Friday, June 26, 2015

Dawson's Creek & Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, Day 5: "True Love" & "Once More, With Feeling"

“True Love”

-I knew more tears and sobs in the throat would happen today. I didn’t anticipate seeing the worst crying in television history, though. I felt disappointed by the choice of episode for the last day of fan favorite week. “True Love” isn’t great. The best part is the wonderful B story led by Grams--her romantic crusade on behalf of Jen and Jack. I loathe weddings on television. Name a good wedding episode to me. Try. Name one. No one can. Wedding episodes suck. Mitch and Gail parallel Dawson and Joey. Dawson delivers his selfish speech for his parents about the lack of Dawson in their early days of their first marriage and of love ending and beginning again. Dawson means he can’t imagine a life without Joey by his side. Joey leaving with Pacey means an end to their childhood soul mate nonsense. Dawson, too, believes all roads lead back to him. It’s the subtext of his speech. It’s text during his monologue to Joey in which he frees her from him, because he knows he won’t have her if she gives up Pacey for him. Their dock conversation is Internet legend because of Van Der Beek’s funny cry face, and it is show legend because it puts Joey closer to Pacey. Katie Holmes is great throughout the episode. She’s stilted, awkward, and anxious around Dawson; she’s free, loose, comfortable, anxiety-free with Pacey. Holmes and Jackson had magnificent chemistry. Van Der Beek and Holmes did not have great chemistry. Late season three Dawson is at his most evil and villainous, too. The permission he gives Joey to be with Pacey is not his to give or take, which threatens to take away because Joey worried he’ll hate her for doing it. The fall out of Joey’s decision lingers for an episode in season four. Dawson and Pacey even become friends again, because the writers had a set amount of characters for their characters to date and be friends with. It’s gosh darn good melodramatic teen soap, though.

-Dawson used his parents wedding to guilt out Joey.

-Joey’s wall disappears. The characters don’t return to it. I imagine “Ask Me To Stay” remained in Capeside long after, spawning folk tales about who wrote it, who the person wrote it for, and what happened to the couple. The inevitable Dawson’s Creek spinoff, starring Treat Williams as Mitch Leery’s brother, could make the wall the main motif of the “Pilot.” An old beggar tells the new Capeside class about ol’ cyclops Dawson Leery and how he terrorized a young heroine named Josephine Potter.

-Doug Witter pulled Jack over mere feet from the ‘Welcome to Capeside’ sign in “All Good Things…” and he pulled Joey over mere from feet from the sign in “True Love.” I suppose Dougie patrols Capeside and neighboring Old Tartary, MA.

-Pacey and Joey sailed away on “True Love.” How enchanting.

-The best part of “True Love” is Grams’ crusade for romance, as mentioned above. Grams’ story about her perfect kiss, and her 46 years of wedded bliss to Gramps, has echoes of James Joyce’s “The Dead.” There I go again comparing teen soaps to classic, revered literature. Jen and Jack started the bitter club after their respective relationships ended. Grams, along with giddy Andie (giddy, excited, happy Andie is my favorite Andie; I don’t like Xed out, drugged out, cheating-on-Pacey at a psych ward), drive after Henry’s bus in pursuit of Jen’s great romantic moment. Jen makes a great big romantic display. Henry breaks up with her in the summer. Before season 4, though, Jen ends the season positively. The whole season is the best Jen season. Season 4 introduces Drue Valentine from her past in New York, followed by the appearance by her father, and it makes for a less happy Jen season. The writers must’ve decided Jen’s too happy. I also love the B story because it’s lighter, funnier, and freer than the dreck love triangle. Jack failed to win back Parker from Buffy, but his father comforted him when he needed it. Greg Berlanti received a story credit for the episode. Williamson said Jack’s coming out story is essentially Greg’s. Part 2 of Jack’s coming out story has a scene wherein Jack kneels in the kitchen in anguish because of his sexuality. He’s terrified of the future, the intolerance, the possible abuse. He doesn’t want to be who he is, but he can’t help it or pretend he isn’t. His father turns his back on him when he needs it. Andie orders their father out the door and away from them. So, in this episode, Jack’s back in the kitchen, almost kneeling, clutching the dishwasher handle, telling his father that he can’t do it anymore. As a gay teenager he has double the problems of a normal teenager. Jack’s father kneels to the floor, embraces his son, and comforts him. Kerr Smith was amazing when given the material. Their embrace is the synthesis of their story, thus creating a new thesis.

-ABC Family begins airing the series from the beginning on Monday. Pacey/Joey fans overtook fan voting, I think. I wanted a season two episode, or “Promicide.” I’m all about “Promicide.” That’s what I wanted at my senior prom: a boat and nonsense drama. Oh well.

“Once More, with Feeling”

-Ah. I should’ve guessed the musical episode. I thought fan favorite week would conclude with “The Gift.” I forgot about “Once More, with Feeling.” I admired and loved the episode when I watched it 11-12 years ago. Repeated viewings have decreased my fondness for the episode. The story is clever and well-wrought. A demon puts a spell over the town that causes everyone to sing and dance. Dancing too much causes combustion. Joss wouldn’t experiment for experiment’s sake. The stories had to matter. The characters still had to matter. The problem is that it’s a sixth season episode, the worst season in Buffy. Willow is on a bad path to magic overdose. Buffy’s depressed as hell, because her friends thought they pulled her from hell but they pulled her from heaven. Giles plans to leave. Anya and Xander freak about marrying, especially Xander. Dawn steals items from The Magic Shop. Yeah, Dawn’s a rebellious teen. Joss and Marti said season six was about the darkness of adulthood. The writers tried, but they failed. The main arc dissolves in the need to make things dark. The Scoobies defeated a god in season five but become powerless against three nerds. “Once More, With Feeling” sets the course of the rest of season. It’s actually the last bit of fun in the season before the total abject misery. By episode 9 and 10 Willow crashes, Tara’s gone from her life, because Tara learned in the musical episode about Willow using magic to wipe her memory after a fight they had regarding Willow’s dangerous reliance on magic. If the story’s bad, great writers can’t mask its badness by writing catchy songs, witty dialogue, and such. Joss wrote and directed a ballet episode. “Waiting in the Wings,” for ANGEL’s third season, an episode I think is superior to “Once More, With Feeling.” I also consider ANGEL the best Joss Whedon show. ANGEL portrayed adulthood well. The ambiguity, darkness, terror, and existential dread the writers tried to layer season six with had been expertly layered in ANGEL by Joss, Greenwalt, Tim Minear, Jeff Bell, Mere Smith, and Shawn Ryan. ANGEL did it better.

“Once More, With Feeling” works better in parts than as a whole. Giles’ song while Buffy trains is wonderful. Sara D. Bunting of Previously TV made a point in her Buffy in her re-watch posts about what ails the last two seasons: the absence of Giles. Giles’ mournful song while Buffy trains doesn’t come from mindless melodrama (amnesia, wedding nonsense, petty theft, unrequited love); he’s the closest person she has to a father, the only guardian left in her life, the lone person she can rely on for aged wisdom, because her mother died, and she did too. Of course, the writers hesitated to depress the character to the extent she’d become un-Buffy, but depression hollows out the depressed person. She’s sad, but she isn’t. Her depression takes the form of a sadomasochistic sexual relationship with Spike. It’s among the low points of the series. I’m sure Joss Whedon read Chekhov’s plays and some of his short stories. Chekhov the realist depicted the milieu of provincial Russian life, the dead-ends, the unhappiness, the lack of fulfillment, the sadness, the disappointments, the tedium, the everyday evil people do to others, and his great stories, his masterpieces, do not flinch from painful, painful outcomes and epiphanies. One may argue Buffy’s sixth season successfully depicts the difficulties of adulthood with its relentless bills, plumbing problems, best friends transforming into apocalyptically bad witches (only one witch), a failed relationship because of marriage, demeaning sexual relationships, and its bleakness and ‘badness’ is the purpose. Chekhov’s “In The Ravine” devastates the reader, but it’s a masterpiece of short fiction. The problem then isn’t the subject matter of the season; it is characterization, the plotting, and the overall writing.

-“Tabula Rasa” is the last enjoyable episode of the season before it plunges into the abyss. I enjoy Spike and Anya drinking together in “Entropy.” The sixth season is the bad kind of entropic. If anyone wonders if there’s a good kind of entropic, that’s neither here nor there for this post.

-Spike convinces Buffy to live. 7 episodes later, they stand together on the second floor of The Bronze and Spike tells her, “You don’t belong down there with your friends; you belong with me, here, in the dark.” What in the bloody hell?

-“I’ll Never Tell” is awesome. I prefer Anya’s solo song from “Selfless”—the spiritual sequel to “I’ll Never Tell.”

-The one-er Joss does in the second act is awesome, too.

-I like the demon, the tap-dancing, the singing, and especially his dance with Dawn. He’s among the most memorable villains in the series. Is it because he sings and dances? Yes. Mr. Trick maybe rivals him for style of clothing. The reveal of Xander as the summoner of the singing-and-dancing demon is good.

-Not a bad run of fan voted episodes this week for Buffy. I would’ve liked “Restless” instead of “Hush” if it was between one or the other 4th season episodes. I own the DVDs, though. I can pop in “Restless” whenever I please. Joss wrote and directed every episode voted for this week. ABC Family will run the series from “Welcome to the Hellmouth” through “Chosen.” Most cable channels don’t re-run a series to completion anymore, except for Boy Meets World. I’ve watched that cycle 65 times in 5 years after re-watching it in my younger teen years.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've been getting back into the Creek this week and found your recaps. Thanks. I will sat though that "A Different World's" wedding episode was maybe the best of all time.

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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.