With three episodes left on a show that I have been attached to for many years, I planned to tackle these final three episodes after each one aired as my way of saying goodbye. The review of this episode was supposed to eulogize this show while addressing the episode that the cast and crew of One Tree Hill delivered for its audience on this farewell tour. After the first ten minutes of “Danny Boy,” my plans for a eulogy were quickly placed on hold. As *SPOILER ALERT,* it was time to properly say farewell to Dan Scott.
Throughout One Tree Hill’s first four seasons, I often felt that Paul Johansson as Dan Scott was one of the great, underrated performances and performers on television. Even through these latter seasons, Johansson has brought Dan a range that presented some of the more interesting threads for a series that has struggled to summon its best work. Last week’s “Hardcore Will Never Die, but You Will” was a welcoming breath of fresh air as Johansson was able to fully summon the old-fashioned, evil, and malicious Dan Scott’s towards a greater good for the characters in Tree Hill. In the process of rescuing Nathan, Dan was able to finally state a case for the redemption that he has so desperately yearned for from Nathan, Lucas, and the rest of their friends and family for killing Keith and for his failings as a father.
Johansson brought the necessary emotional heavy lifting to Dan’s final performance, as Mark Schwann used his role as series creator in the early moments of “Danny Boy” to sprinkle a brief greatest hits of Dan Scott’s more dastardly moments. As Dan is inching towards his final moment, he is granted the necessary goodbyes he needed before finally saying fairwell to Tree Hill. Jamie was able to say farewell to a grandfather whom he recognized as being more good than evil. Haley thanked Dan for being able to rescue Nathan and gave him peace in knowing that Lydia would only know of the good that her grandfather brought to the world. Deb made another surprise appearance and got one last verbal, fore-play sparring battle with Dan.
The two most important farewells and chances at atonement that Dan sought were in his two sons. Haley informed Dan that Lucas had no desire to say farewell to Dan. While this hurts, Dan seemed accepting of this because Keith was more of a father figure in Lucas’s life than Dan ever attempted to be. Nathan’s forgiveness, love, and farewell was a little more tricky. At season one’s start, Nathan was desperately seeking the approval of his father through his athletic achievements. He was the son that meant more to Dan because Dan played a more integral role in how Nathan was raised. If it weren’t for Dan, Nathan may have never grown to become the man that he becomes over the course of nine seasons. While Nathan does concede some of this to Dan consciously, it’s the dream that Dan has just before his death where the baggage is all laid on the table. Dan regretfully expresses his behavior and motivations when he murdered Keith in the season’s most moving moment. He just wanted his hatred, pain, and jealousy of Keith to disappear. In return, he added guilt over what he had done to the mix. Nathan grants an emotionally charged forgiveness, and I love you, and both characters spend this final moment on the river court playing basketball in true One Tree Hill fashion.
When Dan finally flat lines, the next question for him is how can he address what happened with Keith. Craig Sheffer returns as Keith to give Dan a proper send off and grant him the hope for absolution that Dan so desperately needs. As a fan of the show, it was nearly impossible for me to not fall to complete pieces during Dan’s great monologue on the river court and followed by his first reunion with Keith since Season four’s fantastic finale. If Mark Schawnn was going to finally kill off Dan Scott after so many other failed attempts, this was the most poetic way to do it, and the cast and crew ofOne Tree Hill should be commended for a job well done and an episode well handled. In many ways, this felt like it should have been the series finale.
The Dan Scott show was not all that happened throughout Danny Boy: Nathan and Haley were reunited to give closure to a very shaky ninth season arc, Clay was able to inch closer to rebuilding his relationship with his son, Brook was surprised by her father to discover that her father would never change, and Julian decided that Lucas’s first novel would make a great television series. However, each of those moments were brief respites from Dan’s final moments, which overshadowed these smaller moments.
RIP Dan Scott. You may not be real, but you’ve made a real impact on me over the last nine years. For that, you will be missed.
Episode Grade – A- (For all the sentimental reasons listed above)