REVIEW: ‘Gossip Girl,’ Episode 1 -“Just Another Girl on MTA”

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Gossip Girl 2021 - But Why Tho

Gossip Girl (2021) stars Whitney Peak (Zoya Lott), Jordan Alexander (Julien Calloway), Eli Brown (Obie Bergmann), Evan Mock (Aki Menzies), Thomas Doherty (Max Wolfe), and Tavi Gevinson (Ms. Keller).  The series continues directly from where the original series ended 9 years ago and it seeks to bring a fresh outlook on how the teens of the upper east side experience a new age of Gossip Girl with the emergence of social media.

Gossip Girl Episode 1 starts off with a great montage showcasing our ensemble cast and their lives. The opulence sits in the background as perspectives shifts towards different characters, whether it’s through texts they’re sending to one another about what to wear on their first day of school or camera pans to their oversized closets filled with Louis Vuitton. It does a great job at giving just a little bit of a hint as to who these people are without having to say anything. Another great moment of this, while being a lot more on the nose, is when all of our characters meet up at Constance Billard School for Girls right before class starts with Frank Ocean’s “Super Rich Kids” playing in the background that not-so-subtly hints that these rich kids all have secrets, scandals, and drama incoming all season.

What is an interesting, new edition to the show is the immediate perspective of the teachers at Constance Billiard School for Girls. The dialogue exchanged between Ms. Keller and fellow educators focuses on how they interact with the privileged teenagers of the school. These discussions range from how the economic class divide enables the wealthy students to insult the clothes, purses, and appearances of faculty members, to bully teachers into changing grades, and to face no consequences from their actions. This is a stark shift in the world of the series where teachers used to be in the background. The dialogue presented makes  Gossip Girl Episode 1 feel timely and adds another layer of drama and tension to the episode. This new iteration of the series has a lot of say about privilege, economic class, education, and diversity. Some of the dialogue is smart and funny but at times feels conflicting. Oftentimes, when the dialogue is a miss amongst the adults, it’s because they are trying to figure out how to get through to these teens. 

Ms. Keller conveys some awesome ideas where she asserts that despite the wealthy students abusing the privilege they were born into, it could be up to them as educators to help mold their minds into using that privilege for good. She goes on to discuss how they can attempt to rectify what their parents may have missed when discussing the power money and status hold. It’s a great bit of dialogue that get’s shafted when she has a plan that the teachers should come together to spy on the teens and bully them on their social media. On one hand, the drama concocted between Zoya, Julien, Obie, and their friends makes for great popcorn TV. The scandals feel weird and creepy when it’s grown, adult teachers spreading rumors about their students. It makes all of the interesting aspects of the role of educators in Gossip Girl Episode 1 feel lost and lackluster.  

While the execution of the message of the show may be muddled, the strength of this premiere comes from the cast and how fun it is to watch the drama being acted out by Peak, Calloway, and Bergmann. There’s so much these actors pack into this hour-long episode.  While many characters have remnants of Serena Van der Woodson, Chuck Bass, Nate Archibald, Blair Waldorf, and Dan Humphrey, they each stand as their own due to their great performances.

Zoya (Peak)  is a half-sister to teenage influence Julien (Calloway). Zoya is the most relatable of the characters, coming from a middle-class background, and is not interested in fame or social status like Julien. Julien is a superficial Instagram influencer who is methodical about her every second in public because her entire life is staged for the internet. Julien’s boyfriend, Obie (Bergmann), however, is a very compelling character that could be a saving grace of this season. He is the wealthiest of them all and frequently is spotted at labor strikes where workers protest to unionize and gain rights from the company his parents run. As mentioned before, Gossip Girl Episode 1 is covering a lot of ground in regards to social commentary and when it’s done well, it’s interesting and hits. Another fascinating character is Max who is an openly bisexual and polyamorous individual. Much like Chuck Bass, Max is very much occupied with underage drinking, constant hook-ups, and drugs but unlike Chuck (thankfully) all of his escapades are consensual. His identity isn’t judged by any characters and he exists freely which I think is amazing.

Overall, Gossip Girl Episode 1 hits the ground running and separates itself from its predecessor. Its social commentary is on the nose and isn’t always as progressive as it wants to be. However, the scandals and drama still make it worthwhile popcorn tv due to the performances from a fun ensemble cast.

Gossip Girl Episode 1 is streaming now on HBO Max.

Gossip Girl Episode 1 — “Just Another Girl on MTA”
  • 7.5/10
    Rating - 7.5/10
7.5/10

TL;DR

Overall, Gossip Girl Episode 1 hits the ground running and separates itself from its predecessor. Its social commentary is on the nose and isn’t always as progressive as it wants to be. However, the scandals and drama still make it worthwhile popcorn tv due to the performances from a fun ensemble cast.