"I like the idea of life goes on in Tree Hill," Schwahn tells TVGuide.com. "We're still here; we're just not going to see you each week."
The two-hour finale will reunite a few of show's familiar faces as the gang comes together to celebrate Tric's 10-year anniversary. But how will the series-ender top last season's final moment of Jamie dribbling across the bridge, Scott Body Shop hoodie and all, which mirrored the very first scene of the pilot? It won't, Schwahn says. So rather than trying, he went into the finale with a tone in mind, instead of a final scene. "The finale feels nostalgic in the right way and works best for the people who have loved the show and know the history of the show," he says. "I wanted it to be a bit of a reward to our core fans who have been so faithful to it and I wanted them to feel like we were acknowledging their allegiance to the show over the years." Some of those hints include call-backs to past story lines like Jamie being kidnapped by Nanny Carrie in Season 6 and Nathan's more recent abduction.
Although Season 9 was a "pleasant surprise" to Schwahn, he firmly believes it was the show's best. While he introduced new stories that he only had time to just scratch the surface with (ahem, Clay has a son!), he also made sure to give closure where possible — the prime example being the intensely hateful father-and-son relationship between Nathan (James Lafferty) and Dan (Paul Johansson). When the series began, Nathan was following in his father's footsteps as the town's star basketball player, yet he resented the immense pressure his father put on him. The feud was sidelined when Dan turned himself in for his brother Keith's murder in the Season 4 finale. Dan continued to be a mainstay of the series, but after a brief absence, Schwan knew he wanted the series-long story to have a presence in the final season.
"Some people are just not going to forgive him, nor should they, but other people desperately wanted redemption for Dan," Schwahn says. "I was always rooting for Dan Scott, but at the same time I don't know a world where [they could] go to dinner with him and joke with him. I thought if redemption is his, he needs to be forgiven by Keith (Craig Sheffer) and that's what led to the episode [where he died]. Nathan needed to have closure with him, but more so I think Keith needs to have closure with him."
Looking back, Schwahn is still in awe that the "little show that could" made it through 187 episodes on air. "We felt like such an underdog," he says. "We didn't get a lot of support, we got zero critical acclaim and we rallied around that; it became a badge of honor to us [like] a secret little club. There are things certainly I would change, but when you get this far and considering we've all gotten along and enjoyed it, you've done a lot more right than wrong and we should be proud of that."
Watch our Top 9 moments from One Tree Hill's nine seasons:
The One Tree Hill series finale airs on Wednesday at 8/7c on The CW.