Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Gossip Girl - S5 E1 - Yes, Then Zero

Blair frets over her upcoming marriage to Prince Louis while Chuck, Serena and Nate are respectively having fun, working hard and smoking a lot of weed in California.

Spoilers after the jump.

This show has never been as good as it was in the first season but last year felt particularly disjointed in places so will a fifth season turn around the flagging fortunes? In my old age, my memory is really slipping and I don't really remember the details of what happened at the end of last season. We'll start first with the end - we won't dwell on Serena running into Charlie (real name Ivy) in a city of 20 million people, stupid as it was, as these things have an odd tendency to happen in TV land. I do wonder exactly what they plan to do with the character though. It's implied that her cut of the money was only enough to get her set up with the basics on the other side of the country. If she starts cavorting with Serena, she won't have the funds to keep up.

She will be sticking around in some capacity though, as evidenced by her bump up to regular cast, replacing Taylor Momsen and jessica Szohr who both appear to be gone for good. Vanessa went out last year by turning in Dan's manuscript to a publisher without his knowledge and although the first tendril of that attack was ultimately stymied by the dubiously unrealistic intervention of Prince Louis, it will undoubtedly end up causing a lot of trouble. I don't exactly remember when this was supposed to have happened (I know it was off-screen at least) but it's heavily implied that Dan and Blair shared an intimate night together which left lingering feelings bubbling to the surface in both.

It clearly had a huge effect on Dan who has taken to playing softball in the Hamptons. Dan. Really?? It must be like that thing where kids who don't give a crap about sports or school spirit go to a football-crazy U and end up becoming fanatical fans of the team. An organized event as he appears to be participating in at the start of the episode is something he's never engaged in before however. He seems to be very befuddled and confused about himself and his future in general. His recent failures with women have sent him into a tailspin of bleary-eyed depression and moping around the loft not working, though he at least still seems to be in contact with Blair's former editor Epperly.

Speaking of Blair, this Louis thing has no chance at all, and not just for the obvious narrative reasons. While admittedly Blair is used to getting her way and feels very restricted by her future mother-in-laws provisions, she starts henpecking Louis over every tiny detail and it almost seems like she's trying to dig out excuses to find fault with him. As for him, even though he improbably prevents Vanity Fair from running a damaging excerpt from Dan's book and then puts an arm over his mother encouraging her to accede to Blair's demands, there is a very ineffectual air about him. Perhaps the famed Vanessa/Rufus uselessness scale will have to be renamed in his honor if he lives down to those expectations.

The big news is that Blair is supposedly pregnant. There is 0/zero/zilch percent chance she stays pregnant. No way, no how. It's like Clemson or the Texans, I will never believe it until I see it. It will probably be a miscarriage because this show has resolutely dodged actual socially controversial issues since way back in the pilot when Eric tried to kill himself. I tend to think that way because this show is very concerned with appearances and if their main star is wearing a bump it will be very difficult to fit her into the glamorous outfits they like. Speaking of which, it was somewhat ridiculous that she was wearing that strange dress with the long train everywhere, even all the way over to Brooklyn to visit Dan.

One argument in favor of her keeping the baby though is a juicy three-way fight over the parenthood. One potential father is livin' it up in the Boat-el California. Of course, as soon as I saw he was riding a motorcycle these days, I knew there was no way that would end well. Serena notes that he seems genuinely happy at the start of the episode but eventually it reveals itself as a kind of coping mechanism. He denies that he's all caught up over Blair and I believe that he doesn't think about her, but is trying so hard specifically not to think about her that he doesn't think about a whole lot else and is going out there and making a lot of reckless decisions which ultimately results in a painful looking injury which he barely notices, heavily medicated as he likely is.

His directionless is symptomatic of all the male characters on the show, Nate included, but really he hasn't been going anywhere for more than two years. He hooks up with Liz Hurley, doing an absolutely awful, some might say embarassing job playing a mysterious wealthy older woman. Nate we know likes them old, but she has ulterior motives and according to rumor, is some sort of media mogul who sets up as a villain, which is sure to be horrifying to watch. I'm not even joking. I mused last year on whether Kaylee DeFer was a bad actress or if the character she was playing, on the hustle as she was, was the one doing a bad job. DeFer being retained means someone at least sees something in her but Hurley is nothing but a big name with a nice body. She really is just that bad.

Just that crooked is Serena's supervisor Marshall on the set of a Beautiful and the Damned movie. I expressed my doubts at the end of the last season that Serena even knew what that was, and as douchnozzley as Marshall was to her, going as far as to effectively set her up as a drug mule, he is so right that she obviously doesn't take any of it that seriously and will ultimately flit away without a care in the world as usual. She is tough to sympathize with, much as the writers try. It's good to see at least that her brain is still disconnected from her mouth as evidenced by her "I've gone from It-girl to working girl!" double entendre.

Miscellaneous thoughts: The wedding invitations being sent out was a good hook to open the season. It almost felt like people were getting served court papers. It's hilarious that Nate tried to hide Chuck's invitation but obviously had a wild craving for a joint while in that process and just thought, "Ah, screw it". Chuck appears early in the episode with twins on his arms but later decides to go on a date with some roughneck older woman, I'm talking like 50 years old. Whaaaaat? Not only that, rather than allowing him to say his signature line as an introduction to Marshall, Serena and Nate jump in and say it for him. Let the man speak! When he does, he will says something awesome like, "People like me dont write books, we're written about". It's lucky that Dan ran into Louis just as he was about to leave his hotel. Unless he was just hanging around the corner waiting, then that would be creepy.

I was trying to figure out where I had seen Serena's new boss Jane, of course it was Michael Michele, Dr. Cleo Finch in ER. With Serena due to return to the Upper East Side before long, I wonder will she be going there too or will that particular partnership end in disaster? Apart from the baby bombshell, I don't feel like much new ground was covered in this episode. The fact we're starting off with the casts in different parts of the country probably doesn't help much with that whole disjointed atmosphere I spoke of either. It actually had a very strange mid-season filler feel to it, which adds up to a below-par start for me.

"Gossip Girl" airs Mondays on the CW at 8:00pm EST

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