One love triangle is still dragging the pacing down in a fun, but uneven mid-season finale.
- ✖️ Max is both the sartorial MVP and has got his swagger back.
- ✖️ Here's to good parents Davis and Nick.
- ✖️ More great parenting casting.
- ✖️ Enough threads left dangling for the second half of the season.
- ✖️ The Obie/Zoya/Julien love triangle lacks fire.
- ✖️ One storyline has me longing for 'Succession' S3.
- ✖️ Pacing issues.
This post contains spoilers for Gossip Girl "Parentsite.”
Read our latest review here.
If you are going to kick your series off with a love triangle then it needs to be interesting or at least has some fire, which the Obie (Eli Brown), Zoya (Whitney Peak), and Julien (Jordan Alexander) dynamic is severely lacking. Audrey (Emily Alyn Lind) snarks at Zoya that Julien has more chemistry with her ex, but this only becomes apparent in the final moments of “Parentsite.” The original Gossip Girl indulged in love triangles aplenty, but the reboot’s mistake is how quickly Zoya and Obie became a thing. Another is the speed at which they fell into squabbles and disagreements. A love/hate dynamic is an enticing prospect and one that has fueled stories for centuries, however, this one feels more like indifference. There is no honeymoon period and speeding up the negative aspects has made Obie even more insufferable than he was in the pilot. Noble O (as he is called by Gossip Girl) lacks the swagger of Max (Thomas Doherty) and Aki’s (Evan Mock) sweetness, which makes this central romantic drama fizzle. The mid-season finale only highlights the issues further and makes this storyline repetitive.
Obie talks a good game when it comes to issues plaguing society and is well-read on all the issues. Unfortunately, when his mother briefly comes to town to do some business it becomes clear he is not willing to ruin dinner because it isn’t the done thing. He has a strained relationship with his mom but that doesn’t excuse his inability to stand up for his girlfriend or voice his opinion. Zoya dials up her antagonistic streak and won’t let any of the parents off the hook. Obie wants her to be herself, however, he is not thrilled when she breaks with decorum and he senses her half-sister is behind what he believes is sabotage.
Julien’s motives are not rooted in causing chaos and she only wants the best for two people she cares deeply about. Nevertheless, she still has romantic feelings for her ex, and he is enthralled by the steps she has taken recently toward self-improvement. Again, the problem is that the show hasn’t done enough to make us understand why these two teens are drawn to Obie. Sure, Julien has history with him and while his curly hair/cheekbones combo is enticing, he sparks no joy. It also leaves a bad taste in my mouth that Obie is quick to move on from one sister to the other and is suddenly interested in Julien when she changes — and to be honest, she doesn’t seem that different from the first episode.
One major shift is the lack of Monet (Savannah Lee Smith) who is curiously absent after her Halloween act of mutiny. Luna (Zión Moreno) is thrilled that Julien wants to take her brand to the next level and the latter decision is made after Julien’s dad voices his concern about her PSAT score. Wearing another fetching cardigan, Davis (Luke Kirby) takes a vested interest in his daughter’s schooling over breakfast. Yes, she is from an ultra-wealthy family but he wants her to have an education that will provide a strong foundation if anything goes wrong. One of his biggest regrets is that he didn’t go to college and he wants Julien to have what he didn’t. He is also unsure how stable influencer culture is in the long term as people move on to the next hot thing very quickly, and Julien’s reasoning for not seeking brand sponsorship is that she doesn’t need the money. To prove she is serious about making a business out of herself, she asks Luna to set meetings with brands (including Goop, Revlon, Glossier, and Ulta) who can take her status to the next level.
In an episode called “Parentsite,” it is hardly surprising that the behavior of adults who should know better is questionable. Not everyone is trying to suck their children dry or use them for selfish means. Davis and Zoya’s father Nick (Johnathan Fernandez) have a complicated past, but so far retain the crown of the most sensible adults. Both dads are thoughtful and allow their daughters room to pursue their passion, and to prove how serious she is, Julien invites Davis to the big pitch meeting. Luna is surprised to see Mr. Calloway in attendance but it makes sense that a successful music mogul would be an asset — even if this isn’t his specific field of business. He is suitably impressed with how Julien handles the various tactics and even offers some romantic advice. Ever since she called him out on the secret girlfriend, their relationship has improved and it is a welcome change to witness a healthy parent/child dynamic on a show like this. Plus, now Kirby’s hair has grown out, Davis has ditched the hats and looks all the better for it too — this further adds to his DILF-y quality.
One of Julien’s requirements is to partner with a brand that cares about WOC (rather than a surface-level PR push) and social issues, and she thinks she has found the perfect fit. Unfortunately, this brand didn’t factor in protesting as something Julien would partake in and tell her this goes against what they expect from their clients. The protest in question is about a property development that is knocking down a homeless shelter and not replacing it with a building for the housing insecure. Obie’s mother is in partnership with Aki’s media tycoon father Roger (Malcolm McDowell).
Yes, he is essentially Rupert Murdoch (or Logan Roy from Succession). The dinner the night before brings together Obie and Aki’s families as a preamble to this property visit and Roger notes all of his other children (from previous relationships) are only out for what they can get but Aki is different. While Aki treats his father with love and kindness, the same cannot be said for Roger. A lawsuit that is painting the tycoon as a bigot is causing issues and when Audrey accidentally infers that Aki isn’t straight, Roger jumps on this to prove this lawsuit is baseless. Rather than asking his son about his sexual orientation, he assumes he is gay and tells a news reporter (Gigi Stone Woods playing herself) this fact before leaving his son to correct this statement (he’s bisexual).
Out of the bad parent behavior, this is by far the worst and when he calls Aki from his private plane, all he does is tell him not to hang out with Julien. McDowell is a wonderful casting choice but this addition to the story has me longing for the return of Succession. Aki’s mother Jodie (Hannibal’s Hettienne Park) comes across as far more sympathetic, but she is confused with how to approach her son who cannot be described as someone who likes to share.
Audrey’s slip up at dinner comes as a result of being preoccupied about her mother’s health and she is still in a bad way. The exact details are left vague, but Audrey is told it is sepsis, and Kiki (Laura Beranit) is a weepy apologetic mess. Audrey did act like a brat last week and while she is a brand new level of extra (particularly to the medical staff), her spiral is centered on her inability to control what is happening to her mom. Luckily, Aki and Max both step up to support her during all of this, and the episode ends with this love triangle potentially entering throuple territory. Max has been put on blast for having an STI (he doesn’t but Rafa is trying to get revenge), but his besties know this is a smear campaign. The episode ends with a thank-you dinner that is Audrey’s preamble into threesome territory and this dynamic is far more interesting than the other adolescent romantic drama occurring.
Sexual tension has been resolved here, but Max is still being plagued by the suddenly villainous Rafa (Jason Gotay) and this character shift is still somewhat preposterous. Now he is a mustache-twirling villain who tries to seduce Max’s father (who sees through this ruse) and has access to the Gossip Girl account. So when Max sends a video of the pair of them in bed, Rafa deletes the evidence but not before Kate (Tavi Gevinson), Jordan (Adam Chanler-Berat), and Wendy (Megan Ferguson) have seen the incriminating images. The issue for the GG team is that Rafa knows their big secret and while what he is doing is illegal (it doesn’t matter that the students he sleeps with are of legal age), he knows too much to call out. If he goes down, so do they and Rafa has revealed he is willing to play dirty.
The teachers have set their sights on holding the parents accountable, but really should be looking closer to home. Kate has already called off her burgeoning romance with Nick, though I have a feeling this storyline will not fizzle out (no matter how much Jordan wants it to). During dinner with Zoya's dad, Kate explains why she became a teacher and she is essentially an overachiever who wanted to become famous but realized she could never dazzle in the way her rival did. This is a nice moment and a good story, but it rings hollow. Yes, she loves being Gossip Girl because she is being read by a large audience (and has become a celebrity) but the allure of having her name known is still her goal no matter how content she thinks she currently is.
She gets some information about Marianne (Zoya and Julien’s mom) but nothing juicy. Nick grew up with her and lost touch when they went to college — they reconnected after. We know Davis didn’t go to college, but I am sure the blanks will slowly get filled in. Plus, they have to leave some threads dangling for the second half of the season that is scheduled to air in the fall on HBO Max. Hopefully, when Gossip Girl returns, the pacing issues will be addressed as while there are a lot of storylines, some of them (hello, the Obie/Zoya/Julien love triangle) make the episodes drag. The reboot has a lot of fun aspects going for it but it is too sprawling in terms of reach and only some of the scandalous lives have grabbed my attention.
Max is the sartorial MVP for all six episodes and Eric Daman is doing some of his best-ever costume work with the bow tie-wearing lothario. This week he gives Chris Evans a run for his money in a cable knit sweater and ultra-cool brand Bode delivers another winner with this green pennant chore jacket (opens in new tab).
Most Fun Cameo
Adding a different category because each week has an eclectic mix of famous people popping up. Gigi Stone Woods plays herself interviewing Roger, but it is Top Chef’s Carla making her second appearance that I want to shout out. Having recently binged the culinary reality competition from the start (I am now on Season 16), I am thrilled Carla Hall is back in the Wolfe kitchen (even if Max prepared the eggs himself).
Emma Fraser spends most of her time writing about TV, fashion, and costume design; Dana Scully is the reason she loves a pantsuit. Words can also be found at Vulture, Elle, Primetimer, Collider, Little White Lies, Observer, and Girls on Tops. Emma has a Master’s in Film and Television, started a (defunct) blog that mainly focused on Mad Men in 2010, and has been getting paid to write about TV since 2015. It goes back way further as she got her big start making observations in her diary about My So-Called Life’s Angela Chase (and her style) at 14.
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