Gossip Girl is a show that only thrives when it embraces being messy. After a lackluster first season, the HBO Max reboot’s second installment has been a stark improvement, benefiting from the added layers of unserious chaos that have, for the briefest of moments, felt somewhat nostalgic of the original series. It’s been fun to watch this new cast of Upper East Side elites commit one glamorous atrocity after another, each week somehow outdoing the prior in terms of campy scandal as the series builds up to its ultimate showdown: the unmasking of Gossip Girl.
Try as it may, Gossip Girl’s finale unfortunately does a disservice to the rest of the season, as it clearly ran out of time to give its reveal an adequate ending, considering how the show was canceled just last week. What’s left as a result is an overstuffed final episode that seems to be full of everything and nothing, all at the same time. It’s honestly just a mess—but not in a good way.
For starters, “I Am Gossip” rushes through far too many plot points for the sake of drama while simultaneously leaving characters out to dry. The finale manages to fit three takedown attempts, the Met Gala, cameos from Andy Cohen and Jonathan Whitney (Eric’s boyfriend from Season 2 of the original series), and even a trip to Italy all within the span of an hour. That’s not to mention several of the characters’ individual storylines, including Obie (Eli Brown) teaming up with Gossip Girl in an attempt to save himself after sending his mother to prison for a crime his sister actually committed, as well as Aki (Evan Mock) and Audrey (Emily Alyn Lind) wanting to end their relationship with Max (Thomas Doherty). Meanwhile, Kate (Tavi Gevinson) believes herself to be seemingly invincible while running GG, despite her status as Manhattan’s #1 enemy.
Frustratingly enough, the characters that ended up suffering the most were Luna (Zion Moreno) and Monet (Savannah Lee Smith), who were once again overlooked and underutilized. Their roles were constantly limited to acting as Julien’s (Jordan Alexander) henchwomen, despite having previously interesting and even emotional arcs in earlier episodes. The first half of the season built Monet up to be the reboot’s necessary Blair Waldorf, yet confiscated that Queen Bee status as quickly as she established it. In another aspect, Episode 8 explored Luna’s tense relationship with her mother, finally offering a glimpse into her home life, only for it to never be acknowledged again. Although she eventually calls Julien out for only thinking about herself, the show still writes Luna off into the background, even in the finale.
That’s not to say there weren’t any positive parts of the episode, as the apex is clearly when everything falls into disarray at the Met Gala. It wouldn’t be Gossip Girl without a glitzy, star-studded event for all the chaos to unfold, and it serves as the perfect stage for the group to lay their trap. In an attempt at baiting GG to out herself, Zoya (Whitney Peak) walks down the carpet in a magnificent gown claiming credit for the account, and it’s so wonderfully outrageous. I’m actually obsessed. But my main complaint is that the moment’s enormity isn’t given enough time to fully resonate with viewers, as the episode pushes past it far too quickly to move on to the next scheme. Immediately following the Met Gala disaster, Obie (of all people) ends up producing an obvious plan to successfully lure Gossip Girl out of hiding (money, of course), despite having spent the entire first half of the episode more concerned with his own personal problems. And while I did find it funny that a fake Shonda Rhimes/Ryan Murphy million dollar bidding war for the rights to a Gossip Girl movie deal was what baited Kate into owning up to her actions, the lack of build-up made the reveal plain underwhelming.
Exposing Gossip Girl would probably be much more exciting if the show hadn’t literally told us her identity in the Pilot episode. It also makes it difficult to orchestrate a reveal that could possibly live up to the jaw-dropping standard of its predecessor. As much as we may hate on Dan being Gossip Girl in the original, the outrage following the reveal has fundamentally shifted the world of pop culture. I mean, people are still debating whether or not he makes sense. However, the reboot completely strips Gossip Girl of her anonymity, and Kate’s GG presence is more irritating than threatening. In that sense, I can’t completely blame the show for how it handled Kate’s inevitable downfall, since any possible outcome would have supplied some degree of annoyance.
The last ten minutes of the finale shifts into a vacation in Italy, two months into a Gossip Girl-free existence. Not everyone is present on the trip, as there are still various unresolved character tensions within the group. Perhaps the show was attempting to leave a couple stray loose threads to potentially unravel, in the unlikely case it would be renewed for a Season 3. However, it doesn’t tonally fit with the rest of the series, and it creates a rather boring end to the season. I would have rather the show concluded either on a full-blown cliffhanger or a complete wrap of events, since the unsteady middle ground the series tries to cater towards feels overall unsatisfying.
But despite its disappointing finale, I’m still sad that the series has come to an abrupt end. Gossip Girl, while at times tedious, has provided an easy escape into a world of frivolous teen drama, and it’s a genre that deserves a bit more leniency than it’s currently being offered. Let teen TV be fun again!
Dianna Shen is an entertainment writer based in New York. When she’s not crying over a rom-com, she can be found on Twitter @ddiannashen.
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