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Dawson's Creek: Season Four

The fourth season of the WB's popular teen soap (a.k.a. "The Season in which Pacey and Joey 'Do It' ") culminates in a coming-of-age not only for its teenage characters, who graduate from high school in the penultimate episode, but also does some significant maturing itself as a dramatic series. The first three seasons of Dawson's Creek offered an agonizing mix of pop-culture bathos, smarmy self-reflexiveness, and insipidly overwrought and cartoonish melodrama, made maddeningly watchable by a few outstanding young actors who transcended the material and fleshed out empathetic characters. In Season Four, the show, like its previously insufferable title character, grows up. The 23-episode arc begins with Pacey (Joshua Jackson) and Joey (Katie Holmes) returning to Capeside from an idyllic summer at sea, during which they developed their nascent romance away from the complications of home: namely the broken heart of Joey's childhood love and former beau, and Pacey's former best friend, gooey idealist Dawson Leery (James Van Der Beek). But Dawson, to surprise and relief, is no longer the whiny and ineffectual boob of seasons past, but a broken-heart-hardened nice guy, who, despite lingering hurts, gradually repairs his relationships with Joey and Pacey. Dawson also quietly pursues the affections of Pacey's older, wiser sister Gretchen (Sacha Alexander), who is on leave from college, while Joey finds her love for Pacey less than inspiring, and the introduction of sex into their interactions magnifies more problems than it resolves. For the most part, this continuation of Dawson's Creek's central love triangle is handled with unprecedented restraint and, for the first time in the series, delivers an emotionally satisfying narrative uncluttered by rampant silliness. Some of the season's subplots are less successful in this regard, yet all are blessed with a more low-key approach, resulting is less viewer distress. Jen (Michelle Williams) seeks therapy when speculation about her post-high school future reopens wounds from her fast-living past; Jack (Kerr Smith) fumbles for balance between his straight lifestyle and homosexuality when a gay activist (David Monahan) falls for him; and Andie (Meredith Monroe) struggles to adjust to her mood-altering medication. The unfortunate side effect of Dawson Creek's new, improved style of more naturalistic storytelling is that Season Four feels superficially less eventful, but the show's producers, writers, and key cast members — most notably Holmes, Kerr, and Van Der Beek (in his best work yet) — do a fine job of capturing the lurking questions and insecurities of high school seniors and the strain such uncertainties place on their already-fragile relationships and identities. Columbia TriStar's Season Four set of Dawson's Creek includes all 23 episodes on four discs, presented in full-frame transfers (1.33:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. The set also features two typically fine commentaries (eps. #1 and #22) by executive producer Paul Stupin, who is always candid about the shows successes and failures, and, as usual, provides great insight into the production of series television. Stupin is joined on the ep. #22 commentary by consulting producer Alan Cross, who was in charge of overseeing the writing process. Also included is a trivia game covering the first four seasons with deleted scenes from Season Four rewarding correct answers. Foldout digipak with paperboard slipcover.
—Gregory P. Dorr



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