First to Last is a biweekly column where the pilot episode and series finale of a TV show are examined. But there’s a catch—the author has never seen a single episode of the show before viewing these two episodes! This week’s show: Gossip Girl.
All I knew about Gossip Girl was that it was based on a series of books read by the popular girls in high school who I sat near but never talked to. I wasn’t interested in it, but I thought it would be fun to just rip a show to shreds this week. See, I thought the books were lame, whereas Judy Morton thought I was lame. So I figured, if I could prove that Gossip Girl was lame, Judy would have to finally realize that I was not in fact lame. But there was a problem with my plan: Gossip Girl is actually a pretty well made show. I’d expected bad acting to synergize with terrible writing to form a 45 minute long piece of colorful shit, but that just didn’t happen. I wasn’t at all interested in it, but there wasn’t much I could call inherently bad.
There’s scheming, conniving and catty un-invitations to parties, and it is absolutely not tongue-in-cheek—which is great. The seriousness with which the show portrays ridiculousness is exactly what makes the show realistic. Not realistic in terms of the real world, but rather in terms of what goes on in the teenage mind.
In the pilot episode, from 2007, Serena van der Woodson returns to her New York City high school after having left for a year. There is immediately a power struggle between Serena and Blair Waldorf, who was previously her best friend, but became the popular girls H.N.I.C. during her absence. This is exacerbated by Gossip Girl: an anonymous blogger dishing all the dirt on the school’s goings-on, sending notifications directly to everybody’s whacky 2007 cell phones. The blog focuses on Blair and Serena, but refers to them simply as “B” and “S,” which is fitting since their feud is indeed some BS.
I hated most of the characters, sure, but you’re pretty much supposed to—they’re shitty people. During high school, even good people are shitty, and shitty people are straight up rotten bile in human form .
Despite clearly being the main character, I learned the least about Serena in my viewing, which mimics the view of an outsider looking in—they hear all about the popular kids but don’t really know anything about them. It’s immediately apparent that Blair is a huge asshole. While she isn’t quite as much of a dick in the finale, she does utter the most cringeworthy, sappy line to ever forcibly enter my ears: “Every single bone in my tired and scared body wants to marry you!”
Which she said to Chuck Bass, a younger version of the worst person you’ll ever meet. In the pilot, Chuck tried to rape two separate girls, yet by the finale everybody seems to be friendly with him and defending him from murder accusations. Apparently that’s what life is like when you’re stinkin’ rich. We also have Dan and Jenny Humphrey, siblings who aren’t part of the in crowd, although they would sure like to be (and begin assimilating into the group by episode’s end). I didn’t hate these two.
By 2012’s reasonably titled series finale, “I Love You, New York, XOXO” things have escalated to say the least. First of all, they finally have iPhones. Also, all of the characters seem more mature, well adjusted and likable. I mean, I get that that’s what happens to real people in real life after they graduate high school, but it shocked me—I really thought this show was gonna be fucking dumb. Furthermore, the kids’ parents seem to be the real shit-heads by this point.
In the first scene Chuck and his dad get in a fight that ends with the father hanging off the ledge of a building. Chuck lets him fall to his death, and it seems like the right decision. I remember that Chuck tried to rape a couple girls in the pilot, and I know he’s a scumbag, but his dad seemed to have been a larger scummier bag full of scumbags. They don’t mention what the fight was about, but I assume Chuck’s dad took his yacht away—leaving him to play with his monster trucks all weekend like a peasant. On a brighter note, Serena’s parents get back together, but only because her dad scammed and manipulated some poor woman in order to get to his ex-wife. Also, the dad is played by a Baldwin.
Most importantly, Gossip Girl’s identity is revealed and, holy shit, it was Dan Humphrey, the barely noticed underdog from the pilot. There was foreshadowing to this—in the pilot, Jenny called Dan out for having the Gossip Girl blog up on his laptop. It was subtle enough that I didn’t think anything of it (I’d assumed that either Vanessa or Blair themselves were Gossip Girl). How was he able to keep it a secret for so long? Perhaps he threw shade at himself, i.e. “Dan is so lame that Hot Topic employees give him wedgies.” In the first episode Dan inserted himself into the country club he knew Vanessa was attending—who knew that was just the tip of the (admittedly creepy) iceberg? In the finale he explains that he used the Gossip Girl blog in order to write himself into the popular crowd, which is super appealing since, y’know, that’s pretty much the same thing I’m trying to do.
Gossip Girl is a show about awful kids and their awful parents. In the beginning there’s turmoil, but by the end the kids have reconciled and realized that they’re maturing. In the final scene we’re shown a younger, shittier generation, and a new Gossip Girl is narrating (which, who knows, may also be a boy). A satisfying ending, illustrating that people grow out of melodramatic bullshit, despite the fact that it will always thrive elsewhere. Also that things work out in the end, and that there is perhaps hope for Judy Morton and I.
Matt Pass is a writer who shares all the latest gossip on Twitter @mattpasscomedy.