Gossip Girl Week 3 Report Card: Is It Me? Am I the Drama?

Photo: Karolina Wojtasik/HBO Max

Nothing like a little DRAMA at a drama, right? This week’s Arbitrary Yet Mandatory Swanky Social Gathering is the premiere of a Jeremy O. Harris play at the Public. (Why even be on HBO if you can’t make the centerpiece of an episode feature some totally gratuitous, full-frontal, blood-slathered nudity?) In “Lies Wide Shut,” our students are showing their softer sides, but our teachers are getting ruthless, and so am I. Please make like Julien and put those phones away for the duration of this week’s Gossip Girl Report Card.

Obie
Last week: A- 
I feel weird continuing to give him such high marks for doing the bare minimum, but we are grading on a curve here, so everyone else’s idiocy is Obie’s gain. He charms Zoya’s dad, takes his new girlfriend on a very nice and thoughtful date, confronts her gently about her bizarre behavior, and immediately takes her (highly unlikely, how would she already have picked up on this?) note that perhaps he was partly responsible for Julien losing herself in their relationship. His apology-slash-olive-branch toward Julien is, though, improbably articulate and almost too cringe-y to watch, heartfelt and fair. It is tacky to still be humble-bragging about having seen Hamilton at the Public, though. A

Jeremy O. Harris 
Last week: not graded
I am dying to know if he had anything to do with the fake play, Aaron, at the heart of this episode. Either way, plus points for having a good sense of humor about it. Died at his delivery of “let’s find a less confrontational space and have a little talk.” A

Davis, Julien’s dad
Last week: A
Hiding his girlfriend from his daughter to the point where he lies about being out of the country? Not great, not gonna lie, but he does own this mistake quite graciously. And he’s not too put out to ignore that Julien’s comment about his “pied-àffair” is very cute. “I think we can both agree to do better” is a totally fair way to deal with his and his daughter’s scheming, considering the context. (I guess he’s just going to let it slide that she was at a nightclub when she thought he was in Berlin?) A-

Headmistress Burton 
Last week: not graded
Center Stage forever! Is it more than a little extra to go out and hire Black Cube to put @GossipGirl down? Yes, but I’m so happy to see Donna Murphy, I’ll just throw her a B+

@GossipGirl 
Last week: A-
Her blind item was so vague it could’ve applied to just about anyone in the school, so, mixed results there, but her profile continues to grow. She’s getting tips from private schools and sources all across the city. And isn’t the truest sign of her burgeoning power the fact that she’s courted some formidable enemies, including the headmistress of Constance and Harvey Weinstein’s favorite shadowy spy firm? B+

Lola
Last week: not graded
The minute she told Julien that she had a boyfriend who wouldn’t go public with her, it was obvious to us all that the boyfriend was Julien’s dad, right? Also: In the dim lighting of the nightclub (more on that later), I found it very hard to make out her face; later, when she approached her apartment, I wrote in my notes she really reminds me of Guinevere Beck from Dan Humphrey’s other show, right down to that Madewell wardrobe and those curtainless windows at street level. And then — what do you know? It’s her, like really! Even though it’s not so great that she allowed this older man to treat her like a secret sidepiece, I feel like she handles this whole situation with as much grace as a reasonable person could muster. B

Zoya’s doorman
Last week: not graded
Just because he’s been there since the ’70s doesn’t mean the man can’t love to goss. Still gross to snap pics of that 14-year-old, but it was a pretty chaste, fully clothed kiss on the street, so I’ll let him go with a B

Rafa 
Last week: C+
Unlike Max, I am a real adult, and therefore feel comfortable referring to the hot classics teacher by his first name. Though Rafa is understandably horrified to discover his body was used as part of Max’s grand scheme, he does the kind and not-creepy thing of letting Max sob on his shoulder and sleep on his couch when this poor little rich boy is too distraught to go home. I would honestly love it if Rafa just became a cool and platonic mentor-type to Max, but knowing this show, that is … not how this is going to play out. B

Luna 
Last week: D+
Hey, I did say I’d split Luna and Monet up in the rankings if and when they deserved stand-alone slots. I still do not understand the logic by which Luna and Monet spot a power vacuum and don’t attempt to just … fill it themselves. (Not to mention, there’s been way too much telling and virtually zero showing about Julien as some kind of “queen” in this school.) All of Luna’s counsel for Zoya is so retrograde and psychotic — “never eat, cry, PDA, MTA, or wear flats in public” — I half wondered if the whole thing was an elaborate attempt at sabotage (which would have been way more fun!). Instead, we are supposed to believe that Luna actually wears contacts she doesn’t need to keep her vision blurry so she doesn’t make eye contact (???), among other questionable and deeply weird life choices. Because of this show’s insistence on whooshing through story without the requisite character development, Luna’s digs at Zoya don’t make any sense — Zoya spent the whole first episode wearing clothes Julien picked out for her, so we’ve only seen her dress herself like … twice? So what is Luna basing her insult that Zoya’s been dressing like “the Paramus Uniqlo’s back-to-school sale” on? The only thing I like about Luna this week is that she doesn’t have Zoya’s number saved (power move) and that when her phone rings from this unknown caller, she holds it up by the corner and goes, “Is it an Amber Alert?” And through really no effort of her own, she manages to get some potentially catastrophic dirt on Zoya. So, fine, she can have a C+

Max
Last week: C
Trying to catfish your dad to prove that he’s cheating on your other dad is, I guess, believable even though it’s gross — a sort of reverse Parent Trap — but it’s hard to believe he didn’t think the whole reveal, not to mention his ensnarement of his hot teacher into the whole matter, wouldn’t blow up spectacularly. I want to support him because he is sort of trying to be a good person and he feels betrayed by a parent he loves. I also appreciated his line about getting a “progress report on the sins of our fathers” and his word-vomit about the Audrey/Aki situation so we didn’t have to drag out their whole deal, so I will be generous and grant him a C

Audrey
Last week: C
She delivers her dialogue with some real oomph, despite being given almost nothing to work with re: who is her character and why does she behave the way she does. I just can’t with these teens having totally joyless, perfunctory sex in a relationship they obviously don’t want to be in anymore, especially when we have been given NO reason for why they were in that relationship in the first place. At least Nate and Blair made sense: She always thought she’d lose her virginity to her first boyfriend and didn’t want to bail on the dream, plus she felt like they had some high-school golden-couple archetype to fulfill, and they were getting all that pressure from their parents to stay together. And they did have good friend chemistry, whereas Audrey and Aki fully feel like strangers every time they are onscreen together. And who even are Audrey and Aki to the social ecosystem they’re in? It’s unclear! Does anyone care if they stay together or break up? It appears not! So what are we doing here? Oh, and I lost it when Julien’s response to Audrey telling her she had sex with Max was “you’ve known him for a decade, why now?” YOU ARE IN HIGH SCHOOL. Should she have been fucking him when they were 11? C

Aki
Last week: F
I honestly don’t know where to put him because he’s still boring. In the name of relationship equality, he can also have a C

Julien
Last week: D
Again, we have character decisions that make no sense and relationships that do not track — like, is Max so gross that Audrey can’t believe she hooked up with him or such a devoted wingman that Julien would turn to him in the midst of her image crisis to help her get her groove back? As for Julien’s efforts at proving she’s fine (?) or getting a new boyfriend (??) or winning a non-existent Instagram war even though Obie is not on social media (???): Has anyone ever made having “fun” look so sad? Because we know practically nothing about Julien, we have no idea if going out and partying is some break from her routine or just a status quo night out. I still don’t really understand who she is or what she wants. She does some good sleuthing, though, and I have to respect her flair for the dramatic reveal of her dad’s secret and her correct and mature decision not to take it all out on Lola. C

Honestly making these kids “cool” makes them super-boring because it erases all the stakes from their experiences
Last week: not graded
If everyone’s always drinking and doing drugs, it never shocks or even matters when Julien snorts a line of space coke. If everyone’s always having sex with everybody else and apparently has been since … freshman year? Middle school? We are given no information on this matter! Then sex, even between characters who technically “shouldn’t” have sex because it would constitute cheating, is a total nonevent. Not everything about the OG Gossip Girl was good or even worked, but SEVERAL main characters were virgins when the series began and approached their early sexual experiences with a very fitting blend of apprehension and eagerness and hunger, and it made every single make out actually matter to them and, by extension, to us. C-

Nick, Zoya’s dad
Last week: D
Very classic dad move to insist the new boyfriend come over for dinner, nothing wrong with that, although the ease with which he is charmed by Obie’s self-flagellation and sizzling takes on urban planning (gentrification = bad) is not his most impressive moment. Also, I get that Zoya’s not supposed to be on her phone at the table, but I’d think any rational parent would show a little more empathy and/or concern when he is told that a hashtag about his daughter being “ugly” is trending?? It’s extremely weird that, having uprooted her life and brought her to a place he worries will be this toxic den of teen demons, he is completely unmoved when she reports some real-time cyberbullying. C-

Kate Keller
Last week: B-
Well, that fall from do-gooder to evil didn’t take long, now did it? I found these machinations a little dull and convoluted — we’re just getting a handle on who these teachers are; why would we care about the offscreen boss of the barely onscreen husband of a teacher we barely know? — but I guess it serves the purpose of showing us that, merely three episodes in, Kate and the gang are willing to get one of their colleagues fired so they can keep on gossiping. Which is just fully insane given that the reason they started @GossipGirl was to protect themselves from cruel students who could get them fired over nothing. To quote an internet proverb: What happened to the original plot of the movie? D+

The rest of the teachers 
Last week: not graded
Still learning their names, but bonus points for the guy who says, “I once saw on an episode of The Americans that if you squeeze your anus you can dupe a lie detector,” and minus points for Wendy’s assertion that her husband went to “public school in suburbia where everyone was nice to each other,” because everyone is definitely not nice to each other at public schools in suburbia, sorry to report. D

Zoya
Last week: A
Look, I am TRYING to be kind here. But I am growing oh-so-weary of cutting this kid some slack just because she’s 14 years old. What kind of full-on dumb-dumb would trust the upperclassmen who was just bullying her — like, that very second! When Zoya called! — to give her a makeover? Why would Zoya ever take the advice of the lackey to the girl who just got dumped by the guy she, Zoya, is currently dating and won over, as she well knows, because of her unaffected nature? Almost every single thing she does in this episode is so ill-advised it’s hard to choose a low point, but I think I’ll give it to the part where she responds to Obie telling her she looks beautiful (what was he supposed to say? “This is cute but I like your other outfits more”? Girl, it’s a black dress! You weren’t exactly making a statement!) by deciding that (1) he must like makeover-her more than REAL her so (2) she should spend the entire evening following Luna’s Code of Cool Kid Conduct lest Obie see her pop a chicken skewer in her mouth and realize he thinks she’s disgusting? Oh, and also, I cannot believe she just told Luna — her bully! HER ACTUAL BULLY — this potentially evictable information about her living situation?! D

Max’s dads
Last week: not graded
This is an awful lot of episode real estate to spend on Max’s parents — time that could surely be better spent, you know, giving us literally any meaningful information about the teens at the center of our series — especially considering we hadn’t even really met them until this episode began and their situation doesn’t have anything to do with anyone but each other. Why would we care about their breakup when we haven’t even seen them be together? It’s not like one of them is actually cheating with a main character. Love the outfits and sorry about your impending divorce, though. D

Okay, we’re supposed to believe Zoya is being bullied over her appearance??
Last week: not graded
ZERO percent chance this girl could arrive at this school and not be the talk of the halls on her beauty alone. Like, maybe I buy that people would drag her fashion (though is it noticeably stranger or more offbeat than the hyperstylized looks of her classmates?) or even laugh at an awkward shot of her deep-throating a pizza slice. But like so much else in this series so far, this all reads as too try-hard to believe — a plot machination set in place from above that isn’t plausibly set in motion by the characters down on the ground. D-

Monet
Last week: D+
Sort of a nonfactor this week, but I’m underwhelmed by her bizarre and retrograde value system wherein these supposedly woker-than-woke teens believe that you can’t be the queen of the high school unless you’re on the arm of an old-money boyfriend. Do I betray my public school roots by saying this does not add up? “Everyone knows the only way to get over an heir is to get under another one” is not the clever take Monet thinks it is. (Didn’t they say something just like this, swapping out the word “heir,” on Sex and the City like … 20 years ago?) Also, isn’t Julien already rich? Is she so new-money that she can’t stand atop the high-school hierarchy on her own two well-heeled feet? And while I do think it’s funny Monet accused Brad Pitt of having “desiccated abs” in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (If Quentin Tarantino can’t figure out where the ellipses go in his own movie title, I’m not going to bother using any), her logic about winning and losing breakups makes absolutely no sense. Angelina isn’t playing a Disney villain in a sad, aging starlet way; she’s playing one in a glamorous, I’m-a-movie-star-and-now-I’m-making-more-money-than-God way. And plenty of female stars see their stock rise when they ditch the men who were holding them back! I feel like everything Monet says is just coming from some broken quip-writing machine that is completely disconnected from reality. F

Why is everything so dark?
Last week: not graded
And I mean that both literally — what’s with the gloomy Christopher Nolan lighting? — and spiritually. Not to suggest this show needs to mimic its predecessor in every single way (obviously doing so would be redundant/pointless), but the old Gossip Girl was FUN. It was campy and kicky and bright. Even the music was peppier; remember those light-touch interstitial instrumentals? Everything here is so weighty and joyless. And, not to encourage teen debauchery, but why should they be partying and hooking up with total abandon if they aren’t having a good time? Anyway, this is coming from someone who tapped out of Euphoria because I thought it was a bummer, so take it with a grain of glitter. F

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Gossip Girl Week 3 Report Card: Is It Me? Am I the Drama?