Aside from their love for hoops, Lucas and Nathan seemed to have little in common. But the two young men are bound by the fact that they share the same father. As Nathan is increasingly brought into the world Lucas knew before he joined the high school team, the two boys begin acting like brothers, not enemies, for the first time. Years in the making, a deep and bitter conflict had slowly unfolded as the two boys struggled to come to terms with a father who chose to live vicariously through one son while ignoring the existence of the other. Now, Nathan and Lucas have formed a unique bond based on mutual resentment of their father. Meanwhile, the girls of Tree Hill explore their own interests beyond romantic entanglements.]]>
All that's just the first couple of episodes of season 2. In the remaining 21, Dan temporarily fools everyone into believing he's a changed man following his cardiac crisis. In fact, he's worse than ever, trying to wreck Nathan and Haley's marriage, attempting to buy Lucas's loyalties, driving Deb into a drug-addicted stupor, pulling the rug out from beneath Keith (who took over Dan's dealership during the latter's illness), and waging a war, of sorts, with basketball coach Whitey (Barry Corbin) for influence over Nathan's destiny. While all this is going on, Haley leaves Nathan to join a music group, Peyton finds success running an all-ages night at a new club opened by Karen, Lucas finds evidence that Dan is cheating the IRS, Brooke's once-wealthy parents go broke, and actress Sheryl Lee (Twin Peaks) turns up toward season's end playing a mysterious visitor with a surprising connection to a major character's past. Whew. If One Tree Hill's first season succeeded in part because series creator Mark Schwahn kept, for a while, a tight focus on the early, rocky relationship between Nathan and Lucas, the second season works as a frenetic, ensemble drama with elements of camp and absurdity. The above-mentioned reference to Dallas villain J.R. Ewing proves apt in more ways than one. The final episode of One Tree Hill's sophomore season ends with its own, not-so-subtle variation on the classic who-shot-J.R. cliffhanger, leaving open to debate which of many possible One Tree candidates might have committed a foul (if understandable) bit of vengeance against a certain bad dude one loves to hate. --Tom Keogh
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