‘Gossip Girl’ Returns: Where We Left the Upper East Siders

Whitney Peak - Gossip Girl
Karolina Wojtasik/HBO Max

Welcome back, Gossip Girl followers. The teen drama is returning with Season 2 on December 1, almost exactly a year after the Season 1 finale started streaming on HBO Max.

If you need a crash course on the latest Constance Billard chaos — or if you haven’t even seen HBO Max’s reboot of the original CW series — here’s what went down in Gossip Girl Season 1.

The new Gossip Girl picks up nearly a decade after the original left off, but this time, the anonymous tattler exposing secrets at the tony Constance Billard isn’t a student. It’s a cohort of faculty members led by English teacher Kate Keller (Tavi Gevinson), who resurrected Gossip Girl as an Instagram account to turn the tables on the private school’s spoiled students. One of the revived Gossip Girl’s first reveals is that popular Constance Billard student and influencer Julien Calloway (Jordan Alexander) paid to get her half-sister, Zoya Lott (Whitney Peak), admitted to the school.

Julien and Zoya, who share a long-since deceased mother, formed a secret friendship under the noses of their respective fathers, Davis Calloway (Luke Kirby) and Nick Lott (Johnathan Fernandez). Davis and Nick have had bad blood ever since that mom, Marion, cheated on Davis with Nick and Davis blocked Nick from attending Zoya’s birth. That meant Nick didn’t get a chance to see Marion before she died shortly after childbirth.

After Julien and Zoya’s bribing scandal, the sisters’ relationship is strained even further when Zoya starts dating Julien’s ex Obie Bergmann (Eli Brown). But Obie doesn’t know what he wants. On one momentous day — the same day that he attends a protest of his parents’ real estate developments — Obie cheats on Zoya with Julien.

Understandably, Zoya and Julien have their ups and downs throughout the Season 1, but Zoya eventually gets her dad to house Julien after Davis faces rape allegations from women who say they were too intoxicated to give him consent. Julien investigates those claims, hoping to help the alleged victims, but her efforts backfire when a Gossip Girl post makes it seem like she’s trying to silence one of her father’s accusers. Zoya helps with Julien’s investigation — around the same time that she finds a new best friend, Shan Barnes (Grace Duah).

Meanwhile, onetime power couple Aubrey Hope (Emily Alyn Lind) and Aki Menzies (Evan Mock) both catch feelings for their friend Max Wolfe (Thomas Doherty) — who, for his part, strikes up a relationship with teacher Rafa Caparros (Jason Gotay). Once Aubrey and Aki learn of each other’s infidelity, Aki tells her he thinks he’s bisexual, and they explore opening their relationship, even sleeping with Max together. Despite his playboy ways, Max is devoted to both Aubrey and Aki — and he’s hurt when he concludes that they only use him for sex.

Aubrey, meanwhile, has to play parent to her mother, Kiki Hope (Laura Benanti), whose alcoholism has sidetracked her fashion career and put her and Aubrey in financial peril. And Aubrey isn’t the only one with parent issues: Max is heartbroken when his dads, Gideon Wolfe (Todd Almond) and Roy Sachs (John Benjamin Hickey), go their separate ways. After Aubrey and Aki show up for him amid his dads’ divorce, Max agrees to join them in a throuple.

Along the way, Kate struggles with her role as Gossip Girl, especially after she gives other teachers admin privileges on the Instagram account. Rafa, for example, blackmails the other teachers into digging up dirt on Max, who’s threatening to go public with their affair. (But that threat passes when Max ‘fesses up about his and Rafa’s sexual relationship over a fateful Thanksgiving dinner.) Later, Kate’s colleagues oust her from the Gossip Girl account when she starts to get closer to Nick. Kate eventually wrangles back control of the account, however, and Season 1 ends with her making some sort of deal with Julien, who has lost her social status and is facing an existential threat from consigliere-turned-rival Monet de Hawn (Savannah Lee Smith). Now Julien wants to take Gossip Girl down, reclaim her throne, and “change the world.”

And that’s Season 1 for you. Until next recap, XOXO!

Gossip Girl, Season 2 Premiere, Thursday, December 1, HBO Max