Dawson’s Creek’s 100th episode is half MTV Spring Break commercial and half soul mate tragedy. TV writers are prone to sentimentality and commemoration for the 100th episode and the series finale. Series finales sometimes represent the show at its worth—ditto for 100th episodes. One may call it pandering to the fans. The Boy Meets World finale, for example, is an atrocity of clips held together by a collection of scenes depicting the gang’s momentous move to New York City. Another example is The Vampire Diaries’ 100th episode that committed hard to the past. The best possible 100th episode (and series finale) is one that fits into the present narrative. Community celebrated 100 episodes without firing off firecrackers in celebration, which is remarkable because Community’s the most meta-aware show.
“100 Light Years From Home” is the 19th episode of Dawson’s Creek’s aimless and unfortunate fifth season. During season five, Dawson loses his father because his father loved his ice cream cone too gosh darn much; his father’s death leads Dawson to push Joey away after he blames her for the ice cream cone death, and Dawson also tells her it hurts to be around her because she’s inextricably linked to his past, to Capeside, to his past, and to frozen dairy. Dawson and Joey together was always a thing at the beginning and end of a season. The writers forced them together, broke apart wonderful couplings for soul mate drama, but Dawson notably apologized to Joey in the teaser of the 100th episode. Indeed, he apologized to Joey for what he said after Mitch died. Joey, who never bears a grudge against Dawson because the writers liked to punish the character, told him she didn’t bear him a grudge. Season 5 has but few episodes left, so Joey waxes poetic about the year. Specifically, she’s amazed that the year worked out for the best regarding Dawson. There’s a strange line about the sweetness of dreams unrealized, which seems to refer to Mitch’s death; i.e., it’s more sweet for Dawson to land the agent meeting because he can’t share it with Mitch. On these fertile romantic grounds the writers set to bring Dawson and Joey together in the 100th episode, starring MTV VJs and the Norwegian group, M2M.
Dawson and Oliver ride towards their agent meeting. Dawson, that old vagabond, loses himself in memories of him and Joey. Oliver, uncomfortable with silence, asks Dawson to tell him the soul mate story, which he does and which is rendered via montage. The majority of the scenes in the montage come from their worst moments together: Dawson crying after Joey leaves for summer at sea with Pacey; Dawson and Joey yelling at each other; Dawson rejecting Joey in “Like A Virgin”; Dawson blaming Joey for Mitch’s death; Dawson dancing with Joey while trying to make a play on Jen in “Dance”; Dawson standing sadly after turning Joey’s father in for drug trafficking; and so on. Romantic stuff, I know. Oliver cried. Allow me a slight digression: Oliver’s the greatest tertiary character in Dawson’s Creek. Oliver convinces Dawson to turn car around and drive to Joey in Florida. Dawson does and soon arrives where he learns Joey spent the night with Chad Michael Murray’s Charlie, a character notable only for the hair.
Season 5 subsists on filler everything: filler relationships, filler episodes, filler, filler, and filler. (Season 6, too, but that’s neither here nor there.) Filler is a problem in any fictional medium. David Foster Wallace said in an interview once that his biggest weakness as a writer was writing something for the sake of being liked, without any intrinsic artistic merit. He suspected his mega-dose of TV watching made him susceptible to writing for the sake of being liked because TV’s primary goal is being liked. Any TV shows suffers after five or six seasons. Writers write because a network and a studio paid them. Pacey is involved in a subplot with Audrey about their relationship status—it’s soon made complicated by Audrey’s Dawson from her past. Neither wants to commit out of shyness, I guess. Pacey, the other male character besides Dawson that always chased and charmed women, behaves as a whimpering puppy would when insecure about getting a treat. One possible story suggested by the writing is an issue of true love; however, Audrey’s true love appears after their bedroom scene in which she passive-aggressively beats around that she’s annoyed Pacey did not introduce her to his parents. Pacey experienced the best, most fulfilling relationship of his life during season four; now, he wants to date the love of his life’s best friend. Perhaps Pacey feels shy about committing to a relationship with Audrey for that reason, but no. Pacey told Charlie where Joey lived, and he enthusiastically encouraged Joey to have no-strings attached fun with him. There’s nothing in either storyline, no meaning, no stakes, though Charlie causes minor drama between Jen and Joey, and Charlie’s the reason why Dawson forlornly stares at the ocean.
The writers wanted the 100th episode to mean something. Why else would they have Dawson choose Joey over his dream? In the end, Dawson gets his dream and not Joey. Kevin Willamson said the heart of the show was the soul mate story, but he left the series after the second season to work on Wasteland. Over the weekend at ATX, Kevin said, “These aren’t my characters,” after watching the third season premiere. I think the loyalty the writers had towards Williamson kept the Joey/Dawson story going, or it was a convenient crutch, or both. Dawson and Joey get together briefly in the season finale of season 5. “100 Light Years From Home” is a half-assed nostalgia trip and of course a longer-than-usual commercial for MTV Spring Break and an unintentional backdoor pilot for One Tree Hill.
-Future Academy Award winner Michelle Williams gets to play Jen-with-a-cold throughout the episode. The happiest conclusion to the episode would’ve been Jen announcing that it cleared up.
-Jack tries to commit suicide in the episode’s C-story. Don’t worry, imaginary reader: he passes his classes, quits the frat, and Kerr Smith has even less to work with in the final season. That is until Kevin William returns to write the finale.
-Rina Mimoun, future head writer and show runner of Everwood, wrote the episode. Joey has an excellent line about Joey and Dawson living together as cats in their third life. Future True Bood director David Petrarca had the ignominy of directing the episode.