It’s much more interesting to watch tonight’s season-six première of Gossip Girl if you pretend that all the characters are not, in fact, reunited because Serena Van Der Woodsen happened to go missing again (God, she’s always doing that, with Poughkeepsie and the drugs, how tiresome) but because they are on a desperate mission to ESCAPE THE SHOW, or at least, to generate plot out of nowhere, having sensed that their time on this earth is about to be cut short.
If we all choose to read it that way, maybe it will become so.
Despite repeated crimes against televisional humanity, Gossip Girl will simply not end, though conventional wisdom holds that this shortened season will be its sixth and final. The producers clearly ran out of good ideas somewhere in season three; season six is the less-than-mediocre product of the last few excruciating years.
At the close of the last season, Serena overdosed on cocaine on a train headed upstate as Blair and Chuck decided they were into each other again in a torrid night in Monte Carlo. Dan and Georgina fled to Italy, where they are theoretically writing a book about the dark underbelly of the Upper East Side. But truly, it seems as if all of the characters are fleeing New York City so as to escape the unending monotony of the show itself.
Gossip Girl has always been a two-or-three-trick-pony. Moneyed characters could always be trotted out as dissipate and self-indulgent; young, beautiful teenagers usually found a way to do something stupid involving drugs, sex, or both; and the jaded scions of the richest families in the city found ever more opportunities to whet their appetite for power.
The shock factor of the show expired ages ago, though. The characters aren’t pretending to be limpid-eyed high-school innocents anymore: They’re all adults, and so their current sexcapades and business ventures are a lot less surprising than they were five years ago. Sure, there’s always something new to throw into the works—Blair’s pregnant! Dan is/isn’t the father of Georgina’s baby! Chuck’s father is dead/not dead/insane!—but with every new shock-plot, the show becomes more trite. By now, Gossip Girl is a hate-watch at best, the type of show that doesn’t even manage to hold up to the ill-used moniker “guilty pleasure” because there’s nothing pleasurable about it.
But somehow, the main characters themselves retain a special charm—even, on rare occasion, Blake Lively’s Serena, who manages to justify being a total disaster of a human being with a blasé flip of her hair and bored monotone. Despite the characters’ laughably bad plotlines, the actors have somehow managed to imbue each of their roles with a depth that indicates the ravages their childhoods wreaked on them. Privileged, yes, but isolated and jaded, too. So Blair and Chuck have difficulty accepting their obvious connection. So Serena constantly throws herself at new men and old drugs. So Dan acts out to get these people’s attention, writing a book to expose them all. His sister Jenny’s rise and fall as queen bee of Constance Billard was its own mini-epic, a character study writ in interpersonal machinations.
The strength of these four characters (Taylor Momsen’s Jenny is no longer a series regular) is outweighed by the dead weight of the many other characters surrounding them. I’ll allow that Rufus and Lily have some moments, but the show has always been about the kids, and the parental storylines have done little except to provide more fodder for the children’s dysfunction. And Nate and Georgina have never quite progressed past stereotype, either because the actors can’t provide it for the characters or the writers don’t know how to. Georgina, in particular, is incredibly grating in "Gone Maybe Gone," to the point of unwatchability.
So, yes: A few good characters caught in a terrible TV show, desperately trying to escape.
Serena is the first to take the plunge. She overdoses and then disappears without anyone noticing for four months. In her attempt to escape the clutches of Gossip Girl Serena changes her name to Sabrina, moves upstate, and attaches herself to a new boyfriend.
While her plan is underway, Blair and Chuck have bodice-ripping sex in Monte Carlo, but are mysteriously apart from each other four months later. The show will not allow them to consummate their love on-screen, so they plan to escape separately and then elope to Siberia, which is like the Upper East Side only upper, and easter. In the meantime Blair is coquettishly managing her mother’s fashion business in Paris, as far away from the show she could get without damaging her new heels. Chuck, in a twist on the Oedipal myth, hopes to change his name and get a new face so he, too, can die and then come back from the dead like his dearest father. And Dan is in Italy with Georgina, the farthest they could carry her ego before they had to stop. Their exit plans are all in place: Blair intends to use the corporate fashion ladder to clamber out of the show; Dan, his bestselling novel.
Everything was going marginally well until Lily Van Der Woodsen and Bart Bass walked into their house and realized no one had answered their mail. The mail! They had like a thousand packages! The Bass/Van Der Woodsens are single-handedly propping up the solvency of the U.S. Postal Service. So of course they needed their daughter to manage their mail! What are you, nuts? Then Lily observes that not only is the mail in a huge pile—but Serena hasn’t unpacked her boxes. Lily wonders when she last called her daughter. Or texted. Texting is what kids do these days, isn’t it? They’re always texting on that show Pretty Little Liars. Lily has neither texted nor called her daughter in several months, which, she points out to Bart, was not very responsible of her, because now who’s going to open all this mail?
As they are simply overwhelmed with the number of packages they’ve received, they start calling their daughter’s friends, wondering if any of them has seen their daughter. Tall, pretty, legs for days? Gone, maybe, gone? Blair is poised on the edge of a frame, hairband in one hand, sunglasses in the other. Chuck Bass is about to go under the knife. Dan and Georgina have just decided that Georgina’s baby is actually also Dan’s baby and they will flee to Albania to raise it together. ("Gone, Baby, Gone!!") But alas—the call, the call intercepts them. Nate is worried about Serena, too. Blair almost gets out of expressing rote sympathy, but her cute Parisian boyfriend buys her a ticket home. Dan refuses to leave Italy, smitten with his new baby, but Georgina insists that the plot must be honored, even if it costs them their lives. And slowly, dragging their feet, pulled by the dual threads of plot requirements and human decency, they trudge back into New York, and set about half-heartedly searching for a character that they have all, at some point or another, slept with, betrayed, or knocked up.
The rest is like a traumatic zombie movie. They find Serena and chant “one of us, one of us” until she releases her newfound, happy life, letting it drift into the wind, and drag her back to the monotonous Upper East Side, where she has never been happy and will likely never be happy, but at least they all have each other. Right? Right.
At least, that is their cover story until the next escape attempt.