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Drama, romance and plot twists return on HBO Max’s ‘Gossip Girl’ redux

UPDATED: Wed., July 21, 2021

The 10-episode "Gossip Girl" redux airs on HBO Max on Saturdays.  (HBO Max)
The 10-episode "Gossip Girl" redux airs on HBO Max on Saturdays. (HBO Max)
By Sophia McFarland The Spokesman-Review

HBO Max’s highly anticipated “Gossip Girl” reboot managed to do the impossible: live up to the original’s elitist, high-fashion and drama-filled standards.

“Gossip Girl” successfully separated its characters from the original story, yet maintained the basic theme: Filthy-rich private school students learn that no good secret goes unpublished.

The first episode satisfies OG fans with multiple references to the original characters.

Teachers dropped Nate Archibald’s name when bragging about “great people” the school produced; we learn that Dan Humphrey is a novelist; and the wild romance of Chuck Bass and Blair Waldorf was deemed “out of control” by the reminiscent staff.

Julien Calloway is the queen bee at Constance Billard, serving as a slightly-less-vicious Blair. She and her minions rule the steps at the MET and the teaching staff at the now co-ed Constance Billard.

A less-enjoyable aspect of the first episode was the Constance teachers writing Gossip Girl posts on Instagram.

What kept the original enthralling for six seasons was awaiting Gossip Girl’s reveal. In the first 15 minutes of the reboot, it is disappointing to hear the identity unveiled so anticlimactically.

“Positions” by Ariana Grande blares as audiences hear a refreshingly familiar voice: that of Kristen Bell. Just like her role in the original, Bell narrated the voice of Gossip Girl and wastes no time in spilling Julien’s well-kept secret.

“Gossip Girl” reveals that Julien used her status and wealth to grant Zoya, her half-sister whom she was secretly communicating with (confusing, I know), a scholarship that sent Zoya to Constance.

This secret sets the show up for an inevitable Serena-Blair-esque rivalry. And with any classic rivalry, the new girl has to steal the popular girl’s misunderstood boyfriend.

Naturally, when the concerningly invasive teachers snap Zoya and Obie (Julien’s guilty-rich beau) getting close and post it to Gossip Girl, Julien and her minions are livid with Zoya.

This plotline launches a high-intensity will-they-won’t-they dynamic among Zoya, Obie and Julien.

Julien’s posse hatches a plan to blacklist and embarrass Zoya at the esteemed John Rogers afterparty. In finding out her sister’s true intentions, Zoya vows to separate herself from the social hierarchy at Constance.

It’s refreshing to see Zoya choose social isolation over conforming to Constance’s cliquey environment because this independence was scarce in the original series.

If you were worried that Zoya’s self-determination would eliminate the romance from the series, you would be gladly mistaken. Obie recognizes that Julien is an image-obsessed mean girl and calls it quits. This makes way for the obvious: Zoya.

The “Gossip Girl” reboot provided the drama, romance and plot twists that have been missing from television since Serena, Blair, Chuck and Nate last graced our screens.

The 10-episode series will follow Julien, Zoya and their squad every Thursday on HBO Max, each episode hopefully as juicy as the debut.

Sophia McFarland is a high school summer intern. She begins her junior year at Gonzaga Prep in the fall.

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