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Date Night: Binge These Essential ‘Dawsons’ Creek’ Episodes Before It Leaves Netflix

You don't wanna wait for the binge to be over!

Credit: Sony

You don’t want to wait for Dawson’s Creek to leave Netflix, so binge it now. Dawson’s Creek, which ran from 1998 to 2003, is one of those shows that captures a moment in time. Viewers swooned to the drama’s romances and heartbreaks and surprises, and that Paula Cole song, “I Don’t Want to Wait,” is an all-time earworm tune. Audiences fell in love with Dawson and Joey and Pacey and Jen and Gail, as well as Gail and Mitch, plus Grams and Bessie and Jack and Andie and Audrey. And the show, from the guy behind Scream, Kevin Williamson, made stars of its young cast, especially Katie Holmes, James Van Der Beek, Michelle Williams, and Joshua Jackson. If you’re looking for a nostalgic date night, hitting up this show is actually a really fun idea.

Just look at that cast! Williams proved herself to be an exceptional actress. She was good on Dawson’s Creek, but better elsewhere, even during the show’s run, when she appeared in Dick, But I’m a Cheerleader, The United States of Leland, and The Station Agent. Her choices after “Creek” dried up were equally eclectic and challenging: Brokeback Mountain, Blue Valentine, Oz the Great and Powerful, Manchester By the Sea, The Greatest Showman, All the Money in the World, Fosse/Verdon, and Venom. She’s an Emmy Award winner and a four-time Oscar nominee.

Jackson made a mark in Cruel Intentions, but found his niche later on television, earning great reviews for his starring roles on Fringe, The Affair, and Dr. Death. Though Holmes’ career for a time got overshadowed by her romance with Tom Cruise, and then their marriage and tabloid-fodder divorce, she delivered solid performances in Go, Wonder Boys, The Gift, Pieces of April, Batman Begins, and Logan Lucky. She also starred as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in the miniseries The Kennedys and then returned for The Kennedys: After Camelot, producing the latter and co-directing an episode. Van Der Beek scored a hit with Varsity Blues, acted steadily in films and on TV after Dawson’s Creek, and earned rave reviews for playing a version of himself on Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23.

What’s hardest to fathom watching Dawson’s Creek now is the passage of time. Forget for a moment the now-ancient fashions, hairstyles, cars, phones, computers, etc. The core four actors range in age from 41 to 45, and Mary Beth Peil, who played Grams, will turn 82 in June. All four leads are parents, and Van Der Beek has six kids. SIX! So, it’s best to sit back with a glass of wine and let Dawson’s Creek wash over you. If you don’t have time to watch all six seasons – 128 episodes in total – I can recommend a few to revisit or watch for the first time. The pilot is a must, as it introduces the characters and major story threads; Dawson (Van Der Beek) is a film buff and would-be Spielberg making a film with friends Joey (Holmes) and Pacey (Jackson) when big-city girl Jen (Williams) arrives in quiet Capeside and immediately stirs the pot… and passions.

There’s a powerful drug hour (“You Had Me at Goodbye”), a touching Jen-Grams episode (“Decisions”), an emotional breakdown show (“Ch… Ch… Changes,” with a remarkable performance by Meredith Monroe as Andie), and a daring (for its time) Jack (Kerr Smith) coming out two-parter (“To Be or Not to Be,” “That is the Question”). I’d also jump to “A Winter’s Tale” in which Joey and Pacey have sex for the first time, and “Escape from Witch Island,” a Blair Witch Project-style creep-fest. (In a good way!) 

Then there’s the ultimate Joey-Pacey-Dawson love triangle episode (“True Love,” which, with Dawson’s cry-face unofficially launched the meme), a meta Breakfast Club bit with Joshua Jackson/Mighty Ducks in-jokes (“Detention”), a Dawson’s-dad-dies-drama (“The Long Goodbye”), and a two-part, time-jumping (five years), heartbreaking series finale (“All Good Things” and “Must Come to an End”) that – spoilers – reveals who Joey ultimately chooses and also kills off a major character.

Dawson’s Creek is streaming on Netflix until April 30.

If you don’t finish your binge by April 30, the series is also on HBO Max.