Show: The CW’s One Tree Hill
Featured Characters: Nathan Scott and Haley James
Writer’s Note: When we write about this show here at Marvelous Geeks, we want to make it abundantly clear that our support goes to the actors and the characters. We do not condone vile, malicious behavior or credit the writers, Mark Schwahn especially.
Contrary to the media’s portrayal of high school sweethearts, it’s no longer as realistic or engaging as a trope. It’s rare for love to last after people change as drastically as they do. But it’s even more rare for it to be addressed properly. Yet, it worked for Nathan Scott and Haley James, and you knew from the moment they got together that this would be their endgame. They grew up together—from hiding around to early marriage, tours and breakups, followed by life-threatening accidents and ridiculous narratives that took everything too far. One Tree Hill is deeply flawed in more ways than one, but it was always incredible to watch Nathan and Haley fortify their love through every obstacle.
There are nine seasons of ground to cover with them, and if we were to sit here and go through all the best moments alone, we’d probably have a fifty-page analysis, which no one wants. That said, some of the most memorable parts of their relationship are primarily a result of consistency—selflessness, steadfast faith in one another, unexpected gifts, kisses in the rain, and adoration so strong, that it exudes hope into the lives of everyone they know.
Nathan Scott and Haley James: Strength Through Adversaries
Nathan Scott comes from a broken family, but through every rewatch, it’s always so lovely to see how he dedicates his entire life to Haley, then later, Jamie and Lydia. He rightfully credits most of his honorable choices to Haley’s goodness, which alone takes great strength—too often, pride doesn’t allow a person to acknowledge that they’ve changed because of someone else’s belief in them. An altruistic lifestyle is a key to making any relationship work, and if any couple in Tree Hill faced the most quaking roadblocks only to continue proving themselves, it was Nathan Scott and Haley James.
Nathan and Haley spent their lives giving. And selflessly loving each other through everything serves as a core reason as to why they successfully overcome whatever hurdle blockades their path. After understanding that becoming a better man is necessary to be worthy of her, Nathan has always been on a path that requires a fight. Challenges upon challenges, but they faced everything head-on even when it felt like they would fail.
The selfless foundation they built their relationship on contributes heavily to how wonderful their children turn out to be. And while we never get to see Lydia as a grown-up, we can be confident that, like Jamie, she’ll understand that goodness should always overpower, and it’s more important to give than it is to receive.
When Nathan loses himself after his accident in Season 5, Haley is there to help him find comfort in their home again. (There’s so much of this season that alone is frustrating to acknowledge but where it matters is that Nathan does truly see the weight of the crosses Haley has carried for him.) Later, when grief takes its horrific toll on Haley, Nathan is there to remind her of the same love and faith that has always played a prodigious role in saving him. Once, twice, seven times, there would never be a limit to the two of them showing up for one another. Their commitment to this marriage would be “always and forever”—the binding promise that they’d be there to ensure the other felt cherished and adored.
Commitment takes withstanding challenges because when Haley’s decision to go on tour with Chris Kellar hurts Nathan, he continues to follow her career because the betrayal doesn’t sting how proud he is of her. And when Nathan’s basketball career falls through, Haley believes he’s still worthy of everything he chooses to do next. Neither of them stops believing in the light they find in each other despite the darknesses that try to dim it.
Haley’s faith in Nathan is essentially where their love begins, for it’s during those times that Nathan finally sees that someone will care for him even if he makes mistakes. She doesn’t demand perfection from him; she simply needs him to try. She needs the best parts of him to come forward because it’s those qualities that differentiate him from other people. That’s why, no matter their mistakes, it doesn’t alter how they continue to see one another. Their faith allows the other to continually grow as a better person, a better husband/wife, a better father/mother, and a better influence on the people in their lives.
Love is not about gifts, but it’s someone’s love language. And while Nathan’s is more likely words of affirmation, there’s much to be said about the plastic bracelets that become a symbol of adoration. There’s a sense of innocence to it, from the first time to the last, because any time he gives her something, it’s a colossal representation of the fact that he’ll always choose her. He’ll always choose to surprise her—whether that involves bracelets out of a Cracker Jack’s box or an adorable Sixteen Candles-themed birthday dinner.
And much like the bracelets, kissing in the rain became a suggestive representation of their love too. It begins as a means to cleanse the heartaches they’d faced while ensuring that together, they can pass through all the bridges life thrusts in front of them. These kisses might be the part of their relationship that’s most cliché, but ultimately, each time, it solidifies the fact that they’re forgiven and stronger than before. Many rain kisses will follow, but no one can ever do it like Nathan Scott and Haley James. It belongs to them now.
A Love That’s Safe
Brooke Davis says it most beautifully during her toast at their wedding when she mentions how their love makes her feel safe. Safe is a word that’s often used to describe love—a homecoming of sorts, something to miss when it’s not around and hold onto tighter when it’s near. But Brooke’s use of it isn’t accidental but a direct result of the one relationship in her life that’s been better than what she’s grown up with. It’s different with Nathan and Haley. There’s something indescribable about how her softness intermingles with his edges, bringing to the surface an inspiring affinity that’s perfectly balanced. Their love for one another is so deep that the people watching it unfold find it easier to believe in its existence. Because Nathan and Haley love one another so ardently, they radiate the emotion’s warmth onto their family and friends, allowing them to understand that this indescribable feeling can immensely change lives.
Nathan and Haley’s love exhibits that if you care for someone with everything in you, you don’t give up fighting for them. From the first season to the very last, we watched them not only come undone with one another but take on everyday duties with bravery and distinction. We watched them confide in one another about dealing with their children, friends, and family members. We watched them stand as a team even when they were on opposite ends of a situation. We watched Nathan’s mistake come front and center while she continued to forgive, allowing him to continue to try. Nathan Scott and Haley James solidify the detail that matter how many fires you have to put out, the one person who makes you better is always worth it.
Their love was as real as it got in the series. It was ugly at times, unkind, and heartbreaking, but it never wavered. One Tree Hill wasn’t always well written and the love stories along with the female characters took most of the punches. (And considering what we know, none of this is even remotely shocking.) But where it truly mattered lies in the detail that these two loved each other. Romance isn’t always rainbows and butterflies, it’s about the vulnerable moments when things are dark and grim, but it’s how people come out of those dark paths that matter. There’s a lot that happens in their high school days that make zero to no sense in the real world, and there’s a lot in later seasons as well. Those uglier sides more attention to showcase the ramifications, but there’s not much that can be expected from the time period and this show.
Still, Nathan Scott and Haley James authenticate the notion that no other emotion in the world is more prevailing. And knowing their love would only ever grow, even in the midst of all the challenges, has indeed been comforting. Their love was the heart of Tree Hill—the healing melody in desperate times and the strength in adversaries. It’s because of the love they share that they are braver individuals. It’s because of the love they share that Tree Hill is a home—for everyone in the town and the audience too.
Gissane (pronounced Geese-enny) or, as people often call her, "Goose," is a Christ fan above all and a romance enthusiast who's taken her Master's degree in English and love for essays into writing lengthy analyses about pop culture.
She is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Marvelous Geeks Media and the co-host of Lady Geeks' Society Podcast. She drinks too much coffee, wants to live in a forest, and cries a lot because of her favorite characters. She's a member of The Cherry Picks and can also be found writing features for Looper.