Monday, September 22, 2008

"The Ex-Files" - Gossip Girl, episode 2.4

Harry Dean Stanton, Paris, Texas, Rilke, bioterrorism, and....high school? We're back! "The Ex-Files" rockets Gossip Girl out of what had been to my mind a rather humdrum second season into Upper East Side high school fantasy stratosphere. Read on to find out the juicy details....

A couple of weeks ago I wrote that Gossip Girl needed the social strictures of high school to give its characters something to work against. After all, it's the gap between social worlds of slightly pretentious, artsy, Brooklyn Dan and recovering party girl/ice princess that has provided much of the tension up to this point. So, it's a relief to find the GG gang gathered back at school for the first day of senior year. But surely, you're thinking, Dan and Serena are such inherently good-hearted people that they'll make the best of a bad situation, right? Guess again....

Last week I complained that giving GG a "meta" angle - "fans" of the fictional website commenting on the action - was a mistake, and thankfully that has been dialed back for the moment. The manipulation of technology was a theme this week. Vanessa catches Catherine and Marcus in the throes of passion (I knew it! Thank goodness those two are gone) and uses a photo to attempt to win freedom for Nate's family. An uneasy alliance is formed between Vanessa and Blair, but in the world of GG trust is impossible between two people from different boroughs. Vanessa overplays her hand and has apparently ruined the chances of Nate's family for a financial comeback and scotched her opportunity for a romance with Nate. I guess illicit photos are just so Upper East Side.

"The Ex-Files" also finds Chuck Bass back in top form, though that purple suit won't do anything to tamp down those gay rumors. Chuck's photo of a Dan and Serena sets off the rumor mill and puts the pressure on S. to fall back on her elite social circle. Maybe I just wasn't paying attention, but on a show where everyone's motives are usually so transparent the reveal about Chuck's manipulation of the Dan-Serena detente was a surprise. Amanda, the girl Chuck hires to distract Dan, even can throw around references to Rilke and the novelist Dan spent his summer with. Nice work Mr. Bass. Of course, all Chuck's plans are really aimed at knocking Blair off her Mean Girl throne. (I wanted more of Blair's "screening process for the ascendant In Crowd girls) If the promos for next week are to be believed, he has succeeded. With Blair threatened, Serena on top, and Dan mopey, this is the GG we want. Fun, mean, self-aware (in just the right amount), and pulling no punches. I can't wait.

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