While it was always fun seeing Joey and Pacey gradually come together, it's quickly become clear over the last couple of weeks that this is Dawson's story, too. Dawson and Joey's saga was such a huge deal for this show, a romantic relationship built on years of friendship, an unrequited crush that grew into what should have been perfect romantic happiness. But it didn't really work out. They fought a lot, they could never rectify their friendly history with the intimacy romance naturally brings, and they seemed to spend more time talking about themselves than actually enjoying the ride. Even though they went their separate ways over and over again, certain feelings still linger and, unlike Joey, Dawson hasn't yet found another outlet for them. So, unsurprisingly, there's a lot of hurt there when everything is exposed.
The Longest Day is a gorgeously constructed episode, Gina Fattore's script depicting twenty-four hours worth of events from three different perspectives, carefully building the story and increasing the revelations with every additional re-run of the same day. I'm a huge fan of this form of storytelling, as it's such a great way of allowing tension to grow naturally, as well as constantly surprise the audience with the ways that events can intersect in sometimes frustrating ways.
When it comes to telling Dawson, there's understandably a lot of angst to plow through. Every time Joey and Pacey kiss or secretly get together, there's this constant discomfort over the fact that they're keeping their relationship to themselves, aware of the damage it could cause if the secret ever got out. But, as Jen tells Joey, it needs to come out at some point down the line, as it's unfair to keep Dawson in the dark.
Now I get why Dawson is upset. It sucks being 'that guy', the one passed over in favor of somebody else, especially when it's the love of your life passing you over for your own best friend. But his actions upon discovering the relationship are hard to read as anything but obnoxious. In another example of how strong this episode is, Dawson's description of The Last Picture Show reads as familiar movie talk during Joey's 'day', yet suddenly becomes angry and passive-aggressive when we see it from Dawson's perspective. It's that horrible moment when Dawson knows something Joey doesn't know, and yet uses his knowledge to manipulate her emotions and make her feel as guilty as possible. Again, it comes back to Dawson being a manipulator. While most of the DC ensemble are maturing enough to be able to be open with their feelings and discuss them like reasonable adults, Dawson is still stuck in seventh grade, pushing guilt on others instead of trying to see things objectively.
Even greater than that, for somebody who spends so much of this episode whining about the importance of friendship and how Joey and Pacey have entirely disregarded that, it doesn't take long for Dawson himself to ridicule Pacey's prospects in life and try and diminish his character. I know these are supposed to be kids, but it's hard not to see Dawson as a villain right now.
This is the strongest episode in a long time, something experimental in the way it breaks narrative conventions, but also something ridiculously tense and exciting as the day constantly spirals into that inevitable conflict, before pulling back and revealing more layers of plot. It's sort of a classic. A+
Guest stars Dylan Neal (Doug Witter); Michael Pitt (Henry Parker); Rodney Scott (Will Krudski); Jonathan Lipnicki (Buzz Thompson)
Writer Gina Fattore Director Perry Lang