Well, after a fairly solid season premiere, Gossip Girl settled back into its typical (read: pretty miserable) rhythms in “High Infidelity.” Let’s run through the big points, shall we?
1. Everyone alone, at a party
Last week, I praised the premiere for pulling all the characters together in one big story. That was the primary reason why the episode worked for me. But that was a premiere, and premieres are special. So it’s no surprise that in this episode, the show returned to the annoying “multiple mediocre storylines converging unrelatedly at a party or event” formula that it has beaten 100 feet into the ground.
Look, I understand that the show can’t write episodes with everyone working together on some goal every week. But the way that Gossip Girl usually moves through its episodes rubs me the wrong way. Not only is it tough to care about many of the stories that happen each week, but said stories often come together in a stupid fashion. For example, Chuck being called to the event, only to realize four seconds in that he'd been tricked and didn’t actually need to be there at all. It lacked all purpose and just filled time.
2. LOL Nate
If it were possible for me to feel sympathy for a very attractive and likely fairly wealthy white man, there would probably be a twinge in my heart for Chace Crawford. The dude’s character has, for years, had nothing to do on this show other than sleep with random female guest stars and then get duped by them somehow.
So I guess it’s only fitting that Gossip Girl has kicked off its final season by trapping Nate in that exact same plot, only one that is—at least as of now—less nefarious and just simply humiliating. It turned out (of course), that Sage was not who she said she was. The episode tried to make us think that she was actually dating Barry Watson's Steven, but hopefully you knew better. Instead, it was revealed that Sage is Steven’s 17-year-old daughter! Nate’s getting it in with a high school lady. I guess it’s only fair after last season’s tryst with a much older woman.
I appreciate the show’s attempts to self-referentially discuss Nate’s stupidity and porous love life. Crawford is pretty good at being barely exasperated by his silly but charmed life. However, at a certain point, you can’t just keep making fun of your terrible writing. You should fix it.
3. High School > College
By my unofficial count, “High Infidelity” referred to high school 490 times. My guess is that Gossip Girl’s writers are using it as a way to thematically circle back to the show’s origins, particularly with all the discussion of (finally) growing up. In that regard, it makes some sense with regard to why characters kept talking about how they weren’t in high school anymore.
BUT, uh, college? I’ve been willing to accept the show’s decision to stop writing stories about the characters expanding their minds in higher education. Few shows in this genre have made that work. But the combination of most of the characters becoming highly powerful titans of industry, the lack of references to college, and the returning mentions of high school pushed too far. Gossip Girl has its own warped reality, but it wouldn’t kill them to mention class every once and a while, especially when beating the “time to grow up!” thematic drum. College is where you really grow up. Not post-high school scheming.
4. Dueling Divas, sort of
Yet again, Gossip Girl was half-assed in giving me what I want from Serena and Blair’s mostly lifeless feud. As I said in my pre-season wishlist, the show always wants to pit its two leading ladies against one another but never actually wants to make their tension matter, or allow either character to be truly villainous. Blair’s almost been there before, and it seemed like Serena was on a warpath at the end of last season, only for the show to hit eject.
In just two episodes this season, the show has both complicated and simplified the 98th iteration of S and B not liking one another. On one hand, the short scenes they have shared in both episodes have been pretty great. Serena’s actually trying to move on with her life, which means ditching the drama and history with Blair. Last week's “break-up” was nicely followed with Blair being not being invited to tonight's event, and ultimately being tossed from it. But although those scenes were good on an individual level, the story itself lacks teeth because both ladies are trying so hard to avoid one another, a move that more or less enforces that they still like each other more than they do not. That’s lame and suggests that a reconciliation is closer than a legitimate throwdown.
5. Dan is no sell-out, except for when he is
Dan writing the sequel to Inside (working title: Inside-er: This Time With Last Names!) feels like a dead-end story to me. The show wants us to believe that Dan is actually, finally fed up with the elitism that he thinks he’s not a part of, which isn’t really true, and even if it was, the publishing of his version of the truth seems like one of those larger Gossip Girl stories that results in little more than Dan being given the cold shoulder for a few episodes before everyone gets over it and the show just glibly and offhandedly refers to it at random points.
Knowing what we know about the show and how it operates, what does Dan publishing these chapters in The Spectator accomplish? This might be Gossip Girl's final season, but things so rarely really change on this show that it is tough to imagine it resulting in Dan leaving New York City for good. And even if it does, that won’t be until the finale, when the impact wouldn’t be substantial. I don’t mind this story but I hate it when the show pretends that certain events are going to CHANGE EVERYTHING.