When it became clear that following Dan Scott‘s death the last two episodes of One Tree Hill would focus on Julian finally turning Lucas‘ book An Unkindness of Ravens into a TV show, it seemed as if the CW series had floundered about and grasped onto a tired old trope to go out on. Dawson’s Creek ended with Joey and Pacey watching Dawson’s teen soap about their adolescence. Even Arrested Development slipped in a meta joke about turning the Bluth family’s dysfunctional exploits into a TV series. (It was funny only because it was series narrator Ron Howard who spoke the line.)
But in the first scene of 9×12 “Anyone Who Had A Heart,” Julian practices pitching his TV show to Brooke, who immediately asks, “But isn’t that just The Creek?” With that line, it was clear that OTH – and creator Mark Schwahn – understood that they weren’t breaking new ground here, but that it was the best final path for the series to take. (Seeing as we already got the emotional catharsis of seeing Dan and Nathan play one last game on the river court last week.)
We’ll see more of the transformation in next week’s series finale as Julian slowly recreates Tree Hill and the monuments of Brooke’s adolescence. For now, I’d just like to celebrate the consideration that OTH‘s writers gave this plotline before resurrecting it.
Julian’s smartest move? Inserting himself as a teenage character. Part of what makes the show-within-a-show trope so tired, especially when said show is autobiographical, is that it retreads the same ground of the series we just spent a decade watching. We end up in a rut, halfheartedly remembering moments that may not have been that good the first time around. Even though the Ravens film adaptation ostensibly falls apart due to Julian’s father losing his company, I have to think that its strict adherence to the canon story is part of what made it an unsuitable adaptation for where OTH as a show was at. With Julian as a central focus of this reimagined show — if not the protagonist; it’s unclear if the “Lucas” character exists — we get a fresh look at Tree Hill High.