Gossip Girl 3.1, “Reversals of Fortune”

In this episode: Serena swings back into town, daddy issues intact; Blair & Chuck play games to spice up their relationship, just like an old married couple; Dan’s uncomfortable telling Vanessa about how awesome being rich is; Vanessa’s new beau has a secret birth certificate and a burning desire . . . to meet Rufus; Nate starts seeing Brie Buckley–but will this relationship end up hurting her?

Gossip Girl, how I’ve missed you! Things got a little shaky in the middle of last season, but you’re back, and I’m back, and I need you. I’ve never been more envious of your setting and the lifestyle you depict. I love your 6-Act episode structure–it’s like getting a whole episode of plot, and then a bonus section. I love your naked display of wealth. I love your commercials for fixing “inadequate or not enough lashes.” And I love Serena Van der Woodsen, a character who’s of our time, but is also worthy of Antonioni. It’s not just that Blake Lively resembles Monica Vitti, star of L’Avventura and L’Eclisse. Her character also displays the same weariness of the modern world, and embarks on similar searches for meaning. Am I reaching here? Okay, I am reaching, but you should try it–it’s fun.

On this more than maybe any other show, the status quo is the enemy. This war against the status quo creates interesting tugs between and within the multiple generations depicted on the show. Before we can even be introduced to the new order of things, we’re seeing it undermined. Lily and Rufus have combined their families, but Lily’s still away, Dan’s still protective of Serena in a way that doesn’t quite feel brotherly, and Serena is being pulled in multiple directions. Plus, their family is not quite complete . . . yet. Blair and Chuck are together, but they enjoy playing games that put their relationship in jeopardy–in Serena’s words, they’ve gone “from Jane Austen to Anais Nin.”  And Nate’s trying to navigate his way to adulthood, if his family will let him.

That said, tonight’s episode wasn’t quite firing on all cylinders. It contained little of the divine screwball communication breakdowns that mark the show’s high points. And I’m worried that Nate’s been banished to his own little island of plot. But marvel at how they handle the last two acts! In Act V we see false resolutions–Nate and Brie agree to a secret relationship, and Serena admits to Carter why she’s acting out–both sealed with kisses. This being Gossip Girl, there’s zero chance Nate and Brie will be able to keep this thing under wraps–the pleasure comes from finding out how. Nate’s grandfather gets the ball rolling, making an ominous phone call about damaging the Buckleys. Similarly, Carter is able to stabilize Serena, but we know that Dan and Blair both still think he’s bad news, and that Serena isn’t ready to give up on contacting her dad. Then we’re thrown a false complication–it seems like Chuck might be cheating on Blair for real.

Act VI quickly dispatches the false complication, and throws in some additional real problems. After one episode, there are several plot threads all up in the air, all promising to explode at some point. And we haven’t even started college yet!

Here’s the breakdown:

Will Serena finally reach her dear old dad? Will she continue to have a secret relationship with Carter? Can Dan adjust to his newfound wealth? How much of the Good Life will Rufus be able to stand? How and when will Jenny get her comeuppance? What’s Scott up to? How will Vanessa deal with his deception? How will Nate’s grandfather expose the secret relationship with Brie? Will Brie be able to fix things up with her family?

That’s a lot of plot to chew. Add these important meta-questions:

Will GG be able to continue toeing the line between displaying luxury and rubbing our faces in it during an extended recession? College is the graveyard for many a high-school-themed show–will GG be different? How will the show navigate the third-year bug of new writers and recycled plots?

Can one show balance all of this? I doubt it, but I want to find out.

1 Response to “Gossip Girl 3.1, “Reversals of Fortune””

  1. 1 ashleygillblog September 15, 2009 at 11:25 am

    Oh how I miss watching GG with you. I’d say I was a little more disappointed with the premiere than you, but you’ve got me on the road to reevaluating my moodiness.

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