Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Dawson's Creek - Season 2 Wrap-up

So, we've made it through the show's sophomore season and how did it fare compared to last? Well, I think it's both stronger and weaker than the first season. It's stronger at telling more intriguing stories, it's stronger with developing its secondary characters, and it's stronger with continuity but only by a little bit. The best way I can explain this is by deconstructing the good and the bad of each characters' story arc.

This show is very bizarre with its continuity, sometimes they follow through with things and there is an excellent payoff and other times, it's like the writers get bored or something and just drop things entirely or they drop them to further their own plots. Take Jen's entire arc this season, it could have been extremely powerful but it ends up not packing a lot of punch because they dialed her back mid-season so that she could be successful at helping Dawson with his movie for the sole purpose of making Joey jealous. So, instead of getting a girl who is slipping slowly into the deep end, drinking her pain away, falling in with the wrong crowd, seeing her friend die and being unable to save her because of her intoxication, and her falling out with Grams, all feeding in to her self-loathing, which results in her unwillingness to save herself from the fire; we get her slipping, suddenly getting better, having a good relationship with Grams, only for her to suddenly decide that she still doesn't fit in, out of nowhere and going back to the self destructive path but only in the last few episodes. It takes away a lot of the punch that her storyline might have packed because you are left wondering why she magically got better and then why she suddenly decided to get worse. You get whiplash from Jen's sudden transformations this season and it's a shame because Jen is a very interesting character who went through an amazing growth this season, despite the back and forth nature of her change. I chalk that up to lazy writing though. 

Still the most interesting character on Dawson's Creek

And then there is Jack. When he is first introduced, he's kind of a doofus. First, he's irresponsible and naive and then he's suddenly the rock that holds his family together. There is no gradual change here or character growth, the writers just blatantly changed their minds with his character. That being said, his character's struggle with his sexuality was surprisingly well handled and felt very earned. Sure, you could argue that the writers threw that character change in to be edgy and controversial at the time, seeing as how there were very few gay characters on tv when this first aired and I could totally believe that but whether the writers intended to or not, there were some clues that pointed to his possible conflict with his sexuality early on. The milkshake scene in the episode, High Risk Behavior, sure it can be read as klutziness but it can also be interpreted that he was nervous or afraid of the feelings he felt when he saw a naked male. Then, of course, as we learn in, Sex, She Wrote, Jack was unable to get an erection when he and Joey attempted to have sex. It could have been anxiety, nervousness or stress but it came off to me, on second viewing, as his body's way of telling him that he just wasn't attracted to girls in that way. Jack started off annoying to me but evolved into a very interesting character with very real struggles.

Surprisingly interesting character

His sister Andie is also very interesting and enjoyable and always was from the moment she was introduced. The writers also tended to get a bit lazy with her too, depending on what they wanted to do to add drama. I'm not so sure she was always supposed to have mental issues. She starts off the season as a very smart, very together girl, who handled the sole burden of taking care of her mentally ill mother because her brother couldn't face the truth of what happened. Either the writers got bored of this concept or they decided that it would be more interesting to have a main character be the one with mental trauma rather than just a parent, they quickly changed her into the one struggling with mental illness, practically wrote out the mother, and made Jack the one trying to take care of his mother and sister by himself. Now, this change, I kind of agree with the writers on because it was a lot more gripping seeing a character that we love go through the stress of what mental illness can do rather than see it from a minor character who is barely in the show. Also, they kept her as fairly together and she was still smart so they didn't change her character too much that it felt unreal. Her story in Reunited remains one of the most daring and interesting things the writers of Dawson's Creek has ever done.

From collected overachiever to neurotic overachiever
with serious mental issues

Pacey probably went through the smoothest character arc this season. He starts off the season, his usual oddball, slacker self but he decides based off of Dawson finally making a move with Joey, that he too can change himself as shown in The Kiss. Now, he starts by trying to change into a more player version of his goofy, oddball persona and we think this is where he's going to go for the season but the funny thing is, he does end up changing quite a bit, just not in the way he thought he would. He starts off thinking he wants to be this smooth casanova but because of his friendship with Andie, he ends up changing into a studious, sweet guy who stands up for the things he believes in. In fact, two interesting things happen with this premise. The first being that he almost falls too in love with his newfound hero persona, starting with The Reluctant Hero and coming to a head in the two parters, To Be or Not To Be... and ...That is the Question where he almost loses Andie by being too in love with being a hero. Even though he was right to get rid of Mr. Peterson, and to stand up for Jack, he went a little bit too far in his crusade. It's interesting to note that he didn't truly become a hero until Ch-Ch-Changes when he learned that to be a real hero, he had to realize that he couldn't fix everything and learn to let Andie go to get the help she truly needed. The second was the mini-arc with his father. I wish that they'd developed this story a lot more because it was one of the strongest story lines this season. Unfortunately we only have two real episodes covering it, Uncharted Waters and the season finale Parental Discretion Advised. The rest of what we know about there relationship was merely hinted at by the things Pacey said, which were usually ignored. This is a shame because it was very interesting to see Pacey change and mature this season which in turn, led to his father recognizing that his son is not who he thinks he is and is capable of doing more than he thought.

Truly the greatest character in television history. Ever. Period.

Now we have to talk about Joey. Oh lord, save me now. I know, I know, I rag on her far too much but she just really frustrates me as a character. The thing is, she is a good character and an interesting one at that. She has a very interesting back story with her father issues and the fact that she struggles with the loss of both of her parents. It's just...the way they write her is so annoying. Take, for instance, her habit of picking fights over nothing. Like in the episode The Kiss. Our main characters have finally gotten together, she has finally gotten the returned affections of her long time crush and she decides that she needs to nit-pick every little thing that he says. He asks if she was going to say that she made a mistake, she spits back that if he asks that then he must be the one thinking it. Then there is her hypocrisy, she gets a chance to go to France because some girl didn't want to leave her boyfriend behind which she kind of paints as being stupid but then she turns around and does that exact thing. Not to mention the fact that she stays behind, for Dawson, because he finally realized his affection for her and you'd think that she decided to stay because that's what she wanted and was finally happy but two seconds later, she doesn't want to be with him anymore. These are the things that annoy me about Josephine Potter. I think her reason for dumping Dawson was stupid but I'd respect it if she actually did spend this season finding herself but she doesn't. They practically stopped talking about her art pretty quickly this season and no sooner did she dump Dawson, she was going out with Jack. That's not really setting out to find oneself. Also when she and Jack break up because he realized he was gay, she still didn't really try to find herself. Since breaking up with Jack, she planned a birthday party for Dawson, got her pictures taken by some photographer guy, her dad returned, and then she got back together with Dawson. She didn't really change at all this season. Dawson was all worried that she's grown past him but she hasn't grown as a character at all. She still handles her problems by running away or pushing people away and lashing out. She's not wiser, she's not worse, she's not extremely artsy now, she's still just Joey.

Same old hypocritical Joey

And, of course, there is our main character who often gets shoved to the side in his own show, Dawson Leery. I was actually going to write a really nice piece about how much Dawson had improved but sadly, the improvement didn't last and he was soon back to his old whiny self.

Joey doesn't want me! I make movies! The teacher hates my movies
because she's a meanie-poo-poo-head!

I just can't believe that the show creator based this character on himself and then somehow made him out to be the most clueless, self-absorbed character on the show...oh wait maybe that explains it. Dawson is an anomaly of a main character. He strives for things...kind of. I mean, he wants to be a director in Hollywood and when the writers feel like it, he's ambitious about it but he's also really childish about it. I'm chalking this up to him being based on the creator too because oh my god, when Dawson makes a movie it's "the best movie evah!!" according to this show and when they think they want to dial back on the child prodigy, super amazing at making movies already schtick to try and make Dawson more human, they throw in a character like Miss Kennedy who trashes his film but they paint her as this cartoonish villain who is just out to get Dawson even though his movie is still like totally awesome, for realz, she's just hating on Dawson, guys. It's really annoying and he's shown no growth. Basically, this is my analysis of the Dawson character:

Yes I will keep using this clip because it is hilarious 
and accurate all at once

The show, as a whole, improved a lot this season in terms of storytelling. The stories were a lot more interesting and the character arcs had a lot more weight to it. However, it still has it's problems and there was a bit of a lack of the quirky charms that the first season had. Still, season two was a solid sophomore season that offered up some juicy drama, even if some of it was just thrown at us out of no where *cough*theJenandAbbydebacle*cough* and some great character development...for the supporting cast.

Now, before we delve into season 3, I'm just going to say that this season, right here, is the end of the Creek as we know it now. Next season is just a little bit different. There is a noticeable shift in tone and a need for them to feel...less squeaky clean and more edgy. I know, it's weird, right? The show that gave us an affair, a student/teacher relationship, and a teen death was seen as squeaky clean and wholesome. Another factor that probably factored in to the show's tonal shift is the departure of the show's one creator, Kevin Williamson. Now, will this mean that the Dawson character will improve or get worse? Stay tuned to find out, in the season opener Like a Virgin.

1 comment:

  1. You know, it's funny, I didn't even realize that Kevin Williamson left the show that early. I think I just wasn't aware of show runners as an entity until the likes of Aaron Sorkin and Joss Whedon (and now Dan Harmon), all with incredibly distinct voices that dominate even episodes they don't write, took over my life.

    Other thoughts: I love that Dawson gets the least time in your analysis. I may have guffawed.

    Other other thoughts: The discussion of Dawson's mediocrity as a filmmaker reminds me of an issue I always had with the musical Rent - it's about these young struggling artists, but none of them are ... that good? Roger's song "Your Eyes" is really freaking bad. The only film we see of Mark's is a montage of his friends goofing off. Angel plays the ... paint bucket. And it bothered me a lot that no one acknowledged the mediocrity of their work, but then in the commentary for the (speaking of mediocrity) film, the director and actors actually address that, they they were deliberately mediocre artists, and the point was the striving, rather than the product.

    But Dawson is still a talentless pretentious pouty doof.