Top of the World

Posted by: Morgan on August 5th, 2010

Filed under: Essays and Thoughts
Tags: , ,

Greetings. I hope there are people still reading this blog. We’ve been absent for over six months now. Real life gets in the way; I’m sure you understand. This is a post that I’ve been wanting to write for a while now. I’ve recently re-watched episode 4.10, Songs to Love and Die By and decided it was definitely time to write this post.

Regret, redemption, acceptance, love. That should be what this episode is about, but it isn’t. This is what the movie It’s a Wonderful Life is about. The parallels are clear in the episode and they are intentional. The movie plays throughout the episode. The episode opens with George Bailey running through the streets of Bedford Falls with a newfound sense of joy and acceptance. Now, later in the episode, the movie goes back to points more toward the beginning. That doesn’t really make sense, but I think most of us One Tree Hill fans learned long ago to dispense with a logical timeline in regards to this show. I say that with a great deal of affection.

The episode simply does not work as a parallel for It’s a Wonderful Life. And the problem is with Lucas Scott. First, we will examine his counterpart George Bailey. It’s a Wonderful Life has a reputation for being holiday cheese and full of schmaltz. It is. But it isn’t. I first watched this movie as a child, like many did, I’m sure. I thought it was just a nice Christmas movie. Then, as I got older, I started to understand it more. It’s actually quite dark. George Bailey’s life has been a series of disappointments. He lost his hearing in one ear as a child, his plans of travelling the world were ruined time and time again by family obligations, and he was denied service in the war because of his bad hearing. The only things that have worked out for him are his wife and his children.

If you’ve seen the movie, you know what happens. In the midst of celebrations for George’s brother Harry, his uncle loses a great deal of money that was needed to keep the Bailey Building and Loan in business. With that money gone, George not only faces the possibility of losing his business and his livelihood, but he also faces jail time. He goes to the bridge and looks out onto the freezing water and he contemplates suicide. George Bailey is at his worst. He’s worth more dead than he is alive. He won’t be the only one ruined; his family will be ruined as well. Divine intervention is needed and comes in the form of Clarence, an Angel who has yet to receive his wings. George needs that guidance. He needs to know that his life has been worth something and that there are people in life whose lives are better because of George.

Lucas Scott, on the other hand, has nothing to regret at this point in his life. Yet, he has Keith as his Clarence. Keith shows him all of the wonderful things in his life and all of the people who love and depend on him. Lucas even considers dying and joining Keith in the afterlife for an eternity. He has no reason for this, though. I understand what the show was trying to do. Lucas needed to get to the bottom of Keith’s murder. He needed to open his eyes and find out the truth. Keith’s ghostly visit was a catalyst that sprung Lucas into action for the remainder of the fourth season. This was necessary to move the story ahead and it would not have worked with anyone other than Lucas.

Perhaps parallels to It’s a Wonderful Life weren’t the best way to go. At the time of his heart attack, Lucas is on top of the world. His lifelong crush on Peyton Sawyer has been realized and she is now his girlfriend. He had to quit basketball because of his heart condition, but he was allowed to play again and made the winning shot. Not only did the Ravens win the state championship, but Lucas made up for the shot that he missed at the end of the previous basketball season. He is on top of the world. He has nothing to regret. He has no reason to believe that the lives of those around him would be improved if he were gone.

In fact, to think that he should let himself die and never wake up is actually selfish. Karen has had a rough year, to say the least. Keith came back and they admitted their feelings for each other. They became engaged, but then Keith died. Karen is now left pregnant and knowing she’ll have to raise Keith’s child without his help. That child will never know what it is like to have Keith Scott as a father. Lucas knows exactly what it is like to have Keith as a father. So, he should know better. He should know that his mother and his unborn brother or sister are going to need him. To consider dying and leaving his mother is not right. It does no service to character of Lucas Scott, the show’s protagonist, hero, and all around good guy.

Perhaps I’m reading too much into these parallels, but it’s almost impossible not to with the movie playing in several scenes throughout the episode. It’s also impossible not to when you consider the fact that there is a character who exists who does have regrets in the same way that George Bailey does. This character has made mistakes and can pinpoint one moment in his life when those mistakes could have been avoided. Nathan Scott knows that if he has drowned and died when the limousine went over the bridge that he would have never gone to Duante for money. If he hadn’t gone to Duante for money, then Haley would have never been hit by a car. A car meant to hit Nathan. Now, Haley and their unborn child are in the hospital fighting for their lives.

Nathan, like George Bailey, stands on a bridge wondering why he’s alive. Nathan isn’t contemplating suicide, but he is wishing he had died. Like George Bailey, Nathan believes that if he weren’t alive the people he loves would be better off. Nathan could have used some guidance at that point in his life. That isn’t the point of the episode, though. The point is to get Lucas to realize that Jimmy Edwards did not shoot Keith. But with parallels drawn between It’s a Wonderful Life and Lucas’s life, it’s a little hard to swallow. It makes the episode a little hard to swallow.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the episode. I like seeing Keith reappear. I love the scenes with Peyton and Brooke. And I love the scenes with Peyton and Brooke talking to Haley and Lucas, respectively, trying to talk them into waking up. I just feel if you’re going to so obviously reference a movie, the plot should work a little more with what you’re referencing. Lucas just simply does not have the regrets of George Bailey, or of his own brother.

*This post is named after a song by Patty Griffin. The most well known version, however, is by the Dixie Chicks.