I’ve been trying to sum up my feelings on the show since I went through all 101 episodes in about a month (and usually what comes up first is “I went through all the episodes in about a month. What the fuck am I doing with my life? Of this show? I haven’t even finished The West Wing yet.”), and I’m still trying to pin it down.
One of the things that are great about watching the first seasons of shows is watching how it addresses its faults along the ways while figuring out what makes the show work. The writers end up just throwing shit at the wall to see what sticks (especially now where “one-and-done” shows are more common). The best example of this is the first season of Community and watching it grow from having no idea of what to do with Britta to finding exactly how shit fit in. She started out as the love interest, but then decided to do away with that, then made her the butt of everyone’s joke, to her kind of owning up to being “the worst.”* I say this all because Gossip Girl is a show perpetually in its first season, just throwing shit at the wall to see what sticks. And it kind of, weirdly, makes it a sort of fascinating watch.
For one, it’s really jarring to realize how normal the show starts out. Dan’s the guy who liked a girl who he knew he had no chance with. Blair just wants her relationship with the boyfriend she’s had for forever to be perfect. Taylor Momsen looks like a natural human being. Then Chuck Bass, the asshole (no, not “Basshole,” disembodied voice of Kristen Bell) tries to rape Taylor Momsen and gets deservedly punched in the face for it. Whatever, typical teen drama. So it goes. Then it takes a turn for the “just go with it” when a 16 year old buys a strip club-no, sorry, Burlesque club- and then another 16 year-old strips to her lingerie and does a dance, and the cops don’t drop in on that place immediately.
Again, whatever, they’re not really 16 year-olds (Ed Westwick was 20, and Leighton Meester was 21-thanks, IMDb!), and this world isn’t our own, so who cares? Plus, while this is going on, we have the one of the two times the Dan-Serena plotline has ever made remote sense, grounded in the normalcy of the whole “dating the dream girl” thing. And that groundedness was supposed to balance the coincidence of his dad and her mom being exes, but whatever. Chance, fate, all part of a teen soap. And Eric is still the most in touch with reality, so sure. Taylor Momsen started to look a bit off, but that’s part of the character’s arc or something by becoming a mean girl. Vanessa is introduced to be Serena’s competition for Dan’s affection but haha no, just kidding. She ends up with Nate who also doesn’t know what the fuck he’s doing on the show except as Estrogen Brigade Bait (which isn’t actually the definition because part of it is that the fanbase is overwhelmingly male and no). Then at the end of the first season, everyone breaks up and is sad and feelings and some music.
Second season starts off as taking the season finale and saying, “JK, LOL” and everyone gets back together except Chuck and Blair because someone realized they wouldn’t know what to do with them (and they were right! But I’m getting ahead of myself) and instead adds something about a British Duke who pretends to be American so someone can fall for him and not his title (you know, that age old fairy tale that you’ve only heard every time). Also, Nate is fucking an older woman who used to be in Twin Peaks (The show would go back to both of these wells). It’s around here where shit starts to take a turn for the “Whaaaaaat?” where the lady that Nate is fucking is the Duke’s step-mother who the Duke is also fucking.** Something something Wallace Shawn who basically shows up to scream a few words and start a new catch phrase for reasons that were never really established(?), but hey someone is paying Wallace Shawn to shout and he was great in that movie from the 80s! Also, he has a son named Aaron who Serena fucks and then when she leaves him is never heard from again, leading to the possible theory: is Serena van der Woodson’s vagina a black hole?*** Some other things happen, the emotionless dude who was Chuck Bass’s dad dies in a car wreck (and something about this show makes all car wrecks hilarious? It’s like they know they don’t have the money, so they don’t even bother), a cat fight at Yale (way to be professional, ladies!), the Winklevii scams them all, Taylor Momsen looks like she needs a sassy gay friend even though she already has Eric, and Dan fucks a high school teacher (but not his high school teacher, and she wasn’t even a high school teacher when they started fucking because Serena got her fired with a picture because Serena is the worst). Oh, and Chuck and Blair get together because of course they did.
The third season is basically a season-long LOST episode, and not a good one that has time-travel and/or John Locke, but a Kate one because it surrounds Serena and where she got that pesky van der Woodsen moniker. Hilary Duff appears but would have better things to do, like that Mean Girls/Robocop episode of Community****, Dan and Vanessa start fucking and no one cares, Jenny nearly usurps Serena as the worst BECAUSE SHE NEARLY BRINGS DOWN ERIC WITH HER, and something something politics? I kind of understood the reason behind everything they did during the third season. “Oh, no one cares about Serena anymore because her character development can be summed up as ‘I like it when people call me pretty’? Let’s have her find her dad who is played by Billy Baldwin. What the fuck do we do with Nate? How about his cousin is running for office and he helps him. Dan and Vanessa are boring? Let’s just pair them off and figure it out later.” But where in the previous seasons where enough stuck to be like fascinatingly awful, this was just awful. Chuck and Serena both undergo moral event horizons (Chuck selling Blair for a hotel and Serena, well, Gabe sums it up best in the second and third paragraphs.) even for this show!
The fourth season fixes all of that! It goes back to shitty teenagers being shitty teenagers! And Ruby from Supernatural tried to take down Serena! Oh happy day! Also Fleur Delacour was there? And Blair meets a Prince, but then he leaves for whatever reason, and so Chuck and Blair hate each other for a bit, and then they hate-fuck each other for a bit, then Blair decides no, and Chuck is like “Whatever, business to run AT AGE TWENTY” And Jenny was barely there! And Vanessa wasn’t there a whole lot either! And Dan and Blair, which I’m only a fan of because of the sitcom staple of “rich bitchy deadpan snarker and outsider deadpan snarker” is a tale as old as time (and the only relationship this show hasn’t explored yet except Chuck and Serena but I don’t think I’d have the heart to wish that on Chuck)!
And the fifth season continues that well executed garbage! Well, except for the wedding episode that was kind of the worst. Oh, right, I skipped that part. Yeah, the Prince comes back and asks Blair to marry him because he has to know right now, because, again, this show. Also Blair makes a pact with God to prevent Chuck from dying from injuries sustained in a car crash? And Nate is fucking Elizabeth Hurley who may or may not be Chuck’s real mom (the wells came back!)? OH and Aaron Sorkin was going to adapt Dan’s book (because he has a book now because he is a great writer, something the show likes to say a lot) BUT SERENA RUINED THAT BECAUSE SHE IS THE WORST. (Sidenote (and I don’t want to go to five stars for another footnote): I want to watch a teen drama that was written by Aaron Sorkin because, well, we basically watched it in 2010). But whatever, the Prince’s mom says “Monaco” in the way only the French can, and it’s pretty great.
So, in summation, I do not suggest anyone do what I just did and watch all of the show in a shortish period of time because you end up with gruel for your brain because this started off in one place of critical thinking and then went into the complete opposite of that. Just like this show! Kind of.
*SIX SEASONS AND A MOVIE!
**At worst, I fucking hate this show, and at best, I just want to be in the writer’s room for these discussions.
***Besides Dan and Nate, all the guys she’s dated have had ZERO point on the actual plot at the time (The Cortexiphan guy from Fringe doesn’t count because he had a point on the plot BEFORE he started fucking Serena, and after he was fucking Serena, was never heard from again)
****Seriously, go watch Community if you haven’t already.