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TV Review: Gossip Girl – “Gaslit”

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The CW’s Gossip Girl seems to have raised the stakes this season. Long gone are the high schools days of the show’s first two years, and here to stay seem to be adult consequences for the decisions the characters face. Luckily, almost all of them have matured enough to handle it. Notice, I say almost.

The past few episodes have followed Juliet Sharp (Kate Cassidy, the Melrose Place reboot) as she enacts her mission of revenge against Serena van der Woodsen (Blake Lively). Why Juliet hates Serena is still unknown, though it seems to have something to do with her brother, Ben (David Call, Mercy, Rescue Me), who is in jail. However, after Juliet teams up with Vanessa (Jessica Szohr) and Jenny (Taylor Momsen) to alienate Serena, Juliet goes up a step further and druggs her enemy, leaving her in a motel room surrounded by pills. Even Ben is shocked at how far Juliet has gone, leaving our main cast with quite a conundrum.

Perhaps most impacted by Serena’s supposed actions, is her mother Lily (Kelly Rutherford), who doesn’t seem to know how to handle Serena’s slide. Though Serena insists that she doesn’t remember what happened, and has not returned to the mistakes of her youth, her mother doesn’t believe her. But an interesting confrontation between Lily and Dan (Penn Badgley) in last night’s episode, “Gaslit,” seems to imply that Lily’s reticence to deal with Serena may be more about herself than her daughter. It’s hard to argue that Lily has been a better than average mother, and shutting Serena up against her will in rehab is just one more bad idea. Lily is turning more into her own mother each season, and that’s not a good thing.

The question now is, how will Serena possibly clear her name? She has suffered so much recently, as Juliet has sabotaged her school career, her love life, and her friend and family relations, that it may take Serena a long time to claw back to what she worked so hard for. Dan is fully on Serena’s side, being the only one who is willing to believe her unlikely claims of innocence. After a confession from Jenny, it looks like Serena’s best friend Blair (Leighton Meester) is climbing onto the revenge train. But Juliet has fled town, and with Gossip Girl (Kristen Bell) having trashed Serena so hard publicly, it will not be an easy time. I’m not so much worried about her personal life, as I don’t see Columbia accepting her back as a student, even if her name is cleared.

I am thrilled that Serena and Dan are heading for a reconnection. Dan’s original pursuit of Serena is a big chunk of season one, and I have never liked her much with any of the other many men she has been paired with. Similarly, Dan doesn’t click as well with any other girl. Should the series continue with a Dan/Serena couple, I would ask them to please, please, please make it long lasting. I know this show thrives on drama, but drama can be had in a relationship. Enough already. These two belong together. In my opinion. I’m sure many people disagree.

Of course, with Gossip Girl, the drama is not just happening on screen. Lately, Taylor Momsen has been created plenty of her own angst with a reportedly diva-like attitude. She has barely appeared on the show this fall, and it was announced that she will be taking an undetermined continued absence. Now, of course, most of the information floating around is rumor, so it’s hard to be sure exactly what’s going on. But it sounds like she’s throwing a tantrum, and the people working on the show are giving her a time out.

The other couple still dancing around each other are Blair and Chuck (Ed Westwick). The two were red hot and together for much of last year. They had some rough times, and seem to have settled into an uneasy friendship. It’s clear that neither are satisfied with the arrangement, Chuck telling Blair directly in this week’s episode that he can’t be her friend right now. These two are much more likely, in my opinion, to be in a stable relationship than Serena and Dan, as much as I like them. In fact, I would not be surprised if Chuck and Blair are reunited no later than February sweeps, and hopefully this time it sticks.

It’s not unheard of for a Gossip Girl couple to end up permanently attached. Lily and Rufus (Matthew Settle) had been will-they or won’t-they for a long time, Lily even marrying another man. But now their marriage seems solid, despite many difficulties, and it doesn’t look like they will be breaking up anytime soon. Sure, those two are much older than most of the cast, but I’m ready for at least one pair to last longer than half a season in the younger group, too.

Lastly, Nate’s (Chace Crawford) parents are suddenly back in the story. Early in the series, Nate’s father, known as “The Captain,” (Sam Robards) went to jail. Nate visited him earlier this fall, though the elder Archibald had not been seen on the show in two years. In last night’s episode, Nate discovers that his mother, Anne (Francie Swift), is filing for divorce. Nate truly believes his father has changed, and so has worked to reunite them. All had gone well, until Nate discovers that his father just may be putting on appearances for a parole board hearing. This plot, though so far fairly small, is likely to pull more focus in coming episodes.

Generally, while I have always liked this show, it’s good to see such high stakes drama after a period of small tiffs. I’m glad to report that in its fourth season, Gossip Girl is as strong as ever, and has grown out of its high school pettiness. Though some aspects of that will never end. Thankfully.

Gossip Girl airs Monday nights at 9pm on the CW.

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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