As a fan who watched the show from the beginning, I don't think I could have asked for a better finale. It was nearly perfect in every way. Every scene, every character's storyline, the music, the way everything was shot and tied together was just amazing.
I think it's really hard to get series finales right. There's that line between being too corny and sentimental even though you want to see the characters you watched for so many years end up in the places that fans will feel are right for them. I think Mark Schwahn got it completely right in every way.
There were a few season finales over the years that could have been series finales (season 4, season 6, kind of season 7, last season) but I think this was better than any of those.
I loved the opening, with the remaining core characters looking at important moments in their lives when they were younger, kind of through the view of the movie that Julian is doing.
I thought everything with Chris Keller was great. The subtle references throughout the episode were great winks at the true fans without being too overt. For example, Nathan telling Jamie the kidnapping storyline was played out, Haley saying that Chris Keller changed then saying he really hasn't but at least he's trying. I think it was really true to every character without suddenly making their lives super happy just because the show is over.
The ending was perfect as well. I loved the scene at Karen's Cafe and I love that the last scene took place at the gym where it all began, almost ushering in a new generation.
Overall, I think the finale was amazing in that it was a true tribute to everybody who's watched the show for 9 years without being too cheesy. It really felt like the characters were supposed to end up where they did, and there were references to important moments throughout the series that really tied everything together. I think this was the perfect end to a season that was a true tribute to the fans who stuck around through it all.