Thursday, July 19, 2012

Dawson's Creek: Four to Tango (3.9)

Dawson's Creek has always been about those four protagonists. Even when they drift apart and get involved with additional characters, the show always comes back around to Dawson, Joey, Pacey and Jen and their various entanglements. What's pretty astounding is that, three seasons in, the show is still getting mileage out of that foursome. Sure, the Dawson/Joey on-again/off-again saga is like the Ann Veal of romances, but the way Four to Tango was able to engineer new developments in all four characters made it easily the strongest episode this season, and the first time in what feels like forever that I really, really enjoyed an hour of this show.

Naturally, there's this farcical, ridiculous quality to the wacky romance hijinks at the ballroom dancing class, the four leads bouncing back and forth between each other and trying to unravel the mysteries they're all enraptured by -- Dawson thinks Pacey and Joey are sleeping together and is crazily jealous, Jen thinks the same, but is attracted to Pacey. It neatly exposes all the secret feelings that have building up all season, and I loved how Gina Fattore's script kept avoiding the obvious.

It's an episode that paints Dawson once again as a possessive creep, more bothered by the possibility that Pacey and Joey are having sex than he is by the fact that he found Pacey clearly about to have sex with somebody in his bedroom, which is... ick. When the truth is finally revealed, Dawson immediately acts like a victim at the center of some kind of secret scheme to upset him, even while he's still insisting that he's over Joey. Even further, he has the arrogance to act nonchalant once he discovers that it's actually Pacey and Jen who were about to have sex, telling Joey that it doesn't bother him. But, if it were Pacey and Joey, then there'd be fireworks. It's a hilariously horrible episode for Dawson, the show returning him to his bratty, dickish demeanor that is like catnip to the anti-Leery fanclub.

Additionally, the Joey/Pacey chemistry continues to be adorable, and the fact that the show is really taking their time with these two implies that it'll be a long-term deal. I love their banter, how they're not brought down by petulance or bitter resentment, and how easily they engage with one another. I also really liked the Jen/Pacey thing, especially their mature goodbye at the end, but it never had the combustible heat that Pacey has with Joey, which was appropriate.

Away from the farce, there's also a really sweet subplot between Andie and Jack, something that confirmed that Andie works better as a facilitator of other people's stories, rather than the anchor of her own. The cutesy dynamic between the two of them is nothing new, but the story raised some interesting points about coming out, with Jack having achieved public confidence, but remaining nervous about actually becoming an 'active' gay man. It's also a story that felt like it was constantly building to horror, especially with the gay-bashing hate letters Jack received at the beginning of the episode, but was pleasantly kind-hearted throughout. I'm probably so used to the show depicting Jack's sexuality as an 'issue' rather than just one element of his character that seeing his internet date wind up a genuinely sweet guy came as a rewarding surprise. Aww, I really wish he would have stepped into the restaurant and joined him... but I can understand why he didn't at this point in his life.

Four to Tango is one of those episodes that constantly feels like it's about to tip over the edge into awfulness, but remains pleasantly endearing and successful through every scene. Each character is used well, everybody's motivations are on-point, and the only sour point is Dawson being a raving creep. Which is exactly how things should be. Is it too early to say that the show has gotten completely back on track? A+

Writer Gina Fattore Director James Whitmore, Jr.

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