Thursday, September 13, 2012

Dawson's Creek: Future Tense (4.4)

I think episodes like one this always strike close to home. Senior year is crazy with the intensity, not only because of your schooling itself, but because of the enormous pressure you're facing as you're headed for college in the fall. As a result, everybody has a different reaction to it. Some throw themselves into the possibility of an amazing future, grasping every opportunity and making sure you get your name out there. There are others that get paralyzed by fear, too terrified to aim high because the thought of actually going the distance seems far-fetched. Then there are folks who are so distracted by their high school existence that they can't even begin to think about the future. Each view-point is explored here, in another successful season four episode that puts character ahead of crazy plot drama.

Joey is particularly relatable this week. She's performing amazingly well in school, but lacks the extra-curricular glitziness that would make her Ivy League material. There's also her financial issue, which is already rearing its ugly head. At the same time, she's dating somebody similarly buried in concern over his future, and turning to him could generate yet another argument about their respective destinies. So, being 17 and erratic, she gets hammered at a party.

Jen and Drue didn't have the most promising of starts last week, the plot twist about their shared history bringing to mind narrative non-starters like Billy in season one or (ick) Eve last year. But there's a real element of danger here, in as much as a wholesome WB drama can be dangerous, with Drue offering her Ecstasy and Jen insistent that she's not like that anymore. There's still an after-school special vibe to the stories related to Jen's past, but it's not being played particularly lame this time around... as of yet, anyway. They also have a lot of chemistry together, Drue being the loveable jackass type that Jen usually falls for.

Gretchen, too, is proving to be a strong addition to the cast. Sasha Alexander is playing her in a way that isn't totally Dawson's Creek-ish, with the lack of angst and neuroses... and that's actually a good thing. She so clearly represents something fresh and new, and Dawson is naturally attracted to it. It's early days right now, so they're just hanging out and talking about their feelings, but it's depicted on-screen far more successfully than you'd imagine.

Elsewhere, I loved the girl talk between Joey, Jen and Andie about their futures, the three of them promising to reunite in five years to see if their life predictions (art gallery intelligentsia, Master's student, PR queen -- respectively) come true or not. I also dig Andie and Jack more than ever, particularly their ability to be goofy and snarky most of the time, but always with that undercurrent of genuine love for one another.

I'm assuming last week was a momentary blip, since this was the show back on form. Future Tense is definitely quieter as an episode, mostly concerned with a big party than anything truly dynamic in terms of plot, but the character beats were really affecting. For me, anyway. B+

Guest stars
Sasha Alexander (Gretchen Witter); Mark Matkevich (Drue Valentine)
Writer Gina Fattore Director Michael Lange


  1. I think season four is, perhaps, the best season of DC other than it's first. In this particular genre, teen soap, I think it stands as some of the better storytelling.

    I enjoyed this episode quite a bit and, like you, rather liked the way they explored the different ways people deal with their last year of school and the forthcoming change in their lives.I also like that the gradual tension they are building up between Joey and Pacey come from the fact that they appear to be on different paths rather than just doing a simple love triangle plot involving dawson- which could be very tempting considering how well the triangle worked at the end of series three.

    I'm not quite the Dawson hater that you seem to be but I also like the maturation of Dawson this season (In fact the continuing maturation of dawson throughout season five and six is one of the better elements of the not so good college years- actually, season five isn't too bad it's more season six that is terrible) and really enjoyed the relationship between him and Gretchen. Actually, some of what you find annoying about Dawson's character traits are what I find quite interesting when you take the show as a whole. If you were to watch Dawson in season one or two and then watch him in four or five, out of all the characters you really see Dawson grow up. When I watch the early episodes (avoiding the fact that they all look twenty five) Dawson's character comes across the most adloescent in his self absorbtion and idealism, which is probably truer of more teenagers than you'd think, and yet when I look at the episodes toward the end of the shows run he seems the most mature. I guess what I'm trying to say is that with his character more than any you get a real 'coming of age'.

    Anyway's keep up the good blogging

  2. That's some really interesting commentary on Dawson as a character. I still felt like he was overly petulant and whiny at the very end of the series, but there was definitely growth over the years. Season four, in particular, I thought he was really engaging in. There's this general belief that they made him overly saintly this season, but I thought Gretchen's presence and his drifting from the Joey/Pacey triangle made it all pretty believable. It all went wrong in later years, but I liked him a lot here.

    Really enjoying your comments, Sebastian.

  3. I enjoy the "breaking the 4th wall" on this show, done here when joey talks about how they'll all end up at some fictional college like on those teenage dramas that last too long.

  4. That's so true! It's why I like so much of Kevin Williamson's early writing and the tone he inspired through the rest of DC. That kind of self-referential thing. I can see why people would find that annoying, but I always sort of dug it.