Gossip Girl returns where she left off in season one with new drama, new faces and a new queen bee.
Gossip Girl makes a bold attempt in its' second season to correct a lot of criticism that the first season had, such as its social justice grandstanding and its overarching attempt to appeal to Gen-Z. This season is a lot more fun and reminiscent of the original series, but it does not change fast enough to have any lasting impact on its ultimate fate.
Season 2 begins where the first left off, with the gang in the Hamptons for New Year's and making their way back to the city. Julien's (Jordan Alexander) weird partnership with Gossip Girl, where she fed her real and fake tips, is short-lived. Julien moves in with Zoya (Whitney Peak) and her father, Nick (Johnathan Fernandez), after Julien's father is outed as a sexual predator. Audrey (Emily Alyn Lind), Aki (Evan Mock) and Max (Thomas Doherty) are fully in a thruple (three-way-couple). And Monet (Savannah Lee Smith) is determined to take Julien's role as Queen Bee of their school.
The best part of the season for me was Monet's rise to power. The character was so on the peripheral last season that it's infuriating to know that they could have had something great much sooner. What the series was missing was a Blair Waldorf character that is so deliciously bitchy but still vulnerable at points that you can't help but root for her, and Monet was that. However, her reign was short-lived, and I was disappointed at how easily she was defeated. Even though Blair's reign went through lulls, she was never truly defeated, and you always knew she would come back stronger. Monet does not quite have that luxury, and perhaps Julien is not a strong enough contender to fight Monet for the role of Queen Bee. But while Julien fits neatly into the Serena van der Woodsen role of influencer who thinks she's a better person than she actually is, what Monet needed was her own Jenny Humphrey. The series also further explored Monet's complicated relationship with her mother Camille (Amanda Warren), which was also reminiscent of Blair in a better parallel than the series tried to do with Audrey last season. There was also a hint of a queer romantic storyline for Monet, but that also fizzled out fast.
Julien's other right-hand woman Luna (Zion Moreno), also got more screen time this season, but barely. We learn more about her own relationship with her mother, and she gets a love interest and an exciting future. However, she deserved more. As one of the more interesting characters, and the fact that Moreno is magnetic every time she's onscreen, the writers should have played to their strengths and put Luna front and centre alongside Monet.
This season also felt more fun and reminiscent of the original series in that way. While the first season was very focused on cementing itself as a self-aware and politically correct series, season two embraces the messiness of focusing on a group of rich Manhattan kids. Every episode features an event that they dress lavishly for, which ultimately ends in a dramatic showdown. It's campy, it's over–the–top, and it is well done. The show also moves fast this season with different plot lines, love interests and chaos, which makes it more entertaining and engrossing.
However, not all plotlines are made equal, and some seem to lag, especially the dreaded teachers. All the storylines about the adults were uninteresting, but none bothered me more than Gossip Girl. This was an obvious weak point last season, and it seems as if the writers doubled down on it this season, even giving Kate (Tavi Gevinson) a backstory and numerous love interests; none of these made her less insufferable, though. Every scene with the teachers and their asinine quest to use Gossip Girl to 'make the students better' felt like a waste of screen time that could have gone to a more interesting character. Even the legendary Georgina Sparks (Michelle Trachtenberg) could not make this storyline more watchable.
And even though my biggest gripe of the season was that the writers did not learn that the teacher storyline could have been elevated to pop culture iconic status, some of the teen storylines also felt a bit messy.
Obie (Eli Brown), Julien's love interest, was again on a side quest, this time to take down his mother's corrupt business. This character was a weak point of the first season and was just as weak here and could have been written out, and it would not have affected the main story. The thruple between Max, Audrey and Aki was done well in that it showed a relatively healthy thruple onscreen, but the weekly drama became repetitive and frankly boring at times.
The biggest disappointment for me as the news of Gossip Girl's cancellation was announced was that it seemed as if the show was just shaping up to be what it could have been. If it simply pruned the edges and made use of their available talents, it could have truly been something great. They already had all the ingredients; they were just mixing them up in the wrong way. Less adult drama, more leaning into the teen chaos that made the original what it was.
Cast: Jordan Alexander, Whitney Peak, Tavi Gevinson, Eli Brown
Our rating: 3/5 Stars
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE: