“One Tree Hill” creator Mark Schwahn rarely shies away from a cliffhanger season finale, even when the fate of his show remains uncertain. Season finales in Tree Hill have involved gunshots, car crashes, heart attacks, fires — they’ve run the gamut when it comes to giving viewers a harrowing summer hiatus.
This year, the question of whether “One Tree Hill” will return in the fall for another season is more precarious than ever. The show’s ratings are definitely low, but they’ve remained steady even with stiff competition.
“We have such a rabid fan base that we’re pretty easy to slot against something like ‘Glee,'” Schwahn tells Zap2it. “Somebody’s got to go against them, and on a show that cares about a female demo just like they do, someone’s got to be the sacrificial lamb. We’re a pretty good bet because we’ve gone against the biggest of the bigs. We’ve been thrown against ‘American Idol,’ we go against ‘Dancing With the Stars,’ ‘House,’ all the big ones. We have a pretty loyal fan base and we cater to them. While it’s not a great number, we’re that show that you can put against those behemoths and we’ll make a pretty good accounting.”
Though he’s feeling good about the possibility of Season 9, when Schwahn sat down to write the Season 8 finale, he considered the possibility that it may also serve as a series finale. So the question is: will there be a cliffhanger, or closure for our favorite characters?
“I hate to say this, but it’s always this way: We’re looking at both,” he says. “I’ve gotten used to not knowing, so usually I will script a finale that’s very satisfying in my mind to a series finale, which is what I did. At the same time, we shot some cliffhangers.”
Schwahn notes that no decision has been made yet as to whether or not to use the cliffhanger ending or the wrap-up ending, but he’s leaning heavily toward giving the fans and the characters some closure this year.
“If you had to ask me right now, I’d say that we’re going to see closure, and if it’s the series finale, in my mind, it’s very satisfying,” he says. “If it’s not the series finale, we can introduce the cliffhangers that we shot, but in next year’s premiere.”
The season finale will begin with a voice over quote from a novel, similar to the way that the show often began in its early days. “It’s a voiceover from a novel that I love, and the author allowed us to use it,” Schwahn says. The cliffhangers that he wrote in case of an early season pickup don’t necessarily fit with the theme that the quote establishes.
“I felt like the cliffhangers fought my intention when I wrote the script and what I meant for the episode to me. I like them but we can revisit them next year. At the end of the day, you always sort of bet on the best creative decision, and go that direction, as opposed to trying to leverage our network with cliffhangers or shock our audience. If we shock our audience, it should be with our strongest moment, and right now I feel like the strongest moment of that episode involves some closure.”