Friday, March 1, 2013

Dawson's Creek: ...Must Come to an End (6.24)

I had my own Joey. Or my own Dawson, depending on which one you think is the bigger tool. Heh. It was one of those things that started off young, was founded in a real friendship, and occasionally went deeper. And because you're young and you're trying to understand love and emotion, you naturally fall into a sort of romance. Because isn't that just what people do when they like each other? But no matter how far each 'blip' went, it always ended with hurt feelings or disillusionment. We still hung out as friends a lot, even if there was always that undercurrent of 'maybe', or 'what if...?'; but, in the end, as much as we always thought that the problem was that little hint of sexual chemistry, it turned out to be something far less romantic that pushed us apart. In essence, those teenage years are always the turning point, the years where you evolve the most and rapidly become the person you want to be as an adult, and with those mutual changes came differences between us as people. The person I knew, and the person she saw in me, became alien and different and unappealing, and that longing to remain friends despite our shared history sort of dissipated. So we were done.

Apologies for the vast over-share there, but it was something I thought about a lot during this re-watch of Dawson's Creek. Joey and Dawson had that shared history, so tight and close for so long that both their traditional gender roles and that adolescent curiosity about sex and relationships naturally became a huge issue. And while it was always so annoying to see the two of them flip-flop through their feelings for each other, being on-again/off-again every single season, it always felt true and real. Because when you know somebody of the opposite sex so well, you can't help but wonder if there's something more there, that maybe this time things will be different and you'll be happy together.

But part of growing up is realizing that sometimes it just doesn't work out. Sometimes your high school relationship is just meant to last through high school. Sometimes your friendships aren't as strong as you thought they were. Sometimes you realize that you just don't care enough to keep a relationship intact, and how that must mean something... right? Despite that every-once-in-a-while 'what if...?' feeling, Dawson and Joey should never have ended up together, and keeping them apart as the final credits roll is probably the greatest decision the show ever made.

It's always been pretty evident that Dawson and Joey were never entirely healthy together. Right from the beginning there was a co-dependent streak there, made worse by Joey always being positioned as somewhat subservient to Dawson's wishes, like he constantly felt the need to mold her into the type of person he wanted her to be. Joey, too, frequently allowed herself to change to meet his needs. Pacey, on the other hand, only ever wanted her to be happy. It's explicitly stated in that kitchen exchange here, in which he says that it's irrelevant whether or not they end up together... he just wants her to go through life with a smile on her face and knowledge in her heart that she's done the right thing. The two of them are so easy and relaxed together, and make so much more sense as a couple. After all those years of false-starts and elaborate blather, Joey finally made the right choice.

Meanwhile, Jen died. And it was heartbreaking. I guess I'm just one of those people. Even when it's so painfully clear that her demise was artificially constructed to tug at the heart-strings, I can't help but break down every time I watch this. Her lengthy videotape to her daughter is so elaborate and emotional, while Jen's sudden horror at the realization that she is actually experiencing her last days is played perfectly by Michelle Williams. Her death scene itself, the way she slowly wakes up and looks at a sleeping Grams and all the sunlight beaming into her hospital room... it's so sad. That poor girl. She really deserved a happy ending. If only this show weren't run by masochists. Heh.

Dawson, like always, spends most of the final hour complaining. Seriously, I don't think we needed any more justification for Joey's eventual decision, show! As loathsome as he frequently was, there were always valid reasons for his upsets, even if they were mostly played far more elaborately than they should have been. But here, with Dawson running his own hit WB TV show at 25 and still finding things to be unhappy about? -- it just crosses into mentally unbalanced territory. Boohoo, so he thinks he'll never meet Spielberg because he's created a vacuous teen soap. Ugh. Dawson Leery: Eternal Douche.

There are smaller moments, too. Doug begins to accept his sexuality and happily agrees to adopt Jen's daughter along with Jack, Jack already being her godfather. I'm still not entirely feeling the Doug hooey, but I can appreciate the show wanting to send Jack off into the sunset with a long-term steady. Andie also appears briefly, at least on the DVD, revealing that she's now a medical student and is proud of Pacey. I liked Andie a lot, and it was nice of Kevin Williamson to allow her a real exit after the half-ending she got back in season four and all the weirdness Meredith Monroe endured in season three.

It wouldn't be Dawson's Creek if everything were perfect, and this is an appropriately mixed bag of a series finale. Some of the writing is a little hacky and exploitative, but the writers bring the epic love triangle to a satisfactory close and feature enough bits of meta humor and heartbreaking soapiness to appeal to every kind of DC fan. After a season that at its best was only mediocre and at its worst was plain horrible (speaking of, what ever happened to Emma and her green card issues?), the show managed to salvage things and go out with a closer that felt true to the show as it once was.

Watching Dawson's Creek again, I still see it as a perfect young adult series. So much of the drama originated in standard teen genre tropes, but the talent of the performers (something in itself pretty groundbreaking for the genre) and the knowing wit and humor of the writing frequently prevented the series from becoming drowned out in predictability. It's also important for me to add that I really loved watching these characters grow and evolve. I can't count the number of times when I saw something of myself in Joey or Pacey, or (admittedly) Dawson. They had personalities that leaped off the screen, even when they were stuck in assy storylines, which happened a lot.

It's interesting to add that the show was generally at its best when the writers really pushed the incestuous romantic drama of those four lead characters. As much as it sometimes got a little contrived and repetitive, the overwritten pseudo-intellectual romantic babbling really became the heart of the show after a while, and I don't think it's a coincidence that once the show split those four characters apart and turned a tight ensemble into a bunch of self-involved characters dating anonymous newcomers, the quality and entertainment value hit a roadblock.

Dawson's Creek was a show that could inspire eye-rolling and frustration at the best of times, but had a warmth and charm that understandably grabbed a whole generation of romantics coming of age right after the Gen X years. It meant a lot to me growing up, and I'm sure I'm not alone in that. I admit that it's entirely lame, but it's a lame that's just for me, something nostalgic and sweet that I keep in a box at the back of my mind and remember with unparalleled fondness. And, yeah, I still have that fantasy of Joey Potter climbing up a ladder into my bedroom and being all sweet and neurotic and "maybe there's something romantic here?" I don't think that's ever gonna go away. But, you know what? I sort of like that. A-

Guest stars
Meredith Monroe (Andie McPhee); Nina Repeta (Bessie Potter); Mary-Margaret Humes (Gale Leery); Dylan Neal (Doug Witter); Kyle Searles (Colby); Sam Doumit (Sam)
Writers Kevin Williamson, Maggie Friedman Director Greg Prange


  1. Congrats on ANOTHER show finished! It's annoying that I don't watch the show, so I can't follow these. It says a lot about your writing that I can enjoy reading about a show I never watched. I'm not sure I ever will either, though.

  2. Thanks, Panda. Had a great time re-watching this show, and thanks for reading in spite of having never seen it, heh.

  3. Haha I forgot about Emma! The whole time I kept wondering if Jen was going to find out that eve was her half sister. And they said one throw away line about her in season six... but at least they offered "eve is a long story... with an ambiguous ending."

    Now what am I going to watch???