“G.G.” S5 / E13
- C+ Community Grade
Considering what a pop-culture force of nature Gossip Girl was in its early days, its 100th episode should feel like an inevitability. But something funny happened on the way to season five. What was once a cultural touchstone for a large swath of young people became more of a cultural afterthought, as they moved on to blatantly Gossip Girl-inspired fare such as Pretty Little Liars (which airs opposite its inspiration and regularly beats it in the coveted women 18-34 demographic). The show The CW once attempted to build an entire network identity around no longer has the juice to stir up the OMFG-level controversy it once commanded, and in turn has instead slowly devolved into The CW’s elder, seldom thought of statesman.
Some of this is really too bad, because despite some truly dire times the show managed to almost completely right the ship last season, churning out very satisfying episodes focusing on what made the show such a fun, frothy delight in the first place: interesting character dynamics and plentiful social soirees featuring all sorts of silly schemes. No, Gossip Girl was never high art or even high drama, but it was high fun and it always managed to find a deceptive amount of depth within its characters. This resurgence was highlighted by the newfound friendship between Blair and Dan, two characters who had always circled each other’s orbit but never found reason or desire to do more than lightly scheme together. This friendship, and the likeability it immediately brought to both characters, breathed a tremendous amount of life into what was a stale proceeding and showed just how unpredictable and rewarding serialized storytelling can be.
This resurgence of creative storytelling, however, was slowly but surely beaten into submission starting at the beginning of season five. Dan realized he was in love with Blair, as was Chuck, as was Blair’s fiancé Prince Louis (who at the time was the father of her child, but don’t worry, she lost that baby and never mentioned it again). Considering there are only four main male characters on the show, having three be in love with one woman at the same time was no less than a disaster, occupying most of the storytelling space and doing a huge disservice to Blair’s character in the process. You have to have a pretty goddamn special female character to justify having three quarters of the male population of the show be in love with her. The paradox is the more you have everyone fawn over someone’s supposed perfection, the less likely they are to seem likeable or even acceptable. (I believe this is officially known in textbooks as Joey Potter Syndrome.)
Still, this four-way madness lived on. So here we are tonight, 100 episodes in and ready to revel in Blair Waldorf’s final choice: a very ill-advised wedding to a prince who is some sort of cross between French Donald Duck and an animatronic wet dishrag. The sheer number of plot machinations and contrivances it took to get Blair on that altar with Louis when all she really wants is longtime love Chuck Bass was staggering and also even crossed the line into insulting, as Blair asserted she could never be with Chuck again as she made a pact with God. Yes, a woman previously portrayed as intelligent, cunning, resourceful, and brave decided to deny her own happiness because she believed if she left her fiancé for the man she truly loved that man would be struck down by God. The whole ridiculous thing conjures up images of Blair as some sort of 5-year-old kneeling at the foot of her bed for nightly prayers after a particularly graphic presentation of the Passion play, telling God that she'll give up chocolate milk if only Jesus could just live this time. It's, frankly, ridiculous.
If there was ever a faster way to ruin the central character on your show, the one that often was the only bright spot in a veritable sea of rotting trash, I can’t think of one. As a viewer—and, to lesser extent, as a completely lapsed Catholic—everything about Blair’s sudden pact with God and conversion to Catholicism reeked of insincerity and stall tactics. If Gossip Girl wanted to legitimately explore Blair’s struggle with faith, that would be fine; interesting, even. The problem is the entire story was played so seriously but without any sort of logic to back it that even poor Leighton Meester seemed to barely be able to make sense of it all. It’s as if Blair all of a sudden was this immovable post, determined to do the wrong thing for no understandable reason at all, and all anyone could do around her was shout out all the reasons she was wrong while she stayed there, refusing to budge. And, in the end, she was punished for her insane immobility by the promise of a loveless marriage with Louis without the writing ever supporting why she truly would ever have believed the sort of magic and superstition that got her in this position in the first place. Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees when watching serialized television. Sometimes, though, you get to the end and it’s all tree. Believe me: this shit was all trees. Redwoods. Big ones.
So now the show has wasted an entire year on this Louis story and all it has managed to do is completely destroy one of the best characters on the show and anger every Chair/Dair/Blair/Nadir fan that’s still hanging on to this sinking ship, and for what? To watch a cowed Blair skulk off into the night, rescued yet again by cuckold Dan? To see what looks like the resurgence of storylines best left long in the past, like a revisiting of Dan and Serena’s relationship or Nate’s never-ending quest to figure out why he’s still on this damn show in the first place? It's impossible to tell.
I often give the programming on Showtime grief for refusing to change their status quo, which is a problem Gossip Girl also has had in spades. With the somewhat tired reveal that Georgina is suddenly now Gossip Girl (and yes, she’s a new Gossip Girl—there’s no way it would make sense for her to have been GG all along, and if the show tries to say that I might just explode) and Blair just running away from Louis’ threats instead of fighting back, it feels like the show is finally looking to shake things up a bit. I just wish this shakeup had happened under more logical and entertaining circumstances and didn’t have to come at the expense of Blair’s dignity—and in turn the viewers’ sanity.