May 21, 2013
Best Episodes of the 2012-2013 Season, Best Episodes of the Season, Gossip Girl, Television
Season Analysis: I have never watched any other show that declined in quality as dramatically as Gossip Girl did in its final season.
“New York, I Love You XOXO”
Much of the series finale of Gossip Girl chose to ignore what had happened in Seasons 3-6, and it was one of those rare cases in which that was actually the right decision. A lot of Seasons 3-5 was awful, as was all of Season 6 prior to the finale. To enjoy the finale required forgetting all those low points, which I was perfectly willing to do. The revelation of Dan as Gossip Girl made a good deal of sense, despite probably making hardly any sense if held up to scrutiny. But it was a much more intriguing, and entertaining, decision than something along the lines of “Gossip Girl was nobody” or “Gossip Girl was all of us.” At least Dan’s Great Gatsby-esque explanation of how Gossip Girl allowed him to insinuate himself into the Upper East Side was thematically consistent with the series as a whole. Much of the finale made little to no sense – the final romantic pairings, for one thing, felt far from earned – but it least it all had an air of ridiculousness to it. And the reactions of various New Yorkers to the Gossip Girl revelation were gold, particularly due to Michael Bloomberg’s mere presence and Kristen Bell’s mere on-camera presence.
June 21, 2012
Best Episodes of the 2011-2012 Season, Best Episodes of the Season, Gossip Girl, Television
Season Analysis: Though it was saddled with some deadweight from its lesser seasons, Season 5 was the best since Season 2: Blair was as good as always (even with occasionally insulting material), Dan was the best he’s ever been, the writers finally figured out how to write for a well-behaved Chuck, Nate was mostly boring but at least he’s a good guy, and Serena … well, I guess I can accept that the writers are not perfect. But then it was all ruined with a season finale in which all the major characters became the worst possible versions of themselves. Dear Gossip Girl writers: the “it was all a dream” reveal is generally an unwelcome cop-out, but you will need to do something like it to make up for the mess you made with that finale.
“Memoirs of an Invisible Dan”
Gossip Girl’s best bet for success is to have as many characters as possible crashing into each other at once. “Memoirs of an Invisible Dan” provided a doozy of a way for this to happen – a way that the entire series had been building to (whether it realized it or not): the announcement of Dan as the previously anonymous author of Inside, the novel chronicling life on the Upper East Side, featuring characters very similar to those on Gossip Girl. This episode actually managed to have it both ways: its style matched that of the way The CW often promotes the show (a series of frothy OMG moments that ought to be followed by a wah-wah sound effect) and the actual style of a typical episode (in which the emotional beats are just as dramatic, but more realistically drawn out, and actually allowing for a chance of resolution). The offense that Dan’s friends took at their portrayals in Inside were unnecessarily harsh, considering that they were fictionalized versions and the book’s narrator, Dylan Hunter, had a consistently and unrelentingly cynical view of his world, even more so than that of Dan Humphrey. But, these characters were based on real aspects of the pasts and personalities of the people in Dan’s life, and thus they had the capacity to really cut to the heart. Ed Westwick showed off some of his finest work in many an episode, as Chuck Bass alternated acknowledged just how right Dan had gotten him, but this acknowledgement also led him to ponder over his life’s severe emptiness.
June 23, 2011
Best Episodes of the 2010-2011 Season, Best Episodes of the Season, Gossip Girl, Television
“Petty in Pink”
The debut of Kaylee DeFer as “Charlie” in the previous episode was generally inauspicious, but in her second episode, she turned out to be one of those meta-variety cast additions who seems to be so knowledgeable of the tropes of the show such that she must be a devoted viewer. That was a fun bit of meta-humor at the time, but it was not the sort of comedy that a soap, even an ironic one like Gossip Girl, could be expected to maintain. With the reveal of Charlie as “Ivy” in the finale, though, it turned out, on multiple levels, that this was in fact the correct way for DeFer to play her part. As for the finale, it did, as per usual, come packed with the greatest number of juicy twists, but it was the beginning of this season’s final storylines that set those twists up and made them as gratifying as they were. Blair’s positive pregnancy test may have shown up in the finale, but in “Petty in Pink,” all three of her Season 4 suitors were prominently in the picture. Thus, the situation in “Pink” made it possible that if Blair is in fact pregnant, the dad could be any of the three. Well, it almost definitely is not Dan. And her times with Louis appear to have been chaste. Basically, Chuck must be the father. Nonetheless, “Petty in Pink” is still noteworthy for the fullest realization of that love quadrangle.
Next up: Raising Hope
June 19, 2010
Best Episodes of the 2009-2010 Season, Best Episodes of the Season, Gossip Girl, Television
“Last Tango, Then Paris”
Just like so many shows before it, Gossip Girl struggled once most of its main characters headed to college. The problem was not so much that the writers could not figure out college-centric storylines but that the fact of going to different schools made it so that the Constance Billard grads were necessarily apart too often. The truth is that some of these Upper East Siders do not go well together, and a great deal of the fun of GG comes from the offbeat groupings. The main reasons for watching GG are Leighton Meester and Ed Westwick – anyone who disagrees is watching for the wrong reasons – but I must say I have really started to appreciate Penn Badgley, mainly thanks to the several odd couple moments between Dan and Blair this season. In the finale, everyone imploded into one another. Dan punched Chuck in a scene that Blair also appeared in, and while I generally prefer the awkwardly funny, yet sweet Dan-Blair moments, I was happy to see Dan take action. The Chuck-Jenny hookup left me in shock, and I am still too much in shock to say whether or not I liked it, but at least it brought the crazy. I was happy to see GG go for broke in a season that otherwise featured too much Vanessa. And, of course, any episode is automatically improved by appearances from Margaret Colin and Wallace Shawn as Eleanor and Cyrus.
Next up: V