Friday, October 26, 2012

Dawson's Creek: Four Stories (4.15)

Two episodes ago I wrote about the way that Dawson's Creek has recently been exploiting dialogue, and how the writers have been using characters and their conversations to sell a story, rather than throwing together a bunch of plot devices. It's a theme exploited even further here, Four Stories essentially being four vignettes of conversation, each story anchored by two characters talking to each other about their feelings and emotions. It's one of the most frustrating episodes in a while in terms of characterization, but there was something here that really absorbed me. Maybe it was the fact that when you completely strip back a script, until it resembles just two people talking about their lives, it almost forces you to listen intently. And you get totally enraptured by it.

It's the morning after, and Joey is strange. Her interaction with Pacey is weirdly cold, even if its not helped by Pacey's eagerness to find out whether he was good in bed or not. It's annoying and driven by ugly machismo, but he's a teenage boy -- what can you expect? Joey is completely awkward, though, appearing to have a ton of issues even before Pacey begins to ask inappropriate questions. It's intense, that morning after, and natural to question certain things and ask yourself where you go from there, but Joey's reaction is unbalanced and arguably manipulative. She's like a closed-book all of a sudden, mostly remembering the physical intimacy they shared right before they actually had sex... only ending the conversation saying that she's eager to do it again. It's strange and disoriented, and feels unfair on Pacey.

The last vignette of the story mirrors the first. Dawson's name was inevitably brought up in that initial conversation, Joey telling Pacey that she'd happily confide in Dawson that they had slept together. But, the next day, when Joey and Dawson bump into each other outside the Rialto... she lies, and tells him that there was no sex on the ski trip. For one, it's inappropriate for Dawson to even ask, considering he should at least try and retain a little dignity, even if he is still in love with her. And he's totally dating somebody else, so cool it, dude.

But Joey herself opened up an enormous problem that didn't at all need to exist. Pacey will obviously find out at some point down the line, and again it's unfair to saddle him with all of this baggage. It'll also open up more questions about where Dawson stands in Joey's life, as it's clear that something has to be there for Joey to lie in the first place...

After all that, though, it's here that things get a confusing... for me, anyway. I loved Joey and Pacey last year because they had genuine affection for one another. It was a relationship built on growing trust and mutual friendship, something that blossomed unexpectedly but just felt right. It was also because Pacey wasn't Dawson, this passive aggressive angst monster quick with the manipulation and the harsh negativity. I even started season four fearing that the show would eventually return to this relationship, dispensing of the strong Joey/Pacey work last year. But within these fifteen episodes, I've actually grown to like Dawson. There's still a lot wrong with him (his petulance for one), but he's evolved so much as a person that you could almost imagine that he and Joey would work out if they ever got back together again. That final vignette, with the chemistry and the relaxed conversation and the newfound perspective on their history... it was just sweet, and I didn't totally hate it.

So, unusually, it's Joey who's the bad guy here. She's treating Pacey terribly, and by proxy giving Dawson the impression that there's still something between them. It's a horrible situation, and while I can almost understand her dithering, any rational person would cut Pacey loose and stop stringing him along. It also brings into question her decision-making last week. Did she actually want to have sex, or did she just feel like she owed him sex for the amount of time she's danced around the subject with him? It's frustrating in that regard, but I'm not angry that Pacey and Joey are likely on their way out, or that Dawson and Joey are circling back together. It's a strange position to be in, and I'm sure a ton of fans were outraged, but I personally don't have any issues right now.

The two other stories this week varied in quality. Dawson's irrationality reared its head as he was packing up Mr. Brooks' possessions, calling him a failure for dying with so few people around him. But it's just sad, Dawson, not a failing of his. And whether we care to admit it or not, we all die alone in some form or another. Sorry for bringing the mood down, but come on, kid. Gretchen continues to be sweet and Grams had some heartwarming stuff to do, but it didn't sparkle.

Same with Jen's vignette. I love that she's in therapy and seems interested in exploring her own psyche and the issues she has with men, her family and her past, but a lot of her interaction with Dr. Frost felt like paint-by-numbers 'TV psychology', particularly when he declared that she reads like a "scared, lonely young woman", mere minutes after meeting her. No, show. I watch In Treatment, and that's not how it works!

Like I said at the top of the review, there was a ton of frustration here. You can see the wheels in motion and you know where the writers are headed, and I don't particularly like what Joey is doing, but Four Stories itself really worked for me. The dialogue sparkled with naturalism, and there was something uncomfortably real about the vignettes that book-ended the episode. This was experimental and fascinating, arguably soapy and annoying, but personally one of my Dawson's Creek favorites. A+

Guest stars
Sasha Alexander (Gretchen Witter); Mark Matkevich (Drue Valentine); Rob Nagle (Dr. Tom Frost)
Writer Tom Kapinos Director David Petrarca


  1. Joey lying to Dawson's was one the show's worst moments. Dawson asking and being happy she lied is also terrible. It's none of his business and she's pathetic in this episode. I'm not her biggest fan, but the writers couldn't even give her a backbone when it came to standing up for herself against the Head.

  2. I think it was wrong too!! Joey shoudn't have lied to dawson but he asking was totally out of place and I kind of get Joey as she was overwhelmed by the whole sex thing and by the fact that she didn't want to hurt Dawson again the thing is she's surely going to since she lied so this will definately bring a new twist.