In season one episode three of HBO Max’s Gossip Girl reboot, titled “Lies Wide Open,” nobody can pick a side. One moment, sisters love each other and the next moment they hate each other. Two fathers are in a happy, harmonious relationship and then suddenly they’re cheating. Students are cyberbullying then soon-after helping their target. It’s hard to keep up with the winding narratives of friends-or-foes in this episode, but it still makes for the kind of consumable drama that made the show break a streaming record for HBO Max during it’s first week on the air.
At the center of everything is the Queen Bee on campus, Julien Calloway (Jordan Alexander), but she’s having a hard time being confident at the top of the social hierarchy pyramid when her ex-boyfriend Obie (Eli Brown) is running around with her half-sister Zoya (Whitney Peak). Julien has lost a lot of confidence, and realizes she needs to find herself again by having a night on the town that’s unencumbered by social media. No filters. No hashtags. No clout. However, drama can’t stay away from Julien even when she’s off-the-grid, so it’s no surprise that she secretly saw her father Davis (Luke Kirby, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) with his new girlfriend at the club.
Meanwhile, Thomas Doherty (The Lodge) is having a big moment in the spotlight as Max Wolfe, the gender-fluid pansexual version of Chuck Bass. Up until this point, Max has just been a sleuthing snake-like presence amongst his fellow classmates at Constance Billard-St. Jude’s High. He made his two friends Audrey (Emily Alyn Lind) and Aki (Evan Mock) secretly cheat on each other with him, and it seems like he’s looking for every opportunity to stir up drama. However, in this episode a more emotional Max is revealed when he finds out his dad is cheating on his father. Of course, we wouldn’t expect anything less than Max scheming to expose the cheating. The grand plan? Creating a fake dating app account to catfish his unfaithful Dad.
All of this drama comes to a head when the entire crew is in the audience of some fancy schmancy play. Julien secretly invites Davis’s girlfriend to the show to let her Dad know that she’s caught them, and Max reveals to his fathers that his Dad had been catfished. It would seem like this would be the perfect moment for something truly explosive to happen, but these confrontations all just resulted in diffused arguments and confused feelings. Once again, it feels like the reboot missed it’s moment for something fiery and memorable.
An on-going issue with this season is that it’s hard to keep tabs on who is upset with who. In last week’s episode, Julien and Zoya make amends and it seems like they’re about to have a loving relationship. In this episode, Julien is giving Zoya the cold shoulder again for absolutely no explanation. Did we miss something? Because it certainly seems like it. In a similar vein, Zoya is being cyberbullied by Julien’s self-absorbed friends, but then they tell Zoya that they’ll stop bullying her if she lets them teach her how to become popular. Excuse me, what? Where’s the sense in that? They want to bully her but also teach her how to climb the social ladder, and it certainly doesn’t add up. By the end of the show, they’re conspiring against her again. Seriously, ladies, what’s the motivation here.
Overall, the episode moved slow even though it felt like it was building towards something electrifying. However, it cleared a path for drama to grow and for these rich upper East Siders to hopefully have a jaw dropping moment soon.