Welcome to Up the Creek, y’all! In honor of the 15th anniversary of Dawson’s Creek – which premiered on Jan. 20, 1998, and which filmed here in Wilmington – we’re revisiting season one, one episode at a time. I’m Kate Elizabeth Queram, the StarNews environment reporter/former weather blogger, which obviously makes me perfectly suited to be your guide here (I totally bet that creek has water quality issues). I’ve never watched the show – though I think I tuned in for the very last episode SO I DO KNOW WHO JOEY ENDS UP WITH OMG – so please join me as I see the first season for the first time. New posts will go up every Friday. Legal parameters force me to say that all screencaps, and the teenage angst contained therein, are the property of Sony Television. Let’s hit the creek.
Per usual, the episode (real title: "Decisions") opens with Dawson and Joey's standing movie date, except this time she's complaining about how said standing movie date is so predictable. This conversation turns to the topic of cliffhangers on TV shows and how they're also so predictable and never result in anything changing, which is clearly a very pathetic attempt at having the characters discuss their own situation. I like to imagine the Dawson's writers thought this was clever, but it's mostly just awkward and serves only to reaffirm that Joey is an unpleasant, whiny girl. The great cliffhanger, if you will, is why this girl has any friends at all.
Next door, Gram's telling comatose Gramps about how Jen broke up with Dawson. Gramps has spent this entire season being comatose and you can tell his condition is really serious because his eyebrow hair is out of control.
But I guess he finds teenage gossip exciting, because he wakes up and mumbles something. This turn of events makes Jen all frisky, so she heads to school and tells Dawson she wants to "let loose" that night. He turns her down, 'cause he's already got plans with Joey, and then right on cue, she shows up in the hallway.
She's wearing an ill-fitting sweater vest over an ill-fitting T-shirt and is making the duckface, years before the duckface caught on as A Thing. This probably started with her. Thanks for that, Joey. She runs up to Dawson and Jen and tells them that she's magically been presented with the opportunity to spend a semester studying abroad in France. I find that interesting, since Dawson helped her study for a Spanish test a few episodes ago. Maybe because he remembers this, Dawson's very upset about the prospect of her leaving, basically saying, "How can we make out if you're in France though?" Joey leaves to ponder the super difficult choice of Dawson versus months in the land of brie and wine, leaving Dawson and Jen to make awkward faces in her absence.
Later, at the restaurant, Joey's sister informs Joey that tomorrow is their jailbird dad's birthday, and it's Joey's turn to head to the clink to deliver the cupcakes. Joey is pissed, because Joey is pissed about everything that happens ever.
But it's fine, because Dawson says he'll go with her to prison. While they're waiting for the bus, she asks him what he would do if she decided to go to France. He jokingly replies that he'd commit suicide, but then says that if Paris makes her happy, he'll be happy for her. She seems disappointed in this answer, half because Joey Potter finds everything disappointing and half because Dawson's untimely demise is a better answer.
When they arrive at the prison, the surly guard informs them that they've missed visiting hours. Joey whines to him about they just spent four hours on a bus oh my Godddddddd, but the guard is unmoved. "I'm sure you think your problems are important," he says, and then tells her she'll have to come back tomorrow. He delivers this entire speech without a snotty facial expression, which means that Joey Potter could learn a lot from him. This man wins the Hero Of The Episode Award and shall now be inducted into the Mel Silver Hall Of Fame.
Dawson tells Joey he's fine with coming back with her tomorrow, but she doesn't want to spend another day on the bus oh my Goddddddddd, so they shack up in a motel room instead. When they get in bed things are awkward, and I don't know why, because they sleep together basically every night. Dawson, sensing my confusion, tells Joey it's weird because they're in a "foreign bed."
It's an enormous bed and they're all scrunched up in the middle, so things clearly aren't really that awkward. But Dawson is hell-bent on making them that way, and so tells Joey that he's been "thinking a lot about us lately," and that he wants to figure out "where we are, what's going on between us." Joey gets annoyed
and says, "How do we do that?" I DON'T KNOW, MAYBE BY HAVING A CONVERSATION ABOUT HOW YOU FEEL WITHOUT MAKING THAT FACE, JUST SPITBALLING HERE. Dawson responds by saying that he's happy to analyze other people's feelings, but can't analyze his own, which is the closest thing to self-aware he’s ever been. But then Joey asks what he's afraid of, presenting him with the perfect opportunity to say, "I don't know maybe your FACE," but instead he just rolls over and buries his head in his pillow.
Since Gramps is now un-comatose, Gram and Jen have decided it's the proper time to take him to a hospital. You'd think this chain of events would have happened in reverse. While they're there, they argue about whether Jesus played a large role in his waking up. The Gramps subplot is boring, probably because he has literally spent this entire season either out of sight or asleep and so I find it difficult to care about him one way or the other.
Over at the prison, Joey and her dad have an awkward conversation that's mostly made awkward by - you guessed it - the fact that she's a horrible, unpleasant person.
He basically pays her a bunch of compliments and tries to find out about her life, which annoys her so much that she finally says, "Well, I'm going to France so I won't be around anymore," and then she leaves in a huff. None of that makes sense, of course; it's a one-semester trip and she apparently only sees her dad on his birthday every other year, so it's not like he'd know the difference. Once she's gone, Joey's dad pumps Dawson for info about his daughter, and Dawson says that Joey is great, and smart, and beautiful, and funny. He fails to enumerate her less desirable qualities, like the sweater vest, her constant complaining about everything and how she uses his name at least three times per sentence. It is during this effusive speech that Dawson realizes that Joey "is everything."
Yeah, that's Dawson's epiphany face. It's underwhelming, probably because he's been having this same epiphany for like four episodes now. We get it, Dawson. You like her. The horse is dead. Stop beating it.
Later, Dawson tells Joey that at some point she's going to have to deal with her feelings about her dad, or they're going to haunt her. She says, "Even in Paris?" He asks if she's going for sure and she says, "Yes, a geographical change is exactly what I need." He makes a face and she says, ok, give me one reason why I should stay. And then I thought he was going to finally lay one on her, but instead he just stands there looking dopey, so she huffily gets in her rowboat and rows away. I'm glad to see that she somehow recovered the boat after Pacey let it drift away and they left it there.
Pacey, after failing his midterms and enduring yet another "you're a laughingstock" speech from showtune-lovin' Policeman Doug, comes to the restaurant and asks Joey when he became the town loser and an embarrassment to the entire Witter clan. Because everything is about Joey, her response is, "Whatever, at least your entire family isn't embarrassing." She encourages him to talk to his dad about it, and Pacey's like, "Wtf, girl, you didn't do that with your dad." Pacey's truth-telling immediately motivates Joey to go BACK to the prison to talk to her dad. The buses don't run that late, though, so Joey asks Pacey if he'll steal his dad's car to drive her there. Nothing like getting rid of your reputation as an embarrassment by adding fuel to the embarrassment fire.
Jen's grandfather has another stroke, and Jen, taking a page from the Joey Potter Life Handbook, tells him that his coma is really cramping her style because she needs him to wake up and uncomplicate her life.
Next, she climbs in Dawson's window and tells him that her grandpa is probably going to die and that she feels like she totally blew it with Dawson. "I'm going to stop blowing it," she says, and Dawson gives her a look that I interpret to mean, "Girl, you were never blowing it, if you know what I mean."
She asks if she can spends the night and he says okay, but seems less than thrilled about it. Then they have some snuggles - something that Dawson and Joey never seem to do - and Jen cries while Dawson halfheartedly tells her it'll be fine.
Seriously, he's about two minutes away from a full-blown panic attack.
Joey arrives at the prison after hours, which means she gets to talk to her dad through a chain-link fence. She tells him that he messed up because he doesn't even know her, and that she turned out "pretty good." I guess we're lying to the jailbound father, is what's happening here. After he tells her a bunch of times that he loves her, she says she feels like nobody loves her, and instead of getting annoyed and throwing up his hands at this whole unproductive conversation, her father instead tells Joey that Dawson totally loves her and that it's obvious, because Dawson looks at Joey "the same way your mother used to look at me,” and I can tell you love him too. Look I get that this is a nice moment in theory, but then I imagine having this conversation with my father and I instantly feel so awkward I can't even deal with it. And I'm very close to my father, so the fact that Joey and her dad haven't spoken in years just makes it worse. BOUNDARIES, PEOPLE. NO ONE HAS THEM. And then, just to put the cherry on this sundae of terrible, Joey's father tells her that she has to tell Dawson that she loves him. “Don’t wait until the person you love is eaten by cancer.” Literally, that's what he says. Worst. Dad. Ever.
Naturally, Joey loves it. Eager to follow that advice, she rows to Dawson's house first thing the next morning. Unfortunately, Jen's still in his bed, awkwardly stroking his face while he sleeps.
I guess since her grandpa's death is imminent, she's looking for someone else to inappropriately touch during sleep. Dawson wakes up and kind of backs away from her, and she thanks him for letting her stay there and kisses him. I wouldn't say he's into it.
Naturally, at that second, Joey pops in the window. If this isn't yet another ringing endorsement for the installation of screens, I don't know what is.
Joey immediately sprints away. In the background, Jen says, "Dawson, she'll be okay!" Dawson ignores her and puts his shoes on to run after Joey to let her know that she's gotten the wrong idea about him and Jen. Jen, apparently now unable to resist the lure of pleated khakis and creepy movie memorabilia, asks if he's in love with Joey. Dawson says, "I don't know, but I have to go." Then he leaves, and Jen stands in his room lookin’ like this.
Then she goes home and refuses Gram's invite to church, preferring instead to curl up in bed with a framed photo of her grandparents. That's the first thing I do when I'm upset about a boy, too.
Dawson beats Joey back to her house, I guess by using a car to get there like a normal human. She's not there, though, she's sitting dejectedly on a dock somewhere downtown. Then there's a long montage of Dawson showing up at places that Joey abandoned just minutes before and it's boring, but I at least recognize some Wilmington spots. How u doin', Cape Fear Memorial Bridge?
U lookin' real good, riverwalk.
While they're narrowly missing each other downtown, Gramps dies. Gram immediately heads to church to have words with Jesus. The most interesting thing that happens here is when Jen comes into the church and spends an inordinate amount of time staring at the stained glass windows. I wonder if she got high before heading to chapel.
Dawson gets home and finds Joey in his closet, and tells her that nothing's going on between him and Jen. Joey says that he doesn't have to explain because they're just friends. He says, "You know that's not true," and she tells him that they're in the same place they were three months ago, and they're never honest with each other, and that she only came over to tell him that they need to move on.
My patience with this has officially reached its upper limit. Let's review: she's been in love with him for months. He is literally standing in front of her telling her that they're more than friends, hours after she supposedly learned this big life lesson from her dad about how she should tell people she loves them before they all die of cancer or whatever. And instead of doing that, she tells him she's fed up with them not being able to talk about it - which happens mostly because she constantly shuts him down when he tries to talk about it - yells at him, scoffs a lot, acts generally unpleasant and like she can't stand to even look at him. This definitely sounds like a person you'd want to date, right? Well don't worry! Because Joey Potter always gets rewarded for her behavior! Let's see if that pattern continues SPOILER I BET IT DOES.
So, she turns to leave in a huff. Dawson asks if she's seriously going to France, and she asks him, again, to give her a reason to stay. He says, "I can grow up! Give me a chance! Even Spielberg outgrew his Peter Pan phase!" This is weird and pathetic, so it gets through to Joey, who replies, "I just want to be honest with you." Dawson says he wants to be honest too, and then Joey babbles for a while about whether they're really ready for everything that comes with that honesty. He doesn't answer right away - perhaps because this is the point in the conversation where a normal person would say, "Yeah, I don't even know what we're talking about anymore" - and she gets pissed and goes to leave again.
But Dawson pulls her back and then they have a lot of smoochin'. If it matters, I feel less grossed out watching them kiss than I did when it was him and Jen.
And that is the end of season one. WE SURVIVED.
Mostly what I have learned so far is that this show is kind of intolerable. Nothing ever happens, when things do happen they're never spoken of again (HELLO LOST ROWBOAT I'M LOOKING AT YOU! JOEY'S SPANISH CURRICULUM, WHERE U AT? REMEMBER WHEN JEN WAS DATING QB CLIFF? MARY BETH R U STILL ON THE FERRIS WHEEL, GIRL? HOW'S THE LEERYS' MARRIAGE COMING ALONG? REMEMBER WHEN PACEY WAS INTO JOEY?), and the vast majority of the main characters are inherently unlikeable. At first, I hated Dawson with the fire of a thousand suns; that honor has now moved to Joey Potter. Jen's annoying but largely inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. I like Pacey, even if he toys with the emotions of hapless teenage girls and slaughters helpless snails. It goes without saying that I adore and miss Mel Silver. Maybe some of this will get better in season two - more Mel Silver, so much less Joey - but somehow I doubt it.
We are definitely up a creek.
I hope you'll stay with me for the next season.