“The Thin Line Between Chuck and Nate”
January 8th, 2008
[As you may be realizing, this is the review of Gossip Girl’s mid-season finale that aired in January. The show’s first season finale, “Much ‘I Do’ About Nothing” aired on May 19th, and Cultural Learnings has all the details in its full detailed review!]
While I can think of greater losses thanks to the Writers’ strike, Gossip Girl is somewhat unfortunate considering that it is still struggling to find its creative stride. Gossip Girl mentions that all a story needs to blow up is for an unexpected twist, but I really don’t think that this is the solution to the series’ problems. The O.C. didn’t become exemplary teen programming when it gave people pregnancy scares, but when it made us care about these people more than we were really intended to. And while Gossip Girl has made strides in this direction, there are important steps it seems to be skipping in its desire to raise the “with child” question.
But in the end the skipping of these steps was perhaps in the best interest of certain of the series’ characters – Chuck, Serena and Blair finally regained some of their humanity that has occasionally been absent. Nate is a lost cause, and Dan is pretty well consistent, which leaves these three individuals as the characters that need to be resolved. They are all over the map when faced with this crisis, but it also differentiates between their true colours and their affected personalities. The episode also returns Jenny to our central narrative, and signals a sign that Gossip Girl might be creatively on the right track when it returns post-Strike.
To discuss the thinning of the line, read below for the details.
First off, let’s discuss the title pairing and their heated confrontation. This is a moment where I really wish Chace Crawford was capable of acting – his side of the altercation, which was supposed to be the angry and vicious side, was flaccid and unmoving. I still don’t get Nate – his character seems purposeless, with no real motivation outside of an out of control libido. As a result, Blair and Chuck are forced to carry the burden of their confrontations, and while Meester and Westwick do some admirable work the series is best when it ignores his character.
The basic plot of the episode follows Gossip Girl’s ability to throw a wrench into plans: first Serena is pregnant after being spotted buying a test for Blair, and then Chuck gets revenge on Blair by telling Gossip Girl about her potential pregnancy and her multiple bed partners. Combine with a vengeful Jenny who overhears the information about Chuck and Blair, and you have an aware and angry Nate and a complicated scenario moving forward. The result is that everyone knows Blair’s indiscretions, and “the Queen Bee can consider herself dethroned.”
I like this development because it returns Jenny to the forefront, and forces her to make a decision that really makes her “one of them” in terms of her cutthroat behaviour. Her character has been a bit too goody-two shoes recently, so it’s a nice return to form. Dan is self-assured enough to maintain his self-defined integrity (Sometimes in an annoyingly pretentious fashion), but Jenny has the potential to fall into this world – by the end of the episode, she has minions offering to carry her books, and you can tell she could get used to this.
For Dan, he’s struggling with the complicated issue of “I Love You,” which he tells Serena in the midst of her supposed pregnancy scare. Jenny’s betrayal creates a trust issue between them, and the result is Dan expressing his love for real. Serena’s reaction is real: she struggles with trust issues stemming from her mother, but after a nice chat with Eric she realizes that she needs to be true to herself. And then he declares his love to her for all sorts of sappy reasons, and she melts into his arms, and all is well with the world.
In terms of Blair, it is a heartbreaking and powerful series of events which shows her tragic downfall from a personal and emotional perspective. After realizing that everything around her is falling apart, she visits Chuck who destroys her with some biting commentary. And yet, you can tell it pained him: he didn’t say it because he felt it, but because he thought it was what he should be saying as part of his character.
As a result, Blair’s attempted helicopter departure for a semester in France is that much more tragic: everything is horrible, and only Serena’s pledge to fight with her keeps her from jumping on a plane. It finally connected these two characters in a real way outside of their purported friendship, and is a strong emotional moment for the series. It was a strong moment to end on, and made this rush to pregnancy worthwhile – we have better characters, and sets up Blair specifically for the post-strike episodes (whenever they come, anyways).
- Is it possible for anyone to possibly ever make a reference to rehab without making viewers think of Amy Winehouse? I mean, Nate asked Blair if she would go to rehab with him, but she didn’t say no no no, and it felt wrong.
- CTV aired the episode with a warning about mature content, which could be because of the talk of condoms or sex in general. That’s the danger of this series airing at 8pm.
- In the obligatory parents storyline, a bizarre and pointless exercise features two potential female companions vying for his affections. First, they both ask him out within moments of one another, and then both show up at the same time and one calls off their date. It’s a coincidental sequences of events with little to no actual value – if it was attempting to offer a parallel to his children or to any other storyline, it failed miserably. Matthew Settle is charming, yes, but his storylines are not.