Gossip Girl (2021) hits its lowest point so far, sidelining an enlightening plot line about depression in the modern-day for a completely irrelevant story about social blade and Halloween costumes in this week’s episode.
The episode, titled “Hope Sinks,” starts with a small recap of the last episode, implying that in the wake of Julien’s (Jordan Alexander) “I’m a bully” speech, she has decided to become close with little sister Zoya (Whitney Peak) and leave behind her influencer schedule (and it’s not like Julien hasn’t made that decision every episode.) The two girls attempt to outdo the popular girls from a rival school whose social blade had gained more relevance through a Beyonce and Solange reference that the girls would have been in elementary school when it happened.
The severe tone applied to the Halloween costume contest has multiple issues, with the main being the lack of importance placed on the main plotline. The girls are supposedly the main characters, but they are boring to watch since their development still is two-dimensional.
In the span of time between this episode and the last, Zoya has suddenly become invested in Julien’s social media presence but mad at Obie’s (Eli Brown) performative activism.
The mention of Obie’s activism was one of the episode’s few nice touches since it isn’t a stretch for privileged people to put on an act of caring about the problems that they have a direct hand in causing. Zoya shows interest in a boy who becomes a New Yorker Magazine spy working under none other than veteran Upper East Sider Nelly Yuki (Yin Chang), though not to Nelly Yuki’s knowledge was an investigation into Gossip Girl. Though Zoya doesn’t seem to have a romantic interest in the boy’s ploy, she is attracted to his normalcy, something not expected of someone melding into Julien’s world.
The mention of gun violence in schools was an accurate add-on since the OG Gossip Girl didn’t take place or had been affected by the conversation of school shootings. The only problem with handling the school shooting topic was how little it was talked about, choosing to make it a dramatic moment rather than an actual discussion. The faux shooting becomes a plot device rather than a serious topic, used to give Kate Keller (Tavi Gevinson) the appearance of a moral compass and a question on whether Gossip Girl was a good idea in the first place.
Kate’s appearance in the show this episode was random at best. After four episodes of relishing in not only the torment of teenagers but deliberately getting a co-worker fired, the gun incident causes her to question whether G.G. is helpful. Somehow, spending time with Zoya’s father, implying a future romance, convinces Kate to restart the page deleting all past posts but not deleting the account.
The gem moments of the episode are the side plots involving Max (Thomas Doherty), Rafa (Jason Gotay), Aki( Evan Mock), and most importantly, Audrey (Emily Alyn Lind). Max, Aki, and Audrey are the most compelling characters on the show, as they have personalities outside of the teenage footprint. Max’s relationship with Rafa that began at the end of the last episode, is very lightly touched on beyond the beginning of the episode’s reference to oral sex. Aki tries to split the two up, though it’s unclear if his feelings for Max have anything to do with it.
Rafa is exposed to Max to have a pattern of sleeping with students. The only problem is this fact was already known by Max at the beginning of his “hot for teacher” pursuit. If the writers had attempted to clarify that Max wasn’t the only student Rafa had been interested in the “drama” of it all wouldn’t have felt mishandled. The writers should’ve called out Rafa’s predatory behavior more directly, rather than leave it as feeling like Max and Rafa broke up.
Audrey’s storyline was the most important one in the episode, yet it probably received the smallest amount of attention. She spends the episode attempting to convince her mother to let them stay in New York, and Emily Alyn Lind gave one of the best performances seen in the series thus far. Hurting and desperate to stay in New York, Audrey attempts to talk to her friends and boyfriend about her feelings, but everyone ignores her. Not even the slightest bit of concern is shown for their friend potentially moving out of state. While Audrey has an attitude, she has a genuine connection with Aki, Julien, and Zoya in this episode.
The episode takes a turn into disturbing when it is implied in the last ten minutes that Audrey’s mom may have attempted suicide. Rather than diving into this at all, the show chooses to make this the “cliffhanger.”
One of the downsides of the original series was the lack of depth it went into about Eric Van Der Woodsen’s suicide attempt in season one. The reboot’s improvement could provide context to this sensitive topic and the people around those dealing with it emotionally if the show chooses to redeem its lack of proper handling of Audrey’s mom’s depression.
The main issue of the show is that it fails to capture the same essence that Serena Van Der Woodsen (Blake Lively) brought—they try with Zoya and Julien, but it’s just not the same. However, there is a promise for the show if it can just strengthen its characters’ defining traits.
New episodes of Gossip Girl air Thursdays on HBO Max.