Dawson’s Creek premiered back in 1998, over twenty years ago now. It recently hit Netflix, allowing today’s audiences to view it with a fresh eye.
The show was quite ground-breaking for its day. It created the teen drama genre, a show about high school kids, played by adults, dealing with adult problems.
Many shows have done this format since, but Dawson’s Creek was the first. It lasted six seasons, ending with a two-hour finale involving a time-jump.
This finale, in my humble opinion, blew. It was full of problems, from storylines to endgames. Yes, endgames, because no, I am not okay with who everybody ended up with.
Before you accuse me of being team Dawson, let me assure you, I am not. However, that doesn’t mean Joey should have ended up with Pacey.
I’m still not happy with how Joey’s story ended — or Pacey’s, Jen’s, or Jack’s. Dawson’s ending was relatively acceptable.
Before we go into all the why’s and what for’s, let’s recap a bit for those whose memories might be a bit foggy or who are just reading this because they like my posts.
When it began, the show centered on three friends, Joey Potter, Dawson Leery, and Pacey, Witter, who have their world turned upsidedown when city girl Jen Lindley comes to their small seaside town.
It sounds kind of like Riverdale, doesn’t it?
In the beginning, Jen was the obstacle that prevented leading man Dawson from getting together with his presumed endgame, Joey. Joey was the ultimate girl-next-door. She was his tomboy best friend who pined for him.
The first few seasons of the show did a whole back and forth of Joey and Dawson being on-again-off-again, with the assumption that eventually, they would be on again.
After Dawson’s Creek Season 2 ended, creator Kevin Williamson left the show. Without him steering the Dawson/Joey ship, the writers could lean into the chemistry actress Katie Holmes had with actor Joshua Jackson.
Pacey fell in love with Joey, and the audience fell in love with Pacey as he pined for the object of his affections, who he still, on some level, saw as his best friend’s girl.
Pacey and Joey had a great buildup on Dawson’s Creek Season 3, and they were likable enough as a couple on Dawson’s Creek Season 4, though not without their issues.
There was always the feeling that Pacey didn’t feel good enough for a girl like Joey, which made a lot of sense for his character. It made less sense for him to blow up at her and dump her on Prom, but that is what happened.
The thing is, if Pacey hadn’t ended things with Joey the way he did, or if he had, but the following seasons leaned into their romance as still significant and viable, then yes, Joey should have ended up with Pacey.
Pacey was clearly a better character and boyfriend than Dawson. Dawson and Joey were great as friends but entirely too toxic when they tried to be anything more. Joey choosing Pacey over Dawson on Season 3 Episode 23 said it all.
Seasons 1-2 were all about Joey and Dawson, and Seasons 3-4 were all about the love triangle that defined love triangles and the show so many years later.
However, while Joey backslides a bit with Dawson on Dawson’s Creek Season 5, her reactions to Pacey aren’t really those of charged romance, sexual tension, or even a jilted exes.
Joey adjusts to college, makes new friends, and almost has an affair with her professor (ew).
Meanwhile, Pacey explores a new possible career and has two significant love interests, including Joey’s new friend and roommate, Audrey. Instead of being jealous or wistful, Joey completely supports the relationship.
Then on Dawson’s Creek Season 6, Pacey has a horrible arc where he loses himself and forgets his morals, becoming a corporate stooge and a bit of an ass.
Meanwhile, Joey has the only significant relationship we saw her outside of her Dawson/Pacey love triangle drama. She falls in love with Eddie Doling.
The two have a compelling story, great chemistry. It is the first adult relationship Joey has ever had. The couple has struggles, issues, and plotlines all their own, independent of her sex life with Dawson or her feelings for Pacey.
Frankly, Eddie is the only non-main character love interest that it would make sense for Joey to end up with.
Towards the end of Dawson’s Creek Season 6, Pacey’s feelings for Joey emerge, and the two attempt to rekindle what they had in high school.
On Dawson’s Creek Season 6 Episode 18, when Joey and Pacey chaperone a high school dance, Pacey pulls out all the stops to make the events of their Prom up to Joey. However, when Eddie reappears in her life, Joey chooses him.
The moment where Joey decides to go with Eddie instead of Pacey was similar to when Joey chose Pacey over Dawson.
That choice was Joey’s way of saying, “I did love you, I outgrew you, and now I love someone else.”
Her choice was Eddie, and just like she couldn’t go back to Dawson after loving Pacey, she couldn’t go back to Pacey after loving Eddie.
Sadly for viewers like me who actually liked Joey and Eddie, the two break up before the show ends.
After Eddie leaves the second time, Joey doesn’t immediately run to Pacey or Dawson. She tries to help both because both are her friends, and she will always love them.
However, she realizes that the love triangle has gotten too big. The boys are still fighting over her and putting her in the middle. Joey is ready to move on with her life, see the world, and take risks.
She wants to be the person she started to become in college, the person she knows she is capable of being. On Dawson’s Creek Season 6 Episode 22, the last episode before the time-jump and finale, Joey goes to Paris.
Finally, after putting her life on hold for these two boys for years, she goes on her own adventure. She’s a strong woman who can conquer the world, and she fully intends to. This would have been a satisfying ending for Joey Potter.
Yes, since the trip was initially Eddie’s idea, it wouldn’t be a bad thing if they met up eventually and rekindled their romance, but honestly, she doesn’t even need that. Joey no longer needs to be defined by her relationships.
For Joey’s arc, season 6 Episode 22 would have been an inspired ending, but people had been shipping her with Dawson or Pacey for years now, and they needed a conclusive answer. The triangle was all that mattered.
I’ll give Kevin Williamson credit. When he left the show, he fully intended for Dawson to be Joey’s endgame, but when he returned for the show’s finale, he acknowledged how the show (and the fans) had shifted, and he put her with Pacey.
Still, putting her with Pacey was a fanservice. It was the ending shippers wanted, even though it didn’t make sense anymore.
To make it believable, the show had to jump five years into the future because with the way we left things, Joey wouldn’t have gotten back with either guy. When you have to skip over the obstacles, the happy ending seems contrived.
For Pacey, again, his whole Dawson’s Creek Season 6 plot was a mess, and yeah, sometimes you have to fall far to rise like a phoenix, but Pacey never really did that.
All we learned is that he can’t handle success and is a bit of a sellout. He’s better when he’s cooking in and running a restaurant, and that plot should never have been dropped in the first place.
When we catch up with Pacey five years later, he’s reopened and running his own restaurant, which seems like a win. However, he’s still having inappropriate relationships with married women, still pining after Joey, and still unhappy.
Joey and Pacey broke up because he didn’t feel good enough for her. He felt directionless. Now, he has a direction. He has a job he’s good at; he likes what he does, he makes good money.
But he doesn’t have Joey, so none of it means anything to him.
Sure, if he’s going to end up with her, you’d want her to make him happy, but the idea that he has everything else he wants and is still miserable implies that he is looking to Joey to make him happy.
That’s not fair to put on another person. You have to find happiness and fulfillment on your own. If he can’t do that without her, he still has the same issues he always did.
Also, the last scene implies he moved to New York to be with her. What about his restaurant? Did he leave it behind to follow her?
It’s totally a Pacey move to do that, but just like dating a girl he felt too good for him in high school, it could bread resentment later on. We don’t need Promicide Part II.
I’m really more upset about Joey’s ending than Pacey’s if I’m honest. And while it’s a shame Dawson is by himself, he seems happy, he’s successful, and he gets to meet his hero. It could be worse.
Now, just like the show, I have spent more than enough time on the infamous love triangle. It’s time to move on to the true tragedy of the Dawson’s Creek Series Finale. The death of Jen Lindley.
Jen describes herself as “The girl who caused problems and rocked the creek and upset the delicate emotional balance.”
In the beginning, maybe that’s kind of who she was, or who Kevin Williamson meant her to be, but she became so much more than that.
Jen had an amazing journey throughout the course of the show. She learned to deal with her past traumas, to love herself, and to let herself be loved.
When we last saw Jen before the time jump, she had a serious boyfriend she loved and who loved her. She had made peace with her mom, and she was going to New York with Grams and Jack. She had the whole world ahead of her.
Five years later, she’s a single mother because yet another boyfriend abandoned her, and she’s dying. I don’t mind Jen being a mom. Even a single mom, if they sold it, and we watched it happen naturally.
But the “bad girl,” who brought trouble, the blonde to Joey’s brunette, getting pregnant when she didn’t want to, and then dying before her daughter can even talk? It wreaks of holier-than-though comeuppance.
Jen’s karma got to her. Joey gets two guys pining for her and a successful career, and Jen, the loose one, ends up just where people expect the loose bad girl to end up. I suppose we should be grateful she wasn’t dying from an STD.
Michelle Williams did amazingly with those last scenes. They were so emotional and touching. But why does her ending have to feel like a punishment or cautionary tale?
Why, after everything she’s gone through and everything she’s overcome, does Jen have to go out thinking she never belonged?
She spends so much of her last episode playing relationship coach for Joey and Pacey. I get that she’s scared and needed a distraction.
However, even when the story is about her, we still have to go back to the triangle because good girl Joey is worth more than bad girl Jen.
Jen had a terrible childhood. She experienced things that weren’t her fault, and unlike Joey, who dealt with a father in prison, she didn’t rise above it all and become the good girl that everybody loved.
She stumbled a lot, and she had a hard time finding love. She and Dawson were pretty great on Dawson’s Creek Season 5, but the show saw fit to break them up for whatever reason.
Then she had C.J, and again, in the time jump, she’s alone. Also, it’s made clear that Jen isn’t alone because she chose to be, but because her a-hole ex abandoned her when she got pregnant.
I’m not saying girls need a man for their happily ever after, but with all the crappy relationships Jen had, learning to have a happy, functional one and getting to keep it would have been a great ending for her.
Unlike Joey, who would have been better served to leave the romance drama behind, Jen’s character deserved to learn that she was worthy of love, something she never seemed to believe, even in her dying moments.
Jack’s storyline wasn’t horrible. His relationship with Jen was a highpoint of the series, and him getting her baby when she died, if she had to die, felt right. His being a teacher also felt right. His relationship with Pacey’s brother did not.
Jack was a side character, more often than not, and he never really had a lasting love interest, but bringing back one of his short term romances like Toby, or introducing someone new, would have been preferable to putting him with Doug.
We didn’t see much of Doug throughout the series, and what we saw wasn’t pleasant. Doug was Pacey’s cop older brother. He was usually an a-hole, especially to Pacey.
Pacey would often joke that his brother was gay, and it was never clear if he really was, or if Pacey was giving Doug a hard time because Doug was such an a-hole to him.
Aside from this, Jack and Doub never really interacted in the past, and there is a significant age difference. It’s almost like the writers said, “we want Jack to end up with someone. Doug is gay; let’s pair them up.”
Instead of being adjusted in a happy relationship or enjoying the single life, which would be his right, Jack’s ending is about someone else’s coming out story. And it’s someone we never really liked or knew very well.
Jack got somewhat shortchanged as a character in general because this was the 90s/early 2000s when writers thought it made more sense to have a token gay character than a fleshed-out main character who happens to be gay.
To sum up, Joey should have ended up with neither Dawson nor Pacey, Jen should have lived, and Jack should have ended up with someone other than Doug.
What do you think, Fanatics?
Do you agree or disagree with my analysis of The Dawson’s Creek Series Finale?
Agree with some, but disagree with the rest?
Press the Show Comments button below to let me know where you stand.
Leora W is a staff writer for TV Fanatic..