The Gossip Girl reboot has started its journey into irrelevancy. Struggling under the weight of the original Gossip Girl’s legacy, the season continues to drag on and flop back and forth between trying to demonstrate both “woke” and “cringe-worthy” teenagers.
The “Fire Walks with Z” takes place on Zoya’s (Whitney Peak) 15th birthday. While most other teenage girls would be excited about the prospect of a birthday in New York City, Zoya is particularly down—her and Julien’s mother died due to complications from Lupus and childbirth. The explanation is rather vague, and the opportunity to capitalize on bonding between the sisters after deciding to call a truce in last week’s episode is dismissed for bringing up the stale drama between the two sisters.
Zoya made it particularly clear to Julien (Jordan Alexander) that she doesn’t want her life and wants to be a socially conscious teenager with her new boyfriend rather than a Queen Bee. The series writers seem to try to be creating a Blair and Serena-level rivalry between Zoya and Julien but considering they are actual blood relatives, it doesn’t have the same ending because the girls are family. Repeating the same drama between the two girls, at this point, has become stale and a disappointment to see.
Throughout the episode, the two girls are pitted against each other by Gossip Girl. The feud is orchestrated mainly by Julien’s friends Monet (Savannah Lee Smith) and Luna La (Zion Moreno), seeking to reattain Julien’s spot on top, even though it hasn’t faltered beyond Obie (Eli Brown) and Julien breaking up.
The episode also falters under the weight of who Gossip Girl is. The teachers have become increasingly problematic acting as Gossip Girl. Ringleader Kate Keller (Tati Gevinson) attempts to get published, but by becoming too caught up in her role as Gossip Girl, she finds herself unable to focus on her career as a writer. Besides the absolute ridiculousness of a teacher being so distracted by the teenage drama that she ignores her aspirations, the teachers restarted Gossip Girl to make their careers easier. Still, they don’t prioritize their teaching careers. If the group of teachers did have a passion for teaching, it would make sense to try and fight against the nepotism presence at Constance/St Jude’s, but Kate is trying to escape her job, so why terrorize a bunch of kids?
Kate Keller also allows her teacher friends to take the leading reins on Gossip Girl, but they seem to take just a little bit too much enjoyment in ruining a girl’s relationship with her sister and her birthday. Wendy (Megan Ferguson) and Jordan (Adam Chanler-Berat) try to aid in the feud between Julien and Zoya, hoping to distract the kids from being rude to their teachers. The overall point of Gossip Girl in the show doesn’t feel centralized in the same way the original did.
Gossip Girl as a concept is a petty child’s creation, so when adults are substituted into the role, it loses the selfish motivation from Gossip Girl—fame. If the show’s creators had had Monet and Luna take the part of Gossip Girl, it would make sense for them to be directly attacking Zoya so much, as Julien’s career and success are directly linked to their own as they are a part of their entourage. The people behind a celebrity often try to orchestrate the success of their fame, so the modern take on Gossip Girl would be to try and create a level of infamy.
The episode’s pinnacle of stupidity comes from Julien using the footage of Zoya tagging the walls of her old school only to be locked into a science room and taunted by her supposed friends for being a “mother killer.” The cruelty of playing such a video as Zoya’s sister is played a little too clean.
Julien is horrified by what unfolds on screen and launches into a speech about how she is a bully and wants to be held accountable, asking for the crowd of people at the party to record her. Both a publicity stunt in itself, the whole scene comes off kind of repulsive as the two sisters make up after Julien just humiliated her in public. The entire plot involving the sisters is bizarre as the only important part is the possible eviction of Zoya and her father Nick(Johnathan Fernandez) due to Monet and Luna making the Co-op Board aware of their illegal renting. How Zoya could even forgive this or look over Julien’s friend’s part in this is insane.
Side plots of this episode included Audrey (Emily Alyn Lind) trying to determine if her boyfriend Aki (Evan Mock) is secretly gay and trying to figure out if she has been cheating. In the last episode, the pair seemed to forgive each other for cheating with Max Wolfe (Thomas Doherty). Still, they seemed to have circled back to a more conservative way of thinking after Audrey and Aki appeared to accept the other’s exploration of sexuality.
Audrey seems to forget that Max is pansexual since he was attracted to Audrey and Aki and almost seems to be ashamed of Aki’s possible homosexuality. Rather than talking to each other, they talk to their friends and don’t communicate till the end of the episode. Their plotline is a setback in their character development and doesn’t make sense for the progressiveness they seem to represent.
The biggest of the mistakes made in this episode is the plotline surrounding Max Wolfe and his teacher Rafa Caparros (Jason Gotay). Throughout the episode, Max engages in risky behavior and self-medicates to deal with his pain. While Max is a user, he’s responding to his role in his dads’ separation.
Rafa chooses to comfort Max personally, despite knowing that he has feelings for him. In the episode’s final moments, he decides to sleep with him, even after rejecting him previously. Choosing to sleep with Max makes Rafa a predator. Not only is there a power dynamic in their relationship as student and teacher, but because Rafa was fully aware of the vulnerable state Max. Given that the show is trying to market itself as conscious of the social world that rich teenagers live in, you’d think it wouldn’t try and display a controversial relationship, but alas, no.
Overall, the episode fails to lead the show in more engaging directions, opting for confusing takes on contemporary issues and repetitive storylines.
Gossip Girl drops new episodes every Thursday on HBO Max.