It took far too long to get here, but, with the first two episodes of Gossip Girl Season 2, we’ve reached an important milestone: we have finally acknowledged that Monet de Haan (Savannah Lee Smith) is the Blair Waldorf of the reboot. She has dethroned Julien (Jordan Alexander) as the Queen Bee of Constance and is here to restore order after feeling Julien’s reign was too relaxed.
The animosity between Monet and Julien, following the Blair and Serena playbook, feels like what Gossip Girl had been missing all along. As much as I like that our big focus in Season 1 was on Julien and Zoya (Whitney Peak) being sisters and how their relationship changes once they finally meet, they were never the right fit for the frenemies that this show needs. Zoya doesn’t want the popularity that Julien so clearly craves, but it’s been clear from the beginning that Monet could easily wield similar power; the only reason that it went to Julien first is because she’s less intimidating and generally a nicer person. Now, though, we’re getting to the real friend group infighting and family drama I’ve been craving. It’s what I think makes people come back to this show week after week.
Gossip Girl Season 2 opens where last season left off, right after New Year’s Eve. Julien carries her resolution into the new year, hoping to take away Gossip Girl’s credibility and turn over a new leaf for herself. This is all made more difficult by Monet, who, upon realizing that Julien doesn’t care about her power, takes matters into her own hands to become the new It Girl. She sabotages Julien’s debutante ball debut by inviting Julien’s father (Luke Kirby), who recently fled New York due to damning sexual assault allegations. Unfortunately for Monet, her own debut is inadvertently overshadowed when Zoya’s attempt to make a statement by inviting another debutante’s girlfriend to be her escort – exactly what Monet had planned to do for herself. This leaves Julien and Monet at an impasse and makes for a wild catfight at the ball. Naturally, they both go viral.
After the fiasco, Julien is less intent on playing nice with Monet. After initially turning down a profile for The Spectator, Julien find out that Monet is the new face of the article and does an about-face herself, agreeing to the profile and making for a joint dinner party. She and Luna (Zión Moreno) then concoct a plan to ruin the dinner…and fall right into Monet’s trap. She wants nothing more than for Julien to fall back into old patterns and overlook the high road. As she mentions, they need to give everyone the “Blair vs. Serena” story they so crave. To Monet, a queen is nothing without an adversary, and she’s made it clear she will stop at nothing to keep everyone in line. By the end of Episode 2, her reign already seems more like a dictatorship – Monet even goes so far as to bring in her “minions,” as Constance transfers all, while alienating her friends in the process.
While Julien deals with Monet, Kate (Tavi Gevinson) works to take down another member of the de Haan family: Monet’s mother Camille (Amanda Warren). Kate has been harboring resentment for Camille ever since their argument when Kate made returns for the de Haans over the holidays, and she suspects that Camille bribes the school into giving Monet better grades. Under the Gossip Girl mantle, she sees an opportunity to get information on Camille if she teams up with Julien and publishes the tips she sends (though some of them she just made up). Jordan (Adam Chanler-Berat) reminds Kate that the entire point of Gossip Girl is keeping students in line, not fueling vendettas against students’ parents. But it’s clear that once Kate’s mind is set on something, she intends to see it through. She’s even records a heated post-debutante ball conversation between Camille and Monet in which Camille admits to making large gifts to the school so that Monet doesn’t look like a disappointment. I know Kate is saving this juicy ammunition for the exact right moment.
Kate also finds a new ally in Mike Shubin (Pico Alexander), a Classics teacher who has the favor of Headmistress Burton (Donna Murphy), as well as of the Constance parents. Mike admits that he left because he was tired of parents working so hard to bribe him – now, he wants to wipe out the corruption. Kate urges him to join her in her takedown of Camille, but Mike thinks it’s better to go straight to the source and confront Burton herself. The two invite themselves to a donor dinner at the Headmistress’ house to better search for supporting evidence; when they get caught, Mike comes clean about what he knows. Surprisingly, Burton urges the two of them to report her so she can finally stop living a lie.
But Mike and Kate argue over what to do, because Mike believes that reporting Burton isn’t the right call: she’ll be replaced with someone just as corruptible and nothing will change. Against his wishes, Kate uses Gossip Girl to report the corruption, and Burton is immediately removed as Headmistress of Constance. It seems that the allyship between Mike and Kate might be short-lived, but, given the bigger issue at hand, I think they’ll realize they need to stick together in this fight.
It seems like Gossip Girl Season 2 will keep up this pace, as Zoya finds herself at odds with her father (Johnathan Fernandez) in the wake of Julien moving in with them and she begins to spend more time with her new friend Shan (Grace Duah). Zoya’s entering her teenage rebellion era, which can be a dangerous road when you’re on the Upper East Side. Max (Thomas Doherty), Audrey (Emily Alyn Lind), and Aki (Evan Mock) are suffering growing pains in their relationship; although Audrey and Aki are finally (and publicly) claiming Max as their boyfriend, I can’t imagine they won’t run into other issues down the line. Season 1 had me on the fence about the Gossip Girl reboot; now that things are finally established, I’m excited to see where Season 2 goes.
Rating for Gossip Girl Season 2 Episode 1, “Deb Brawl in a Blue Dress”: 8/10
Rating for Gossip Girl Season 2 Episode 2, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”: 7/10