I wrote last week about the quiet blandness that has suddenly appeared in Dawson's Creek, where everything has become so unassuming that you can't help but freak out. Besides Andie and her mental problems, the show is almost too quiet right now, stuck in a creative impasse and screaming out for some kind of drama. This episode follows suit with that understated feeling, but at least builds to a couple of muted cliffhangers that promise a minor hint of intrigue for the season finale.
While it's arguably not that interesting on-screen, it almost feels intentional that the show has written Dawson and Joey's relationship as so flat lately. They're happy together, they're making out a lot, they suddenly feel comfortable being close to each other again -- and Joey herself explains that she's arrived at a miraculously carefree time in her life. Not only is she in a steady relationship with her best friend, but her family is back together. Of course, everything leads to that crushingly inevitable ending in which Dawson spies her father trafficking the bad shit once more, and you're fully aware that Joey's happiness is destined to be another brief sojourn.
More successful on a visceral level is the continued Andie woes, now so alarming that her dad is threatening to ship her off to another city in order to get her mind together. It's a classic teen genre plot device, leaving Pacey pining after her and terrified that all the good she has brought into his life since her arrival will be quickly torn apart by her absence. It's actually surprising when Andie does in fact leave, since we're so used to these situations resulting in endings that are a little more generic. But you just know these two will find each other again...
Unfortunately, whenever Mr. McPhee is on-screen, lengthy discussions on Jack's sexuality naturally follow. But I think I ought to start giving the show the benefit of the doubt with this. Yes, everything is black and white and PSA-ish, but I need to remember that this was 1999, and Jack's story was pretty groundbreaking for television. To see a young man coming to terms with his sexuality, a young man who isn't a flamboyant caricature designed to make the heartland all comfortable, is ridiculously admirable -- and the show should really be praised for featuring this at all. It all seems a little on-the-nose nowadays, but I need to keep remembering when this show was made.
Ch...Ch...Ch...Changes doesn't do a whole lot with its central conceit and struggles to introduce any new dimensions to its couple of subplots (besides the welcome return of Jen and Jack's blossoming friendship, and Andie's eventual departure), but it's still generally enjoyable as an episode, all the actors bringing their A-game like always. C+
Guest stars Meredith Monroe (Andie McPhee); Kerr Smith (Jack McPhee); David Dukes (Joseph McPhee); Gareth Williams (Mike Potter)
Writer Dana Baratta Director Lou Antonio