Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dawson's Creek: Decisions (1.13)

Watching season one again, it's been pretty noticeable how lame a lot of Dawson's Creek actually is. Characters do things that no sane person would actually do, continuity is abandoned with the subtlety of a sledgehammer, and the self-analytical themes are enough to bring on a coronary. But what still pushes Dawson's Creek into the ranks of great television is that the show is quite happy to actually acknowledge how lame and ridiculous everything is. Decisions' entire teaser sequence involves Joey lecturing Dawson on the horror of end-of-season cliffhangers; the annoying insistence that major changes are on their way when everything is quickly undone come the new fall season. It's a breezy confidence that saves the episode from collapsing in upon itself, every corner of the story awash in genre clich├ęs but remaining ridiculously absorbing nonetheless.

Decisions marks the beginning of the Joey Potter Hour, as she reunites with her imprisoned father and plots a move to France. It's all sort of clumsy and contrived, but Katie Holmes sells the material, like always. The scenes between Joey and her dad are particularly moving, both characters aware of how screwed up their family has become, and Joey eventually coming around to realizing that she can't hold it against her father forever. At the same time, Joey seems to use the Paris sojourn as a kind of threat for Dawson's benefit -- "either profess your feelings, or I'm gone". It ends up working, but once again only signals how emotionally naive Dawson is compared to all the characters surrounding him.

Meanwhile, Jen's grandfather unsurprisingly passes, an event that pushes her into Dawson's arms. While I feel for her, it's annoying that such a strong character has gradually become nothing more than a plot device in the eternal Joey/Dawson saga. I'm unsure if it's intentional or not (and I feel like I've been using that term in literally every review this season), but her romantic inclinations are ridiculously schizophrenic -- which I guess could indicate how flighty and irrational she is as a person. But it makes for television that's pretty troubling. She'll make for a stronger character once she's lifted out of this storyline.

Pacey, on the other hand, seems to benefit whenever he's dropped into the Joey romance stakes. He seems to connect with Joey on a whole different level to Dawson, and always knows when and how to do the right thing. Unlike Dawson, he's the character who engineers a reunion between Joey and her dad, and gives up his own time and energy to get her there. He's also a lot less complicated than Dawson, and seems to have a personality that doesn't naturally gravitate towards casual cruelty. God, I feel like I'm one of those annoying 'shipper fangirls' from back in the day! Run into his arms, Josephine! Gah!

This is a strong finale, and while it
seems obsessed with soapy contrivance and grinds the ensemble to an obvious turn of events (the Joey/Dawson kiss was practically the only way the year could end), Decisions still manages to push most of the characters into interesting new directions for season two. It's only Jen that sticks out, being deserving of a lot better. B+

Guest stars Dylan Neal (Doug Witter); Gareth Williams (Mike Potter)
Teleplay Mike White, Dana Baratta Story Jon Harmon Feldman Director David Semel


  1. Watched this first season recently and enjoyed it but you bring up a lot of interesting points. The continuity issues are insane, especially at the tail end of the season when Jen and Dawson's relationship seemed to be constantly changing, until the next episode when the writers forgot that had happened and had them casually sitting together after Dawson basically called her a whore...I can see why people hate him so much, he's just constantly horrible. I remember in the dance episode where he makes a scene in the middle of the party because Jen was with someone else even though they weren't even dating, and it seemed so bizarre. I briefly thought it was a dream sequence.

    I also kind of love Joey Potter. I feel like everytime the camera is on her she is side-eyeing someone or generally looking disgusted at everyone around her. I get that she has had a difficult life, but I kind of love that she brings almost every conversation back to herself ("Dawson! At least you have a mother...", "Pacey, I'm an outcast too...", etc.). I love that she barely disguises her dislike of Jen (love their scenes together), but there's also a sweetness to the character, even though she spends a bunch of time being judgemental or sniping. Should be interesting to see if my opinion changes if I ever get around to the rest of the show, since I've heard the stuff about Katie Holmes taking over the show and Saint Joey and so on...

    Michelle Williams unsurprisingly knocked her material in this episode out of the park, even if by the end of the season Jen's feeling for Dawson flared up for no apparent reason, but the grandparent storyline was great.

    Yeah, I have a slight addiction to teen dramas that just won't go away. Fun show though.

  2. Had no idea you were even considering watching this, heh. It's pretty great, though, right? In a really kind of lame sort of way, but gosh it captures you.

    Agreed about all your points, especially loving Joey in spite of how annoying she gets. And loved your comment about how she brings every conversation back around to her. It's so funny when she launches into her Joey diatribe: "I don't mention it all that much, but did you know my mom died when I was young and my dad's in prison?" Hee. Such a drama queen, heh.

    Enjoy the rest of the show. Season two is great, three starts off batshit but becomes wonderful, four is for me the pinnacle of the show, five is underwhelming, six is terrible but has a strong ending. But there are always certain things that make the show endearing and watchable.