When The CW's teen drama Gossip Girl leapt onto television screens in 2007, it served the purpose indicated by its title. Simply put, it made millions of girls gossip. The chief, but not sole, demographic was high school females, who buzzed about the "scandalous lives of Manhattan's elite." The program, based on a Cecily von Ziegesar's bestselling book series of the same name, revolved around the privileged prep school students on the Upper East Side, and the titular character -- an omniscient, anonymous blogger who chronicles their very public lives. The show's stars -- notably Blake Lively -- skyrocketed to fame.
Now in its sixth and final season, Gossip Girl has, most would admit, fallen from grace. While it was never a lauded Emmy-winning series, even devoted fans note the superiority of the scandal depicted in the first two seasons, when the characters were in their final years of private high school. Although it was never rooted in reality or accessibility, the eye-roll-inducing ridiculousness of the plot over the last couple seasons has disappointed viewers and critics alike. Ratings have declined, and the fact only three episodes remain in the show is surreal but is likely leaving the viewers, actors, writers and producers relieved. Still, with thankfulness comes nostalgia for yesteryear for when things were the way they were -- better.
The most recent episode of Gossip Girl, the sixth season's seventh, is called "Save the Last Chance." If one thing has been consistent over the last five years of decline, it is the clever naming of episodes based on titles of films. While this episode is homage to the forgettable 2001 Julia Stiles film, others reference more classic selections, such as "Much I Do About Nothing," "It's A Wonderful Lie" and "The Serena Also Rises." The other consistent aspect is the delightfulness of Blair's (Leighton Meester) Polish housekeeper, Dorota (Zuzanna Szadkowski). There is even a movement to have the entire despicable cast of characters die in a plane crash in the series finale, leaving all trust funds to Dorota.
The episode captures many of the ways the show has lost its merit. (Said merit refers to the days when the ever sexual show received enough attention to be called "every parent's nightmare" by the Parents Television Council.) Let's take a look. Filled with as many unfathomable plot twists as ever, the episode reveals Ivy (Kaylee DeFer) has been playing her ex-lover's father, Rufus (Matthew Settle), in their nauseating affair that has transpired all season. She's really in love with William van der Woodson (William Baldwin), father of Serena (Lively). William is also father of Lola, who he had with Serena's mother's sister -- and Ivy impersonated Lola in a swindling scheme for nearly a whole season. With adulterous, overlapping, intergenerational affairs constantly being revealed, it's easy to worry Ivy's new boy toy is her father - but, alas, we've avoided that incestuous love line. (Serena and Dan (Penn Badgley) are star-crossed ex-stepsibling lovers.) Of course, Rufus sees Ivy kissing William in a classic Gossip Girl spontaneous Manhattan run-in. He flees to Serena's mother, Lily (Kelly Rutherford), who has just spiked her chamomile with gin, and says, without a hint of irony, "Ivy's not who I thought she was. I know I should've been tipped off by that whole pretending to be your niece thing."
The implausibility of the intricate web of infidelity and deception is exhausting -- and the explanation, bluntly, is that the writers must be exhausted. After her breakup, Ivy commands Lily's husband Bart Bass (Robert William Burke) -- who faked his own death for three whole seasons -- to "strip" so she can take pictures destroying Lily's reputation. Bart and his son, Chuck (Ed Westwick, an Englishman who does a fine American accent), are after a microfilm in Ivy's possession, which contains records of Bart's illegal Sudanese oil trading (which has a completely relevant place on Gossip Girl, right?). Spoiler alert: after changing hands several times throughout the episode, Lily sets it aflame in her fireplace (symbolic!).
The fast-paced, plot-twisty episode concludes with the reunion of Derena (Dan and Serena's couple name) -- only for Dan to call villainess Georgina (Michelle Trachtenberg) and explain it's all a ploy for him to get intel for a tell-all exposé. Having lost all subtlety and relying on an incestuous sexual imbroglio and poor acting (notably from laughably wooden newcomer Sage (Sophia Black D'Elia)), the teen drama has "jumped the shark." Jon Hein coined the term about good shows going bad in reference to the turning point in Happy Days when Fonzie quite literally jumps a shark. Whether it was a return from the dead, a secret lovechild, a fake teen marriage or merely the cast's high school graduation, Gossip Girl went sour some time ago, as is clear by the lunacy of "Save the Last Chance." Gossip Girl herself closed the episode by narrating, "Nothing inspires forgiveness quite like revenge." This misguided mantra is indicative of the loss of morals amongst the beautiful, privileged characters. Come December 17, no more chances.