#405-“A Family Way”
Big time sexuality in Capeside, friends and well-wishers. Joey thought about having sex with Pacey. Mrs. Leery decided what she wanted after learning she’s pregnant. Gretchen told Dawson what happened to her that made her decide to take time off from college. Big time emotions in Capeside. Jack and Andie are off in their own story in which parents take their kids off the soccer squadron the McPhee kids coach because of his sexuality.
Greg Berlanti ran the room in season four. His next show, Everwood, had an abortion episode in its first season. TheWB may’ve ruled against an abortion. The executives barely wanted a same-sex kiss during the holy 8PM hour. The episode’s an interesting sex education episode. 7th Heaven had scene after scene of characters droning about the seriousness of sex. They’d belabor the potential consequences. “A Family Way” approaches sex education through action and characterization. None of the Capesiders are reduced to PSAs about what happens if you’re not prepared for sex.
Joey’s the immature high school student—she wants to prepare and feel ready, but she’s not, and she tries. Joey considered the consequences, but not totally because she’s thinking about pleasing her man. Bessie freaked over dinner in a scene that’s typical of late 90s/early 2000s sex episodes. She doesn’t think her sister’s ready, and she assumes she’s already ruined her future by doing it. Bodie, afterwards, contextualizes the fight scene: Bessie’s terrified Joey will stay in Capeside because she had sex, didn’t prepare, and gets pregnant. She didn’t. The sisters reconcile. Joey scolded Pacey for sort of manipulating her into thinking about it. They made up, and he tickled her.
Gretchen told Dawson about her boyfriend impregnating her during final weeks, during a wayward period in her life anyway, how the pregnancy forced her to consider terminating, and how she couldn’t believe she put herself in a spot where she had to make that choice after she miscarried a week later. Yes, it’s a preachy monologue, but it’s in response to Dawson’s troubles dealing with his mother’s pregnancy. Sasha Alexander played the scene really nicely. She was great throughout the episode. The melancholia Dawson captured on photograph is played throughout their sweet bridge-side conversation. She’s more mature than Joey, but still immature. College students don’t know what they’re doing. College makes students think they have an idea about life, but they don’t.
Mitch and Gale are the mature pair in the big time sexuality episode. They had Dawson. Dawson learned his parents tried for three years to have him and then tried for another two to have another one. Gale decided she wanted to terminate the pregnancy because of her age, their financial instability, in addition to the responsibilities of sending Dawson to college, as well as how hard it is to raise a child well. Dawson delivered a touching affirmation of his parents’ innate ability to raise and love their child and give that child whatever they need. I’ll confess I teared up during the scene. I teared up re-watching ANGEL’s “Home” on Wednesday (that ending, folks, that ending gets me every time). I teared up during the last scene in ANGEL’s “Origin” as well.
I hadn’t seen “A Family Way” in a long time. I remembered the Gretchen stuff. Re-watching the episode was pleasant. Dawson’s Creek really doesn’t implode until the college years. Season four has misguided creative choices, sure, but its not the sustained collective terrible ideas of season five and six. This episode also sets up Dawson and Gretchen as well as Dawson’s future creative endeavor with the great A.I. Brooks. Mr. Brooks saw in Dawson’s photograph of Gretchen artistry.
Andie got everything she wanted, but she wasn’t happy. Jen, at the mercy of a writing staff intent to assassinate her character, let Andie look at her ecstasy tablets. Andie got high. Things went bad. Jen became the villain of Capeside. None of it’s great. Paul Stupin, during the writers’ reunion at ATX in early June, said they tried different things with Andie because they loved Meredith Monroe and wanted her on the show. None of their ‘experiments’ for the character succeeded. Monroe’s last episode is #407. The writers were hellbent on exploring Jen’s New York past. Again, none of it’s great.
The gang went to a rave. Besides Andie’s collapse, nothing happens at the rave. Dawson and Gretchen did a little “Will they or won’t they?” while Pacey mourned the loss of his boat. Joey repressed her jealousy regarding Dawson and Gretchen. Dawson celebrated the news about his parents’ choice to have the baby, the future Lily. Dawson and Joey ended the episode together with nostalgia and passive-aggression. Joey told Dawson, “I see you in my life always” (that’s a paraphrase). Dawson shot back: “You did pretty well for three months.”
Pacey waiting at the hospital to see Andie was sweet and a nice nod to their time together in season two. High Andie scolded Pacey and Joey for their relationship. Andie accused Joey of dumping Dawson for Pacey, which becomes the quasi-revisionist history of the series for the triangle. I like how alcohol or drugs always means, in Dawson’s Creek, a character will reveal their true feelings. All of the Capeside kids hate each other, but they’re rarely drunk and/or high and never say it. Next season, Dawson blames Joey for Mitch’s death. Remarkable.
One final note: I think this episode began the “Jack loves partying” aspect of his character. Partying and partying alone defines him in season five.
#407-“You Had Me at Goodbye”
The dinner scene in the last act essentially dissolves the filler of the previous three. It’s a great scene. Andie gathered her friends in attempt to bring everyone closer together before she leaves. She pointed out Jen’s the perfect girl to fill Jack’s sisterly need in his life. Her emotional speech to Dawson, Joey, and Pacey doesn’t land with them, though Dawson took a picture of the group. Dawson and Pacey stood next to each other. Underlining the Pacey/Dawson thing is Dawson’s work with Mr. Brooks, which he’s forced to do after using Brooks’ boat to save Pacey and Jen. Dawson is, essentially, Capeside’s greatest martyr.
Joey needed someone to write her “Who Knows You Best?” peer recommendation for a college application. Dawson or Pacey? It’s gosh darn Dawson. Joey should’ve picked Bessie, but that’s a creative choice without dramatic fallout. Joey gave away her choice in the series finale by telling Pacey, “You’re my future; Dawson’s my past.” Unfortunately, it’s not really true until the last episode of the series. Until then, Dawson’s front and center in Joey’s life. The Pop Network nears the shambolic pregnancy episode with each passing day.
#408-“The Unusual Suspects”
This episode, in which karma bites Drue Valentine, is terrible. Greg Berlanti and his writers at Everwood did a mystery episode late in Everwood’s first season, which was also terrible. Dawson, Pacey, and Jack schemed together to frame Drue for the senior prank as his comeuppance for contributing to Andie’s near drug related death. It’s framed by three interrogations conducted by Harry Shearer’s Principal Peskin and Mitch Leery: guidance counselor. The legendary prank sucks. A boat in the pool with the principal’s pet on top? Terrible. Dawson and Pacey work as friends during the episode, as part of their ruse to throw off suspicion, despite the history of their senior pact made in freshman year, but by the end when Pacey suggests being friends again Dawson’s back to his prickly passive-aggressive self.
Dawson learned Mr. Brooks used to make movies, which kicks off Dawson’s return to filmmaking arc. So, there’s that. Pacey learned more about his brother’s work as an officer. Jack’s soccer coach story ended because he started Molly in net. I think the writers wanted to mellow down after the intense last two episodes full of ecstasy and one character leaving the show, and they thought of this rubbish.
#409-“Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”
Joey wanted to impress Worthington administration and her potential classmates, but she’s poor Joey Potter from the wrong side of the creek, who works to help support her family, because the writers loved exploring class issues in fictional Capeside. What the heck? I know Boiler Room inspired Pacey’s stockbroker story in season six, but what inspired these constant stories about class division? Was it the failed Young Americans show? Joey’s night with the Worthington elite is the worst part of “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.” The writers botched all college-related stories through nine episodes. Every character, besides Pacey, had a college application essay plot. Dawson couldn’t put into words why he wanted to make movies, forgetting he hadn’t for nearly a year. But he’ll make a documentary about Brooks’ life and soon he’ll be on his way to dream school USC.
Jen’s story mixed college essay anxiety, parental anxiety, and sadness about Grams’ not talking to her after the ecstasy fun. Jen won’t have her doomed NYC trip for another 9 episodes, I think. Jen, Jack, and Grams group hug to finally resolve the lingering ecstasy storyline fallout.
Gretchen threw the Leery Christmas party because she loved it so much growing up. The writers needed Gretchen and Dawson to kiss by the end, under the mistletoe. The kiss is set up earlier when Dawson helps Gretchen hang it. He wondered why they hung it, and Gretchen said, “Tradition.” So, it’s tradition for them to kiss when Mr. Brooks gruffly orders them to kiss. Their kiss looks more romantic than any kiss between Dawson and Joey. Sasha Alexander and James Van Der Beek worked great together. Pacey and Joey didn’t like seeing it. Joey, in an earlier scene, looked ready to vomit after hearing Gretchen tell her about watching movies with Dawson in his room. So, all of Joey’s words about Pacey as her future? Meaningless.
The New Yorker recently published an article about Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, which concerned the general misreading of the text. The writer assaulted Thoreau for much of the piece. This melodramatic teen soap beat The New Yorker’s thesis by fifteen years. Joey’s English teacher, Mr. Kasden, who’s another character named after a staff writer, asked Joey to point out the most important word in the sentence he highlighted. Joey didn’t know. Mr. Kasden told her it’s “borrowed” because Thoreau’s self-reliance relied on neighbors, family, and friends. Joey spent this episode trying to do things by herself, but she couldn’t. It earned her a C-minus. All things work out for Joey, though. Her teacher allowed her a makeup.
The Dawson-Gretchen kiss hovers over the theme of the episode. Joey’s frantic because the kiss bothered her. Pacey asked Joey to talk to Dawson before it spirals into a harmful thing. Her conversation with Dawson highlighted the strides he’s made since the end of season three. He gifted Joey a photograph of her and Pacey from the party. The gesture surprised Joey so that she couldn’t help crying. Not more than 7-8 months ago Dawson tried to murder Pacey with a boat during the Regatta.
Dawson’s full of good-will due to things going his way. He’s making a movie. He’s kissing a pretty girl. Gretchen swears the kiss was a kiss. Dawson told Jack not every kiss is an epic, life-changing event. Of course, Dawson delivers a monologue at the Christmas tree lighting ceremony to Gretchen about his regard for her. The monologue works for Dawson, because this show’s a fantasy and teenage me would’ve loved to recognize that prior to delivering his OWN confessional monologues to girls he thought fondly of. Ah…youth. Gretchen feels the same way. She doesn’t say it. Christmas lights interrupt her. Dawson’s Creek took a month-long holiday hiatus after this episode, so Gretchen/Dawson serves as the cliff-hanger.
Also of note: Mr. Brooks mixed up his stories while making the documentary. In the next scene Dawson learns Mr. Brooks will die sooner than later. Man, this show operated in extremes. Elsewhere, Jack met, and sparred with, Toby over who had the tougher time coming out. They’ll be in love before long.
UP NEXT: I’ll cover the next four or five episodes in the next post. Pacey’s birthday party goes miserably for him, but him and Joey will take the next step in their relationship. We’re closer and closer to more Dawson Leery nonsense.