Since the Socs rumbled with the Greasers–and probably before that–storytellers have posited the kids who have against the kids who have not. One Tree Hill tells the story of two half brothers from opposite sides of the tracks. Since then, it has told the stories of marriages, pregnancies and a high school shooting, but the brotherly duo is at its core. The pilot centers around their relationship.
The opening scene perfectly and poetically establishes the background for the story of Nathan (James Lafftery) and Lucas Scott (Chad Michael Murray) with parallel scenes. One teen boy walks beneath the glow of streetlights, dribbling a basketball. His grey hoodie and the evening darkness obscure his face. He arrives on an asphalt basketball court where a handful of fellow players and a pair of geeky commentators await. Another teen boy arrives on a brightly lit high school basketball court, complete with cheering fans and cute girls in pleated skirts. The back of his jersey reads “Scott.” The back of the other kid’s hoodie reads “Scott Body Shop.” You get a sense of the chill on the outdoor court contrasted with the warmth of the indoor one.
Linking us from one location to the other is the most prominently featured cheerleader (Hilarie Burton, as Peyton). We first see her behind the wheel of her classic car, driving, we presume, along the same street as the guy in the hoodie. Next she’s offering sexy encouragement to the other from the sidelines: “Don’t bother showering,” she tells him.
Each guy engages in a heated contest with the opponent. The high school player is benched for a while and back-talks his coach, giving us a glimpse of his character. Soon he’s back on the floor, however, and each game builds to a crescendo of “Scott for the win!” Each Scott brother makes the critical final shot, one with the clank of metal chains and the other with the swoosh of the net.
That engaging opening gives way to clunky exposition as we learn the back story of the two basketball players. Lucas, the one in the hoodie is being raised by a single mom (Moira Kelly) and works at his uncle Keith’s body shop. Meanwhile, Nathan is a rich kid with an overbearing father, Dan (Paul Johansson), who pushes him to succeed and makes excuses for his rebellious behavior. The uncle (Craig “Hardy Jenns with two ‘n’s” Sheffer) meets with the high school basketball coach, and from there we learn how all of the people are related. Keith and Dan are brothers, who played basketball together at the same high school. Dan fathered a child, Lucas, out of wedlock before marrying his current wife and fathering Nathan. Keith remains friends with Lucas’s mother, Karen. (Got that?)
Keith explains, “Dan’s on the birth certificate but they never got married.” You have to wonder why Lucas’s mother gave him the last name Scott–whether we’re supposed to infer that she held out hope of having a family with Dan, or if it’s simple literary symmetry.
Rounding out the cast is a young girl named Haley (Bethany Joy Galeotti), who talks like a Gilmore, and hangs around Lucas and Karen’s house with no explanation. Is she Lucas’s sister? His girlfriend? A plucky orphan with nowhere else to eat dinner?
Nathan has long known that Lucas is his half-brother; it something that’s always been there in the background of his life, so there’s no shocking revelation. They go to the same school, but apparently we are to understand that it’s a big enough school that they can maintain a healthy distance. The brothers seem to know very little about each other. Of course, in high school, all you need to know about someone is what social group they’re in.
The plot of the episode is that Keith thinks Lucas should be playing on the school team. Dan wants to stop him, because he doesn’t want Lucas to overshadow Nathan. Nathan couldn’t care less. This means the climactic scene is well, anti-climactic. Nathan challenges Lucas to a round of one-on-one at the park. Nathan agrees that if he loses, he’ll quit the team. But Lucas bets that if he wins, Nathan stays on the team. So… heads I win, tails you lose. Either way the outcome is the same.
That doesn’t stop us from getting a mellow-dramatic scene set to Saliva’s “Rest in Pieces.” Lucas will join the team, and we’re promised a love triangle among Nathan, Lucas, and Peyton, with Haley perhaps complicating it further.
This show draws to an end this spring, after nine seasons on the air. Fans will no doubt look back wistfully at how much the characters have grown and changed (and, in many cases, left the show) since 2003.