We’re halfway through HBO Max’s Gossip Girl reboot and the plot is still stuck swimming in the same stagnant circle it’s been in all season. Everyone’s arguing. Boring parties are falling apart. Relationships are tested. In episode five, “Hope Sinks,” there are a few surprises, but the most surprising thing of all is how aimless the character’s intentions still feel.
Despite constantly finding ways to self-sabotage her reputation, Julien (Jordan Alexander) is at the top of the social food chain at Constance Billard High along with her sinister best friends that double as her personal publicists, Luna (Zión Moreno) and Monet (Savannah Lee Smith). Why does a high schooler need a publicist, you ask? Perhaps we will never know, but in this world, magazines are vying for her attention simply because of her wealth and influencer status. We’ve never actually seen any of the students bow down to this alleged queen of the scene, but hey, we’ll take the writer’s word for it.
In this episode, Julien makes it her mission to show the world that she and her sister Zoya (Whitney Peak) have mended their relationship after Julien publicly humiliated her in the last episode. The problem with Julien’s character is she is so impossible to read in a way that doesn’t feel intentional. One moment she is swearing off social media for good and the next she is obsessed with making a huge statement at the Upper East Side’s infamous “Hulloween” party. Her constant flip flopping leaves this show without a clear villain, and where’s the fun in that? Blair Waldorf would not approve.
The Halloween party was an absolute bust. In nearly every episode of the GG reboot, there’s some kind of fancy soiree that would be the perfect setting for exciting action, but then it’s a disappointment when these parties just become grounds for slow burn arguments.
At the Halloween bash, Julien and Zoya get completely upstaged in a costume contest by Julien’s rivals from another high school who wore wedding dresses to the likes of Serena van der Woodsen and Blair Waldorf – a nice homage to the original Gossip Girl. Julien and Zoya crash their rivals costume idea by throwing on two suits from their guy friends and pretending to be the original Dan Humphrey and Chuck Bass. It’s a fun and messy throwback.
Meanwhile, Zoya’s relationship with Obie (Eli Brown) is beginning to fall apart as Zoya realizes her boyfriend will never truly understand her life. To Obie, Zoya is just an accessory that makes him feel like he is in solidarity with those not as privileged as he is. It’s so clear that his intentions are in the wrong place and that he is the textbook definition of performative allyship. On top of that, it’s not a good look when he gets overly jealous of Zoya’s new male friend Simon (Mason Versaw) and outs him as an imposter posing as a student when he was actually a journalist trying to find out if Zoya was Gossip Girl. This was a huge reveal that was over before it hardly even got started.
Woven into this episode were sub-plots that took on a dark tone but were barely explored. Kate Keller (Tavi Gevinson) realized Gossip Girl is getting out of hand after a student from another school brought a gun to school, although it was hard to connect the dots on this incident’s relationship to the Gossip Girl account. This was a serious issue that was completely skimmed over and left unexplored making for an awkward execution. It felt like the episode could have left that out completely since it didn’t commit to exploring this dangerous situation’s effect on the students.
For all of it’s lackluster set-up, this was still the first episode that ended on a nail-biting cliffhanger. Audrey’s (Emily Alyn Lind) mom was hospitalized for what presumably might have been a suicide attempt after the two had a fuming argument. The show keeps plummeting into deeper storylines, but it will be interesting to see if next week’s episode will finally have the edge it needs.