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‘Gossip Girl’ 1.05 Review: Hope Sinks

The spooky season starts early on 'Gossip Girl' with a packed episode.

Gossip Girl Halloween
(Image: © HBO Max)

Our Verdict

Another overstuffed episode, but this Halloween outing is more treat than trick.

For

  • ✖️ Costume designer Eric Daman's callbacks to the original series.
  • ✖️ Whitney Peak's impression of a previous character.
  • ✖️ Another OG actor cameo.
  • ✖️ Some very fun pop culture Halloween costumes.
  • ✖️ The cameo at the party.

Against

  • ✖️ The teacher/pupil hook-up (though the resolution is satisfactory).
  • ✖️ Some overly contrived plot points.
  • ✖️ Give Monet and Luna something to define them beyond Julien.

This post contains spoilers for Gossip Girl "Hope Sinks.”
Read our latest review 
here.

Nobody does Halloween episodes quite like teen shows, whether My So-Called Life injecting a supernatural element into the spooky season or Euphoria’s costume triumph with Jules (Hunter Schafer) doing a pitch-perfect angel-winged Juliet. While the latter paid tribute to one of the ‘90s most iconic movie images, Gossip Girl 2.0 chooses a more meta route. Sure, Halloween in August might seem a little out of season but even though it is warm outside, I am always ready for a trick-or-treat. As with the previous four episodes, there is a lot going on and some of it is more effective (and interesting) than other storylines. One of the biggest issues plaguing the series throughout is how overstuffed the almost 60-minute runtime is — this is where the tight 42-minute parameters of the OG series make a big difference. Parental strife, relationship drama, and the ethical ramifications of the rebooted account are all on the menu once again.

The episode opens in a school that is as fancy as Constance Billard but none of the characters are familiar. An anxious male student (we later find out he is called Jared) drops his backpack and a gun comes falling out. Rather than being concerned about the weapon of it all, Monet (Savannah Lee Smith) and Luna (Zión Moreno) focus on how this will impact Julien’s (Jordan Alexander) standing in the Halloween costume contest that could land her on the splash page of the holy trifecta (Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and WWD). It is the first Halloween post-Covid, which ups the ante, and this IRL event is one of the most star-studded New York City costume party events. Rivals Bianca (Katherine Reis) and Pippa (Ella Rubin) witnessed the gun incident and are using this to earn sympathy, and causing Julien to spiral about what she is going to wear. 

Halloween Gossip Girl

(Image credit: HBO Max)

Last week’s big party saw Julien take responsibility for her bullying behavior and she has made good on her word with Zoya (Whitney Peak). The sisters have been spending a lot of time together, and this whole act of friendship is legit — even if her followers are having a hard time buying it. Monet is resistant to the path Julien is heading down whereas Luna is more receptive to this direction. So far, Monet and Luna have been doing the majority of the string-pulling, but they are very much the supporting characters so far. I would love to see more from this pair beyond this different take on the Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester) minion role and maybe by having Monet strikeout, it might mean we will get to see what makes them tick beyond helping Julien build her empire.

Monet’s deception is linked to the Hulaween costume competition after Julien decides to team up with Zoya — Obie (Eli Brown) in typical Obie fashion is unenthused by the whole notion. Rather than pick a pairing that leans into the saccharine, they chose a scandalous moment that emphasizes sisterhood. The Beyoncé and Solange post-Met Gala elevator fight is the kind of pop culture reference that Gossip Girl does best, but it also feels a little outdated (it happened in 2014). Both Zoya and Julien look stunning in wigs and the gowns that Luna whipped up on a sewing machine, but they are mortified to see many versions of this get-up when they arrive. Bianca and Pippa swoop in wearing Serena’s (Blake Lively) gold Georges Chakra series finale gown and Blair’s custom-made cotillion frock from Season 1. Costume designer Eric Daman once again proves how good he is with this blast from the past mixed in with the new characters' costumes. They are the perfect Blair and Serena clones, but lacking Meester’s wit and Lively’s star wattage (I still think Meester should be a bigger star than she is). It also points to the diversity of the cast in this new version when standing next to the image of the past — though there are still ways to go.   

Gossip Girl Halloween

(Image credit: HBO Max)

In a genius move, Julien realizes they can upstage their rivals by borrowing Obie and Aki’s (Evan Mock) suits and pose as Dan (Penn Badgley) and Chuck (Ed Westwick). It is a wonderful tableau and I never thought I would hear Zoya say “I’m Chuck Bass” with a perfect sneer. The callbacks to the original are sprinkled rather than applied with a heavy hand and this is perhaps the most overt to date. Having the core four appear in this manner is a great way of acknowledging their influence without having to pay the big bucks for those cameo fees. I also think it is hilarious that Julien is sans pants when emulating Dan. 

Blair and Serena’s gowns are not the only familiar images from the past and one of Blair’s minions also makes an appearance at this Halloween bash. Nelly Yuki (Yin Chang) was Blair’s academic rival before she joined the squad and her appearance this week gives her the chance to spell out the peril of getting tangled with Gossip Girl (while she is dressed in oversized glasses and a faux fur as Eva Chen). Obie uses her to show Zoya that her Timothée Chalamet-looking friend is not the scholarship student he says he is. Nope, he is a New York Magazine researcher who thinks Zoya is Gossip Girl. His reasoning is solid, which includes how she is pretty much the new Dan Humphrey of the gang and how the account was set up soon after she arrived. Of course, he doesn’t know that there are two Dan-leaning characters and he hasn’t considered one of the teachers as the culprit. In fact, there are three Dans as Obie has the curls and sanctimonious act down. 

There is already trouble in paradise as Obie thinks Zoya has changed and she can see through his performative allyship. I like to rag on Obie quite a lot but he hasn’t done anything so far that hasn’t been laced with passive-aggressive comments or thinking he is above everyone: it is as dull now as it was in the first episode. Zoya’s relationship with her sister is far more interesting, particularly now they aren’t going back-and-forth and some space from Obie would be welcome.

Gossip Girl Halloween episode

(Image credit: HBO Max)

It isn’t a great week for those in relationships as Audrey (Emily Alyn Lind) and Aki are still having issues, despite their solid Greta Gerwig (in a version of the Row dress from the 2018 Met Gala) and Noah Baumbach couple’s costume. Audrey is distracted by her mother’s insistence that they need to move away to Connecticut because of her financial state and spends most of the episode fretting about this situation. Laura Benanti once again shows why the casting of the parents is so effective and serves up a character you feel sorry for before realizing how damaging she is to her daughter. Audrey resorts to manipulation tactics but it is hard to blame her when Kiki wants to uproot her life. She also takes a page out of her mother’s book by getting wasted to deal with her sadness but quickly snaps back to nearly sober when she gets a call from the hospital where her mother has been admitted. She is joined by all of her friends (except Monet) and this image of support is heartening. 

Meanwhile, Zoya’s dad Nick (Johnathan Fernandez) is definitely going to hook up with Kate (Tavi Gevinson) at some point if their steady flirtation is anything to go by. Kate is distracted by the ethics of Gossip Girl and she had no qualms before she submitted her Paris Review piece. The gun incident has worried her and she spends most of the episode in a quandary about the role of bullying within the account. Jordan (Adam Chanler-Berat) takes this moment to ask her out on a date, which is both out of the blue and feels like it has already happened. Unlike Dan who scored a New Yorker commission, Kate is unsuccessful with her writing dream (for now), but she does realize how she can solve her GG issue. Yep, she simply turns the comments off! If only all solutions were as easy as this and with one episode of the first half of Season 1 to go there are plenty of dangling threads to be addressed.

Billy Porter Gossip Girl

(Image credit: HBO Max)

Best Dressed

Billy Porter has already given plenty of striking lewks on Pose and his performance at the Hulaween bash is a stunning mix of sequins and feathers. The top hat and the band dressed for a cabaret sets the whole thing off while singing "I Put a Spell on You."

Biggest Huh  

Last week I made my feelings clear about how much I loathed the teacher-pupil hook-up storyline and "Hope Sinks" turns Rafa into a villain. All that time he spent turning down Max (Thomas Doherty) in the first few episodes because he "doesn't fuck students" appears to be BS as Max finds out he is far from the first. The stories Rafa (Jason Gotay) tells Max are lies and he also threatens Aki, which is cruel and manipulative. This characterization feels all over the place and as if the writers wanted to tick this particular storyline box while ultimately having Max choose his friends. It is a frustrating choice and hopefully, this will be put to bed (not literally) now.