The Gossip Girl Reboot’s pilot episode has aired, which means New York’s favourite elite gossiper is back and she means business. Now we’re excited to share our handpicked highlights on this iconic comeback. But first, a recap of what’s going on.
Zoya Jane Lott (Whitney Peak), the half-sister of influencer and Constance queen bee Julien Calloway, just moved from Buffalo, New York to the Upper East Side after receiving a scholarship at Constance Billard. Everyone around them was curious about how they’ll handle being in the same school given that they’re strangers. But plot twist: Zoya and Julien actually know each other all along and they set everything up so they can finally be together.
Meanwhile, teachers at Constance Billard are finding it hard to deal with the students. In an attempt to take back their power, the teachers — led by Kate Keller (former Rookie editor Tavi Gevinson) — re-launches Gossip Girl after hearing about it from a Constance alum.
Intriguing, right? Now, onto our thoughts.
The Gossip Girl ‘reveal’ is absolutely brilliant
The titular Gossip Girl isn’t anonymous for this reboot. Right off the bat, we see the faculty members of Constance Billard huddling over the old Gossip Girl website as soon as they heard about it. They tried to use Twitter to re-launch her presence at first after another teacher got fired just because of Julien’s friends, Luna and Monet. But after receiving no responses, they decided to move to Instagram where Julien and her friends are influencers. Soon after, Gossip Girl is back in the game.
Our thoughts: We totally expected this reboot to give us another round of ‘Guess who?’ That’s why it’s quite refreshing that they actually decided to let the audience know who Gossip Girl is this early in the series. It’s exciting to see how a group of adults will try to control this newfound power they have over their students, especially since they expressed multiple times that they don’t agree with this method but find it necessary.
Tavi Gevinson as timid-teacher-turned-GG-admin Kate Keller is also a great addition to this story, considering her real-life background as an online fashion writer/editor in real life. It’s fascinating to see how someone who has actual experience with building an online presence IRL would portray someone building GG’s presence in 2021. We can’t wait to see how this will develop — or spiral out of control — as more episodes come.
The reboot subtly called out some of the original series’ problematic storylines and lack of diversity
Despite being a well-loved teen drama from the 2000s, Gossip Girl undeniably had a lot of problematic storylines, not to mention it was known for having a majorly white main cast. As expected, the reboot mentioned some of these in passing without pandering. One example was when the teachers were discussing how Gossip Girl’s website only focused on very “white” issues. Another instance was when Zoya joined Julien’s group of friends for the first time. They offered her a drink but when she expressed that she didn’t want to, Julien said, “Don’t worry, we don’t peer pressure,” and ended the conversation. There was also a mention of how Blair and Chuck’s relationship was toxic.
Our thoughts: Subtle mentions of these issues are surely not enough to make everything okay. But since there’s no way to revise the previous series, these brief mentions in the Gossip Girl reboot are actually a good way to acknowledge the problematic past of the franchise. It’s quite curious how they’ll stir some drama without convoluted plot lines like the original series. All the more reason to watch the next episodes, don’t you think?
Otto ‘Obie’ Bergmann IV reminds us so much of Dan Humphrey
If there’s one thing to love about this reboot, it’s that there are no direct parallels to the old crew. This gives us room to experience them in a completely different light rather than constantly compare them with Serena or Blair or Nate or Chuck. However, there’s also Obie (Eli Brown) who eerily reminds us of Dan ‘Lonely Boy’ Humphrey (Penn Badgely).
Obie is Julien’s boyfriend. But while Julien is popular and outgoing, Obie is reserved and more compassionate. He calls out her behaviour towards teachers, actively volunteers in the city center, and actually provides a voice of reason within their circle of friends. Add to that hiscurly hair and the deep, soothing voice, Obie is really like Dan 2.0.
The only difference he has with Lonely Boy from Brooklyn is Obie is the Chuck Bass of the group when it comes to wealth. Quite a turn, right?
Our thoughts: Gossip Girl’s is known for privilege and aspirational lifestyles. Charity balls and events from the original series were meant to set the stage for fashion looks or causing drama. It’s possible that Obie’s presence might change this. He called out the affluent lifestyle of his friends and classmates in one scene, saying that they could at least make a difference if they donated even a portion of what they’re spending in a cause he’s supporting. He also spoke to Julien about trying to use her influence for something that matters. What makes this even better is that he didn’t sound preachy when he did this, which is great characterisation in our opinion.
The thing with diversity and inclusivity
In contrast to the original Gossip Girl series, the reboot definitely has a more diverse core group compared to before, not just when it comes to race but also in LGBTQIA+ representation. One of the main group’s members, Max Wolfe (Thomas Doherty) is shown as having both male and female partners in the first episode, suggesting he’s bisexual or pansexual. His relationship with ‘straight’ couple Audrey Hope (Emily Alyn Lind) and Aki Menzies (Evan Mock) seems to also tease a possible polyamorous affair happening soon.
However, despite these changes from the original, even Whitney Peak (who plays Zoya Lott) shared in her recent Vogue Beauty Secrets video that the show still has a long way to go when it comes to diversity and inclusivity.
Our thoughts: We agree with Whitney. While this Gossip Girl reboot finally addressed some representation issues, it’s still not exhaustive. There’s also a lack of inclusive body types in the current cast members. It’s still early to tell whether they’ll introduce new characters to the show to fill these profiles as series regulars, though. Since they’re already going out of their way to correct some of the lapses of the first series, we think it wouldn’t hurt to hope for them to do right by this as the show progresses.
Julien and Zoya’s rivalry is no Blair x Serena — and that’s a good thing
The thing with Serena and Blair is that even if they claim to be soul sisters, they have an unhealthy rivalry that they never really got over even when the original series concluded. Julien and Zoya proved to be quite the opposite since they are actually blood-related and they seem to genuinely love and care for each other. It was only when Julien’s popularity was threatened that she almost threw her sister under the bus. Still, her actions weren’t as horrible as Blair’s or Serena’s back in the day.
Our thoughts: We were so curious about how they’re going to make this Gossip Girl reboot interesting since what made the original series going was, sad to admit, the toxicity of it all. But after seeing the relationship between Julien and Zoya in this pilot episode, we feel like this story definitely has a lot of potential. It wouldn’t be as explosive as Blair and Serena’s intense rivalry, but this series may just teach us a lot about family and friendship.
The Gossip Girl reboot’s pilot episode definitely delivered well. Only time will tell if it will fare better than the original. For now, we’ll eagerly wait for GG’s next update. Will you? Stream it via HBO Go (iOS/Google Play).