Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The 2011 Summer Re-Watch: Dawson's Creek "Baby" Review

Any time two or three characters have deep issues with the other, the show runner will build an episode around those conflicts being dealt with in one setting. For example, Boy Meets World built an episode around Shawn, Cory and Mr. Feeny in the mountains for the weekend, which allowed Shawn and Feeny to work out their differences and understand one another. The formula doesn't change regardless of the series--conflict, understanding, catharsis. Sometimes the stories are crutches, sometimes they aren't. Sometimes the stories exist for the viewer to understand one of the characters better. Whereas before the character might've been written without depth or nuance, the character might emerge as a fully-formed character with more layers than the viewer would've guessed.

Grams is one such character who benefits from this kind of story in "Baby." Until this episode, Grams has been portrayed as a racist, religious fundamentalist with no more depth than a blade of grass. In her previous brief scenes, she judged the Potters as bad people because of their poverty and interracial relationships. She judged her granddaughter for her lack of faith in God, and she judged her relationship with Dawson because he's a teenage boy with no control over his hormones. Grams spied on Jen from the window with mistrustful glances then timed her interruptions when Dawson tried to kiss his girlfriend goodbye. She was the token curmudgeonly grandmother until she opted against judging Gail for her adultery, and until she gave Dawson solace and counsel--the potential for someone more sympathetic and relatable.

"Hurricane" had two scenes with Bodie, Bessie and Grams to show the conflict between the characters. Grams doesn't approve of their co-habitation out-of-wedlock nor their baby-to-be conceived out of wedlock nor of their interracial relationship. The very pregnant Bessie's only a week away from her due date when "Baby" begins, which means she'll give birth by episode's end because TV producers and writers love early labor and the craziness that emerges from such a scenario. Indeed, Bessie goes into labor as soon as Bodie leaves Capeside for the day on a business venture. The only paramedic in town's occupied with a multi-car pile up on the expressway. The Potter sisters had to row to Leery Manor to use the phone because the Potter phone's disconnected. The lack of a paramedic and the presence of two teenagers transforms Leery Manor into an island--an island in need of an RN with forty years of experience.

The one person Bessie doesn't want to see during her labor is the only person who can deliver the baby in a safe and timely manner. Whatever resentments Bessie has for Grams must be quelled for her safety as well as her baby's, which is what Grams tells her to do when Bessie calls Joey "Judas" for requesting her help. Grams takes control of the room. She soothes Bessie, orders the teenagers around to fetch various items and slaps Dawson in the face when he and his camera annoy her. Grams transforms into a benevolent being. Of course, transforms is the wrong word to use because Grams always possessed their benevolent traits--we just saw her through the lens of characters who clashed with her. Jen alarms Bessie when she notices the amount of blood on the blanket. Grams orders her granddaughter to quit second-guessing her and to keep such observations to herself--that she'll best help by following orders. And when Bessie's tired and full of fear, she convinces the mother-to-be to recite the Lord's Prayer. The power of prayer and her sister's hand in her own gives her enough strength to push one last time, and then, baby Alexander's part of the world. The relationship between Grams and Bessie changed, for the better.

The story allows Jen and Grams to understand one another as well. The two clashed over religious beliefs, and their different lifestyles clashed. They're equally enigmatic to one another. Jen just doesn't understand her grandmother. The experience with Bessie helps Jen to understand her Grams more--she's a strong, capable independent and caring woman. The woman wants what's best for her granddaughter and what's best for others. Grams has her beliefs but she's not racist nor does she spit upon those poorer than she. She's a good woman, and that's the point of the A story in "Baby." The episode's necessary for Grams because, without it, she doesn't become as awesome as she is for the rest of the series.

In the B story, the relationship between Pacey and Tamra ends. The rumors about teacher and student after a kid smoking in the stall overheard Pacey openly discussing the relationship with Dawson. Pacey falls on the sword, though, when Tamara's brought before the school board for questioning. Tamara escapes from the relationship unscathed and, soon, she'll be out of Capeside. Pacey's sad because he opened his mouth. He's also sad because his first relationship's done and his first love's leaving his life and his town. The beats should be more effective but they aren't. Williamson and his writers did a poor job with the story. I never cared about Tamara nor her relationship with Pacey. Pacey's only been defined by his relationship with Tamara, which hurts the character and the audience investment in it. Now that Ms. Jacobs is out of the story, Pacey starts to become the great character he's remembered as.

Some Other Thoughts:

-The resident soulmates don't have much story in "Baby." Joey remembers her mother during Bessie's labor. Dawson comforts her. The two have great material in the seventh episode of the season though.

-Anytime one of the teenagers experiences angst, grunge rock's the soundtrack. It's not effective. Whenever I hear it, it makes me laugh because it's ridiculous.

-Jon Harmon Feldman

UP NEXT: "Detention"--Dawson, Joey, Jen and Pacey spend their Saturday in detention. The school trouble-maker, Abby Morgan, creates drama when she convinces the foursome to play a game of truth-or-dare. People will kiss. Dawson will go insane because someone calls him an oompa-loopma.


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Originally, I titled the blog Jacob's Foot after the giant foot that Jacob inhabited in LOST. That ended. It became TV With The Foot in 2010. I wrote about a lot of TV.