Dawson’s Creek was at the forefront of 90s postmodernism thanks to writer/creator Kevin Williamson.
The Dawson’s universe is one where real-world movies and TV shows still exist and each episode was peppered with pop culture references.
The show chronicled the growing pains of film geek Dawson (James Van Der Beek) and his friends; Joey, (Katie Holmes) Pacey (Joshua Jackson) and Jen. (Michelle Williams).
Dawson’s was also one of the first shows to take its teenage audience seriously.
It’s smart, witty dialogue didn’t patronise and it was famed for increasing the vocabulary of its viewers, prompting teens to pull out their dictionaries.
1 Downtown Crossing (S5, Ep16)
Joey is held up at an ATM by a man on the edge. While leaving, her assailant is hit by a car.
Joey looks after him until an ambulance arrives, and goes with him to the hospital even meeting his family. Joey sees similarities with the choices her ex-con father made.
Downtown Crossing plays out in ‘real time’ and has an edgier feel in comparison to usual episodes.
As the episode focuses solely on Joey, Katie Holmes is the only regular cast member to appear resulting in Holmes becoming the only cast member to be in every episode of the show.
2 A Winter’s Tale (S4, Ep14)
Joey and Pacey, Jen and Jack go on school ski trip where their room keys get swapped resulting in mixed couples sharing rooms. When a snow storm hits things get steamy.
A Winter’s Tale was hotly anticipated at the time, having being promoted as the episode where Joey and Pacey took their relationship to the next level, but what makes it really great is the parallel storyline.
Dawson is dealing with Mr. Brooks’ impending death. It is significant because Mr. Brooks’ lonely life foreshadowed what Dawson’s own future might be without making some important changes.
3 Full Moon Rising (S2, Ep5)
The pull of the full moon causes the inhabitants of Capeside to behave out of character for a night.
Jack makes a move, kissing Joey at the Icehouse, and a dating mix-up results in Pacey finding out about Andie’s mom’s mental illness.
The most entertaining story line involves Mitch and Gail. An attempt to save their marriage by trying out an open relationship ends in farce when both parties bring a date home at the same time.
Dawson ends up as the adult in the scenario as his parents behave like children in front of their respective dates.
4 Abby Morgan, Rest in Peace (S2, Ep19)
The friends come to terms with the tragic death of Capeside High’s ‘mean girl’ Abby. Andie finds herself writing a eulogy for someone who hated her.
Jen blames herself, has a crisis of faith and behaves badly at Abby’s funeral in the misplaced belief that she is honouring Abby’s memory through honesty.
Rest in Peace is a searingly authentic portrayal of young people trying to come to terms with death for the first time.
At the wake, Andie sees Abby’s ghost in a mirror in her room which may be the first hint at Andie’s impending mental health crisis.
5 The All-Nighter (S2, Ep7)
The Dawson’s gang really need to study for the big test so when the school’s study session is cancelled they reluctantly agree to work over at rich kid Chris Wolfe’s house.
During a break, they all fill out a sex questionnaire from a women’s magazine which turns the whole night upside down.
The All-Nighter is classic Dawson’s; set mostly in one location, everyone is thrown out of their comfort zone and everything comes full circle by the end.
It is also incredibly relatable, who didn’t spend hours filling out Cosmo quizzes with their friends during their teenage years?
6 The Scare (S1, Ep11)
It’s Friday the 13th on the Creek, Dawson spends the day playing practical jokes on his friends culminating that evening with a surprise-filled party.
However, a real life serial killer is also on the loose in the local area. Dawson’s creator Kevin Williamson wrote some of the greatest movie scripts of the 90s: Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer and The Faculty.
The show’s writers used The Scare as a chance to lovingly reference and pastiche these already iconic movies, including a scene where Jen receives a call from an unknown man asking about her horror movie preferences.
Dawson’s got there before Scary Movie.
7 The Kiss (S2, Ep1)
Dawson and Joey try to work out if their earth-shattering first kiss will have a positive or a negative effect on their ‘best friend’ status. Would there be a second kiss?
The first season of Dawson’s had hit a nerve, kids and TV networks alike were throwing parties to celebrate its return for the second season.
When we saw Dawson and Joey walk through a rain-soaked crowd, culminating in a perfectly choreographed embrace to the Billie Myers song Kiss the Rain we knew the show had become a full-blown cultural phenomenon. It was now a must-see show.
8 Detention (S1, Ep7)
Dawson, Joey, Jen and Pacey all find themselves in Saturday detention. Abby Morgan is the cat among the pigeons, determined to stir things up with some truth or dare.
At the start of the day everyone is reluctant to share the reasons for their punishment but, after some bonding, they start to open up.
The Dawson’s gang do The Breakfast Club in style. Detention is a love letter to the movies of John Hughes and inspired 90’s kids to watch 80’s teen classics.
The magic of postmodernism was that it was like receiving a lot of really great recommendations from a friend.
9 All Good Things…/ Must Come to an End (S6, Ep23 & 24)
Spoiler alert! All Good Things is the show’s finale, double episode which wraps up everyone’s storylines.
We flash forward into the future to see the gang progressing in their adult lives.
Things mostly turn out positively for Dawson, Joey, Pacey and Jack, but Jen tragically dies of a heart condition leaving behind a daughter.
It was a brutal ending, but it was also important to stay true to the characters. Jen wore her heart on her sleeve; she wasn’t destined for this world.
Kevin Williamson returned to write the finale, and Jen’s death gently prepared fans for the world beyond the show, where there are not always happy endings.
10 Stolen Kisses (S3, Ep19)
Dawson, Joey, Andie, Pacey and Will go to stay at Dawson’s aunt’s house. Joey is torn between her emerging feelings for Pacey following their kiss and not wanting to hurt Dawson or risk further damaging their friendship.
In the decade before Twilight, you were team Dawson or team Pacey. The world was on the edge of its seat waiting to see if Joey and Pacey would get together, leaving Dawson heartbroken.
This is the episode where Joey makes her decision. Aunt Gwen’s house is sprinkled with magic and romance.
Oh and Dawson and Joey duet to Daydream Believer. It’s a classic.