The Five US channel is showing Dawson’s Creek from the beginning. It’s perhaps appropriate that I started watching since in a sense I would never have become a Buffy fan if not for Dawson’s – so perhaps it’s right to complete the circle. There’s also a sense in which Buffy fandom was about stuff that had happened to me in my – for want of a better phrase – spiritual journey. And Dawson’s was a kind of precursor to that. I started watching it (intermittently) when staying home from church (deliberately). But before a certain point I hadn’t really watched it consistently.
(In fact I wasn’t someone who always tuned in to see a particular show until I left church, Newcastle, and living with others, behind.)
Anyway. Part of my enthusiasm to watch now is to fill in the missing gaps in the early seasons and to wallow in a bit of nostalgia for the later ones.
Which is all pre-amble to what this post is about – which is Andy MacPhee. She was the one they brought in to be Pacey’s girlfriend in Season 2. At the end of which she gets carted off to a mental health institute amid tears and haertfelt protestations of her and Pacey’s feelings for each other. Season 3 opens and someone has obviously decided that not only must MacPhee-Witter split but that she must be the one to bear the blame.
Why? Because they wanted to set up the Dawson-Pacey-Joey triangle. You can’t have Joey be the one to break them up as that would damage her likeability. Pacey can’t be to blame because we need to start seeing him as the kind of man who’s good enough for Joey. So Andy draws the short straw. Which involves –
- a revelation in the first episode that she’s slept with someone whilst in the institution
- stealing exam results to further her academic career (not specifically to do with Pacey but it damages her character for a while)
- manipulating Pacey into getting back together with her when he’s really not wanting to (this is genius because not only does it show her downside, it shows that from his pov she’s not the one for him.)
I never realised it first time around (probably because I missed those episodes) but this all feels like they’re trashing Andy’s character merely to further the plot. Which kind of reminded me of Riley Finn – hence the title.
Riley – Buffy’s S4/S5 boyfriend and rebound guy after Angel – started off as simply a good guy. He had a secret but it was a good secret (he’s a monster fighter too). But people not loving him and the Buffster together. Unlike Andy I think there were plenty of people who disliked him before the writers moved in on him. I found him boring but ok. What I disliked intensely was the way the writers decided they needed to write him out (fair enough if he’s boring at best) and so proceeded to make us dislike him in order to justify his exit. At least that’s how it felt. The S4 Riley wouldn’t have being seeing vampire “prostitutes” and complaining about Buffy not being there for him whilst she dealt with her mother’s ultimately fatal illness. But he had to have a reason to leave, and from the first moment, when he told Xander that “she doesn’t love me” it struck and incongrous note and I knew something was up.
So I’ve always felt that Riley was sacrificed on the altar of plot (on-going). He wasn’t a bad guy he was just written that way.
Andy MacPhee was totally Riley’d. They made her the scapegoat, made her the one to blame and dislike so we could safely root for the Pacey-Joey romance to come. They give her other things to do and to some extent she becomes ok again and we like her, it’s just she’s not going to be with Pacey. She leaves completely after the High School seasons (I can’t figure out if that’s S3 or whether they played with the time and stretched it out to a S4, seems like there’s a lot of stuff still left to happen)
In a way it’s a shame. I did enjoy the Pacey-Joey-Dawson triangle, but the Andy-Joey romance was so sweet and life-affirming.