In honor of March Madness, EW is launching a tournament to determine the Greatest TV Couple of All Time. But before we can finalize the brackets, we are turning to you, our hopeless TV romantic readers, to decide which five couples – all part of a love triangle on their shows — make it out of a qualifying round to fill the final slots. Today, we’re debating Joey and Dawson versus Joey and Pacey on Dawson’s Creek.
Admit it, people: Whether you loved or despised America’s original hate-watching phenomenon back when it aired, on some level, you still care about Dawson’s Creek. Maybe not enough to actually watch Don’t Trust the B– in Apt. 23, but definitely enough to want only the best for Michelle Williams. (She’s been through so much, you guys!) And caring about Dawson’s Creek necessarily means nursing a strong opinion about the show’s central love triangle, which cast BFFs Dawson Leery (James Van Der Beek) and Pacey Witter (Joshua Jackson) as rivals for the heart of one Josephine Potter (Katie Holmes).
The funny thing about this conflict is that it wasn’t always Dawson’s main throughline. When the soap began in 1998, its plot hinged on a totally different love triangle – the one between budding filmmaker Dawson, his lovelorn pal Joey, and sexy, sophisticated big city transplant Jen (Williams). In the series’s 10th episode, though, Joey and sarcastic screwup Pacey were forced to work on a school science project together – and suddenly, the show’s writers realized that their snappy, Beatrice and Benedick-esque dynamic might be more interesting than Joey’s unrequited love for the boy who lived across the creek.
Alas, a Pacey/Joey relationship would have to wait (though not for their lives to be over). At the end of season 1, the girl and Dawson finally got together – then broke up, then got back together, then broke up again. Pacey, meanwhile, embarked on his own life-changing relationship with smart, unstable Andie (Meredith Monroe). It wasn’t until season 3 that Capeside’s brightest mind and biggest troublemaker became an official couple – and stayed that way all the way through the rest of high school, easily outlasting Dawson and Joey’s frustrating attempts at a romantic relationship.
The choice here may seem obvious. Joey and Pacey were clearly the more stable couple. They shared better chemistry, as Holmes and Jackson’s offscreen relationship can attest. (They dated before she and Chris Klein got together in 2000.) And notably, they’re the ones who end up together in Dawson’s finale. (Dawson himself ends up with Steven Spielberg; Jen ends up with Wasting Slut Disease.)
That said, there’s still an argument to be made for Joey and Dawson. The fact that Dawson himself is the one making that argument – loudly, and often, and with enough references to “soulmates” to make a person weep – may be enough to prompt you to reject it outright. But even so, there’s something to be said for first love… the kind that inspires every single movie in a budding filmmaker’s repertoire and moves a person to sing Les Mis’s angstiest song at a local beauty pageant. Even if Dawson eventually blamed Joey for his father’s entirely undignified death, they’ll always have “On My Own.”
So, which couple deserves a spot in our bracket game? Open up your morning light, say a little prayer for I (or is it “right”?), and vote below.