Love it or hate it, it’s still an obsession. When Gossip Girl barreled through the airwaves of the CW in 2007, it was replacing–and perhaps surpassing–the ghost of so many teen dramas past. Adding New York as the location where it all took place (specifically the sleepily cutthroat Upper East Side) merely made it stand apart from past landmark shows like My So-Called Life and Dawson’s Creek that were set elsewhere, in less dramatic, less affluent circumstances. Granted, the west coast answer to this show–Beverly Hills 90210–had already occurred in the 90s, Gossip Girl succeeded in delicately toeing the line between all out soap opera plot lines and believable, emotionally stirring stories. But really, what it all came down to was: “Will Chuck end up with Blair?” and “Will Dan end up with Serena?” In the series finale, both wishes are fulfilled, but in an extremely forced and hasty manner.
For anyone who has been faithfully watching the show since the beginning, it’s easy to pinpoint its downward spiral at Season 3, in which Hilary Duff was a regular cast member for the first several episodes. Cameos by Robyn, Lady Gaga, Rachel Zoe, Tyra Banks and Sonic Youth also began to give the show a surreal, jumping the shark quality. Still, nothing could prepare us for the cracked outedness of Season 4: The college years. Using Saved by the Bell as the barometer for shows that try to continue after graduation, everyone knows that no television narrative can survive the transition of high school to college (unless it’s Felicity, which began in college in the first place).
The usual “Let’s fuck with Serena ’cause she’s rich and beautiful” premise intensified with Juliet Sharp’s (Katie Cassidy) personal vendetta against her after her brother was falsely imprisoned for sleeping with Serena while he was a teacher at her boarding school in Connecticut. However, this was not even the worst of the plot lines once Charlie Rhodes/Ivy Dickens (Kaylee DeFer) entered the picture. That is, until Season 5, when Elizabeth Hurley was a regular cast member and Blair ended up marrying a prince/falling in love with Dan. Oh yeah, and Bart Bass (Robert John Burke) coming back from the dead.
Even so, the finale of Season 5 seemed to be setting up the abridged Season 6 (a paltry ten episodes) for greatness with Serena’s return to cocaine use and Dan’s sudden villainy toward both Blair and Serena. Even the obligatory presence of Georgina (Michelle Trachtenberg) wasn’t as annoying as usual in this finale. However, Season 6 came across instantly as lazily written and forced–plus the highly unnecessary appearance of Barry Watson as Steven Spence, Serena’s latest obsession, as well as his abrasive daughter, Sage (Sofia Black D’Elia). In order to quickly negate all of the relationships that were established in Season 5 (mainly Dan and Blair), bringing back together the original incarnations of the couples that everyone wanted from Season 1 and 2 just seemed much too implausible.
Not quite as implausible as the reveal that Gossip Girl is Dan though. Of all the people it could have been, I think Michael Bloomberg (who makes a cameo in the final episode) might even have been a better option. The worst part about the conclusion is that it relies on the “Five Years Later” technique, in which we see that Nate will run for mayor, Chuck and Blair have a child named Henry, Rufus (Matthew Settle) is, for some reason, dating Lisa Loeb, Lily has gotten back together with William (William Baldwin), Georgina is with Chuck’s uncle, Jack (Desmond Harrington), Jenny (Taylor Momsen) and Eric (Connor Paolo) are each given one line and Dan and Serena are finally getting married (though why they had to wait five years is unclear.
In spite of how lackluster the series grew in its later seasons, you can’t deny or ignore the gloriousness of Seasons 1 and 2. It was a show that pushed the envelope and kept New York City outsiders (and Upper East Side pariahs) constantly apprised of what was going on at the moment. And for that, Gossip Girl, I bid you a melancholy adieu and say, “XOXO.”