'One Tree Hill' Season 9 preview: What to expect on our last visit

oth-preview-9-sophia.jpgIt's almost time for the final season of "One Tree Hill" to begin (January 11, 8 p.m., be there) and you know what that means... the next month is going to be full of excruciating, teasing, taunting promotion.

(Hey, CW... you can just send us the whole season right now. We won't tell anyone anything. We swear.*)

The very first footage of Season 9 has now hit the web, and it's only available for Facebook fans. The video begins with a voice over courtesy of one Brooke Davis ( Sophia Bush). "I grew up in Tree Hill," she says, as we see poignant images of the iconic rivercourt and the house where she was raised. "I spent most of my life here. It's what I wished for."

We later hear her say, "I like Tree Hill like this. Warm. Safe. Loved.... It doesn't mean there haven't been hardships, but I'm here, and here is good."

oth-nathan-scott-kidnapped.jpgBut as we know, there is nothing safe about Tree Hill in its final season -- at least not for the gang we've grown to love over the better part of a decade. Tragedy strikes the Scott family early, with Nathan ( James Lafferty) missing in action for a significant portion of the season.

A shot of Nathan tied up (and shut up) may be the biggest clue, as he muses, "People say hell is endless. They say it's our worst nightmare. The face of our darkness. Whatever it is, I say hell is empty, and all the devils are here."

The juxtaposition of Brooke's affection for Tree Hill with Nathan's nightmarish reality is chilling.

Nathan's situation, of course, tests Haley ( Bethany Joy Galeotti) as a mother, a wife, and a friend. Lucas ( Chad Michael Murray) returns to help her out, for a highly anticipated appearance featuring some rather unfortunate hair. ( Zap2it was lucky enough to watch him film his scenes, so be on the lookout for some CMM-centric scoop later this month!)

oth-9-cmm-preview-320.jpgAdding to the serious lack of warm-safe-love in Tree Hill, we can expect a return appearance from Brooke's assailant, Xavier ( Devin McGee), who went to prison after killing Quentin in Season 6. Details of the storyline are being kept under wraps, but on-set sources tell us that Bush and Austin Nichols' performances this season are their best ever.

We can additionally expect to see Clay ( Robert Buckley) and Quinn ( Shantel VanSanten) put through the ringer as pressure begins to weigh on him and a downward spiral begins. We've been teased with the news of a Tree Hill wedding this season, and while Clay and Quinn may seem the most obvious couple headed down the aisle, once the season begins, you may be betting on Mouth ( Lee Norris) and Millie ( Lisa Goldstein).

We're hearing that Alex ( Jana Kramer) only appears in two episodes this season, so the romantic scenes we see between her and Chase ( Stephen Colletti) may not be particularly telling of their relationship's direction. While there may not be a ton of romance in his life, we can expect plenty of bromance for Chase when Chris Keller ( Tyler Hilton) makes his triumphant return. Their bond is strong, y'all. And possibly completely one-sided.

And finally, of course, there is Dan Scott ( Paul Johansson), the Scott patriarch who tends to signal tragedy, trauma, and terrible memories for everyone in town -- except, of course, for Jamie ( Jackson Brundage). Dan has survived far longer than we expected him to on this series. Will Season 9 lead him to true redemption?

As if you didn't have it marked in your calendar, we'll remind you one more time: January 11. Stock up on wine and Kleenex. It's going to be a heck of a ride.


*Lie.
Photo/Video credit: The CW