sure, the show weaves in and out of crazy — but even in the first season, it wasn’t afraid to lean hard into the soapier aspects of a teen soap. Okay, there is that whole thing with Peyton dating Pete Wentz from Fall Out Boy, but let’s pretend that never happened.

Questionable guest star aside, season three offers up the most authentic and engaging character growth within a season throughout the series.

That episode aside, much of season nine is bogged down by, wait for it, a story line that involves Nathan getting kidnapped by cartoonish Eastern European mafiosos over a basketball player he tried to sign, that ends with Dan (Paul Johansson), CHRIS KELLER (Tyler Hilton), and Julian (Austin Nichols) putting together a rescue mission to find Nathan.

Okay, some of this was because James Lafferty only signed on for half a season, but … Even Clay (Robert Buckley) suffering a fugue state only to realize he’s forgotten he had a son who he erased from his memory six years ago is easier to swallow than that.

The other dramatic crux of season four is Lucas’s discovery that Dan murdered Keith. From the start, made it so easy to fall in love with all its characters, which is why it’s easy to navigate the sillier parts of the show.

He does this whilst in a “It’s a Wonderful Life” coma dream. The Dan stuff does seem to drag on, especially since we’ve known all along that he’s guilty, but I’d go through it all again for the scenes when Nathan realizes that his father is a monster and confronts him. And sure, all the Clean Teen drama is hard to get into, and we learn a lot about point shaving in high-school basketball, but overall, knew what kind of show it wanted to be. We put up with the psychos and the Eastern European mafiosos and the Slamball because we’ve been endeared to these people since day one. The show is really firing on all cylinders from start to end.

On the plus side, we get to witness Lucas and Peyton try to pretend they aren’t soulmates, Nathan try to pretend he’s totally cool with his depression beard, and the audience pretend like we didn’t know Lucas and Lindsey’s (Michaela Mc Manus) wedding would be a disaster.

Lucas’s book is called was right to introduce a gay character (the show fails in representation of both sexual orientation and race), but Felix and his closeted sister Anna (Daniella Alonso) were not the best way to do it, especially since they scrap the whole thing pretty quickly and send the siblings off into the sunset.

The other shining beacon in season eight is “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” a dramatic episode set during a Tree Hill hurricane.

Quinn fights off her psycho stalker one last time, and Brooke and Jamie almost drown after their car goes over a bridge (Tree Hill, work on your bridge safety, would you? The moments throughout the rest of the season in which Nathan and Julian try to figure out what happened on the bridge that night are also compelling.

Just kidding, that is also terrible, no matter how cute that Logan kid is.

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