Today’s subject: The long-running CW series Gossip Girl, whose two-hour series finale is scheduled to air Monday, December 17th. Rather than endure a potentially lethal double dosage, I’ll be watching last Monday’s penultimate episode called “The Revengers”. I presume this episode will not contain a single reference to the obscure 1980s Neal Adams/Continuity Studios comic book of the same name.
What I knew beforehand: Rich, promiscuous, young adults in upscale Manhattan are plagued by the menace of an anonymous blogger who writes annoying things. The stars of the show are Blake Lively (Green Lantern, The Town) and some actor name Chace, which may or may not be pronounced “Chachi”. That’s literally all I know off the top of my head.
Why I hadn’t tried it before: I go to great lengths to avoid the subgenre of young-adult softcore soap opera. But a reader suggestion is a reader suggestion.
The above intro was written before pressing “play”. And then this happened.
How it all went down, with SPOILERS: Let me see if I’ve accurately reconstructed events from previous episodes based solely on the recap and exposition woven into the dialogue: main character Serena (the aforementioned Lively) was a powerful Manhattan socialite until a scraggly screenwriter named Daniel Humphrey published an exposé about the unflattering parts of her life, whatever those were. Daniel was secretly hoping this would lead to romance between them. Because he can’t figure out women or Stalking Basics 101, Serena now can’t show her face around town as much. She’s so bummed that she’s planning to move permanently to L.A., even though that would end the series. She has yet to tell her best friend Blair, who owns an atelier, which I had to look up, even though I clobbered someone with that word in Words with Friends last week. (True story. I’d heard the word elsewhere before, but couldn’t use it in a sentence. Now I’m prepared.)
Blair is the girlfriend of a smarmy guy named Chuck Bass, who looks like an evil trust-fund baby and speaks in the raspy Batman/Wolverine tough-guy voice that too many good guys use today. Chuck is not evil at this time, but his father, Bart, is this season’s Big Bad. Bart Bass is no relation to Big Mouth Billy Bass, but is played by Robert John Burke, best known to me as the titular star of Robocop III. Bart is an oil tycoon whom Chuck and his friends are trying to have arrested because of numerous unspecified evils. I assume everything he knows was taught to him by J.R. Ewing.
Serena, Chuck, and Blair have another friend named Nate, who is pretending to work for Bart as a mole to give him insider info about Chuck so that Bart can ruin his own son. Nate ran a newspaper called The Spectator, which Bart now owns because of evil.
The elusive Gossip Girl herself is referenced but not seen, present only as a narrator with all the charm and wit of a snobby Crypt-Keeper.
That’s as up-to-speed as I was brought. This episode, then, went approximately as follows, summarized without fact-checking or self-educating from online resources:
Blair dreams she and Chuck are married and enjoying a night at a Mad Men restaurant where the MC invites them onstage to pass an orange between them using only their chins. Bart steps in and intercepts the orange with his own evil chin. Blair awakens in terror because stuff with Bart just got real. She and Chuck enlist the help of the despondent Serena to help recruit past associate Ivy, who’s now living in exile outside the show, but who possesses microfilm that incriminates Bart for offshore holding account shenanigans. We’re also told Ivy once spent time with Bart perpetrating “topless antics”. I don’t need to know more.
Just as Nate joins them for secret plotting drinks at the Oak Room, police arrive to arrest Nate for fraud. See, Bart pulled corrupt-police strings to have Nate arrested because he knew that Nate was only pretending to work for him while working for Chuck, when in fact Nate never stopped working for Chuck, and was actually pretending to work for Bart while pretending to pretend-work for Chuck. It’s the old triple-agent reverse-pretend trick! But Nate finds that a spacious interrogation room is the perfect setting for a reunion with his estranged dad, to whom Nate confesses he actually did cook some numbers on his newspaper’s behalf. However, Nate won’t be released anytime soon because Bart has the police commissioner and a judge in his pocket, not because of the fraud he just confessed to committing.
Tired of having Chuck as a thorn in his side, Bart also has a solution for that: he has Blair’s town car stolen and threatens vague harm to her, and extended incarceration for criminal Nate, unless Chuck agrees to move to Moscow immediately. In a tearful scene of parting, Chuck and Blair share one last kiss and a remembrance of how they’ll always have Paris or whatever other fancier places they’ve visited, and Chuck is flown away in a Bart Bass Evil Airlines plane.
Meanwhile, writer Daniel goes apartment shopping in Serena’s building with Dawn Summers, sister of Buffy, who’s now named Georgina and is his pretentious agent. She loves bidets and thinks all other NYC boroughs are beneath her. However, this particular upper-upper-upper-class apartment with garish color scheme requires a personal reference from humanity’s upper echelons. Daniel approaches Bart because the show has no other powerful adults over 30. In exchange for an apartment reference, Daniel agrees to write an evil puff-piece profile about Bart, in a manner similar to that episode of The Simpsons where Marge had to paint a portrait of Mr. Burns.
After a protracted discussion in which a metaphor involving Byzantine goat appropriation is beaten into the ground, all the female characters gather together — Serena, Blair, Ivy, Georgina, and a fifth young lady who joins the episode from nowhere and whose name is never mentioned — to concoct an I Love Lucy sort of scheme to attack Bart’s conscience and/or dig for tattletale evidence while he’s guest of honor at a shindig anointing him New York Real Estate 2012 Man of the Year. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Party Dress split up and perform their parts: Serena says something snotty to Bart. Ivy brings him a drink on a tray and shows him one of many copies of the microfilm. Girl Five keeps prank-calling Bart with a phone belonging to some dead guy named Bruce Caplan. Blair runs and fetches still another young lady named Iman, whose father he done wronged. Bart protests this last step because her father was a saint.
The Sisterhood’s scheme is temporarily derailed when a well-timed news report playing on a convenient nearby laptop (as if it were an old TV in a 1970s crime drama) announces that Chuck’s plane is missing and probably exploded. While the laptop distracts Blair, Serena is distracted by Daniel, who still thinks he has a shot at wooing her, or at least convincing her to stay in Manhattan and save the series. She calls him “worse than Gossip Girl” and decides now is the perfect time to drop everything and fly to L.A. immediately.
His work obviously done there, Daniel takes the main stage and announces a very special guest speaker at the shindig: Chuck Bass! Even though we saw him board the plane, he’s alive and here because of magical reasons. Chuck begins a tirade at the mic about dear ol’ Evil Dad when Evil Security escorts him offstage before he can get to the really good parts, such as hard evidence of Bart’s wrongdoing instead of what basically ends up as slander. Bart assures the crowd that Chuck is just a spoiled junkie falling off the wagon again, and leaves his party to go give the li’l rapscallion a good lecture. Bart is momentarily stopped in his tracks by Nate and his dad. Nate has been allowed to leave jail because of magical reasons.
Serena has time for one last conversation with Blair, who’s just now learned of Serena’s cowardice from big-mouth Daniel. Serena wants to go reinvent herself on the west coast, which sounds more like the actress talking than the character. Blair tells her, “Reinvention is for starlets from trailer parks who want to be you.” Apparently Serena really is a major someone in New York, or perhaps Blair is prone to too much hyperbole in her flattery.
Daniel also tries to intervene in Serena’s departure, blissfully unaware that he’s still an unhelpful, two-faced dolt who wasn’t instantly redeemed just because he played Ed McMahon to Chuck’s Johnny Carson for all of ten seconds. Daniel watches Serena exit their swank apartment building and jams a manila envelope full of Series Finale Plot Device in one of her multiple suitcases.
Blair ascends to the roof of the NYREMotY party HQ, where she finds Chuck and Bart having one last Bass family confab, full of accusations and sneering and idle threats. The rooftop has the shortest safety rails of any rooftop in Manhattan. The conversation predictably devolves into a two-swing fistfight: Chuck connects with Bart’s face; Bart’s swing-and-a-miss carries him past Chuck and over the edge. Bart grabs the rail with both hands and pleads with Chuck to save his life. Chuck is all “Ew, no!” and watches Evil Dad plummet to his clumsy doom. Chuck and Blair agree it’s time to run away. To be concluded!
Judge’s summation: Considering I walked in on episode 120 of 121, I was surprised how well I was able to follow along. Some of the acting was cheesier than I’m used to seeing in the shows I prefer. Plot contrivances are already noted above. I was annoyed by the swell of 1980s TV-drama horns during the short showdown between Papa Bass and Baby Bass. I thought it odd that such an ostensibly modern show would craft its MacGuffins from dinosaur tech such as microfilm, newspapers, and broadcast TV news. And I really can’t relate to a show in which a character yells in all seriousness, “I have to go back to the atelier!” In a few spots, I suspected this was more of a soap opera parody along the lines of Soap or Fresno, especially every single time Georgina spoke.
That being said: honestly, this wasn’t any worse than the last CW series I followed, Smallville. It’s not high art, but I can see how this flavor of cheese might be well received by the younger clientele at five-star restaurants. It reminded me of shows my mother used to watch such as Dallas and Falcon Crest. I’m not convinced that’s a good thing.
Monday night’s series finale promises to reveal Gossip Girl’s true identity at last. I won’t be watching, but I may check for spoilers on Tuesday. My totally uninformed guess: Gossip Girl is Lily. I have no idea who Lily is, but she’s mentioned more than once in this episode. In many a whodunit, authors tend to keep the guilty party offstage for as much as possible during the later acts of the story, so that when they reemerge from nowhere to reveal their guilt, we’re meant to be all the more surprised. Based on the available scant evidence I have here, this mysterious “Lily” fits the bill perfectly. Remember, folks, you heard it here first!
[The MCC Request Line is open! If you know of something worth viewing or reading — whether large or small, independent or mega-corporate, famous or new start-up — or if there’s a sad travesty out there that demands closer examination, feel free to let me know by email, Comments, or the official MCC Facebook page!]