Thursday, July 16, 2015

Dawson's Creek, Bonus Day: "...Must Come to an End"

I wrote about Dawson's Creek and Buffy, the Vampire Slayer during ABC Family's Fan Favorite Week. Fans voted for the first part of the finale, but not enough voted for the second part. I wrote about part one June 25. I decided to write about the second part tonight. Perhaps this marks the end of me writing about Dawson's Creek, or perhaps I'll always find a way back to it. 

-It’s amazing how great a finale Dawson’s Creek is 12 years after it aired. Seasons five and six were dreck. Williamson knew it and wrote accordingly, taking out every bad thing and returning the series to the roots. The second half of the episode has to hit a lot of beats. Williamson and Friedman didn’t rush any story, any plot points, and they didn’t skimp on closure for any of the characters. They wrote the hell out of it.

-Jen’s actual death scene didn’t bring tears to my eyes when I originally watched it in Autumn 2003. I read about the scene. Fans felt very affected by the quiet, solemn solitude of her death. Grams walks over to Jen, kisses her forehead, and quietly says, “I’ll see you soon.” The scenes that move my emotions happen prior to the death scene. I already wrote about the near-blubbering mess I am when Jen breaks the bad news to Jack in my June 25 post about “All Good Things…” Two other scenes really get me: Jen’s video to her daughter, and the final Jen/Jack scene (the final Jen/Jack scene gets to me more). First, though, Michelle Williams, given material she hadn’t had in over two seasons, brings to the scene a quiet, subdued, artful courage to Jen in the face of leaving the earth, her daughter, her Grams, and her friends. The monologue contains nearly all of Jen. The love she had inside her never fully reached people she wanted to love---those same people who didn’t love her the same. It pours out in her goodbye to Amy.

The monologue doesn’t conclude after the scene fades and transitions to the hospital scene wherein Pacey plays the outtakes from the season one credits; its conclusion occurs in Jen’s final scene with Jack. Jen’s dialogue about how she never felt she fit or belonged and about how she instigated more than she ever wanted is wonderful character writing. So too is Jack’s dialogue. Jen opens up about it because she doesn’t want her daughter to face the same difficulties and sense of loneliness she felt as Capeside’s outsider. No other character understands how it feels to stand apart from the town, from ordinary and ‘normal’ lived experience, than Jack. My eyes well and my throat tightens when Jack says, “You belong to me. Don’t you get it? You’re my soulmate.” The writers marginalized Jen and Jack in the last two seasons. I’d like to think Williamson chose to came back not for concluding the triangle, a triangle he may or may not have made the axis of the drama if he stayed, but to honor two characters the writers lost interest in writing. Their finale stories don’t exist without the other.  Like Jen and Jack, the stories complete each other. Jack becomes the guardian of Amy. Doug then joins Jack on another first for him in a life of firsts, the first gay parents in Capeside. Jen and Jack always had each other, and she even has him after she dies. Killing a character in the finale sometimes seems cheap, a false way to bring heavy emotions to the finale, but Jen’s death matters. It’s not frivolous, it’s not cheap, and it’s not false.

-The resolution of the triangle takes up the last act of the finale. Joey made her choice in the kitchen when Pacey let her off the hook. Pacey can’t hear a definitive answer. Joey needed a final scene with Dawson. Fans had to wonder ‘til the teary end. The major melodramatics of the triangle long passed by the sixth season. Dawson’s on his own for most of season six. Joey and Pacey re-bond when Oliver Hudson’s not around. Joey’s dialogue after Pacey lets her off the hook sort of retcons her and Dawson, its confusing and rather unwieldy. The Capeside gang never talked like teenagers, but they handled different teenage emotions realistic to teenagers of any generation. (I already made the point a few times). Williamson wanted to break conventions in season one by putting Dawson and Joey together. Breaking genre conventions made Kevin Williamson a famous screenwriter. Joey told Pacey she loves Dawson as a soulmate with a pure, innocent love. I wonder what the series could’ve been if Joey and Dawson, being fifteen and super confused about friendship, love, and romance confused platonic love for romantic love. One’s soulmate isn’t necessarily whom you marry; more oft than not one’s soulmate is a friend, a sibling, or a parent. I think Joey’s words mean to convey that sentiment. Through the heartaches, the kisses, the sex, and everything, they’ll always be together as something beyond the loving romantic connection she has with Pacey. “He’s part of my childhood,” she says in the key line. Williamson changed his mind about Joey’s choice during the writing of the finale. Her scene with Dawson also lacks clarity, mostly because the question has to dangle until the last scene, but Dawson’s explanation of soulmates circles around an idea without hitting it. Dawson’s less of a jackass in the last two seasons, but he still gives permission and lets her go before the Joey/Pacey reveal in the last scene. Dawson’s other arc—he’s trying to write an ending and struggling—seems to reflect the actual writer. The conclusion of the triangle is wonderful. The writing in the preceding two scenes lack confidence. The writing’s hesitant. Joey can’t reject the heart of the series by choosing Pacey. She doesn’t, of course. The first part of the finale captured the heart and essence of the series—the five friends and what they meant to each other. Dawson got the lasting line: “It doesn’t matter who ends up with who.” It didn’t.

-With that written, I still think Dawson and Joey were terrible soulmates. Dawson was the worst with her. I really like their last scene, though. I quoted Dawson’s line about life and death in my AIM profile and to friends and classmates. James Van Der Beek toned down his histrionics in the last two years. He played Dawson’s memory of Jen exiting the cab really effectively, letting it show in the eyes.

-Pacey and Jen share some good moments in the finale. Besides Jen/Jack, Jen/Pacey is my favorite pairing. I already wrote about their short time together in season three. Josh Jackson has chemistry with everyone.

-The “Goodnight, Goodbye” montage gets me all these years later. It got me as a young lad, a junior in high school, and it got me again as a bearded male nearing thirty. I loved the show without irony when I was a teenager. Now, I see the show differently. I laugh at the nonsense, Dawson’s villainy, Mitch Leery dying by ice cream cone, and all that. Parts of it I still love non-ironically. It’s connected to my coming-of-age years. I experienced heartbreak and rejection for the first time along with the characters (episodes running in syndication!). Dawson’s Creek, Buffy, ANGEL, and Everwood helped me through those strange teenage years we all experienced. Dawson’s Creek as a whole is too scattered and marred by changing writers whose storytelling became increasingly nonsensical, wasteful, and filler. It’s not a great series, but it’s good. Two great seasons followed by one good, one okay, and two abysmal. Networks, cable channels, and premium channels won’t buy a series like Dawson’s Creek or Everwood or Gilmore Girls anytime soon. The act structure has removed a lot of the soul from TV writing. I’d love to watch the series with a lady who’s never seen it. I’d show it to my teenage daughter, if ever I have a daughter. A time existed when TV bought a lot of quaint, charming, melodramatic shows about small towns, but no more. Priorities shifted. Goals changed. I miss it. I miss these small town shows. I miss the four-act-and-a-teaser structure that made for better storytelling and that didn’t demand a rush to the act-out.

No, Dawson’s Creek isn’t great. I love it, though. I love serious literature and I love this nonsensical teen soap. I’ll often combine the two in reviews. Never put me in a box.

No comments:

About The Foot

My photo
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.