There are few returning shows this television season that I can say I’ve looked forward to quite as much as I have tonight’s episode of Gossip Girl. After an entire summer away from the scandals of society, I am not ashamed to say I’ve been craving the show’s third season premiere for weeks. Say what you will about the show’s quality (though I can and will debate you), it knows exactly what it’s doing. While last season seemed, in many ways, weaker than the first, it looks like the third season is off with a bang.
As I’ve said before, one of Gossip Girl‘s strongest draws is the way in which it capitalizes on America’s obsession with the rich — the possibility of it, the pot of gold, if you will, at the end of the rainbow, elusive and quite likely entirely imaginary. Tonight didn’t just play with that, it all but promised a season that will pay closer attention than ever to the idea of crossing the class divide. The Humphreys have journeyed from Brooklyn to the Upper East Side, from making waffles in the loft to sunning in the Hamptons, and I love it.
I’ve had my issues with all three Humphreys at times, but each of them has something distinct and interesting to contribute to this theme this season and I’m excited. You’ve got Rufus, doing his best to fit in somewhere he’s not comfortable because he loves Lily and he’s holding her family together as best he can. You have Dan, who I think I liked more tonight than I have since the beginning, learning to like the life he now leads and suddenly being confronted with the same self-righteous rhetoric he used to spout at Serena. And then there’s Jenny, who loves this more than anything, who has waited her whole life to be here, and I can’t fault her for one minute. It’s nice to think we would be above these kinds of things, to consider it shallow at best to be giddy over infinity pools and engraved invitations, but I can’t lie, I would be giddy as hell in her shoes. Besides, there is nothing quite as hilarious as the Humphreys at a polo match.
The other thing I’m really excited about thematically is this: Serena and the paparazzi. Gossip Girl herself has always acted as a larger (and very obvious, yes, but nonetheless effective) metaphor for modern celebrity culture, and the show itself has done an interesting job of exploring what it means to live beneath that lens and, moreover, to do so willingly. Widening that beyond the scope of high school gossip will either be a huge mistake or really allow the writers to dig in deep. I called fairly early on that Serena was just using the paps as a method of reaching out to her Pops, but frankly, that just makes it even more interesting — she’s using them every bit as much as they’re using her. It’s also a relief that this is the story, rather than some contrived return-to-bad-girl narrative. I love Blake Lively and she does a great job with Serena and I buy that she got a bit wild in her younger days, but they have really written themselves into a place where, between her behavior the first season and Blake’s incredible ability to create spontaneous sunshine and rainbows wherever she goes, I find it impossible to believe she’s all that bad. This story is far more interesting. While on the surface, we see Serena searching for some way to contact her father, there’s something else going on here, and it’s fascinating to see Serena finally putting her natural talent for manipulation to use and controlling her own story, working with the tools her world gives her.
That said, I have no clue why she thought she could get away with claiming Carter was stalking her. First of all, Serena is a terrible liar for someone who lies constantly. Second, were Carter Baizen not tragically fictional, I would welcome him to stalk me all he liked. The relationship between Serena and Carter this season has me seriously eager for more, although I might just be saying that because I love Sebastian Stan. Seriously, though, their scene at the polo match was exemplary of all the reasons this show is so successful: runaway socialites on beautiful thoroughbreds racing out of a charity event, coming to rest in a beautiful green glade. She’s in a beautiful peach gown, he’s well-put together but with his sleeves rolled up. The tension heightens, they kiss and, five minutes later, we cut back to Sebastian Stan half-dressed. It’s beautiful and unreachable and screams wealth and passion. This is why people read Harlequin romance novels, I’m pretty sure, but it looks a lot better and Stan and Lively act it well.
“Who the hell is he not to want you?” Carter asks. Oh, Serena, sweetie, your daddy issues are showing.
As for the addition of Scott, I have to say, I’m disappointed. He’s pretty enough in that Adam Lambert kind of way and I appreciate entirely that he calls Vanessa on being judgey, not to mention the fact that he seems to have inherited the Rhodes’ talent for deception. Unfortunately, he also inherited the Humphrey lame genes and comes off as incredibly wooden besides Jessica Szohr, who has always played Vanessa brilliantly even when I hated Vanessa.
Speaking of which, tonight? I hated Vanessa. She reminded me of nothing so much as that old Avril Lavigne song, “Complicated.” Shut up and let Dan dress in his three thousand dollar suit, honey. If you want to call him on something, try calling him on that hair. I swear, I have seen that hair before, I have seen it in person, and I still can’t get over how douchey it makes Penn Badgley look. It’s like Seth Cohen’s hair mated with Derek Shepherd’s and had a douchey, curly baby on Penn Badgley’s head.
And while we’re on the topic of looks, Leighton Meester was working it tonight. Every last ensemble was gorgeous. I had almost forgotten how completely this show is fashion porn. I mean, Blake Lively in the photos on the horse at the end looked like a freaking Vanity Fair editorial, but Blair’s clothes were amazing. I can’t even pick between her gold model-scouting dress or her pastel polo ensemble. I can say, however, that I’m deeply intrigued by the games Chuck and Blair play. Even having called a minute in that what Chuck was doing was nothing more than a sexy ruse, I found myself holding my breath in glee as Blair railed at that girl. Plus only Chuck and Blair could make roleplaying like that adorable.
I deeply enjoyed Joanna Garcia as Bree Buckley. I wasn’t sure what to expect from her, but I really liked what she brought to the character — and what she brought to the character of Nate. There was a spark in their first scene that I can’t remember ever seeing in Nate Archibald, and while I was disappointed to see him, the one character who’s always been on the (comparative) straight and narrow, succumb to the same active manipulation as the rest of his crew, it was still an interesting twist in the character and not unbelievable. Relatedly, William van der Bilt is a sly fox and his Machiavellian ways thrill me plotwise. I cannot wait for more of this.
In short, I loved this premiere. It set up so much without feeling rushed or overpacked and, in conclusion, I just need Dan and Blair to team up and fight crime forever while Carter Baizen rides horses or stands around shirtless or, I don’t know, reads the phonebook. Keep on keeping on, Gossip Girl — you know I love you.
Did you love it? Hate it? Were you ambivalent? Give us the deets in the comments.