Friday, October 19, 2012

Dawson's Creek: Hopeless (4.13)

Dawson's Creek is a show so driven by dialogue rather than story, or at least this season. It's always been a series in which characters over-analyze their lives to the Nth degree and micro-manage every movement or action through exaggerated, overwritten dialogue -- but they were always carried by plot contrivance at the best of times. Particularly at the beginning, it was a frequent complaint of mine that characters were doing things purely to service a story that the writers wanted to tell, rather than doing things because it made any real sense. But season four has been different. So much of it is dialogue-driven lately, characters analyzing their emotions verbally, and deciding a course of action based on their own introspection. It makes Dawson's Creek a far smoother, relatable series.

It's something I really noticed in Hopeless, all four stories involving characters discovering things about themselves or harboring emotions only after interacting and articulating things with other people, and not merely because the story dictates it. Dawson's story this week involved going out on the town with Gretchen and her friends, and finding himself sometimes out of his depth when it comes to open discussions about sex and roommates, along with the physical block that is the 'under 21' note forcibly stamped on his hand. There's a void there between the two characters, but both remain eager to somehow make it work, despite the natural difference in life experience between somebody who is 21 and someone about to turn 18.

Joey and Pacey had an awkward double date with Drue and one of his many lady friends, another scheme cooked up by Mrs. Valentine for her own social benefit, but it was again a story driven by dialogue. Drue spends most of the dinner criticizing his date, using verbal aggression to cover up his own feelings for her. It's so harsh and unnecessary, but that's who Drue is as a person. He's so cripplingly insecure and uses cruelty as a kind of defense mechanism. Joey easily spots it, and ultimately learns about her own insecurities, and how she and Pacey have casually ignored the concept of sex ever since they started dating, and that's a little strange considering their age and how long they've been an item.

Even in the smaller subplots, dialogue and character interplay ruled over plot devices. Jack and Tobey are still hanging out, and still avoiding the issue of romantic intimacy despite there being something between them, and Tobey also acknowledges how he's been acting out in response to his own insecurities. He's similar to Drue in that regard, besides not being as awful a person. They're being more open together, though, and I'm still intrigued by where this is going.

Finally there was that great conversation between Grams and the dying Mr. Brooks. I should first add that it's pretty remarkable how absorbing the Mr. Brooks story has become, especially as I had initially pegged him as a generic 'old man guardian angel'-type character back when he first appeared. Sure, he still does fit that stereotype, but the fact that they're addressing regret and unlikely friendship and assisted suicide helps raise it beyond annoying expectations. Here he explains that he wants to die when his body decides to go, not when a bunch of pills and drugs stop working. It's a major evolution on Grams' part, too, who comes around to his thinking... even if I always thought it was strange that religious people were all about keeping you alive for as long as possible when God is clearly winding your body down, but that's a whole different discussion.

Hopeless successfully employed dialogue to drive the story, and there were so many wonderful scenes of discussion here. It's a powerful testament to how words and conversations can sell a story so well, instead of just employing a bunch of contrived plot devices to get the narrative from point A to point B. A

Guest stars
Sasha Alexander (Gretchen Witter); Mark Matkevich (Drue Valentine); David Monahan (Tobey Barret); Harve Presnell (Arthur Brooks); Carolyn Hennesy (Mrs. Valentine); Sabine Singh (Anna Evans); Rachel True (Kira)
Writer Nan Hagan Director Krishna Rao

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