I apologize in advance for being hypocritical, but this was almost too melodramatic to truly work. Dawson's Creek is at its best when those heady teenage emotions are pushed center stage, and it ordinarily creates some instantly earnest drama. While Parental Discretion Advised does feature a ton of crying and revealing emotional truths, most of the plot devices to get to those points feel painfully generic, and not at all the type of drama that DC usually employs. With fires and suicidal thoughts and drug deals and wire-taps, the finale resembles more than anything an average episode of Beverly Hills, 90210 -- and I'm not sure this show was ever aiming for that.
Before the hysteria settles in, there's something pretty traditional about this episode. It opens with a typical teaser sequence involving Dawson and Joey dissecting the movie they're watching, and as soon as Joey begins her diatribe about admiring the stories of doomed love versus the illusion of happily ever after, you just know these two won't be intact by the time the credits roll.
Their latest break-up, and I'm more tired than ever of their romantic flip-flopping, feels a little more manipulative than usual, especially since it isn't at all rational for Joey to blame Dawson for her the drama surrounding her father. There's also a sense that the show has crept back to this well one too many times already, as the constant splits and reunions got old a while ago.
In regards to Joey's dad, I'm not sure his story totally fit the series' sensibilities, but it was an important moment for Joey, the character doing the right thing and taking her own initiative despite her heart telling her to do something else. Katie Holmes runs through a ton of varying emotions here, and you can spot the exact moments when she switches from inner denial to introverted turmoil and finally that eventual meltdown. Whatever you think of her cyborg-ness nowadays, she really was spectacular on this show.
It's important to note that, everywhere else, the story outcomes are successful. Jen and Grams had their big reunion, and Pacey finally bonded with his father. But both stories struggle before their happy conclusions. I've always had problems with Sheriff Witter's one-note characterization, but his constant Andie-bashing here is needlessly harsh, while Jen's sudden detour into suicidal wreck territory and her monologue about being briefly seduced by burning flames is horrifyingly misjudged. You can't help but pity Michelle Williams, who tries so hard to make it work.
If anything, Parental Discretion Advised is a nice encapsulation of season two. It's been a year that quickly fixed the continuity issues of the first season and nicely expanded the core cast, but has sometimes struggled to craft stories that work on a consistent basis. But, like I always say, there's an undeniable late-'90s charm about Dawson's Creek, and the characters are so engaging that you can always arguably excuse it when they do things that don't make any sense, or when they get stranded in ridiculous storylines. The show is no longer going from strength to strength, but has hit a pleasant if unassuming middleground. C+
Guest stars Kerr Smith (Jack McPhee); John Finn (Sheriff John Witter); Gareth Williams (Mike Potter)
Writer Greg Berlanti Director Greg Prange