Notes to Season Four, Part 1
-Pacey and Joey returned home from their summer at sea, their isolated paradise. The season four premiere mainly involves the continuation of the Dawson/Joey/Pacey triangle. Dawson let her go in “True Love.” Joey worried he really let her go. “Squaring things away with him” becomes her main focus—at the expense of her relationship with Pacey. Dawson represents Pacey’s worst romantic nightmare. Dawson doesn’t even represent it. He is it; he’s the guy a girl never forgets. Pacey feels dejected and insecure for most of the episode. Gretchen, his long lost sister, took his spot in Doug’s apartment, and he lost a part of Joey. Joey assured him in the sweet penultimate scene of “Coming Home” that Dawson had a part of her brain, but Pacey has her whole heart. The penultimate scene also dashes the idea of the turbulent triangle starting anew in the first season. Season four’s the season of Joey and Pacey, and it’s a lot of wonderful until “Promicide.”
-Greg Berlanti wrote a meta short speech for Pacey about the tropes of a teenage melodrama in its fourth season, which essentially hits the broad beats of season four. Season four introduced a new character in Gretchen Witter, Dawson’s first adolescent crush. Drue Valentine’s the second notable new character. Thankfully, Henry’s gone from the narrative. Jen exposited about Henry’s sudden transfer to a private school on a football scholarship.
-Dawson’s photography habit’s another impressive instance of his amazing passive-aggression. Dawson’s room represents his life, what’s important, and Joey doesn’t find herself in the photographs because she chose to love Pacey. Dawson’s passive-aggression later comes out when he tells Joey that photography didn’t choose him, it chose him, like love does—meaning love for Pacey chose Joey.
-Did the challenge of finding conflict between Pacey and Joey excite the writers so that they ended season three with Joey choosing Pacey? The writers used the same thing to drive a wedge between the new couple: bad communication. Pacey didn’t tell Joey about his school troubles, because he felt insecure about failing her, and because he felt insecure about the dark cloud of Dawson Leery nearby. Pacey didn’t want Joey to return to her. The post-True Love Pacey/Joey has lovely moments in the first two episodes, but the fights, Pacey’s crazy insecurity and shit behavior foreshadows the mess of “Promicide.” I haven’t watched season four in a long time (10 years maybe?). I’m curious to watch more of Pacey and Joey. I remember the significant moments, but at 18 I didn’t know writers that the writers had no sense of how to write them together without inventing reasons for them to fight. Two small speeches Joey makes about her love for Pacey moves this oft-bearded blogger: her confession of love in “True Love” and what she tells Pacey, how she assures him, when he’s afraid he screwed his own future.
The slow build to Joey and Pacey in season three was the easy part; writing them as happy and together was the challenge. Williamson couldn’t make it work for Dawson and Joey. I remember Joey and Pacey as a great thing in season four.
-Henry broke up with Jen. Michael Pitt never returned to the series after “True Love.” I researched why, but I didn’t find a reason for the end of Henry in the series.
-This episode introduced another Abby Morgan-lite character, the troublesome Drue Valentine. He’s my second favorite antagonist, behind Abby. He’s not at a well-developed character. He’s entirely plot device. I theorize the writers made him up because someone needed to give Andie ecstasy.
-Overall, the episode’s on par with “Coming Home.” The premiere took care of the “True Love” fallout. “Failing Down” moves forward. Dawson’s willing to help Pacey with as little effort as possible. The Capeside seniors think about colleges, Pacey worries about being left behind, and Gretchen becomes another girl that re-shapes Dawson’s personality.
#403-“Two Gentlemen of Capeside”
-Forgiveness and friendship, the two themes of Shakespeare’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona, double as the themes in this episode. Pacey and Dawson don’t like each other despite Joey really wanting both to be friends again. Shakespeare’s early comedy frames the episode. Joey and Dawson horribly misread the characters, as if the writers badly needed the exposition to reflect Dawson and Pacey. This episode marks the second and last time a cataclysmic storm passed through Capeside. It took a near deadly storm for Dawson and Pacey to speak. When they speak, in the final scene, Dawson’s willing to agree they may be friends again one day.
Scholars place The Two Gentleman of Verona early in the chronology because of the sloppiness of the play. Proteus and Valentine speak of traveling to Milan from Verona by boat. (Complete nonsense, right?) Samuel Johnson wondered why Proteus says he only saw a picture of Silvia after speaking to her, face-to-face, not more than several lines before. The astute and erudite Johnson may’ve missed the metaphor of the line. Valentine spoke of meeting the emperor, but, instead, he meets the Duke of Milan. Similarly, this episode’s sloppy. The terrible storm comes out of nowhere. Grams’ line about rain, and the Leerys’ line about wind offer the only hints. Joey watched The Weather Channel, which displayed a storm the size of the east coast coming towards Capeside from southwest. Dawson saves Pacey because they went to a cove once, a cove that doesn’t exist during the rescue sequence. The storm’s gone once the principal characters dock. Dawson’s the valiant hero still portrayed as wronged because his best friend took his girl.
This episode’s a mess. The CGI of the storm looks pitiful. The Yacht Club element in early season four seems like a way to continue the chief theme of the cancelled spinoff series Young Americans. Andie proved herself to the judgmental, snobbish Mrs. Valentine. The viewer learned about Jen’s past acquaintance with Drue Valentine, an unfortunate arc that dashes the positive characterization of Jen. Yet I like “Two Gentlemen of Capeside.”
College anxiety is a staple of high school melodramas. The Capesiders don’t know where they’re going, or who they’ll be next year or in five years. All party at Drue’s rented property for the party, or whatever. Joey drinks too much. She feels torn between her desires to maximize her educational and stay creekside with Pacey, whose grades won’t get him into college. Dawson mopes about Pacey and Joey some more. The mystery about why Gretchen took a break from college grew. The writers took some shots at the myth of college. Joey even delivered a meta-speech about exactly what will happen to the characters next season. I know the episode aired fifteen years ago, and I know any ‘advice’ I give in this blog to professional writers is superfluous and wildly delusional, but meta-writing’s more lazy than clever in TV. The characters don’t attend the same college in Boston, but they all move to Boston.
The episode’s a collection of impressions, expectations, misunderstandings, and anxiety about preparing for the next phase in a teenager’s life. All misguided. Gretchen has the best thing to say about college. She compared it to The Wizard of Oz. Her film professor told her class that “There’s no place like home” is the most cinematic line is Hollywood. Kansas is desolate, gray, black-and-white, whereas Oz is Technicolor, full of characters Dorothy never thought she’d meet, her new friends, good friends, because she didn’t they existed growing up. And these new people, the people Dawson and his friends will meet in college, will “help each other realize that all the things you want to be you already are.” The Capesiders never meet those straw people and tin people at college. TV show casts can only interact with each other and two recurring guest stars in a season.
“Future Tense” built towards Gretchen’s wonderful Wizard of Oz comparison. I wish the gang heard it all, but the conversation was meant to help Dawson. Dawson sort of wants to leave for California to escape Joey and Pacey, not knowing that wherever he goes, as long as he’s not home, he’ll meet people he never expected to, people he can’t imagine he never knew before he knew them. Immediately, the scene sets up his arc with Gretchen. Over the series, it’s as forgotten as the pledge the girls make to meet in five years to see if they correctly predicted where they’d end up.