What was it that drew us to “Gossip Girl” all those years ago? It was the show that defined scandal for a whole generation and continues to do so to this date. Over the years, we have reevaluated our love and hate for the characters over and over again. From wanting to be Serena van der Woodsen to seeing that Blair Waldorf made better sense, we have grown up. We remember thinking that Nate Archibald was the hottest but maybe the most boring character of the series, and we couldn’t wait to have our very own Chuck Bass. But all these years later, if we met them, we would prefer the sorted nature of Nate over the dangerous charm of Chuck. Dan Humphrey has redeemed himself as Joe Goldberg, and we don’t want to think of him as anything else.
When the news of the reboot dropped, we were so resistant to the idea of it. Because scandals that were exciting as teenagers feel tiresome as adults. We re-watched the original “Gossip Girl” for the guilty pleasure and nostalgia of it but watching a whole new set of characters make their story along similar lines felt like a different ballgame. Nevertheless, we tuned in, partly out of curiosity and partly because we got paid to do so. And we were pleasantly surprised. Our review would be that it lacks the zing of the old one. But the first season did hold up to a standard. Let us take a look at the events surrounding it.
The Upper East Side Of The Modern Era
The teenagers are rich and woke, and equally snooty in 2021. They have all just emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic and are ready to rule the world. On that note, there is a lot of talk about being on top and about a constant war of sorts, but we barely ever know what that means. The teachers are tired of being disregarded by the students, when they learn about Gossip Girl. They are told that she is what is used to keep them in check. Going through it all, a group of teachers, especially Kate Keller, Jordan Glassberg, and Wendy, come up with the idea to resurrect the online personality. Their first act as Gossip Girl is to reveal that Julien Calloway, the “it girl” and the “queen bee” of Constance, got her half-sister Zoya into the school by meddling with the scholarships. The two of them had been pretending not to be in touch with each other prior to this and found themselves in a difficult situation, Julien more so because Zoya had believed that she had gotten through on her own merit. Things get messier when Gossip Girl uploads a suggestive photograph of Obie and Zoya together. Triggered by all of this, Julien comes up with a plan to make it seem like she got back at Zoya. But it doesn’t work out as they planned because Julien’s minions send an inappropriate picture from Zoya’s phone to everyone in the audience, ultimately humiliating her. Zoya and Julien have an actual falling out over this due to the latter’s inaction. Even Obie breaks up with her, citing that she has changed. There is a bit of a love triangle that happens with Obie, Julien, and Zoya. It resolves itself when Julien realizes that she has indeed lost herself somewhere along the way, despite Obie’s attempts to reconnect with her. She decides not to interfere in Zoya and Obie’s blossoming relationship and, at the same time, stops Zoya from leaving the school, and they rekindle their friendship. You know, despite the optics of it, it was really insensitive to start dating your half-sister’s boyfriend the way Zoya did. But hey, it’s all in the interest of good gossip fodder.
In the meantime, Aki and Audrey, who are a resident couple of Constance, find their relationship tested by their growing attraction to Max, who is nothing if not Chuck Bass 2.0. But Chuck Bass was not just a guy who slept with anyone and everyone. He was intelligent and ruthless. Max is neither of those things. While the two are battling their attraction to Max and its effect on their relationship, Max is smitten by a teacher, Rafa Caparros. A wrench is thrown into his carefree life when he discovers and reveals that one of his dads is looking to have an affair outside of his marriage. Devastated, Max gets more and more reckless, but he is taken care of by Rafa with a strong guiding hand. Whatever we think of his actions after that, at that time, he did his duty as a teacher and an adult. After helping him get back home, Rafa and Max finally give in to their feelings and start their affair. By this time, Audrey has already slept with him, and Aki has kissed him. They know about this and are taking the time to figure out what it means for them. Meanwhile, Max comes to know that Rafa has a habit of dating minors, and realizing that he has, in fact, been untruthful to him, he breaks off their relationship. There is a lot more drama that happens, which is basically a series of times when Zoya and Julien get on each other’s nerves, the latter’s minions tell her to outsmart her at any cost, there being some major damage, and a public acknowledgment of feelings resolving it away. There is also a bit about Gossip Girl thinking over her responsibility in the wake of a mass shooting being triggered by her. But after some introspection, Kate decides that it isn’t her fault. She is not lying anywhere. It is the people who are not honest with each other, and hence, they create these situations for themselves. Going forward, she just decides to turn off the comments on her posts.
The next obstacles for the group include Audrey and Aki sleeping with Max and then struggling to find themselves as a couple. Zoya doesn’t get along with Obie’s parents, and he sleeps with Julien because he still has feelings for her. He also admits to loving Zoya. Such an unremarkable derivation of Nate Archibald, who actually happened to be a far more sorted person than this. Meanwhile, Max sends proof of his affair with Rafa to Gossip Girl, but Rafa deletes it. However, the teachers have already seen it. To protect himself, Rafa locks them out of the account. But Max confesses anyway, in front of everyone, causing Rafa to quit his job. Also, Zoya tells Julien that their relationship cannot recover from the betrayal of her having slept with Obie. But these were just the wishy-washy scandals so far. It’s time for the real ones, which happen when Davis, who is Julien’s father, is accused of sexual assault by Gossip Girl. Julien is initially reluctant to believe it, and even Kate is ousted from the account by the other teachers as they believe that she has lost her reason for it and is just causing a lot of damage. Eventually, Julien finds proof that her father had taken advantage of women when they were in an inebriated state. This prompts her to start seeking justice for them, but her efforts are constantly misinterpreted by Gossip Girl and everyone else as trying to silence the victims.
Things blow over with Max rejecting Aki and Audrey and Zoya losing her scholarship. Obie is also firmly rejected by Julien, and things are just a big mess with Davis also breaking up with Lola. Davis signs the major chunk of his wealth over to Julien, and there is some serious drama that follows with her guardianship, which jeopardizes both her and Zoya’s position in the school and the city. However, Kate, Jordan, and Wendy have regained control over Gossip Girl, and they post a list of all the sources they have received tips from all this time. This causes chaos to break out, with people refusing to engage with Gossip Girl anymore. Also, Obie has a new girlfriend, so Monet and Luna scheme to break them up, which ends with Obie firing at Julien that they have ended without any chance of turning things around. Davis gives Nick a loan so that he can stay back in the city. This would benefit both him and Julien. Nick is hesitant to do this but seeing no other way, he agrees. Kate criticizes him for it, but there is not much she can do. Max agrees to try a three-way relationship with Aki and Audrey, with some encouragement from Luna. “Gossip Girl” Season 1 ends with Julien entering a partnership with Gossip Girl, where she agrees to send her the occasional tip-off so that she can be relevant again. Kate, aka Gossip Girl, agrees, but she has learned from her experiences. She would collaborate with Julien, however, with a condition of her own.
Final Thoughts: What Works For ‘Gossip Girl’ Season 1?
We would say that while it was a good season, it is better viewed without the shadow of the original series. Yes, that is a ridiculous expectation since what is the point otherwise? But that is just how it is. There is a whole thing about Julien being the “queen,” but she just doesn’t feel like it. Is it the actor, or is it the way she is written? And why is she the queen? Is she a popular influencer, or for some other reason? Some clarity would have spiced it all up, which is exactly what we wanted when we tuned into the show. A lot of it we could still digest, but we just can’t handle the watered-down Chuck Bass that is Max Wolfe. Also, does anybody else feel that this series keeps missing the opportunity to discuss the politics of “class passing”? It is just touching on the topic, but there is so much to explore there that it just won’t do. Either way, we are waiting for the second season just to see if it can live up to something from the original. Until then, rewatching the original “Gossip Girl” seems like the best idea.