‘One Tree Hill’: What Do Fans Think About the School Shooting Episode?

Throughout its nine seasons, the high-school drama, One Tree Hill had many memorable episodes. Some of them were happy or hilarious or both, but some of them were sad and a few were simply heartbreaking. The school shooting episode was one of the most tragic episodes on the show dealing with a grave topic. A big question then emerges: what do the fans think about the episode?

NEW YORK - JANUARY 16: (L-R) "One Tree Hill" cast James Lafferty, Bethany Joy Lenz, Hilarie Burton, Sophia Bush and Chad Michael Murray at Planet Hollywood to promote their new show and meet with fans January 16, 2004 in New York City.
James Lafferty, Bethany Joy Lenz, Sophia Bush and Chad Michael Murray | Peter Kramer/Getty Images

But first, what was the episode about?

It was the 16th episode of season three.  After his comments on high-school cliques become public, Jimmy Edwards, played by Colin Fickes, a former friend of Lucas, played by Chad Michael Murray, and Mouth played by Lee Norris, is bullied — even more than he was before. To get revenge, Jimmy carries a gun to the school and fires it aiming at his bullies. Though it’s Peyton who gets shot. 

As panicked students start running to safety, a few students lock themselves in a tutoring center where Jimmy reveals himself to be the shooter. While the students try to reason with Jimmy, Lucas goes back inside the school to save Peyton. 

When the cops and other city officials arrive at the school, Jimmy worries for his life. Meanwhile, Lucas’ uncle Keith, played by Craig Sheffer, also goes inside the school to look for Lucas and Peyton. While he is able to find them, he encounters Jimmy in the school hallway. A frightened Jimmy opens up to Keith but despite Keith’s consoling words, Jimmy shoots himself.

The episode takes a turn when at the end of it, Keith’s brother and the mayor of Tree Hill, Dan follows Keith inside and kills him at the end.

Even though it is difficult to watch, fans love the episode

Known for its dramatic twists and turns, the show dealt with a triggering topic in this episode. While it was made to invoke many emotions in the audience as they watched the events unfold on screen, it also tried to give a glimpse of the impact of a school shooting, which went beyond those who were directly involved. 

A Reddit user said about Jimmy’s arc: “Just highlights how easy it is to become invisible in high school and no one notices you until you do something drastic. The entire dialogue between Jimmy and his classmates in the Tutor Room is very well scripted and acted. It really made me feel for him and understand how he got to that point.”

There was a consensus among Reddit fans that the show dealt with the school shooting in a sensitive manner. Fans also pointed out that the impact of the shooting did not immediately fade away. They appreciated the continued attention and respect that the shooting got on the show. 

Some fans also shared their favorite moments from the episode. From the dialogue between Keith and Jimmy to Lucas’ quote at the end of the episode, which began with, “does this darkness have a name?”

Did the episode trivialize school shootings?

While there was much love and appreciation for the episode, the question of whether the unrealistic twists trivialized the delicate topic upfront, also came up. And the fans did not hold back.

Some admitted that it was extremely unrealistic to show Keith entering the school despite the presence of cops around the school. For some fans, it was more insulting to end the episode with the radically dramatic twist of Dan killing Keith. Some fans thought that the end removed the much-needed attention from a serious topic to a bizarre twist in the story.

“I thought it kind of cheapened the whole school shooting narrative and sidelined an open dialogue about severe mental health issues. just made it seem like another ridiculous teen drama,” a fan wrote.

Despite the added dramatic effect at the end, some fans maintained their overall opinions about the episode. They appreciated the show for addressing the reasons that led someone to take such a drastic step even before a public conversation around mental health issues in high school had begun. 

A similar reaction from the critics then also contributed to the episode and the show’s popularity. In 2006, when the third season of One Tree Hill came out, the 16th episode became one of its highest-rated episodes.

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