I am so angry with myself. Livid. I should have known it was coming. I should have known it would come to a bad end: all disappointment, depression and outright disgust. I mean, my goodness, I’m talking about Gossip Girl here, a ridiculous CW show about a bunch of ill-natured young miscreants with way too much money and far too little conscience. How could I have thought to gain anything more out of it than pretty people in pretty clothes mouthing the occasional pretty turn of phrase? These characters are vile, vicious and utterly without value—as the fifth season finale, and the very last episode of this show I will ever watch, demonstrated vividly, and without even a shadow of remorse.
Yes, I have watched Gossip Girl for five seasons. That is half a decade. And throughout that time, and particularly throughout this past year or so, I had even been somewhat evangelical about it, singing the show’s praises loudly—if, I admit, somewhat shamefacedly. In particular, I was very taken by the slow-build backbiting romance of former high school nemeses Blair (Leighton Meester) and Dan (Penn Badgeley)—for evidence of which see Gossip Girl’s Dan and Blair: Hating Their Way to Love; The State of Play on Gossip Girl, or What’s Up with Dan and Blair?; and The Princess and the Pretender: Gossip Girl’s Unlikeliest Couple Lives!.
I liked this couple so much. Too much. To the extent, in fact, that it utterly overcame my natural inclination to break up with this show earlier this season—as ruthlessly as Chuck (Ed Westwick) repeatedly dumped Blair, or Blair dumped Nate (Chace Crawford), or Serena (Blake Lively) dumped Dan (rinse, lather and repeat)—after just one too many outlandish character reversals and acts of utter moral depravity. For Dan and Blair, I hung in. And even though it was evident from almost the outset of their finally-realized relationship that a satisfying HEA was not to be theirs—he loved her way more than she did him and their differences, so compelling in a fractious courtship, made for an exhausting established couple—I was happily along for the ride, enjoying the uncertainty, not knowing how things would end or why, but knowing they would…and being pretty much okay with that.
But then came this season’s finale, and the scales at last fell from my eyes. It has been weeks now since this episode aired—weeks!—and I am still reeling from its complete nonsensical crapness, still covered in confusion and filled with impotent fury. If Community’s Greendale Community College, home to classes like “Joke-Telling,” “Can I Fry That?” and “Ladders,” were to teach a subject called “How to Disembowel Your Characters, Destroy Your TV Show and Alienate Every Single Person Who Ever Watched It 101,” then this episode could easily be the only study material needed on the syllabus. Seriously, in comparison to this visual excrement, Fonzie jumping over that shark on water skis doesn’t even come close. The characters that we have spent five seasons watching evolve? Suddenly they’re all Evil Mirror Universe Bizarro World versions of themselves—and believe me when I tell you, they were all pretty Evil Mirror Universe Bizarro World as it was.
So here’s what’s been going on. Chuck has been pining for Blair all year, and Serena for Dan. Blair was first married to a prince, then ran away because she confessed her love for Chuck, and then ended up with Dan, who had been adorably obsessed with her for what seemed like forever. Nate had been dating his boss Diana (Elizabeth Hurley) but then they broke up, after which she confessed to being his best-friend Chuck’s long-lost mother, except that she wasn’t really…but she was keeping secret the fact that Chuck’s dead billionaire father Bart (Robert John Burke) has really been alive these past three years. Bart’s no-longer-widow, Serena’s mother Lily (Kelly Rutherford), now married to Dan’s dad Rufus (Matthew Settle), has been having her own issues this year, both in her marriage and over the disposition of her recently-deceased mother’s considerable estate, which has awoken the enmity of her long-lost niece Lola (Ella Rae Peck)—currently dating Nate, as though anyone cares—and Lola’s impersonator, Ivy (Kaylee DeFer), which is a story way too long and improbable to go into here. Serena, meanwhile, was working for Diana and Nate at their online newspaper, then took over the mantle of the titular Gossip Girl for a while, dispensing the news of the day about the doings of the Upper East Side’s notable denizens, until her laptop was stolen back by the real GG; a laptop, not incidentally, onto which Serena had painstakingly scanned the many pages of her supposedly best-friend Blair’s private multi-volume diary, in a peculiarly time-consuming tantrum over the Dan/Blair situation. Elsewhere, Dan was offered a prestigious writing fellowship thingy in Italy, turned it down so he could work on his relationship with Blair, then decided to take it and asked her to accompany him to Europe for the summer. After much deliberation, she accepted. And then pages of her diary started to appear as Gossip Girl blasts…
(Yes, I know. Ludicrous that I was still watching even at this point, isn’t it?)
Then, the finale. To deal with the elder generation first: Bart Bass is at first all loving-papa-returned-to-the-fold with Chuck, exactly as we didn’t remember him being, but then showed his true colors and turned on his son—who, let’s remember, he left twisting in the wind, thinking himself orphaned at seventeen —coldly taking back control of his company and railing against Chuck’s love of Blair. Meanwhile Lily, who has undergone a complete character assassination at the hands of the writers this year, has dumped Rufus and apparently welcomed Bart back from the dead—despite the fact that he just ousted her beloved adopted son Chuck from Bass Industries and is a massive douche. Lola and Ivy like her about as much as we all do at this point, and are plotting to do her a mischief next season—something Lola neglected to tell her boyfriend Nate before heading off on tour with the traveling company of Wicked, despite the fact that he asked her to move in with him. (Again, as though anyone cares.) But over in the more what-the-hell-are-you-freaking-kidding-me-you-bastards? side of things, Blair is understandably upset at Serena’s betrayal over the diary pages and these two best frenemies have what appears to be a permanent falling out. At the same time, diary pages continue to appear on Gossip Girl, which leads to two things: a) Serena scheming to convince Dan that Blair is in love with Chuck and then successfully seducing Dan while filming it for later Blair-destroying purposes; and b) Blair choosing Chuck over Dan – despite Dan making her feel “strong” and “safe”—but getting shot down hard because Chuck is throwing a hissy-fit over his callous father’s rejection of him, all of which he attributes to Blair, instead of to the fact that his father, hello, massive douche.
So, here’s how our lead characters end up:
Chuck: Running from Blair and plotting with his eminently untrustworthy Uncle Jack (Desmond Harrington) in order to take back Bass Industries. (Their foolproof plan: cheating at cards!)
Blair: Bereft of her two best friends, Serena and Dan, she is in Europe and about to take the reigns of her mother’s fashion empire but is still validating herself only in her attractiveness to Chuck, and therefore decides to shamelessly stalk him.
Dan: Deleting Blair’s e-mails, telling Serena that he never wants to see her again, and then conspiring with the hateful Georgina Sparks (Michelle Trachtenberg)—who has, in the past, done far worse things to him than either Serena or Blair—in order to write another best-selling tell-all book about the Upper East Side. (Oh, did I mention? Dan’s a best-selling author now!)
Nate: Um…who can remember? Sure, he’s so perfect-looking as to be practically living art, but there is hardly a character on television more tedious than Nate Archibald.
Serena: Having perhaps permanently lost the trust of Blair and Dan through her own vanity, and selfishness, and general unworthiness as a person, she is last seen on a train out of the city getting felt up by some random creepy guy in exchange for a vial of suspicious white powder.
So, everyone is pretty much back where they started—or are manifestly worse than they have ever been, thereby dispensing with any shred of emotional growth we have seen in any of them at any point throughout the past five years. Each one is suddenly the very worst edition of their worst self: Serena, in particular, is a caricature, and the bleak look on her beautiful face as she descends into utter self-destruction isn’t, at a guess, acting, but Blake Lively overcome with despair that she has to spout such idiocy for a whole other season, contractual obligations being what they are.
Blessedly (both for her and, I now think, the world at large), Season 6 will be the show’s last. And it is a season I assuredly will not be watching. I don’t care if I happen to catch a CW teaser during, say, Nikita and it hints at the possibility of a Dan/Blair return to wisecracking form. I don’t care if I see internet rumblings about the forthcoming flaying alive of Georgina, or an episode devoted entirely to the doings of Blair’s spunky Polish helpmeet Dorota (Zuzanna Szadkowski). Not even the triumphant return of my beloved Jenny Humphrey (Taylor Momsen) would get me back on board at this point, after this truly abysmal effort. After all, as I said in one of my previous posts on the subject of Gossip Girl: “…seriously: if Dan and Serena get back together again, show…that’s it. We’re done.” Dan and Serena had illicit sex on a bar in this last episode. So that’s it, show. We’re done.
Wow. I feel…cleansed, all of a sudden. Renewed. Goodbye, Gossip Girl. Such unexpectedly satisfying words. Now all I need do is wean myself off ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars and perhaps I’ll feel like a proper grownup again. At least until the next group of impossibly beautiful teens captures my heart, anyway. But from now on I am jumping ship early and often, especially where the CW is concerned.
I will not get burned like this again.
Rachel Hyland is Editor in Chief of Geek Speak Magazine.