Monday, June 22, 2015

Notes about Dawson's Creek's "Beauty Contest" & Buffy's "Becoming" (And Bonus X-Files thoughts)

ABC Family began Fan Favorite Week for Dawson’s Creek and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Fan favorites always struck me as disingenuous publicity stunts. WWE fan polls have more merit than fan favorite themed weeks, the cynical side of me thought. I expected, upon hitting play in the DVR, that I’d see the “Pilot” of Dawson’s Creek, and “Innocence” from Buffy’s second season. Instead ABC Family surprised folk with the 11th episode of Dawson’s Creek’s first season, “Beauty Content,” and the finale of Buffy’s second season, the second and concluding part of “Becoming.” I reviewed “Beauty Contest” four years ago during my beloved Summer Re-Watch of 2011. I never reviewed “Becoming,” though I may’ve listed it among my favorite Buffy episodes during the Seven Business Days of Joss Whedon. No matter, I’d like to share brief thoughts about both episodes, for one must celebrate Dawson’s Creek’s return to syndication, and one must never want Buffy to leave syndication.

“Beauty Contest”

-The inciting incident for Pacey entering the contest is his father’s verbal abuse, which I already wrote about it in one paragraph four years ago. I failed to mention Pacey’s mention of his sister, who will later date Dawson Leery in the series’ fourth season.

-There’s a wonderful charm to the first season of the series. I love the lighting and time of day in the first act of the episode. Dawson’s Creek premiered in January 1998. Production ran through the fall of 1997. What the viewer sees is enchanting autumn on the coast of southern North Carolina. Lovely cinematography.

-Amy Sherman-Palladino said networks would never buy Gilmore Girls today. Would a network buy Dawson’s Creek? I doubt it. Many of the quaint WB shows wouldn’t stand a chance. The little things about early Dawson’s Creek when Kevin Williamson wanted to write a story that was the opposite of a slasher film (but not the opposite of a meta story, because Dawson’s Creek is very self-aware and self-referential) stand out, namely Dawson’s and Pacey’s scene about Pacey’s home, and the first scene of Act 1 at The Ice House. Those scenes have time and breathe. The 7 act structure would’ve gutted half the scene for the sake of advertising.

-Jen and Dawson discuss their relationship in Act 4 like people in their late 20s/early 30s. Dawson’s feelings for Joey stem from two specific instances. For the one Dawson wants Joey because he doesn’t want Pacey to want her or to have her (and this is prior to post-Williamson season 3 Pacey/Joey drama); for the second he feels attracted to Joey when she’s unlike Joey, which Joey points out to him. He’s not a sympathetic soul mate.

-Williamson and beauty pageants. Dawson’s Creek, of course, did the beauty pageant episode in season 1. The Vampire Diaries produced “Miss Mystic Falls” in season 1.I remember few things about TVD’s pageant episode: Damon and Elena danced; Caroline competed with Elena for the title; Stefan drank human blood. The dance is comparable to Joey’s cover of “On My Own.” Both series developed a lot of momentum at the tail end of their first seasons. Dawson and Joey moved closer to their kiss in the finale. Damon and Elena moved closer to basically the opposite of Dawson and Joey.

“Becoming, Part 2”

-99% of Buffy destroys Dawson’s Creek, of course. My fondness for Dawson’s Creek is rooted in nostalgia and nonsense. My fondness for Buffy is pure and free of cynicism.

-The finale has a backdoor pilot quality to it, but that isn’t a criticism. I watch “Becoming”, and I think about it as an episode of ANGEL. Whedon went to dark places earlier than “Becoming.” “The Pack” and “Prophecy Girl” are two of the earliest darker episodes. “Prophecy Girl” is the first great episode of Buffy. I would teach “Prophecy Girl” in a high school English class. Oh yes, I would. Whistler’s voiceover opens the episode, the beginning of the origin of Angel’s second soul, and the important line of the opening voiceover is: “There’s a moment in your life that makes you.” That moment is sacrifice: that moment is Buffy stabbing Angel in the heart to save the world.

The moment’s borne out of a lie. Willow found the spell that would return Angel’s soul to him, and she asked Xander to relay the information to Buffy. Xander tells Buffy that Willow said, “Kick his ass.” The line doesn’t come back until “Selfless” in season 7, an episode written by Drew Goddard, who was one of the few reasons I’m glad season six and seven happened despite the misery of both seasons. It’s a great line on its own and a great piece of writing because of the character drama captured within the line. Xander loved Buffy, envied Angel, Willow’s his closest friend, Angel’s gang is responsible for hospitalizing Willow, but he still betrayed Willow and Buffy because he’s a teenager, emotional, jealous, angry. It’s much more, too, because it’s Buffy’s first love, the fate of the world is in her hands, and the line changes her for awhile. She leaves Sunnydale for Los Angeles, future home of Angel, and her first act of heroism in the city of Angels is helping the helpless (and the hopeless). Joss said “I Only Have Eyes For You” made him think David Boreanaz could be a leading man. I’d like to think Angel the Series came to Joss, if only the skeleton idea, came to Joss while he wrote the episode.

-Spike and Buffy by the car when he tells her he wants to save the world because he likes the world is one of my favorite Spike/Buffy scenes. Dawson/Jen/Joey was an honorable triangle of emotion, but Spike/Drusilla/Angelus is an epic triangle of emotion. Joss told monster stories as metaphors for high school experience in the first three seasons. Spike’s motivation is only that he wants Dru back. Their temporary partnership leads to the great ‘rock band’ scene, followed by Buffy’s admission to her mother about being the slayer. I adore Buffy’s little monologue about what she’d rather do than slay and why she can’t, because she needs to save the world again. Folk argue about the best superhero. Is it Iron Man? Batman? Thor? Superman? Wolverine? None of those fools. The best superhero—my favorite superhero—is Buffy Summers. Angel’s a close second.

-Buffy told her mom to “have another drink” during their argument about Buffy being the slayer, a detail about Ms. Summer’s that is dropped between seasons.

-Darla told Angel to “close your eyes” in the first part before she killed him and then sired him. Buffy told Angel to “close your eyes” before she sends him to hell, which puts him on a path to Los Angeles a year later.

THE X-FILES—“Triangle” (Bonus thoughts!)

-I watched “Triangle” in half-delirium late Saturday night into early Sunday night. Watching the episode in half-delirium for the first time is the way to go. Mulder’s face down in the water, seemingly lifeless, and then he’s rescued by soldiers. Mulder then says he caught them in a time-warp, they’re in the 90s, the war is over, etc. Throughout the episode the show’s villains appear as Nazis. Scully’s a quick-talking dame. It is a trip. I never experienced a psychedelic trip, but I assume it’s similar to watching “Triangle” in half-delirium. Is it one of the best episodes of the series or one of the worsts? The direction is terrific, it’s fun, and it’s complete nonsense. The kiss at the end is delightful, and Mulder holding his bruised cheek is The X-Files doing the Inception ending nearly a decade prior to Inception’s release (and two years prior to Nolan writing the script).

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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.