“The Dark Night”
September 15th, 2008
If Josh Schwartz lives up to his word, at least according to Maureen Ryan’s twitter from yesterday after her interview with the producer, this may be the last time that Dan and Serena make up and break up. And, if this is true, I am going to be one happy viewer.
I’m not one of those crazy internet posters on the show who has an emotional connection to these characters and their relationship, which is really the problem. Watching The O.C. recently helped point out that the show’s problem in the third season was its inability to separate its slavish attention to the central “fated love” of Ryan and Marissa from the audience’s total disinterest: long before the show itself seemed to realize that nobody thought they should be together, the show was shoving them down our throats and hinging the story’s central drama on their future.
But, Dan and Serena (And Gossip Girl) can’t listen to the crazy fans who treat this series like the girls in the episode treated Gossip Girl: these are supposed to be real people, and they can’t possibly always fall back into the same patterns and cliches. It might seem weird that Blair is the only one making sense about relationships, considering her trajectory in the episode, but if Dan and Serena don’t actually deal with their problems there are serious issues here. Ryan and Marissa went through exactly the same thing at the start of The O.C.’s second season, but it should have ended there: if Dan and Serena can do the same, Josh Schwartz might be able to hold a teen drama together by the end of its second season.
The rest of the episode was fairly strong too, actually: outside of a couple of contrivances, the episode made good use of its existing drama while softening some of its most objectionable qualities (Jenny, won’t bother to hide it with a cough) in a way that helped ease the transition into the rest of the year, for real this time.
I’ve always like Eleanor Waldforf – something about her has this sort of worldly quality, someone who clearly has no time for frivolous things. I find Jenny’s character the most unnecessary and pointless on the show, don’t get me wrong, but I also feel like this is the best we can get: she works well within this environment, and the eventual return to Blair/Jenny conflict after she essentially becomes a surrogate daughter is something that I prefer to having to spend time with Jenny separate from characters I actually care about.
The Blair and Chuck relationship continues to play the role it should, as its own twisted and morally corrupt version of Seth and Summer. I spent an entire post going on about the similarities between the second seasons of both shows, and this is the most obvious: Marcus, clearly, is this show’s Zack. The difference is that Blair has no moral compass, only desire, and Chuck isn’t self-righteous but downright selfish and evil. The end result is that we’re rooting for these two reprehensible human beings to get together, which is what Gossip Girl should be offering: there’s nothing that says guilty pleasure more than finding pleasure in the guilty.
I care much less about Nate and Vanessa, even if I have to say that the “I’m in Love with Nate” Vanessa is so infinitely more interesting than any other previous incarnation. She has taken on a new purpose since she met him, and in the same way he has seemed to be more interesting. Yes, there is nothing original about his money drama, and Catherine’s blackmail is exactly what you’d expect from her character, but it’s still a teen soap opera and the added stakes feel directly in line with what the show wants to be.
The rest of the episode focused mainly on Dan and Serena, and for good reason: they really never talked through what happened to them, and as mentioned the Gossip Girl fans reminding them of it all was enough that they had to do what they had to do. I think it was a bit much to throw the whole issue with overusing Serena’s name to get things done, as it felt somewhat impersonal compared to Dan making out with Georgina, but if it’s enough to drag these two crazy kids apart I’m all for it.
Now, let’s bring in some new love interests, and we’ve got ourselves a show.
- The episode title is cute, and the blackout lets Blair and Chuck make out without necessarily entirely knowing it (Although Blair, clearly, knew it was him), plus offer some nice conflict at the party, and for Jenny. As far as broad plot devices go, it was very O.C. in its execution, but in a good way.
- I can’t say I miss Serena’s mother, so I’m curious what will happen when she returns – right now the parents are almost completely off the radar, and I have to wonder what will happen to the show’s balance when Lily returns and finds out Rufus is dating.