Can’t Miss Episode of the Week: ‘Gossip Girl’ Is a Delicious Teen Drama
Welcome to our weekly column Can’t Miss Episode of the Week! Every Saturday we’ll be spotlighting a different episode of television from that week that we thought was exceptional and a must-see. Check back to see if your favorite show got the nod — or to learn about a new one!
Spotted: A new iteration of the 2007-12 hit CW teen drama is now streaming on HBO Max. The Gossip Girl revival dropped its first episode on Thursday, July 8, and we’re already begging for more. While I’ve been one of the many cynics saying “Why do we need to bring back this show?” I can’t deny that I found every minute of the premiere of this over the top series about Upper East Side teens to be absolutely delicious. Best of all, the show knows it needs to bring something new to the table to justify its existence. Sure, there’s a new Gossip Girl, now making her scandalous reveals on Instagram instead of a blog, but the twist is that this time we know who’s behind the account…and it’s a teacher.
Unlike the original, which teased its mystery out until the very end, this episode cuts right to the chase as English teacher Kate Keller (Tavi Gevinson, a former teen blogger herself) and her band of struggling teachers decide to create a new Gossip Girl account to get back control over their students. It’s true, the reasoning behind their decision to report on their students is flawed. It’s not believable that students are going to suddenly behave and be engaged in their studies because they’re afraid of what Gossip Girl might say about them. The subtext, however, that the show is weaving is much more interesting, and speaks to the core of what Gossip Girl has always been about.
The original series wrapped up with these sage words from GG herself, “There will always be someone on the outside wanting to get in.” Kate remarks earlier in the episode that she was careful to pick out an outfit she thought her rich, fashion-forward students would like (or at least not hate), and blushes like a schoolgirl receiving a compliment from her crush when queen-bee Julien (Jordan Alexander) says she likes her jacket. She’s been craving acceptance from this world, and now she has them hanging on her every word.
If all of this sounds a little silly, a little ridiculous, that’s okay. The soap-operatics of the franchise have always been that way, and that’s what makes it fun. There are some things that have been updated for the current era. While socially conscious Obie (Eli Brown) is a little too cookie cutter, bad-boy Max (Thomas Doherty) is as much of a playboy as Chuck Bass, but with a taste for all genders. Julien’s best friend Audrey (the alluring Emily Alyn Lind) sets herself apart from one-dimensional mean girls Luna (Zion Moreno) and Monet (Savannah Lee Smith) — Blaire’s minions were just as flat — as a fully fleshed out character trying to figure out what she wants. And unlike Blaire Waldorf, Julien is actually kind (or she tries to be), making the thorny relationship she has with half-sister Zoya (Whitney Peak) more complex than the Blaire-Serena rivalry ever was.
All of this is to say that teenage drama is as alive and well as ever on the show, but now with insight into those running the account, as Kate endeavors to be as iconic as the original GG. Luckily, there is no end to the secrets hidden in the designer-filled walk-in closets of her high society students. We’ll be tuning in every week to hear them all.
Other observations that we thought made this episode stand out:
- Thank goodness Kristen Bell has returned. Her cheeky voiceovers as Gossip Girl breathe life into the show, and give it that signature GG feel.
- Doherty steals every scene with his playful expressions and drawling tone. He knows exactly what kind of show he’s in. His entanglement with on-the-rocks couple Aki (Evan Mock) and Audrey is also far more interesting than the predictable love triangle developing between Obie, Julien and Zoya.
- The show is beautifully shot and the clothes are to die for and half the draw, which is essential if you’re going to be doing a show about the glamorous Manhattan elite.