Thursday, April 26, 2012

Dawson's Creek: High Risk Behavior (2.10)

Sex had always been Dawson's Creek's cachet. It's now-dated sexual openness created widespread controversy at the time, while the show continued the long-standing YA tradition of making sex the be-all and end-all of high school existence. The thing that everybody's thinking about, that everybody's terrified of, and that everybody's eager to start having. High Risk Behavior is probably one of the more overt episodes centered on sex, so much that the WB plugged the hell out of it: "Which one of the DC-ers loses their virginity? Tune in to find out!", etc. It's an hour that isn't entirely perfect, but manages to find some interesting new angles to a sort of tired premise.

It's nothing new, but Dawson's 'movie vs. reality' personality continues to be an interesting area for exploration. The episode opens with Dawson and Jen casting his movie, only for all the auditionees to struggle to convince when reading his over-written, over-analytical, over-everything dialogue. At the same time, Jen is still picking holes in his script, suggesting that it's too predictable, too safe, and too ignorant of sex. Dawson's response is intriguing, as he insists he wants his movie to be about 'romance', and not so much about 'sex' -- the guy still thinks they're two mutually exclusive deals. That seems to be the driving theme this year for Dawson, the idea of his prudish, uptight qualities disguising his inner fears.

Somebody I'm still struggling with is Jen. I like her as the confident, experienced mentor for Dawson, but I don't necessarily understand where her romantic inclinations lie. She claims that she's not interested in him, but repeatedly comes onto him and discusses why his script's male protagonist quickly abandoned the more interesting female newcomer in pursuit of the drab girl next door. And then they kiss... Ugh. I love Jen, but she seems to flip-flop her emotions every damn week.

Andie and Pacey's story proves the most genuine of the three subplots here, presumably as it's the only one that's been written in a believable, linear way for most of the season. Andie wants to have sex, but wants it to be actually special. Pacey wants to have sex, but wants Andie to actually be ready for it. It's an endearing story, two characters trying to understand one another before allowing their relationship to get even more heated. Unlike everybody else in the DC ensemble, these two seem to have the most mutual respect for one another, and that only strengthens their coupling.

Joey and Jack's storyline is surprisingly the weakest here, if only because their 'nude modeling' thing is so contrived. It's also a story that strays so far from a believable depiction of sexuality that it becomes near parody. Notably the scene where Jack describes sex and all the 'gory details', giving him an erection and making Joey all sweaty. Ugh. It's incredibly lame.

There's definitely the sense of a promotional agenda here, especially with the 'to be continued...' cliffhanger, but most of the character work is so relatable that you can kind of ignore the cynicism. B+

Guest stars Meredith Monroe (Andie McPhee); Kerr Smith (Jack McPhee); Monica Keena (Abby Morgan); Jason Behr (Chris Wolfe)
Writer Jenny Bicks Director James Whitmore, Jr.

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