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TV Review: Gossip Girl Begins Beautiful Friendship

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Everyone is frequently switching romantic partners on a show like the CW’s Gossip Girl. Serena (Blake Lively) has dated at least half a dozen guys alone. So it should come as no surprise that Dan (Penn Badgley) and Blair (Leighton Meester) are suddenly getting chummy. In fact, their intense animosity for each other since day one would have made them the predictable couple in a romantic comedy. Yet, their hatred was so intense, no flirting undertones were ever in sight, that I was super surprised at this season’s development. They aren’t anywhere close to being love interests… yet. But in the last few episodes, they have began a very sweet friendship.

It was born out of necessity and mutual caring for Serena. Pitted together on a road trip just before the show took a winter break, fans were surprised at the chemistry these two had, as they’d never had more than a few moments to show it before. What came out of that story was surprising and fun, something very fresh in a four year old show, which admittedly, had already been having a stellar season. I think it might have been a one-shot episode if it hadn’t been so magical. But it continued last night, as Blair and Dan reluctantly headed to the movies together. How reluctantly? It did feel like their protestations were only show, but it wasn’t a date. I am extremely interested in how this will develop, more so than any other recent plot on Gossip Girl.

I am sad to see the apparent end of Dan and Serena’s will they or won’t they, at least for now. As much as I love this new path with Dan and Blair, I was always a Dan and Serena fan, and I really enjoyed their renewed attraction lately. Last night, they said they’d only get one more chance, but they weren’t ready to take it. It’s really making the two of them echo their parents, who had a long, broken courtship, including whole years out of each others’ lives, before ending up married. But if Dan and Blair get serious, and I hope that they do, that will likely make a Dan – Serena reunion near-impossible. As I am rooting for a new couple, it is with bittersweetness that I watch Dan and Serena end, perhaps for the last time. Unfortunately, I’m fairly certain it’s not the last time, but this is really the perfect place to end it. Serena turning more and more into her mother won’t do the two any favors.

I am heartened by the return of Penelope (Amanda Setton) as one of Blair’s minions. I admit, I did miss her snide looks. But I’m not sure she’s a good fit for Blair anymore, and I feel her time back may be limited. Blair has grown so much, showing real maturity at times, even if she sometimes resorts to her scheming ways. In last night’s episode, Blair’s sneakiness got her into trouble with her mother (Margaret Colin, who should be a main character already!), but her new attitude allowed her to apologize and share a very, very cool scene later with mom. It was the best demonstration of the new Blair we could ask for, and I hope we see more of it.

Lily (Kelly Rutherford) has been treated far less kindly. Once my favorite character, she was pretty much demonized when it came out that she sent an innocent man to prison, and intended to see her stepson Chuck’s (Ed Westwick) company. In last night’s episode, she backpedaled madly, as the writers tried to give her good excuses to do the things she had done, and attempted to right any wrongs. She only partially succeeded, and that’s from a viewer satisfaction standpoint as much as a character arc one.

It’s hard to root for someone who has done some pretty horrible things, and Lily has. Even if she was just trying to protect Serena, getting Ben (David Call) locked up for all these years, and the very negative affect we saw it had this fall on his family, was really, really terrible. Lily has come back from having done bad things several times. I feel like, for once, several of the other characters are more willing to forgive her than I am, and that’s weak writing. If they wanted to villanize Lily, then do it something more than halfway. They could pull her back from that brink eventually, but as quickly as they’ve tried to just isn’t working.

Related to that, what has put Rufus (Matthew Settle) in such a forgiving mood? Lily’s husband has been much angrier with her for far less. It seems completely weird that he would stick by her so faithfully when she ruined a man’s life. I just don’t buy it. It seems like he’s a whole other man; a whipped puppy. That’s not Rufus. Compassionate and (eventually) forgiving, sure, but never castrated.

Luckily, Lily’s is the only questionable story right now. Last season was a little rocky as the show adjusted to many of its characters being high school graduates, but this year has been as strong as ever. I hate to say it, but a character not being present may be as responsible as the elements that are there. Jenny’s (Taylor Momsen) extended, and now indefinite, absence actually helped the series, which is a shame, because once upon a time I really liked her. Momsen’s behind the scenes drama got her benched, but her on screen tantrums made Jenny hard to like, too. I’m not anxious to get her back.

Perhaps the most matured character is Nate (Chace Crawford), who has taken in his just-paroled father (Sam Robards). Nate has often had his own things going on apart from the other central characters, and sometimes it feels a stretch to tie him back in. However, this arc has been fantastic, showing a son’s struggle to forgive his father for wrongs, see a role model as humanly flawed, and be a caregiver to a parent. What’s more, last night’s brilliant little move of linking the Captain to the man determined to ruin the Bass family name will entrench the two of them into other plots, keeping the show tightly written instead of sprawling as the rest of the season plays out. Nice move.

Who are these new villains the Captain is getting involved with? Well, there’s a new love interest for Chuck, appropriately, since his pairing with Blair, while amazing for a long time, seems done. And a familiar face in the form of Michael Boatman (Spin City). We haven’t learned hardly anything about him, except that he was screwed over by Chuck’s father, but Boatman introduced the guy with such smoothness, charm, and a hint of vindictiveness, that he seems a well cast baddie for the second half of the season. The fact that his daughter, Raina (Tika Sumpter, One Life to Live) has taken a shine to Chuck, is delicious.

If I could change one thing about this season of Gossip Girl, other than the small critiques above, because, as I said, it’s been a truly awesome season, best since the first, it would be upgrading Eric (Connor Paolo) to a main cast member. He has been at the fringes of the show since the beginning, frequently there, but never getting much story of his own. With Jenny gone, there’s room for him. Please give him the promotion.

In a like vein, Dorota (Zuzanna Szadkowski) is irreplaceable, and always, always shines when she gets any story at all. She can take a small bit and really make it memorable. A larger Dorota presence would not be unwelcome.

More than a guilty pleasure show, the series has great acting, writing, directing, and other elements. I can’t recommend it enough. Gossip Girl‘s fourth season continues on the CW Monday nights at 9 p.m.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com