Gossip Girl – “School Lies”

“School Lies”

January 2nd, 2007

In what has become a bit of a recurring trend with the CW series, Gossip Girl tried to do far too much while accomplishing very little in their first episode back from the Christmas hiatus, and the penultimate episode to air before they run out of fresh ones. There were a lot of gears turning in “School Lies,” as the show finally acknowledged that these people attend a school and do real homework. However, the series’ insistence upon juggling that reality with teen sexuality and parental drama results in an unfortunate lack of drive and motivation.

This is not to say that I think the parents’ storyline is a waste of time, or that the teen drama isn’t worthwhile. Rather, the series cannot be all of these things all of the time. This episode could have provided a great opportunity to focus solely on the personal concerns facing these characters, but all that emerged was a couple of haphazard conclusions and the sad if entertaining return of one-dimensional Chuck. And that’s really too bad.

The episode originates from an impromptu party at the school pool where drugs and alcohol-laced tomfoolery result in an injured schoolmate and a group of red-handed youths. The new headmistress, a thanklessly uninteresting role, has the duty of interviewing each student individually to figure out who was behind the break-in.

My mind immediately jumped to other series that have used this interview technique to great effect – fault Grey’s Anatomy for Gizzie all you want, but when the Chief brought in each intern for questioning in the post-Denny fallout Shonda Rhimes delved deep into each character. We got a charming turn from Blair, outing her dirty laundry to the headmistress, but her questioning only served to slow the pace of the episode.

Instead, Vanessa (Proving ever “useful” when contrived into otherwise unrelated plots) caught Chuck and Blair discussing their affair on tape, and then Nate makes a romantic gesture to Blair that makes her realize that even Chuck’s blackmail can’t keep her away from her true love. Sorry, show, but I don’t buy it: it was all too sudden, and Nate’s utter lack of emotional complexity (He appears to be more focused on the sex than Blair herself) is only damaging the show’s development.

However, it would be one thing if their reconciliation was the only story of the episode. Instead, we also received a dose of parental drama that just never connected. The Rufus/Lily romance makes a lot of logical sense, and both actors try their hardest. However, their storyline moved ludicrously fast: a few small visits suddenly has them running off together, and Lily viewing haggard billionaire’s wives is enough to convince her to refuse Bart’s proposal.

Okay, fine, rushing the storyline to get it out of the way may be putting us out of our misery. However, when the storyline is dumped as Serena selfishly puts her teenage fling ahead of her mother’s long gestating romance, it felt false – if they are going to subject us to parental storylines, they need to matter. The O.C. survived because the parents provided a foundation; if all these parents are going to do is act like their children, why bother?

Serena was the other story of the episode, as she was the one who broke into the school pool. It was bizarre: we never really learned why she did, or why she returned to the dark side, and it seemed as if the lesson she learned was that…Chuck and his father are privileged jerks? That she should slum it with Dan instead? Her decision to break the rules in her new good girl life is bizarre, and yet the show never even addresses it.

“School Lies” addressed nothing: it featured no consistent character development, failed to complete any of its plots, and Schwartz and Co. can hopefully bounce back next week for their final episode of the initial order.

Cultural Observations

  • I didn’t really get into it above, but Chuck was just an outright ass this week. The humanity we saw when he actually fell in love with Blair has devolved into blackmail and maliciousness. There was a glimpse of the fact that his attempts to keep Blair and Nate apart are for his own desires, but it was played in such a vindictive fashion it is hard to feel compassion for the guy.
  • I’m really curious where the parental drama is headed from this point forward. I guess the writing staff will have had months to brainstorm potential options, but Rufus in particular is now drifting off into oblivion.
  • I shall repeat my request for more Eric/Jenny in the future, if only to balance out the drama a little bit more. I’d prefer the younger set over the old fogeys, methinks.
  • A brief edit, apparently The CW’s preview for next week portends that Blair Waldorf may be pregnant. My thoughts on this storyline? Far too soon. We’ll see how it’s handled, and whether it is true, in next week’s potential first season finale.

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