Gossip Girl Week 4 Report Card: Go Play Your Video Games

Photo: HBO

Unlike the headmistress of Constance Billard, I believe in holding our Gossip children and their parents accountable for their behavior, which means that the grades this week will reflect their relentlessly ridiculous conduct and my evaporating tolerance for their totally illogical choices. In “Fire Walks With Z,” big secrets are OUT, new allegiances are IN, and the scores this week are … well, let’s just say I hope to see brighter performances from all our stars in the episodes to come. Brace yourself for a cold, cruel edition of the Gossip Girl Report Card.

Last week: B
She has a perfect blowout first thing in the morning, is just so happy to be here, and while she is trying very hard to win over Julien, she knows to respect boundaries (see: She didn’t show up to the birthday party). Not sure how long this can last, but in the meantime: Good on you, stepmommy dearest. A-

Last week: A-
He doesn’t really do much, but the food trucks were a sweet if over-the-top idea. Somehow he magically reads into Zoya’s extremely vague “umm” that the birthday is loaded with trauma; I don’t buy it, but sure, he can be that perceptive, I suppose. LOL at the idea of this child (a 17-year-old, I think?) booking a hotel suite for his FIFTEEN-year-old girlfriend for the night and that just being fine with every adult who would know about it. I thought he and Zoya had chemistry before, but I am no longer seeing it, are you? Their relationship is 80 percent misunderstandings. B+

Last week: C
Even though we are supposed to believe this generation of Gossip Girl is woker-than-woke, Audrey is still out here using words like “normal” to describe heterosexuality, which according to Julien is why Aki doesn’t feel safe opening up to her about his burgeoning bisexuality. (By the way, I don’t believe for a second that Julien keeps her “options” for Audrey’s backup dates in a literal little black book.) Audrey’s attempt at making Aki jealous backfires in a most pathetic manner — the cute guy from Andover is gay and figured she knew since “I go to boarding school and I’m on a dance crew” —but I have to give her credit for eventually coming around and confronting Aki in as fair a way as possible. She apologizes for making his sexuality about her when it’s not about her at all. Alas, all these characters are so scattered it barely feels like they’re in the same show, and it’s too bad she’s sidelined with this plot and only interacts with Julien to talk about Aki when I feel like she’d be a lot more useful if she could engage in … well, whatever they decide to make the central drama of this series. B

Last week: C
“I love you and I’m attracted to you” he says to Audrey in about the least convincing manner I can imagine. B

Davis, Julien’s dad 
Last week: A-
So I do think it was correct of the dads to intervene, and I can see why Davis would think the obvious solution is to make this a joint party. I will dock points from Zoya’s dad for not even anticipating the no-duh ways in which that could implode — your daughter was JUST bullied out of her old school and now you think the solution to your problems is to put her in a room half-full of people who’ve sided against her in this sister-versus-sister war? — but Davis does not know this, and so I withhold judgment from him. I do, however, judge him for not running up on that stage and pulling Julien off it the second her speech started to go off the rails, so, pretty much the second she started — and if not then, OBVIOUSLY he should’ve been up there the minute that video took a turn. Instead he just stood by while she went back onstage?? No. In the pro column: He is quite understanding about Nick and Zoya’s living situation and offers financial assistance in this matter, which naturally Nick is too proud to take, but it was cool of Davis to put it out there. Is it very dumb that he thinks it’s good for the daughters to be fighting so the dads can bond? Yes, but if he weren’t at least a little dopey he wouldn’t fit in at all on this show. C+ 

Every episode of a television drama should be no more than 43 minutes long
Last week: Not graded
Mad Men episodes were 43 minutes long. The Americans episodes were 43 minutes long. Breaking Bad episodes were 43 minutes long. Friday Night Lights episodes: 43 minutes long. I could go on, but I won’t — see? That’s what I wish these hour-long shows would do! The only drama that was a full hour and didn’t waste a minute was The Sopranos (Wire stans don’t @ me; we can talk another time … for now, just rewatch that journalism season and think about what you’ve done.) I never thought I would yearn for the return of commercials, but at least they forced some structure onto these otherwise shapeless blobs of content that go on FOREVER just because streaming services don’t have healthy boundaries. Without fail, every show I’ve covered that had 50-minute-and-above episodes would’ve been improved exponentially by leaving a whole plot and a half on the cutting room floor. C

Last week: C
Great outgoing message (“If you’re leaving a voicemail, you obviously don’t know me”), but his bender is so absurd I genuinely can’t tell if we’re supposed to find it heart-wrenching or just hilarious. He spills out of a van in the morning full of people in scrubs that he was … having sex with? Or just buying drugs from? Or both? Hands full of prescription drugs like he was just trick-or-treating at Mount Sinai … what? That Altoids tin with just a bunch of, like, random pills in it, like candy? Sorry to out myself as not an expert on the matter but like … is that how people do drugs? I feel like it’s not. And yet again we have a situation where Max was presented to us as so wild from the start — popping pills in the quad or whatever before the first day of school in the series premiere — that his “I’m in a spiral” conduct barely registers as different from his standard-issue druggy debauchery. C-

Last week: C
Julien’s morning vlog is sort of lame to me — like, congratulations on not wearing makeup, I guess? But you’re young and poreless and plenty of girls don’t wear makeup in high school, or anywhere, so honestly, who cares. Plus she wears makeup to her party, so this commitment to the barefaced life lasted all of 12 hours. Also it’s just not clear what this decision has to do with anything; it seems to come out of nowhere, though I imagine we’re supposed to see it as some literal response to the allegation from Obie via Zoya that Julien isn’t “real” enough. Somehow I doubt what Obie meant by that was that Julien needed to perform her authenticity for her Instagram followers. Anyway, Julien’s exposed face horrifies her lackeys, again for reasons unclear (more on the henchwomen in a minute). Also, I had to Google Josef Fritzl, but once I did, I gotta say that’s quite harsh of her to say to her dad about his no-longer-secret girlfriend.

Julien remains a totally unconvincing queen bee, not least because we spend basically no time at school so we don’t see her interacting with any other students in a way that would suggest they are obsessed with her, terrified of her, or both. I don’t understand why it matters that she had spiked food (?) at the party if, after doing one drunk ramble, she just manages to recover with a different drunk ramble, and no one seems to notice or care that she’s obviously under the influence of some illicit substance. As for her announcement that she’s a bully, I gotta say: No, you’re not! We have never seen her bully anyone! Only Monet and Luna, for whom she is sometimes an unwitting puppet, get their hands dirty! Are we to be invested in this redemption arc for someone who has barely done anything at all, good or bad, since we met her but four episodes ago? C-

Julien and Zoya’s relationship
Last week: Not graded
Because we started the series with this fakeout — you think they barely know each other, but secretly they’re friends! — and then their real friendship started to crumble almost immediately, but then it got put back together again until Monet and Luna goaded Julien into attacking Z until Julien changed her mind again and again and again … how are we supposed to know how these girls actually feel about each other? And since most of their interactions have either been performance pieces (pretending not to know each other) or giant misunderstandings perpetuated by Gossip Girl and Monet and Luna, we have no baseline for what they even are to each other, so their hug-slash-truce means nothing, and I figure we have about ten minutes before some other Monet & Luna effort gets them back in a brawl. C-

Last week: D
I am STRUGGLING to find reasons to give points to anyone this week, but this is the birthday girl, so let’s try to start positive: I died at “whatever a Minka Kelly is.”

Do we think having Zoya’s immunocompromised mom die while giving birth to her is an intentional callback to Chuck Bass (a.k.a. the Charlie Trout of Dan Humphrey’s eyeroll-bad short story), whose mom died in the same manner, forever turning Bart against his only son and heir? In our new show, oh well, this piece of potentially explosive information has virtually no effect — it just means Zoya hates her birthday, which means anytime someone (inevitably, as she has not provided this information to any of her new friends or loved ones) acknowledges her birthday she becomes very uncomfortable. And the one person who could reasonably, if unfairly, have issues about this is Julien, but she apparently carries no trauma-induced-grudge around this. Zoya still doesn’t really have a personality or an identity beyond New Girl With a Secret, and now her secret’s out, so half her personality is gone. Her behavior with Obie is, yet again, totally incoherent; did we not just go through the thing where not being true to herself but acting like Julien made Obie less into her? And now we have to rehash that again so the self-proclaimed low-key birthday kid can suddenly decide she needs to have a BIGGER party than her sister? Oooookay.

Well, at least she’s 15 now. That clears up all our age-of-consent concerns, yes? Oh, wait, it doesn’t? Cool, cool. At least her hair looks cute. D+

Kate Keller
Last week: D+
Turns out Ms. Keller dropped out of Iowa six months shy of her M.F.A. “Like literary great Hannah Horvath before her, she just wasn’t good enough!” Having run the @GossipGirl account for all of three weeks, Kate has decided these captions are the greatest thing she’ll ever write. I mean, maybe these report cards are the greatest thing I’ll ever write. As Obie who saw Hamilton at the Public can tell you, we have no control over our legacies!! Anyway, good for Kate for staying home and writing an entire short story in one night, as real writers are wont to do. Apologies for being repetitive here, but I must report the truth, which is: Kate’s character development is so unhinged that none of her choices make any sense, thus making her entire plot difficult and annoying to follow. The whole thing of “we need to restart Gossip Girl to keep the kids in line and protect our jobs” was flimsy from the start, but we are only four episodes in and already we have lost the thread completely. D

I swear I’m rooting for them, but these teens are still so boring
Last week: C-
The trials of these teens reminds me a bit of Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings, which I liked but did not love in part because (sorry for spoilers, and yes I know this is kind of the crux of the whole book) most of the so-called “Interestings” are not actually interesting; they are ordinary but obsessed with their sense of themselves as somehow extraordinary because they went to a rich-kid artsy camp like one time. And really only one of them is truly talented and the others are just rich and/or hot and/or rich-hot adjacent. What does this mean for fair Gossip Girl? Telling me, as this show does over and over again, that any of these characters are So Very Interesting does not make them so. I feel like we are speeding through plots that go nowhere and events that mean nothing and relationships so perfunctory it’s a wonder they bother getting together or breaking up at all. What’s the rush? These episodes are so long — too long, I’ll say it again! — and the pacing is a hot mess, and none of these ostensibly exciting endeavors are going to resonate if the characters are this underdeveloped. D

Last week: Not graded
Not even going to pretend to follow who this child is or why we are being introduced to him when this show already has like 3,098,437 characters in it and his role easily could have been fulfilled by someone we’ve already met and are supposed to care about. For instance, maybe the scorned Aki would’ve been down to help his best friend’s girlfriend. Or, maybe one of the teachers could have overheard Zoya’s woes and done some damage to Julien through the @GossipGirl account. But no, instead we have some eighth-grader who can summon an army of Russian bots at a moment’s notice. Sure. D-

Monet & Luna
Last week: F and C+, respectively
Monet, aghast at Julien’s Instastory about natural beauty: “No one wants to see anyone without a filter.” Luna is appalled that Julien isn’t interested in a Conde Nast photo shoot. To this I say: What? What are they TALKING about? Being natural — or at least pretending to be natural and authentic and whatever — is its own kind of flex, and these girls should KNOW that. Aren’t we supposed to believe Julien, an influencer in her own right, is above needing the old-school establishment for validation and that this generation doesn’t care about legacy media? AND WHY ARE THEY SO INVESTED IN JULIEN’S SOCIAL-MEDIA PRESENCE, GOOD LORD. I hear them drop these little lines about internships they want or clout they’re chasing, but we are given absolutely no explanation for why these two girls — who are already privileged, beautiful, rich, conniving, etc., etc., etc. — cannot achieve those ends without Julien’s assistance. And we don’t see what it is that Julien gets out of her relationships with these girls, either. Why are they even in each other’s lives? If Julien’s whole thing is that she’s nice to everyone, why do Monet and Luna need to be her social muscle to stay in her good graces?

All this talk about thrones and royalty and meanwhile we have never seen Julien do anything at school involving anyone else, ever. We have not seen her exile a social climber from the top of the Met steps, take somebody out with a field hockey stick, throw a Nairtini at someone’s head, sort incoming freshmen into projects and victims, scream at an underling for mistaking leggings for pants, or attempt to win a lunch invite while wearing last season’s Tory Burch flats. I’m not saying we need to replay the greatest hits here, but the point is: When Blair talked about being queen, it was because she acted like one, and everyone around her was affected by her behavior. Monet and Luna sound fully deranged talking about some “throne” that no one else seems to even acknowledge or see, serving a “queen” who reigns over exactly zero people. F

Nick, Zoya’s dad
Last week: C-
When that tape starts playing, he just … stands there? And does nothing!! What the HELL. NICK! Your daughter is being humiliated and tormented by her half-sister in front of all of her new classmates and you’re like, This is a good time for me, the parent, to just chill quietly on the sidelines and do absolutely nothing, not even gonna make sure she’s okay, I will wait here helplessly. How is he not more concerned about how she is being treated by her peers considering the whole reason they can’t go back to Buffalo in the first place? F

Last week: B
Ughhhhh, okay, yeah, I guess just have sex with your student who is obviously in a bad place and needs you to be the adult in the room, whatever, I’m tired. Was he just lurking at the entrance to this student party until Max showed up? F

It would be cool if any actions had consequences
Last week: Not graded
So the whole thing where Zoya got into school because her half-sister plucked her application from the pile, that’s just … over now? Zoya nearly Buffy-ed her old school to the ground while being bullied to pieces by some mean girls, and now everyone knows, but because Julien told them, it was all a big oopsie-daisy and no one is going to be mean to Zoya about her past or to Julien about her cruelty? I assume I’m supposed to be worried about Z’s apartment situation, but I have been given no reason to believe it will matter, so why would I? Why should we care about anything that happens to any of these people if nothing they do has any lasting consequences or changes them or their relationships in any meaningful way?!? F

Gossip Girl Week 4 Report Card: Go Play Your Video Games