Gossip Girl Week Two Report Card: Are We Having Fun Yet?

Audrey and Aki star in Marriage Story, er, I mean, Gossip Girl. Photo: Karolina Wojtasik/HBO Max

Change is inevitable but traditions are sacred, which is why it’s heartening to see the new Gossip Girl carrying on one of the classic rites of the old in this week’s episode, “She’s Having a Maybe”: throwing a swanky affair for the flimsiest of justifications (“black tie for school supplies,” lol) to force all the kids and adults into the same venue, in glamorous outfits, where conflict, drama, and other assorted chicanery can ensue. We have: Secrets! Kissing! Bloodshed! Breakups! AND MORE. But how did our Upper East and West Siders make out (kissing pun!) in this high-stakes arena? Only I can judge them. Onward with our second installment of the Gossip Girl Report Card.

Davis, Julien’s dad 
Last week: C- 
While I really miss his longer Lenny Bruce hair, I otherwise find little to criticize this week. Though he starts off on a sour note, with that dead-eyed “I’m very disappointed in you” routine at his daughter, upon one night’s reflection he actually does the correct and adult thing: He apologizes to Julien for keeping her from her sister; he admits he did “bad things” when her mother left (well, what he says is “when Nick took your mom from me” which is an interesting erasure of her agency, but let’s not dwell); he allows that Julien “connected with [Zoya] for a reason and I’m guessing that it has nothing to do with me or with Nick and everything to do with your mom, and she would’ve loved that.” I have a feeling we’re not going to be seeing much good parenting on this show, so let’s celebrate it while we can! A

Last week: B+
I’ll just say it was a CHOICE to make this girl 14 years old, which is very, very young, when clearly the show needs her to be in the mix for pairings and trysts with the rest of the crew. She could’ve at least been a sophomore, and it would’ve made things feel a whole lot less “isn’t she basically a glorified eighth-grader” and a bit more “her sweet 16 is coming up any day now.” Zoya lives on the Upper West Side, which is a nice deep-cut callout for anyone who did the reading — Dan Humphrey lived there in the books but moved to Brooklyn for TV, presumably because the idea that the Upper West Side is so different from the Upper East Side wasn’t going to come across for viewers outside of New York — and has a cute kind of Claudia Kishi thing going with the one-strap overalls and cozy knits. She is trying very hard to play by the rules but is not compromising on the things that matter to her, and apparently her one-act was the talk of the English department. Good for you, Zoya. Tough break about your dad being such a pain in the ass. A

Last week: B-
Yes, she comes under attack (a flood of Distracted Boyfriend memes, the posts put under review) and is exhausting to maintain, but @GossipGirl weathers these trials and emerges from the week with more than 10,000 followers and that coveted blue check. I both love and hate how often this show feels the need to reference how difficult it is to write in the voice of the original Gossip Girl … I mean, she was Edith Wharton–inspired but she wasn’t actually Edith Wharton. I assumed last week’s one-liner about hoping Kate/Tavi’s “Gossip Girl voice is better than your real voice” was a joke about Kristen Bell’s narration, not a recurring thing about the struggles of creative writing. Anyway, she still scores an A-

Last week: A
Considering everything — he’s in high school and of the socioeconomic stripe that would suggest douchiness as a default setting — Obie doubles down on his breakup with Julien in a pretty decent, compassionate way. Because we do not know how old he is (I feel like … 17?) I am not yet sure that I can cosign his pursuit of tender Zoya, but for now I will just ignore the age gap and say that his respectful yet ardent courtship is endearing in a sort of “that really would’ve worked on me in high school even if now, with the cynical gaze of adulthood, I find it all a little eyeroll-inducing.” And as someone who still misses back-to-school shopping, a first date supermarket-sweep of Apple Art Supplies really works for me, even if it is a little reminiscent of the pharmacy-flirting scene in Promising Young Woman, especially with the neon sign; anybody else feel that way? How do we feel about him buying her ticket to this fundraiser as a secret surprise? Romantic or controlling? In an effort to support this burgeoning young love, I’m going to go with the former. For now. A-

Wait, the fundraiser was in Brooklyn?
Last week: not graded
I might’ve missed it, but our showrunners promised us more geographic veracity, so: Could these kids have gotten from the party to Clinton Hill and back in under an hour? Someone reassure me in the comments while I give this a provisional B+

Lots of cleavage on display for an event where everyone’s teachers and parents are going to be! 
Last week: not graded 
No judgment, just saying. B

Kate Keller
Last week: C
Someone who thinks she’s a very good person is well on her way to becoming a very bad person! Looking forward to it, truly. Posting salacious gossip about Zoya on the @GossipGirl account while talking to Zoya’s dad is really something. Given the pacing on this show I doubt we will have to wait very long to find out why Zoya got kicked out of her last school. Kate exercises the most minimal of restraint in her dealings with Julien, is definitely flirting with Zoya’s dad, and is already punch-drunk on the power of wielding her verified Instagram. The most dangerous kind of person is the person who THINKS she’s a good person when she’s not! For now, but not for long: B-

The hot classics teacher whose name I didn’t catch
Last week: not graded
It’s all very Trust Exercise, this whole thing. I apologize for playing Captain Buzzkill here, but it’s a real letter-not-spirit-of-the-law interpretation for this grown man to consider it kosher to have sex with his former students the day they graduate. The teacher-student power imbalance obviously does not evaporate the moment someone comes of age or technically leaves a person’s care. On the other hand … he is very hot. So, C+

Last week: A-
Max is hopelessly devoted to fucking his teacher, which I get (see above re: hotness) but also is … really something! I see the show is trying to make us feel marginally better about this obvious violation by letting us know that Max is 18, and I’m curious if there’s some plan in place for keeping the of-age teens from having sex with the underage teens, or if we’re all supposed to feel just fine about any variety of teen matchup. He Nancy Drews his teacher’s (public? Yikes!) Instagrams to stake out his biweekly bathhouse visit, pulls a classic “let’s pretend we’re together to make him jealous” move and kisses Aki, which does not seem to have its desired effect, and is told to just keep on edging until graduation. The only real win for him this week, if you can count it as a win, is that he is happily hooking up with both Aki and Audrey, stirring discord and distrust among two of his supposedly closest friends. C

Girls who grew up without sisters thinking they know how sisters behave
Last week: not graded
Genuinely hilarious to me that Julien thinks narcing on your sister for breaking the rules for no good reason, just because you’re pissed at her, was wrong because “a sister wouldn’t do what I just did, right?” Lot of only children in that writers’ room I guess!

Last week: B+
As I pointed out last week, Audrey and Aki’s relationship is awfully Marriage Story for a couple of teenagers. I just think if you’re telling your friend, who claims he has already had sex with everyone but you, “close your eyes and pretend someone’s new, I do it all the time,” you probably don’t want to be in a relationship. Which is fine! Break up! Anyway, I can’t dock Audrey for this, but I think it’s a little trigger-happy on the series’s part to wait all of two episodes before having her and Max sneak around. Whatever happened to building tension? Chuck and Blair didn’t christen the backseat of his limo until the end of episode seven. Must everything move at the speed of TikTok? I will give her points for: trying very hard with her mom, wearing impeccable outfits all episode (loved those pants, also great lipstick at the fundraiser), swearing she would “never” have sex with Max approximately ten hours before (apparently, though not certainly) having sex with Max. Still not enough to get her above a C.

Kiki, Audrey’s mom
Last week: not graded
Always a delight to see Laura Benanti, especially after she was so rudely and unceremoniously ditched on Younger! Let’s talk about Kiki. Kiki is going through it. Kiki does NOT want to run into her ex (we don’t know who he is yet, do we?) and she doesn’t want her daughter to know that her company is going bankrupt, and she doesn’t want to get out of bed or go to a parent-teacher conference just to hear about how her daughter is brilliant and amazing. Kiki’s best effort goes as follows: She gets shit-faced before she even arrives at the fundraiser, where she drinks so much she loses her shoes and slices her hand open on a broken martini glass. (I love that the guy whose lap she falls into is like, “I’m a doctor. Really!”) I’m rooting for her. We’re ALL rooting for her. But for now she barely skates by with a C-.

Monet & Luna
Last week: A
Until these girls distinguish themselves from each other, I’m just going to keep rating them as a matched set. Strong Flotsam and Jetsam energy with these two. I’m always a little put off by teen shows that suggest there are minions who are this obsessed with their queen, as if they don’t realize they could just ice her out and then like … move on with their own lives? Genuinely wild to watch a couple of hot rich girls micromanage the social media rollout of their friend’s breakup. Also I think we’re supposed to consider Audrey and Julien best friends, with Monet and Luna one tier down, which just makes their slavish devotion here even more bewildering and sad — and I don’t really get or buy the reason we’re given, which is that Julien losing Obie means Monet will lose a connection for an internship. Pretty sure this girl has other connections. That said, I do love that Monet thinks being spontaneous is “gross.” D+

Last week: C
Again I must say that I find her behavior kind of pathetic for someone who I’m supposed to believe rules the halls of Constance Billard. She’s so insecure about Obie hanging out with Zoya that she posts an old photo — in a slightly but obviously different dress — to trick her “followers” (don’t a lot of them actually know her?) into thinking they’re still together? Girl. That is not how you win a breakup! Don’t be the A-Rod when you know you’re a J.Lo! I do appreciate her scrambling to make things right with Zoya, her dad, and Obie, even as her fits of insecurity get in the way. That said, her emotional arc in this episode — like everything else in this show so far! — comes together VERY quickly, to the point where I was waiting to find out it was all a performance and she was just pretending to be okay with Obie and Zoya to set them up for a future attack. If these teens rush through everything in their lives the way we’re rushing through plot … no wonder Audrey was having a hard time finishing with Aki last week. D

Nick, Zoya’s dad 
Last week: D
This guy is a drag. I get grounding Zoya but also, I don’t; does he really not believe that she didn’t know about the scholarship? And even if she did know, does he have no compassion for why she’d want to put herself in the path of her half-sister? It’s wild that he’s the one who can’t have grace in this situation considering he was technically the “other man” in the matter. And does he think she’s going to be able to thrive at this new school — which means being perfect 24/7, on pain of losing the scholarship — if he doesn’t allow her to have a reasonable social life, make friends, or date? Ugh. I wonder if we’re supposed to think he and Kate are going to have a thing, seeing as she gives him the you’re-not-like-all-the-other-guys treatment when she tells him most dads use her ushering as an excuse to grope her ass. I hope not. D

Last week: B
Aki is boring, I’m sorry! I hope he gets interesting soon. In theory he is given a lot of interesting things to do — explore his sexuality with Max, cheat on his girlfriend with the same person she is also cheating with — but in practice he’s where all the sparks and action go to fizzle. The fact that Audrey has to tell us that his whole personality is “peacemaker” is not a great sign, nor is her little catchphrase for him (“I didn’t book a session”). And why is he always siding with Kiki over Audrey? Is he sleeping with her, too? Because that would, in fact, be interesting. F

Gossip Girl Week Two Report Card: Are We Having Fun Yet?