The mid season finale of Gossip Girl, “Parentsite” , finally finds solid ground in the season long plot it’s been struggling to weave together. The episode details the characters like humans rather than just two-dimensional representations of Gen Z.
Zoya (Whitney Peak) and her boyfriend Obie (Eli Brown) struggle to find the same ground following the drama in last week’s episode. The two spent the season being pulled in and out of each other’s worlds unable to find a way to exist, though the pressure has rested on Zoya, mimicking Serena and Dan from the earlier series.
With the introduction of Obie’s mother, the real issues of Zoya and her relationship with Obie became the much-awaited focus on the class differences between the two, the bread and butter of a show like Gossip Girl.
While Zoya and Obie have common ground in their passions for social activism, Obie comes from a place of privilege, as highlighted in the dinner sequence. Unlike his private interactions, where he is more than vocal about his opinions, he tries to silence Zoya when she attempts to challenge Akeno’s father for his right-wing politics and newspaper. Proof of his excellent boy persona, Obie wants to only protest for the greater good without personal consequence, showing the real difference between Zoya and Obie.
Expertly crafted as commentary for performative activism in the modern age, the storyline between the two comes in with more than just a class difference, but being the contemporary teenage in an old money world.
Julien’s (Jordan Alexander) journey to becoming a proper influencer is sprinkled into Zoya and Obie’s relationship drama. Looking to solidify her father’s faith in her future, Julien attempts to get sponsored posts and gets Obie’s advice. At first, seeming like a confusing person for Julien to turn to, it becomes clear why Julien’s meeting with company representatives becomes about wanting to authentically represent herself as a woman of color and not just be a figurehead for a brand.
The plot point is well introduced but mishandled because, why would a woman of color go to a privileged white boy for advice on being her most authentic self? Yes, Obie is an activist, but his plot line in the episode around finding his authentic self didn’t mesh well.
Julien’s journey this season has been about finding herself. By the end of the episode, she finds a more certain version of herself, one capable of making decisions that benefit her, like turning down Sephora’s business deals and attending the protest at The Navy Yard, a property acquired by Akeno and Obie’s parents.
Both are trying to find their places in the world; Julien, more confident of herself, becomes the new shiny toy to Obie, who kisses her in the heat of a moment after the two leave the protest. Whether or not Zoya leaving the protest was an official break-up remains unseen.
On the more severe side of the episode, after the end of last week’s episode, Audrey (Emily Alyn Lind) deals with the overdose of her mother in a beautiful performance by Emily Alyn Lind, in all her hair-brained glory. Shown to be a control freak throughout the whole season, Audrey’s reaction to guilt and grief about her mother manifests perfectly and, while intense, showed emotion lacking from the original treatment of the storyline.
Ever the supportive boyfriend. Aki (Evan Mock) dotes on her in such an endearing and sweet way. They have struggled from the beginning of the season, but the two supported each other when it mattered the most. Audrey, rather than be judgmental of Aki’s sexuality like in the past has come to accept him for who he is.
As a side plot, Aki is accidentally outed by Audrey. Although it doesn’t upset Aki at first until his father uses his son’s sexuality as a cover for a lawsuit he is facing. Aki is incredibly bothered by the betrayal of not only be outed by his dad on national TV but also not be given the benefit of a conversation on the topic. Aki, like Obie, comes from old money, and it isn’t unrealistic for a conservative to use the “well my son is gay, I can’t be homophobic” as an excuse.
Max (Thomas Doherty), having come to his senses the last episode, joins Aki by Audrey’s side, giving a sense of family to the friend group. While he has given up on his Rafa (Jason Gotay) kick, Rafa still pursues Max in a very predatory and childish way. Resorting to using Gossip Girl to try and frame Max with an STI, Max retaliates by leaking his sex tape with Rafa to Gossip Girl, exposing to Kate Keller (Tavi Gevinson) that Rafa is a predator.
Of all of the topics covered in the show thus far, the choice to include such graphic content of Rafa and Max being intimate when canonically Max is only seventeen is questionable at best.
Having been granted access to the GG Instagram page by Keller, Rafa deletes the direct message, leaving it open-ended on whether Rafa is aware his secret is out.
Wrapping up the episode, Max, Aki, and Audrey give into the throuple tension built all season and engaged in unspecified activities. At the same time, Aki’s dad leaves a voicemail warning about Julien for Aki.
Overall, the season finale cemented the characters for the first time as friends, rather than just a group of strung-together kids. One of the strengths of the original series was the ability to make people who on their own could be unlikeable, but the sense of family created in the group made them compelling, and this mid season finale finally accomplishes the same.
Gossip Girl returns with new episodes September 16 on HBO Max.