The idea, or the illusion, of romance motivates the core four teenage characters of Dawson's Creek in "Kiss." Dawson, naturally, watches an old romantic movie with Joey. The two engage in an argument about the viability and reality of romance in contemporary American culture. Dawson believes in romance and its power and influence over women. Joey believes Hollywood created romance--that the romantic images and scenes across the history of cinema happened in less than romantic circumstances like the 22nd take when the actress is cranky and the actor disinterested. Her disillusionment with romance disappoints and saddens Dawson. He's convinced that someone will sweep off her feet and that she'll long for a romantic kiss only seen in movies. And someone will, in this very episode, and one scene will even re-create a scene that Joey insulted.
Dawson, the overzealous believer in love and romance, wants to plan the perfect kiss for Jen. The self-absorbed teen won't settle for a mere kiss. Dawson actively seeks to stage a kiss the way any Hollywood director stages a kiss in a film. Joey tells her best friend that he's delusional and suggests he simply kiss her. Dawson believes in the magic he witnesses on screen though so he rejects Joey's suggestion. By episode's end, he'll learn that he cannot manufacture romance but he lands the kiss anyway. Dawson's masterplan includes manipulation of the moment through the guise of filming his movie's final scene at The Ruins, a romantic spot in Capeside with a sense of Greek history. Dawson aims to bridge fiction with reality to prove romance can be created. Where will be the proof be? His camcorder. Naturally, the plan blows up in his face. When Jen spots the recording camera, Dawson looks guilty. He launches into a monologue about his insecurities around her, his insane plans designed to romance her in spite of his flaws, and how his plans backfire and will continue to backfire since it's a vicious cycle. Soon, he and Jen must hide because a car down closes--Dawson thinks The Ruins' owner returned. They hide. They kiss.
Over the course of Williamson's two seasons running the series, the teenagers talk a lot about their self-awareness. One character even utters a line about the subtext rapidly becoming text. So far, no subtext exists in Dawson's Creek. Maybe Williamson didn't trust the audience or maybe TheWB didn't. The lack of subtext creates confusion for the viewer. In the last two episodes, Dawson's gotten away with reprehensible behavior. By "gotten away," I mean he's won the heart of the girl of his dreams. Did Williamson and his writers want to send the message that one only needs to publicly embarrass a kill and try to violate her privacy to win the girl? Should the lead character, the heart of the story, display such behavior?
More confusing is this: Dawson explains what dramatic tension is to the rest of Mr. Gold's class when they struggle with a scene in their Helmets of Glory script. Dawson explains that any story should be about the underdog, not the golden boy, and that the underdog needs to overcome some internal conflict inside himself. The audience needs to care about the character and his goals. For the majority of the A story, we're led to believe Dawson wants to create romance because he's a romantic. At the 11th hour, we learn that Dawson's insecure about kissing Jen and that he creates situations as a safety net for himself, which would be fine if Dawson didn't preach an entirely different message throughout the previous three acts. It's annoying storytelling because Williamson and his writers violated their own rule. Dawson's not the underdog because Jen chose him in "Dance." Dawson is THE golden boy as Joey argued in "Pilot." He's only the underdog in a high school film class and who really cares about that?
I forgot how Joey Potter shines throughout the first season because she becomes unwatchable during the final two seasons of the show (and, well, the entire series becomes unwatchable then). Williamson successfully applied the rules of basic story structure to Joey and not Dawson. She's the underdog girl from a broken family. She's not middle class compared to the upper middle class residents that dominate the properties in Capeside. She's in love with her best friend whose currently infatuated with the new, exciting girl from New York. Joey grounds the series. The reason she's dubious about romance is because her father cheated on her mother, and it destroyed her. She's seen how unromantic "love" can be yet she’s young enough to love her best friend and soul mate. She's young enough to get swept away by the son of a wealthy couple only stopping by Capeside for a few days, and she's also young enough to lie about her life, her family, and her financial situation.
Anderson Crawford, the rich boy just visiting, introduces Joey to romance and its potential. Romance can't be created. It happens naturally. Joey briefly lives another life because she believes she's not worthwhile or attractive to Anderson if she's honest about her circumstances but it's a fairly insignificant part of the story. Joey began the episode as a jaded, cynical teenager with jaded, cynical ideas about love but then she and Anderson kiss, and it changes her. She smiles and glows for a moment. Joey tosses his number because a relationship can't be built on a lie but she won't be so jaded about the power of a kiss.
-Pacey and Tamara have sex and Dawson's camcorder records the act. They were the two who came to The Ruins when Dawson and Jen hid. I never had interest in this story as a dumb teenager and I have even less interest in it now. Pacey's more interesting when Tamara's out of the picture, which will be soon. As much as I dislike the story line, Joshua Jackson showed his acting chops when he acknowledges that he’s a virgin.
-Joey and Anderson nearly kiss on the beach in a scene that's nearly identical to the scene she and Dawson watched in the teaser.
-Dawson saves the Helmets Of Glory shoot when he shows Cliff and Nellie how to successfully track a shot without a shaky camera. Dawson worked as Nellie's PA because he wants to officially join the class, and that's his test. My film classes never involved the actual production of a movie. Of course, Capeside High resembles a college campus more than a high school one but every fictional high school campus resembles a campus.
-Jen reveals a deep sadness while she shoots the final scene of Dawson's horror movie. Dawson praises the acting but she's not acting. I forget how much time the show spends on her issues in season one but I know season two devotes a decent chunk of time. Dawson, of course, is the White Knight.
-The first season boasts a truly great writing staff. Rob Thomas, who created Veronica Mars, wrote "Kiss." Thomas also co-created Party Down. He developed the new 90210. Michael Uno directed it.
UP NEXT: "Discovery." Dawson learns about his mother's adulterous affair and turns to Jen when he learns Joey knew about the affair; however, Jen offers no solace when she opens up about her own past.
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