Over the past decade, I have had a love/hate relationship with the show Dawson’s Creek. The first two seasons of the show are among some of the greatest television I’ve ever watched. The multi-layered characters of Dawson, Pacey, Jen, and Joey had wit, charm, screen power, and an incredibly extensive vocabulary all rolled into one. Mix in some revolutionary storytelling and groundbreaking taboos, you had a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon. Those two seasons helped build the fledgling WB Network.
For Pete’s sake, Ed Scanlon and myself started a podcast based on the series called “Revisiting Capeside”, which WILL be returning in 2019.
However, the deeper the series went on, the show lacked something. It lacked IT. Partially due to the departure of series creator Kevin Williamson, the show started to feel very formulaic. With a wacky start, Season 3 turned out to be one of the most turbulent years in the show’s history. A lot of the main characters went in completely different directions, not staying true, at times, to what brought them to the dance. Unbelievably, the show never truly recovered from this, in spite of some solid episodes.
Yet, throughout some of the seriousness of the remainder of the series, I immediately got attached to one of the greatest stories that I have ever seen. It might have been a sub-story to the major Dawson/Pacey/Joey angle in Season 4, but it really caught me deeply. And it caught me out of left field.
The tale of A.I. Brooks really made me rethink the later seasons of the Creek.
It really came out of nowhere. During Episode 3 of Season 4, “Two Gentlemen of Capeside”, Arthur Brooks came into the Capeside Yacht Club, looking to eat his dinner. When the big storm hit Capeside, while Pacey and Jen were out on the True Love, Dawson, unbeknownst to him, took Mr. Brooks’ boat and, alongside Joey, rescued the pair. During the process, Dawson accidentally put a gash into the side of the boat. In spite of being a hero, Mr. Brooks, in his curmudgeon form, forced Dawson into servitude and made him whitewash his fence.
During the process, Dawson uncovered that Mr. Brooks was a former film director in Hollywood, due to his picture “Turn Away, My Sweet”. Inspired after watching the picture, as Mr. Brooks preferred to call them, Dawson, who had lost his inspiration for film in the middle of Season 3, fell in love with his passion once again. He immediately began work on a documentary based around A.I., which coincided with a certain respect Brooks began to have for Dawson. Working on the project actually seemed to soften Brooks, as he started to even date Grams.
Sadly, Mr. Brooks was going through cancer and ultimately succumbed to the disease during Episode 14 “A Winter’s Tale”. Dawson had the ultimate responsibility of taking Mr. Brooks off his life support, which he did.
Unbelievably, this story arc was absolutely tremendous to me. To watch it now, all these years later, really helped allow me to fall in love with character development on mainstream television shows again. Something as simple as a mentorship coming to fruition and re-inspiring the passion of what was lost into a pupil really grabbed me in an emotional way. The A.I. Brooks character, played magnificently by the late Harve Presnell, served a real purpose that lasted, not just in the immediacy of the moment of the show, but in the long term storytelling of Dawson going forward throughout the remainder of the show.
There were three things I took away from this character arc were very simple and truthful.
IT BROUGHT A CHARACTER BACK FROM THE BRINK - The Dawson Leery character was really at a standstill, thanks to the realness of how bad Season 3 was. The namesake of the show was really put to the wayside by Joey Potter. A lot of what made Dawson Leery himself was stripped away from him and, in turn, made him look soft. He lost faith in love, film, and himself. It was really demoralizing. In turn, Dawson stepping away from Joey and Pacey helped him tremendously. A.I. Brooks helped mature Dawson into a better person and made him less bitter. Brooks’ experiences in heartbreak, as he also lost his girlfriend to his best friend during the filming of “Turn Away, My Sweet”, made him realize what he could become if he allowed heartbreak to affect him in that way. Literally, Dawson was saved through this story, in this writer’s opinion.
THE HOMAGE TO OLD HOLLYWOOD - Especially in 2001, the links between what Hollywood was becoming and what Hollywood was, in film form, was slowly eroding away. The era of the Hollywood star being about class and honor was falling by-way to the era of raunchy comedy and reality television. A.I. Brooks really was a true link, in the Dawson’s Creek Universe, to the past. The simplicity of how Brooks called films “pictures” made me smile, as it made the big screen seem important, especially in the 1950s and 1960s. Even as Brooks laid dying in a hospital bed, the importance of Andy Griffith being the best friend of Brooks from years past for a cameo was absolutely mindblowing. This arc really made the Creek stand out THAT much and made a true link from the past and the future.
STORIES GOING FORWARD - A.I. Brooks did more for Capeside, MA than just help Dawson; he kept stories alive. If it wasn’t for Brooks, Dawson would not have made the jump to USC Film School and ultimately Hollywood. If not for Dawson receiving Brooks’ inheritance, Joey Potter would not have been able to go to college. If not for the late Mitch Leery putting Dawson’s documentary in a film festival in Season 5, Dawson and Jen would not have hooked up. This little angle, long term, played out tremendously, a lot more than anyone could have ever expected.
Maybe it’s because I’m a major believer in storytelling, but the A.I. Brooks character is among my favorite Top 5 television characters ever, He played his purpose, had multi-layers attached to him, and played his role to the hilt. I know I give the post-Kevin Williamson years of Dawson’s Creek a lot of crap, but this is one they did right. A lot of people may not realize or remember it, but thanks to the world of streaming media, I was able to. I’m thankful I did.