“Much ‘I Do’ About Nothing”
May 19th, 2008
This one is a bit late, but only because last night was a bit earlier than my previous ones. Considering the traffic that my review of January’s mid-season finale is getting, there’s a lot of people who want to see how Gossip Girl’s first season turns out, particularly in terms of the various romantic couplings the series is too often defined by.
That being said, the bigger issue is that this particular episode is defined by three separate relationships each with their own relative quality. As we wait and see how the Dan and Serena melodrama unfolds, or how the Lily/Rufus love destiny resolves itself, excuse me if I care far more about the delicious pairing of Blair and Chuck that the series has been playing with.
Yes, Chuck is the best part of this finale: smarmy with a purpose, charming with his usual edge, caring even through his usual harsh exterior. That he and Nate settle their rivalry, and that we discover his true feelings for Blair, is the part of the episode we relish in – meanwhile, the other storylines feel less resonant when the show has done them before (Lily and Rufus-style) and lack their explosive spark (Georgina disappears fifteen minutes in). Of course, even that part becomes a bit overplayed by the time the episode concludes.
So as we leave for the summer, which will be filled in by five episodes of material to come in August, everything is topsy turvy, and none of it is overly positive in my eyes.
Let’s get Dan and Serena out of the way: I just really, really don’t like this pairing enough to care. They both need to get off their high horse, here – Dan sorta slept with Georgina, Serena was an idiot for lying to Dan for so long, and neither of them can get over it. Georgina is eliminated from the picture early in the episode (In a nice bitchy moment for Blair), so we’re left to see these two fairly unintelligent people figure out that they want to break up. Mind you, the awkward never-ending dance was a decent piece of dramatic television, but nothing about this pairing has me interested. It’s not really the fault of the actors, but the journey of these characters from the start of the season to the end just doesn’t ring true for me.
I think what made Georgina work as a character was that it was finally someone different, someone to shake things up – to get rid of her so quickly left us with a central drama that fell on these two characters and them alone. I’m fine for melodrama on a teen soap opera (I’m not suggesting their remake the wheel, here), but Trachtenberg brought an interesting new perspective that went away too quickly, and the consequences just put me to sleep.
And I’d have less problems with Lily and Rufus’ story, the one most quickly resolved, if it were not for the fact that the series did it before, multiple times even. Yes, we know that they were once in love with each other – yes, we get that they probably still are in love with each other now. However, that doesn’t meant this will they, won’t they storyline needs to die already: while I would argue that the parental storylines are necessary to balance out the teenage antics, at the same time they need to be good or diverse enough to work. In this instance, the show has been so unwilling to find other parental storylines (Which might be because their few forays, such as Rupert the Love Machine, were so awful) that they have simply proven a burden.
I’m fine with the resolution (Lily decides to get married, they appear to be on good terms, Rufus heads out on the road but longs for his past life and his past love), but isn’t that where we were the last time this came around? And didn’t they just go back to the storyline we just resolved? We either need another parental figure in the series more often (Outside of Nate’s father, who as this episode proved is fairly useless), or these characters need to find a way to stay apart while staying relevant.
But the episode eventually does boil down to Chuck: he ends up looking like a good guy (for awhile), someone who we as the audience like and like to hate. Too often his character has fallen into the trap of most villains of this nature, becoming a vile human being when it suits the plot. Here, he is given a broad range of human shaddes: he gets to have his big toast, his big moment with Nate, and his big moment with Blair, something that the other characters certainly don’t get. You feel as if his transformation is actually meaningful, compared to the others who by comparison define their lives by petty squabbles.
Which makes it much more frustrating that at episode’s end they rip that all away as Chuck fears what his new life with an actual girlfriend could be like. It’s such a cheap way for them to avoid humanizing the character, and an entirely unnecessary device: considering that this was the only coupling that had any spark all season, is it really fair for them to tear them apart like this over Chuck’s immaturity? I know that this note had to be played eventually, as it is certainly within character, but did it have to be played so soon? We barely got a chance to see these two happy, and considering how earlier in the episode Chuck threw around the love word I hate that it’s all forgotten when he sees the attractive young interior decorator.
And then we get to the piece d’resistance: the cliffhanger finale where romantic couplings are so askew to the point of forcing us to wonder what happens next. You have Nate and Serena reconnecting in the Hampton’s (A pairing the show has mostly avoided in the present tense), Chuck being his normal repugnant self, Blair perhaps connecting with a mysterious male on her flight to Europe, Jenny (Notably and thankfully mostly absent from the episode) finding out that she got a summer fashion design internship at Blair’s mother’s company, Rufus on tour, and Vanessa realizing that she’s still in love with Dan.
Going down the list, most of these are fine with me: while I have issues with so clearly damning Chuck, Nate’s new lack of brooding fits Serena well enough, and Blair can always use some mystery in her life. And as a bit of a Project Runway addict, who am I to argue with Jenny entering into the world of fashion design? It seems a decent turn for her character, so it seems like a step in the right direction. That last thing, however, a return to the rather unfortunate pairing of Dan and Vanessa, is something that concerns me.
I just don’t buy it, so sue me: I don’t like Vanessa, and only liked her with Nate because she seemed less contrived as a character. Now, perhaps she can redefine herself as an actual friend and not as a disruptive influence, and I can grow to accept her, but consider this my skeptical face. Like the finale itself, this relationship just has too many problems for me to be excited. That isn’t to condemn the episode, but rather to note that it didn’t quite live up to my expectations – something that should be easier for Dan and Vanessa, considering how few I have.
- One of my least favourite scenes of the episode was the way too on-the-nose scene wherein Bart was talking about his old building, but he was REALLY talking about Rufus. It was fine until he actually said “Can you do the same?,” at which point we frakkin’ get it already: sometimes a little subtlety goes a long way, Bart, I think your point had already gotten across.
- I’m no fashion expert, but Serena’s dress looked really ugly with that black flower of sorts. Just my opinion, perhaps it was “chic” or something.
- What are you most looking forward to about the summer episodes? I’m curious to see how they balance out the different characters, and whether launching in the summer is a smart move, but a prequel to the season could give them a chance to build on our existing “cliffhangers” nicely.