"In my mind, when the show first started, we probably would've ended up in the series finale with a Karen-Keith-Lucas scenario and they would've become the family they never were," Schwahn told TVGuide.com at the inaugural ATX Television Festival. "Tonally it never changed for me. I always knew where I wanted to leave the show. I wanted it to be something that the fans invested since Day 1 felt like was speaking to them."
Viewers of the series know that with Keith (Craig Sheffer) was killed off in Season 3 and both Lucas (Chad Michael Murray) and Karen (Moira Kelly) moved away at the end of Season 6. As is often the case in TV, the business of Hollywood altered Schwahn's plans. "[Fans] would've liked to see Lucas and Peyton (Hilarie Burton) [return]," Schwahn said. "At the end of the day it would've been nice to include Lucas and Peyton and to see who they were and bring them back. I hadn't planned on killing Keith! But the business side of the show fights with you a bit and it becomes more difficult to keep your talent and to serve that talent really well."
Looking back, Schwahn says he's thankful he was given a final season after several years of having to plan finales not knowing the show's fate. "We had so many endings of the show because we were always on the bubble," he said. "Every season, because we were serialized, we had to come up with arcs that would feel substantial for the audience if it were, in fact, the end of the series."
Check out Mark Schwahn's favorite shows on his Watchlist
And in the end, Schwahn still got the have the family moment he always pictured. "It's a great gift for storytellers to have nine seasons because you can do small moments like Haley on the roof passing off the wish box to Jamie and saying something Karen said to Lucas, which is, 'This is Tree Hill and this is your home,'" Schwahn continued. "You can do those moments and they take on significance because you had longevity. So [for the actual series finale], we just wanted to figure out something that would feel appropriate. I felt like if we [flash] ahead just a few years, it's a reason for everyone to be together and yet acknowledge that life goes on."
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