While all of you were watching the presidential debate or sports, I was enjoying the fine stylings of Gossip Girl’s final season. I probably spent at least eight minutes trying to come up with a bayonets-and-horses joke to open with, but then I just decided to give up. Kind of like this show. However, “Dirty Rotten Scandals” was a little better than last week’s messy episode. Let’s discuss the big points, shall we?
1. Everyone is terrible…
Maybe it’s because this is the first time I’ve really thought about Gossip Girl in a legitimate critical context, but wow, is almost everyone on this show a horrible person. Chuck’s a bonafide sociopath, Serena is an egomaniac, Blair is a petulant child, Dan is a disturbingly pretentious twit, and I can’t tell whether Rufus is going through a mid-life crisis or just finally admitting that he was always a fraud (and by the way, is Matthew Settle on quaaludes? If not, he’s phoning in his performance more than anyone on TV right now). At least Ivy and Georgina own up to their unbearable behavior, and Sage, unfortunately, is right there with them.
That’s right everyone, the only decent human being on this show is Nate. You know, the one who’s sexing a teenager.
2. …but at least the show is sort of committing it.
Obviously, there’s no way that Gossip Girl will end the way it should—with almost everyone penny-less, alone, and without a 4G connection for their smartphones—but I at least appreciate that the writers are letting certain characters’ horrible traits totally define them this season. While Serena and Blair’s petty posturing is unbelievably immature for two young women who can’t stop talking about how adult they are, there’s no doubt that the show gets a little jolt when the two of them actually admit they don’t care for one another. Even when they came to an agreement over Sage working in Blair’s fashion show, they did so begrudgingly.
Instead of actually using the truly annoying Sage (I’ve yet to determine whether Sofia Black D’Elia is awful or perfect in this role... and maybe it’s both) to allow Serena to reflect on how miserable she made everyone when she was 17, Gossip Girl is just letting the older Serena lower herself to Sage’s high-school scheming. And although she has always been a bit abrasive, Blair has turned into an all-star whiner this season. Hey, maybe she and Humphrey are made for one another after all! Speaking of which, no story satisfies me more than Dan selling out. If the show isn’t going to do the smart thing and put Dan and Blair together for real, it might as well submarine both characters.
As it stands now, it seems like Gossip Girl is dedicating itself to blowing up all the friendships and connections its characters have people shared, which is an interesting approach to take in a final season. My fear is that the series will eventually do what it always does: Disappointed friends with reconcile and deliver vapid platitudes to each other about friendship above all else. They won’t mean anything, and I won’t believe them, but that’s something.
3. The show is really insisting on epic (fail) love
I’ve made it clear that I think Chuck and Blair being together is an insulting pairing based on the truly horrid things that have occurred between them, but no matter those feelings, the decision to have them be together-but-not-really is part of some warped delayed satisfaction thing that I can’t understand about television. If you want them to be together, put them together. Don’t have them meet up in every episode and talk about how they’re doing all these things so they can be together. If they were actually mature adults, they would work out their problems. The end of this episode suggests that Gossip Girl is actually ready to take that step, so maybe Chuck and Blair’s relationship will improve. Nevertheless, I’m already ready for them to keep spewing this empty rhetoric for another six episodes until it everything magically lines up for them in the series finale.
4. This IS the last season, right?
I know that there are still seven episodes left and Gossip Girl isn’t a show with a substantial “mythology” or whatever, but doesn’t it feel like the show is petering around right now? While I see that there's value in telling the same kinds of stories in your final season that you’ve told for the previous 110-plus episodes, there’s no sense of urgency or larger momentum to these stories. Most of them are half-assed retreads of things we have already seen. For all its countless faults, I at least respected last week’s episode for attempting to circle back to high school and the characters growing up, but it appears that those references might have just been surface-level nods.