Even viewers who consider themselves beyond their teen-angst years might find Dawson's Creek compelling watching. For years Dawson (James Van Der Beek) and Joey (Katie Holmes) have watched movies and slept in the same bed, but they find that as they enter high school their relationship will inevitably change. That becomes especially clear when Dawson is immediately attracted to Capeside, Massachusetts's sexy new arrival, Jen (Michelle Williams). Meanwhile, their friend Pacey (Joshua Jackson) pursues an unachievable love object.
Creator Kevin Williamson based Dawson's Creek on his own youth, and sure, the characters may not really look or sound 15, but the Dawson-Joey-Jen interplay--especially embodied by the sad-eyed and cynical (but still adorable) Joey and the smart but emotionally inept Dawson--gives the show its heart. And just like Williamson's fresh take on the teen-horror genre, Scream, Dawson's Creek has a winking self-awareness, for example when Dawson says they're having a "90210 moment" or explains that they use big words because they watch too many movies. Highlights of the first season include Dawson's discovery that his perfect home life may not be so perfect, an unwelcome reminder of Jen's past, the Breakfast Club takeoff "Detention," the Scream takeoff "The Scare," a beauty contest in which two unlikely competitors square off, and the heart-rending finale. --David Horiuchi
Dawson’s Creek: The Complete Second Season
The second season of Dawson's Creek finds Dawson (James Van Der Beek) and Joey (Katie Holmes) exploring the newest phase of their lifelong friendship, leaving Jen (Michelle Williams) and Pacey (Joshua Jackson) on the outside. The former enters a downward spiral assisted by bad girl Abby (Monica Keena), but Pacey happens into a "meet cute" with one of Capeside's new residents, the impossibly perky Andie (Meredith Monroe), who turns out to be his perfect foil. The Creek also struck gold with its second major addition, Andie's brother Jack (Kerr Smith), who shows Joey that he's more than just a clumsy waiter. With the siblings' help, Pacey and Joey show the most personal growth during the season's 22 episodes. The constant parent-child crises can be a bit much, but there were numerous other developments, including a two-part sexual whodunnit, Dawson embarking on his second movie (assisted by Rachael Leigh Cook in a sizzling guest appearance), Dawson's birthday party from hell, a vicious rumor that spreads through the high school, and the emotion-wringing finale. --David Horiuchi
Dawson’s Creek: The Complete Third Season
"Jen is a cheerleader and Jack's on the football team. I got sane and everyone else went crazy?" That's how Andie (Meredith Monroe) sums up the topsy-turvy beginning to the third season of Dawson's Creek, in which nothing seems to be as it should and the series takes a major turn. It's junior year at Capeside High, and Jack (Kerr Smith), the town's resident gay teen, is indeed on the football team, and Jen (Michelle Williams) finds herself the object of unexpected and unwelcome popularity among her fellow students, especially the freshman quarterback (Michael Pitt). Pacey (Joshua Jackson) finds that his relationship with Andie can't be restored, and Dawson (James Van Der Beek) and Joey (Katie Holmes), after the events of last year, both think it's for the best that they're no longer together--they just never think it at the same time. Significant events include the friends starting to date outside their circle, Dawson's giving up some of his aspirations, a crisis for the school's new principal, a college tour, and the openings of the Potter Bed & Breakfast and Leery's Fresh Fish. But the Dawson-Joey relationship is still the heart of the Creek, and it comes to a head in one of the series' most memorable episodes, "The Longest Day," and then the season finale. Even in its first season without series creator Kevin Williamson, Dawson's Creek still had plenty of punch. --David Horiuchi
Dawson’s Creek: The Complete Fourth Season
The fourth season of Dawson's Creek is dominated by two themes. The first is senior year at Capeside High, as high achievers Joey (Katie Holmes) and Andie (Meredith Monroe) have as much pressure to deal with as low achiever Pacey (Joshua Jackson). The second is the constant love triangle following Joey and Pacey's return from their summer of bliss, threatening to destroy anyone's chance of having a healthy, functional relationship. Pacey's insecurity doesn't let him believe he's actually the lucky one, even as he proves with his actions that he deserves it. Fortunately for Dawson (James Van Der Beek), he finds a sympathetic ear in Pacey's older sister, Gretchen (Sasha Alexander), though he also has to enter an "indentured servitude" relationship with an old curmudgeon (Harve Presnell). Joey takes a job waiting tables at the yacht club, where she has to deal with the heir apparent to Abby Morgan's evil shoes, Drue Valentine (Mark Matkevitch), who also turns out to have a shadowy history with one of the friends. Meanwhile Andie and Jack (Kerr Smith) coach a youth soccer team, and Jen (Michelle Williams), having suddenly lost her boyfriend from season 3, cements her best-friendship with Jack and drags him to a gay coalition group where he spars with the activist leader (David Monahan). Look for cameos by Andy Griffith as a retired movie actor and by frequent soundtrack contributor Mary Beth Maziarz as a club singer.
Toward the end of the season, Dawson asks, "Is it just me, or did things get suddenly bigger in the last year?" It's true that as the characters have grown up--even Dawson, sort of--situations turn more serious, whether it's an afternoon sail on the cape or a rave that leads to the abrupt departure of one of the regular cast. After a prom from hell, the final phase is the graduation ceremony, and for Dawson's Creek it marked the end of an era, which the characters themselves felt deeply in the season-closing "Coda." The series would run for two more years, but it would never be the same again. --David Horiuchi
Dawson’s Creek: The Complete Fifth Season
It's goodbye to Capeside, hello to Boston in Dawson's Creek's fifth season (a.k.a.: Dawson's Creek: The College Years). While the end of the fourth season sent the five friends their separate ways--Dawson (James Van Der Beek) to USC Film School, Joey (Katie Holmes) to Worthington College, Jen (Michelle Williams) and Jack (Kerr Smith) to Boston Bay College; and Pacey (Joshua Jackson) to the high seas--it doesn't take them long to find themselves together again. That's a good thing, especially when tragedy strikes a family member and threatens to tear the survivors apart.
More than anything, the fifth season seems to be about falling into bad relationships. Jen dates a cute but sleazy musician (Chad Michael Murray, One Tree Hill), Pacey gets a job in a restaurant where he pursues a woman (Lourdes Benedicto) already having an affair with a married man, then fends off a vampish new boss (Sherilyn Fenn, Twin Peaks). Joey is drawn to her handsome English professor (Ken Marino). And Jack joins a frat, becomes a jerk, and starts a devoted relationship with his beer bottle. Dawson meets an eccentric young filmmaker (Jordan Bridges) which in turn leads to a meeting with his favorite Boston film critic (Meredith Salenger). And Joey's new roommate, the annoyance-with-a-heart-of-gold Audrey (Busy Phillipps), becomes the newest major addition to the cast. The irritation factor is high this season, a couple of "Joey is threatened" interludes don't have the punch that they could have, and in the season finale, the inevitable resolution of the show's central relationship doesn't really resolve anything at all. But viewers who have followed the Capeside crew for four seasons will still want to see what happens in the fifth. --David Horiuchi
Dawson’s Creek: The Complete Sixth Season
The final season of Dawson's Creek is when the series became Joey's Bar. With the titular character (James Van Der Beek) mostly on the opposite coast working for tyrannical director Todd (Hal Ozsan) and dating an actress (Biana Kajlich), the series' other central protagonists tended to gather only at Joey's (Katie Holmes) workplace, a Boston college bar called Hell's Kitchen. But those central characters usually went their separate ways, becoming the linchpins around which wound a dizzying array of new characters who were coincidentally interconnected. Working at the bar are Emma (Megan Gray)--a punk rocker who ends up rooming with Pacey (Joshua Jackson) and Jack (Kerr Smith) and whose band Audrey (Busy Phillipps) joins as lead vocalist--and Eddie (Oliver Hudson), who's Joey's main antagonist in a lit class taught by an antagonistic professor (Roger Howarth). While Joey is busy at Worthington, Jack and Jen (Michelle Williams) are at Boston Bay College, where both are attracted to a pop-culture professor (Sebastian Spence), but Jen ends up dating a help-line worker (Jensen Ackles). Pacey goes Gordon Gecko in a new job as a stock broker mentored by a cutthroat businessman (Dana Ashbrook). The lack of interaction among the main characters proved the biggest drawback to this era of Dawson's Creek, but when they were put together, sparks could still fly, such as when Pacey and Joey get locked in a Super K-Mart overnight, or when an old romance--and rivalry--is rekindled. Season 6 was also the end of Dawson's Creek, and the episodes improved as they drew to their inevitable conclusion, peaking in the devastating series finale. Creator Kevin Williamson returned to write a flash-forward in which the main characters are 25, and a reunion in Capeside leads to tragedy and some final decisions. --David Horiuchi