Saturday, January 5, 2013

Dawson's Creek: Swan Song (5.23)

Is there any dramatic cliché more predictable than the last-minute dash to the airport? A character professing their love just before their loved one steps onto that plane... But despite how ridiculously generic it all is, part of me still gets wrapped up in the urgency, the throw-caution-to-the-wind adrenaline of just yelling 'screw it!' and pursuing what you've always wanted. Swan Song is mostly set in that airport lounge, characters coming together and deciding to travel down new roads purely because it's the right thing to do. After a season that has struggled to say anything heartfelt or interesting, Dawson's Creek returns to its melodramatic best, in a finale that leaves you with a lasting sense of warmth.

As any long-term reader will know, I've had a complex relationship with Dawson and Joey as a couple, the show deciding which way to fold depending on whatever story they wanted to tell at that specific time. Their early romances were plagued by almost knowing too much about each other, while they seemed to have this alarmingly co-dependent and volatile thing going on at the start of season five. But season four changed things around a little, making the two of them mature, rational adults able to put their relationship in perspective and see how wonderful it could be. This season, I've been less excited about a possible romantic reunion, purely due to how the year began. But, goddamnit, they got me in the end.

Again, it's about emotional growth. Joey confronts him at the gate and tells him how much he means to her and that she loves him... but also forces him to go to Los Angeles to follow his dreams. This is a relationship once again based on respect, not one-sided infatuation. I don't know how this will work out, but there's something powerful about the two of them allowing fate to decide, but refusing to let their separate pursuits get dropped in the process. Okay, this is exactly the same thing that happened in last season's finale and we all know how that turned out, but I'm hoping more than anything that this is followed up with continued growth, something relatable and mature. That's not asking too much... right?

Pacey also seemed to work out where his heart lies, making a grand romantic gesture at the airport and apologizing to Audrey for his Sherilyn Fenn fling. God, that story was insane. This subplot played out as expected, but I liked seeing the two of them drive off together in the end. Again, you're left wondering whether the show is going to screw these two up next year, but right now things are positive.

Jen and Jack have less to do, per usual. Jen is still debating whether to spend the summer with her parents (she eventually decides to go), and Jack is still getting closer to Eric, worried that he isn't doing enough to help him come to terms with his identity. Neither story is that interesting, but Michelle Williams in particular is so luminous on-screen that you naturally sort of warm to her dramas. Speaking of things carried over from last week, it's frustrating to see the show entirely abandon Joey's reunion with her dad, especially with last episode ending with her headed into his new workplace. But there's no follow-through. Sadness.

While this was a strong finale, I'm not sure I liked Dawson's Creek's fifth season. Throughout the year, the writers seemed to drop the ball when it came to the bigger picture, losing sight of where exactly the characters are headed. Every other season at least had a sense of understanding, wherein you could genuinely follow the characters' journeys and grasp their decisions most of the time. But season five really drifted around, characters bouncing through varying storylines that seemed there to more or less fill time, rather than being there to evolve the characters that we know and love. Whether it was Professor Wilder, or Charlie, or any of Pacey's stories at the restaurant, none of it really seemed to matter long-term. It made it a year that was difficult to get a handle on. I don't think the location change had anything to do with it, either. It was just 'off' writing.

But the show is naturally likable most of the time, even when characters are frustratingly awful. I bring it up a lot, but something about Dawson's Creek inspires trust, faith that somehow it's all going to be all right. It's an odd feeling, and something I still can't fully articulate, but it's there. No matter what. A

Guest stars
Busy Philipps (Audrey Liddell); Nina Repeta (Bessie Potter); Ian Kahn (Danny Brecher); Mary-Margaret Humes (Gale Leery); Hal Ozsan (Todd Carr); Ryan Bittle (Eric)
Writers Tom Kapinos, Gina Fattore Director Greg Prange

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