BANKIE'S HOT TAKE #17 - The Destruction of Andie McPhee on Dawson's Creek
Believe it or not, Dawson’s Creek turned 25 this past January.
The show that paved the way for every modern day teen drama on broadcast television and streaming apps.
Created by Kevin Williamson, the man behind the Scream franchise, Dawson’s Creek was a program that portrayed a group of teenagers with elevated vocabularies, who had strong conversations with multi-layered stories. The show was unafraid to tackle taboo topics, such as a teacher/student affair, divorce, exploring sexuality, death, and mental health issues.
The show was a cultural phenomenon. James Van Der Beek, Katie Holmes, Joshua Jackson, and Michelle Williams became household names. Paula Cole’s “I Don’t Want to Wait” became a smash hit in both America and Canada. The WB Network went from $100 million to half a billion dollars in advertising revenue in 1999, due to the success of the series.
The first two seasons were, in my opinion, perfect television. With the turn of the millennium coming, Season 3 of the Creek was looking to be even better. And then, the figurative wheels came off the bus.
Williamson left the show to pursue other pursuits at the end of Season 2. Alex Gansa, who would later be the executive producer behind Homeland, joined as showrunner for most of Season 3.
I say most, because midway through the season, all Hell broke loose.
After multiple failed storylines and a complete overhaul of the main characters' story arches, the crew and cast had enough. After going directly to the WB, the production shutdown and Gansa was out. Greg Berlanti, a writer who was a holdover from Season 2 prior to Williamson leaving, became the showrunner, and saved the series with the Pacey/Joey/Dawson love triangle.
By the end of Season 3, it felt as though everything was fixed. Dawson’s heartbreak helped transform him in the Season Finale and put him on a path for development in Season 4. Pacey and Joey felt so natural and really complimented each other well as a couple. Jen and Jack’s friendship endured through some peaks and valleys. Even watching Dawson’s parents reuniting and getting remarried was exciting and just felt organic.
The show had gotten back on track. Except for one character.
Because of the abysmal first half of Season 3, one of the major players went through such a transformation that, even with the showrunner switching midway through, there was no redemption. In fact, the character had become so bad, that it was written out early in Season 4, only returning twice (once in a deleted scene during the series finale).
That character was Andie McPhee.
In this Hot Take, I’m here to defend her legacy. She deserves it, especially 25 years later.
Andie McPhee joined Dawson’s Creek in the first episode of Season 2, accidentally crashing into Pacey’s car. After finding out that Pacey lied about being a police officer, Andie instantly got revenge, by playing a prank on Pacey. Pacey and Andie began a genuine friendship, full of bickering and back-and-forth until they made it official at the end of Episode 6. The pair went through their ups-and-downs: Pacey getting scared after consummating the relationship with Andie, Pacey spitting in Mr. Peterson’s face defending Jack, Mrs. McPhee’s mental health struggles. After the death of Abby Morgan, where Andie, after giving a moving eulogy on Abby’s behalf, had a mental breakdown. With her brother, her father, and Pacey’s help, Andie, as well as her mother, went to a mental health facility to help strengthen her resolve and nurture her back to health.
So with all this goodwill and character development through Season 2, you would expect Andie to come back with a vengeance, both from an educational and personal perspective, while continuing to build her relationship with Pacey throughout the third season.
What the fans expected was NOT what happened. It took six episodes to undo and unravel the Andie McPhee character on the Creek. SIX EPISODES.
First, Andie and Pacey’s relationship came to an end. Despite everything they had been through, Andie got caught in an emotional and physical relationship with another patient at the facility named Mark. After avoiding Pacey as much as possible on her return to Capeside, Andie admitted her affair during the school pep rally. Sadly, Pacey ended the relationship that very night. The next episode, Andie seemingly removed Pacey from her life and seemed very angry that he would not forgive her immediately.
That same episode, Eve (a completely unnecessary character) stole an advanced copy of the PSAT exam that Dawson and crew were intending to take in a few days. When Dawson informed his crew of the situation, subsequently someone pulled the fire alarm. Dawson accidentally left behind the test. When he came back to the library, the test was gone. After demanding the person bring back the test, and not getting it, Dawson blamed Pacey. One personal conversation and a slugfest later, both men were bruised, but not any closer to getting an answer.
When the test began, everyone opened the booklet…except for one person. After seeing an answer booklet filled out in advance, the camera panned up to ANDIE, who, to not look suspicious, opened her book to “start”.
Two episodes later, Andie started to get back into the dating scene. She decided to go after Joey Potter’s boss, Rob Logan. Even though Joey had warned her repeatedly, Andie didn’t listen, and Rob fired Joey as retribution. By the next episode, Andie called Joey and informed her that Rob had sexually assaulted her. After Pacey came to her defense, Andie thought that they would reunite, but Pacey refused to take her back. By the end of the episode, Andie intimated to Joey that Rob actually didn’t assault her and that she tried to get Pacey back.
Lying, cheating, and stealing??!! If Eddie Guerrero was a Dawson’s Creek character, he’d be Andie McPhee.
When the new writing staff took over, one of the directions was to have Pacey and Joey as a couple. If you had to break up Pacey and Andie to get there, totally understood. But as a viewer of the show, the total destruction of the Andie character was in full effect. Within six episodes of Season 3, you left the Andie character with no redeemable qualities. Even after the switch in showrunners, all the rehabilitation in the world could not redeem the Andie character. And with no other direction you could take her, it was only a matter of time until Andie would be written off.
By Episode 7 of Season 4, Andie was written off the Creek for good, experimenting with the drug ecstasy and almost dying. Instead of killing her, Andie lived and traveled abroad, only coming back for the high school graduation the episode before the Season 4 Finale.
It’s actually a shame. I have always been convinced that the Pacey and Andie relationship was the best relationship in the entire run of Dawson’s Creek. I felt as if Andie’s perky yet fragile attitude was perfect for Pacey’s underachieving yet driven personality. They made each other BETTER. And even if it had to end, there are ways that could’ve helped Andie recover and taken her in a positive direction to even bigger possibilities as the show went on.
Even Kevin Williamson hated how the Andie character was handled. "I wasn't thrilled with the way Andie left the show because I really loved that character when she first came on. And by the time she left, everyone hated her. I didn't think the audience needed to turn against her the way they did.”
He’s spot on. Andie went from beloved to despised in the midst of a year.
In this case, there is no one left to blame than the creative staff. When you’re an actor or actress, all you want is to have a solid creative arc and a long lasting character on a successful television show or movie. Creative let the Andie McPhee character down.
I know it’s 25 years later, but as a guy who lives in nostalgia, this one always stuck in my craw. Andie McPhee deserved better.
I’d start singing the blues, but Andie did that first. Better, as well.