Gossip Girl 2021 aired its second episode on Thursday, and it kicks up the modern-day take on the show to a whole other level. While the show’s first two episodes have caused quite the controversy amongst O.G. Gossip Girl fans, there is a lot to love about it.
This week’s episode, “She’s Having a Maybe,” starts parent-teacher conferences at Constance Billard/St Jude’s, meaning the teenagers will be unsupervised for the night. Much like in the original series, the kids frequently drink at a private club. The unrealistic nature of Gossip Girl is what made the show so fascinating to watch. The adaptation to the modern-day show’s teens are now trying to achieve Kaia Gerber or Lily-Rose Depp levels of fame as the children of wealthy people.
Julien (Jordan Alexander) is still recovering from last week’s breakup with Obie (Eli Brown) as well as the rivalry brewing between Julien and her half-sister Zoya (Whitney Peak). Zoya and Julien originally intended to get Zoya to Constance so they could spend time together, but the secret is that Julien rigged Zoya’s scholarship. Unfortunately, the teachers’ creation of the new Gossip Girl pits the two girls against each other, with Obie and Queen Bee’s spot as the prize.
Unlike the original show, the kids don’t quietly expect the teachers to guide them to the Ivy Leagues—they demand it. The teachers recreating Gossip Girl as a way to keep them in line is the most unrealistic part of the show, which says a lot.
Julien is nervous about Obie and Zoya getting together but dismisses the possibility of it happening, still not believing that she and Obie are entirely through. Her friends Monet (Savannah Lee Smith) and Luna (Zion Moreno) demand that she take her stance, mainly when Gossip Girl posts a picture of Obie and Zoya outside of her apartment talking. After Obie tells Julien he would sleep rather than talk about their relationship, her minions decide to repost an old photo of Julien and Obie discrediting Gossip Girl and sending her fans after her.
Meanwhile, at the same party, Max (Thomas Doherty), the new Chuck Bass, is attempting to seduce Rafa Caparros (Jason Gotay), the teacher who has a reputation for hooking up. Unlike Chuck Bass, Max has an equal interest in all parties willing since he is pansexual. Since today’s teens are more likely to be opened-minded about sexuality, this update from the original show is refreshing .
The kids go to school the next day, discussing the fundraiser for underfunded schools. The girls see this as the opportunity to get back at Zoya and convince Julien to try and trade information on Zoya in exchange for verifying Gossip Girl’s Instagram.
Alongside the main Obie/Julien/Zoya plotline, Audrey (Emily Alyn Lind) and her boyfriend Aki (Evan Mock) deal with the pressures of their relationship and Audrey’s complicated relationship with her mother. Audrey is conflicted about what she wants out of life, mimicking Blaire’s journey in the original show’s first season.
Zoya and her father Nick (Johnathan Fernandez) also attend the charity fundraiser even though they are Humphrey surrogates. Nick wants to keep a close eye on her after discovering that her scholarship could be on the line, but it appears it could also have to do with the dirt Gossip Girl dug up on Zoya—that she was kicked out of her last school.
At the fundraiser, multiple plots intersect. Max pursues his teacher throughout the whole episode, even wrapping Aki up into his plans, making out with him, causing some tension between the two and the possibility of a throuple with Audrey as all three are interested in each other. Audrey struggles to keep her drunken mother in check and fails to see there could be anything wrong beyond the drinking. Audrey’s complete ignorance of her mother’s struggles grounds the show in teen drama. Unlike the original, the reboot tries to go more politically centralized, with its main characters being activists and influencers.
Obie attempts to court Zoya further at the fundraiser, wanting to have a date where they can’t be found. Trying to control the situation, Julien tries to lead both of their dads into finding the two together to get Zoya kicked out of Constance by her dad and lose her scholarship by Julien’s dad.
The most surprising twist in a drama show is Julien changing her mind about turning on her sister after seeing how happy Zoya and Obie are together. The couple blows his family money on school supplies for kids, and Julien recognizes that Zoya has a shared passion for helping others, and Obie can enjoy those things with her like Julien never could.
Julien’s acceptance of their relationship is the most surprising twist because it directly goes against what Gossip Girl expects. More than ever, teenagers care more about the consequences of their actions, as seen in the Black Lives Matter movement and Environmental activism, both topics already addressed by the show only two episodes in.
Although the thought was there, Julien’s actions already brought consequences, as Nick took Zoya home after being told that Zoya had left without her dad’s permission. Back at the fundraiser, after escorting her drunken mother home, Audrey gets into a fight with her boyfriend Aki, saying, “I need a partner, not a peacemaker.”
Finishing the episode, Zoya is about to withdraw from Constance with her dad when Julien convinces her to stay and get a redo on their sisterhood.
The show so far is shaping up to be very different than the original. While I think it’s impossible not to call it Gossip Girl, it has an entirely different vibe, putting more of an emphasis on the idea of “new money,” even if some of the families could be old money. The show still needs time to flesh out its identity, but it can make significant commentary on the development of the modern rich teenager.
Gossip Girl airs episodes Thursdays on HBO Max.