It’s been 25 years since Dawson’s Creek premiered. Yep, 25 years since one of television’s most successful teen dramas entered the public consciousness. The story of Dawson Leery (James Van Der Beek) and his friends Joey Potter (Katie Holmes), Pacey Witter (Joshua Jackson), and Jen Lindley (Michelle Williams) lasted six seasons. Smack dab in the middle of that came the central romantic storyline of the series. Let’s relive the top 10 Pacey and Joey moments.
Though the writers established the possibility of romance between Joey and Dawson at the beginning of the show and played that out through the end of the second season, by the third season there was a shift. The writing of that season slowly developed Joey and Pacey’s relationship until their feelings came to the forefront. There are many moments before, during, and after these two characters began dating that add up to a thoroughly entertaining ship.
It was difficult to narrow down but here are the top 10 Pacey and Joey moments on Dawson’s Creek, in chronological order.
The Marine Biology Project, Episode 1×10
The interaction between Pacey and Joey was presented as antagonistic when the series began. They frequently bickered and bantered. In fact, it was almost the kind of thing that you’d find in romantic comedies if Joey hadn’t been crushing on Dawson at the time. This episode (titled “Double Date”) is a great example of their early dynamic. The two are paired together for a project for marine biology class and through mishaps caused by Pacey, they have to replace their snails. And they get wet doing it, again thanks to Pacey. Pacey finds himself physically attracted to Joey but they also bond emotionally. Joey worries about not getting out of Capeside, and Pacey assures her she will. “Wouldn’t bet against that Potter girl,” he says.
All this leads Pacey to attempt a kiss. Joey doesn’t reciprocate because her feelings for Dawson haven’t been explored but this does provide deep background for their future romance. The ironic thing is, the audience is supposed to be rooting for Joey and Dawson at this point but when this episode aired, I thought I could like Joey/Pacey if the writers did it right. I would have to be patient.
Dance Lessons, Episode 3×09
While season two played out a romance between Joey and Dawson and Pacey dated Andie (Meredith Monroe), both Pacey and Joey were single in the first episodes of season three. Their friendship was given ample screen time to flourish in its own right, separate from Dawson. Joey learns Pacey is restoring a boat, for example. This episode is from that period of bonding. But Pacey’s feelings are starting to show. Joey is helping Pacey catch up in math class and he is helping her win a small scholarship from a local dance studio. Dawson gets the wrong idea about their covert time together.
After that misunderstanding is cleared up, though, Pacey serves some straight talk to Dawson, implying he can’t act possessive over Joey if he isn’t dating her. Pacey calls Joey “a goddess” in the process. (Swoon!) But the best bit here might be the dance instructor’s insistence that the poor dancing between Pacey and Joey indicates unresolved sexual tension. When the writers gave us that, I knew a romance between the two was coming for sure. And probably pretty soon.
Pacey Watches Joey Sleep, Episode 3×12
This moment is a brief one and doesn’t feature any dialogue. But it sure is one of the most effective before these two get together. All the main characters gather at Joey’s family’s new bed and breakfast for its opening weekend to help impress the critic Pacey invited. Things go wrong and the heat goes out. While talking around the fireplace to keep warm, Jen’s grandmother relates how she knew she was in love with her late husband. “You know you love someone when you can spend the whole night by the fire, watching them sleep,” she says.
At the end of the episode, Pacey does exactly that with Joey. He has tried so hard to help her family with their business in this episode that his motivations are easy to guess. But just in case the viewer needs it spelled out more explicitly, this sequence makes it obvious. There is genuine romantic longing behind Pacey’s actions toward Joey now. He will continue to do things that prove how much he cares for Joey. From this point on, Pacey will gradually have to face his feelings as they deepen.
Pacey Kisses Joey, Episode 3×17
You could make a case that this moment separates this series into everything that came before from everything that came after. Pacey has been consistent in his actions, doing things that support Joey and show that his focus is on her. He defends her when her art mural is vandalized and he buys her a wall to spark her creativity. Now, Pacey reaches a point where he is compelled to express his feelings to Joey. She has briefly tested out the possibility of romance with a college guy but it doesn’t work out. She calls Pacey for a ride home. When explaining what happened, Joey mentions that Pacey is one of the two people who really know her.
That is all Pacey needs to hear. He stops the car and continues the conversation by the side of the road. He presses Joey to explain why he was the first person she thought of to call that night. Pacey obviously hopes she might return his feelings and just hasn’t realized it. After a moment, he gives up on talking and kisses her. And, unlike in the episode with the marine biology project, she doesn’t pull away. The core relationships on Dawson’s Creek were never going to be the same after this.
Joey Kisses Pacey, Episode 3×19
Despite trying to brush off the kiss, Pacey and Joey’s romantic storyline inevitably moves forward. The gang heads to Dawson’s aunt’s house for spring break, and this episode is a shipper’s dream. First, Pacey and Joey are forced to share the bed when everyone else falls asleep on the floor. Who doesn’t love that trope? Then the nostalgia about Joey’s relationship with Dawson hits Pacey hard. When Joey checks on him, he voices his feelings directly to her for the first time, as well as doubts that she feels the same. She stops him from leaving by saying his arm brushing against her in bed made her feel alive. Of course, Pacey says he must kiss her after that and she has 10 seconds to stop him. She doesn’t. Didn’t I tell you this episode was shipping perfection?
Well, they’re not done yet. They discuss how they don’t want to hurt Dawson, then Pacey points out that the important thing is how Joey feels and she must make the next move. “If you felt one shred of what I feel for you, we wouldn’t be standing here having this conversation,” he says. Then she kisses him. For me, this moment is Joey making her choice. No matter what happens later, the endgame should be Pacey and Joey after this, in my opinion.
“I remember everything,” Episode 3×22
After Dawson’s bad reaction to learning about Joey and Pacey, Joey stops things with Pacey. She’s not ready to essentially choose between the two of them. The group organizes their own prom in support of their gay friend Jack (Kerr Smith), and though they aren’t there together, Joey does ask Pacey to dance. Pacey notices her earrings and says they’re not her but the bracelet she’s wearing is. He relates the story of how Joey told him she found her mom’s bracelet one day. “You remember that?” she asks. “I remember everything,” he tells her. Their palpable chemistry is almost overwhelming at this moment.
Not to mention Jackson’s excellent performance in this sequence. He truly conveys heartache early on, then joy when she asks for the dance. And his almost-whispered delivery of this line is perfect. Jackson was the most experienced main cast member and he always made Pacey appealing. You believe every second of Pacey’s feelings for Joey in large part because of his talent. But the writing is important, too, and this moment adds more depth to the evidence that Joey and Pacey have a long relationship ahead of them.
True Love, Episode 3×23
Of course, the limbo of Joey being undecided couldn’t last forever. Time runs out when Pacey is about to leave for the summer to sail his boat. Joey admits to Dawson that if she knew she could keep his friendship, she would have done things differently. Then Dawson realizes she should go and the path is clear. We often see one character rush to declare their feelings to another character before they leave. Seeing Joey do it is particularly satisfying. She tells Pacey she loves him and wants to come with him. When Pacey points out that her sister needs her at the bed and breakfast, Joey responds, “Not as much as I need you.” Joey’s certainty throughout this scene is wonderful to see. It’s as if getting to act on her heart’s choice makes her feel free.
Pacey beams with happiness as he brings her on board and kisses her. They literally sail off into the sunset together. It’s one of the most romantic season finales for a teen drama that I’ve ever seen. The writing and performances of this storyline up until this point make the audience look forward to a lot of screen time for Pacey and Joey as a couple in the next season.
Their First Time, Episode 4×14
That screen time is exactly what we got. Pacey and Joey’s strong love for each other was emphasized again and again throughout nearly the entire fourth season. Pacey proves to be an exemplary boyfriend, including singing her praises at an alumni dinner for a college she has applied to. The issue of sex obviously enters the equation. Pacey had a bit of experience earlier in the series but Joey has a lot of angst about taking that step for the first time. To Pacey’s credit, he doesn’t pressure her. The senior ski trip finally allows the two to work through the last of their insecurities. Such as Pacey thinking he has to compete with Joey’s old ideas of her first time being with Dawson.
It is tense between them at first but then Pacey turns down another girl’s advances and Joey realizes fear doesn’t have to hold her back. They consummate their relationship in a beautiful moment that gives Joey agency and emphasizes the romance. The writing references the 10-seconds kiss from season 3, which is a nice touch, and it’s just really sweet overall. This kind of scene cements a fictional couple’s longevity. And Dawson’s Creek is better for it.
Locked In, Episode 6×15
Television is never kind to couples on long-running shows. At least not 100 percent of the time. Pacey and Joey broke up near the end of their senior year but managed to stay friends as they dated other people. However, as the series carried on its final season, the romantic undertones between the two were explored again. This episode finds Pacey and Joey accidentally locked into a K-Mart overnight alone. Their bickering and bantering are similar to what they used to be as they hash out their current dynamic.
The intimate interaction when Joey shaves off Pacey’s goatee is the best part. And not just because that goatee did need to go. Pacey kisses her afterward, admitting that his desire for her is always there. Later, Joey reveals she had a fantasy during their summer sailing together similar to their present situation– being cast away on a desert island without the pressure of other people on their relationship. They share another kiss but Joey can’t give Pacey any immediate answers about getting back together. This episode is special because it only features these two characters and proves their bond will always be powerful.
The Happy Ending, Episode 6×24
The series finale takes place 5 years in the future as the characters reunite in their hometown for Dawson’s mother’s wedding. The question of whether Joey is going to end up with Dawson or Pacey is still unresolved. Jen faces failing health from a heart condition and her dying wish is that Joey finally make a choice. Everyone may be living their individual lives but both men are still clearly in love with Joey.
Pacey puts Joey first, as he has done since their feelings began. He tells her he wants her to be happy, no matter who that is with. “The simple act of being in love with you is enough for me,” he tells her. That’s an OTP-level statement right there. Joey lets him know she doesn’t want to be let off the hook. She doesn’t want to run from her feelings anymore. The final scene of the entire series shows Joey watching the season finale of Dawson’s show… with Pacey! They kiss and we know they are back together for good. Cue the happy sobs! This feels right. This feels satisfying. And this feels like the perfect ending.
The Joey and Pacey romance turned out to be the centerpiece of the whole series. As much as the writers tried to turn it into a triangle with Dawson, their love story was simply too sturdy on its own. The writers put care and thought into slowly crafting their relationship at every stage. They took their time and they did it right. Nothing else on Dawson’s Creek truly compares.
So do you agree with our top 10 Pacey and Joey moments?
Dawson’s Creek is streaming on Prime Video and Hulu.