Andie is very much becoming a character of two halves. She has this annoying penchant to speak a mile a minute, sputtering dialogue like a crazy-woman and alienating everyone who isn't Pacey in the process. At the same time, though, she's vulnerable and tragic, making her this ticking time bomb that we can't help but sympathize with. Andie is somebody who is rapidly facing the same fate as her mother, but hasn't yet come to terms with it. When somebody pokes fun at her, she doesn't fight back or take it in her stride, instead undergoing an emotional meltdown. It's this version of the character that works better, Meredith Monroe having the saddest eyes whenever Andie gets hurt. And no matter how often Pacey tries to help, it's a personal issue that she can only get over by herself.
The Election isn't totally distracted by the class president thing, and doesn't mine it for all its comedic potential. Instead, the story is used to develop Andie as well as to allow Joey to become more confident about her shady background. Abby plays an important role in the episode, too, but she's painted as such a hellish, bitch-monster caricature that it spoils things a little. Joey, however, has really come into her own this year, and her relationship with Jack has a balanced tenderness to it that was noticeably absent from the impractical Dawson fling at the start of the season.
Dawson, though, is growing as an individual, too. Jen is the latest in a line of people to criticize Dawson for traveling through life as if his friends and peers are characters in a movie narrative, individuals that can be bent at will. We've seen this thing before, but Jen's presence offers something fresh to the concept. Here she tries to break Dawson into traditional teenage experiences, theorizing that he'll be a better writer if he actually lives a little. What makes this interesting is that Dawson initially believes this is a romantic development, trying to kiss Jen at one point during the hour, but I like that there's something non-sexual between them while they remain intimate. Just like Dawson did last week, here's Jen's opportunity to be the hero and introduce new experiences to him.
It's a story that also folds into the Mitch/Gale saga, since Dawson immediately assumes they're getting back together after he catches them having sex on that coffee table again -- but that isn't real life. One of the driving stories with Dawson's character involves the neatness of his existence, and how he assumes people will naturally gravitate from point A to point B in their lives, unaware of the complex human emotions that make that track rough to travel upon. In the end, Dawson seems to find that complexity, getting shocked into a more mature understanding of what drives those around him. It's a welcome development.
The Election doesn't go in the directions you'd expect, but manages to depict some really strong characterization. After a couple of weeks of repetition, it's neat seeing characters being given new shading that pushes them forward -- Andie and Dawson in particular. B+
Guest stars Meredith Monroe (Andie McPhee); Kerr Smith (Jack McPhee); Monica Keena (Abby Morgan); Jason Behr (Chris Wolfe)
Writers Darin Goldberg, Shelley Meals Director Patrick Norris