Gossip Girl season 1, episode 1 recap – “Just Another Girl on the MTA”

July 24, 2021
Jonathon Wilson 0
HBO Max, Weekly TV
3.5

Summary

“Just Another Girl on the MTA” leaves logic on the cutting room floor, which is perhaps just as well, as HBO Max’s reboot of Gossip Girl gets off to an enjoyably bonkers start.

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3.5

Summary

“Just Another Girl on the MTA” leaves logic on the cutting room floor, which is perhaps just as well, as HBO Max’s reboot of Gossip Girl gets off to an enjoyably bonkers start.

This recap of Gossip Girl season 1, episode 1, “Just Another Girl on the MTA”, contains spoilers.


Trust HBO Max to drag Millennial mainstay Gossip Girl kicking and screaming into a new generation of always-online topicality, where Instagram followers determine your self-worth and the inmates are running the asylum – so to speak, anyway. Constance Billard, a swanky private school funded by the parents of the snooty rich kids who attend it, runs according to the whims of the moneyed scions whose grades are determined by mommy and daddy’s financial contributions, so the faculty has no authority whatsoever. They’re openly disrespected by the students at best and fired for not playing ball at worst. What better time, then, to revive the now-defunct Gossip Girl blog, this time as an Instagram account, and not as an overarching season mystery but as a cathartic revenge ploy against the stuck-up kids whose secrets are about to be disseminated for all to see.

That’s a fittingly mean-spirited update to the old premise, you have to admit, even if the teachers – fronted by Kate Keller (Tavi Gevinson) – are all suspiciously young and stupid and haven’t yet presented a compelling argument for why instigating drama between the students in a possibly illegal but definitely unethical way will garner them more respect. Perhaps it’s just a matter of beating them at their own game, which they admittedly play well, thanks in large part to a script by original series executive producer and writer Joshua Safran that’s able to swerve a lot of easy tropes and doesn’t fall victim to trying to make its Gen Z crowd too hip for their own good.

It helps that in large part the POV character in Gossip Girl episode 1, “Just Another Girl on the MTA”, is Zoya Lott (Whitney Peak), the not-so-wealthy daughter of a not-so-wealthy father who actually hates the rich, and who is attending the school on a scholarship that has been finagled by her estranged queen bee sister Julien Calloway (Jordan Alexander). Zoya’s dad hates Julien’s Grammy-winning producer dad, so the fact that the sisters have been communicating long-distance for years is a secret to everyone. Naturally, it takes less than one episode for the sisters to despise each other too.

Before they fall out, though, there’s a whole thing about Julien trying to sneak Zoya into her clique, which includes fellow influencers Monet (Savannah Smith) and Luna (Zion Moreno), Audrey (Emily Alyn Lind) and her sexually curious boyfriend Aki (Evan Mock), Julien’s own boyfriend Obie (Eli Brown), and Max (Thomas Dohery). Inevitably there is going to be a lot more to all of these personalities as the season progresses, but the premiere keeps things simple: Obie is the richest, he feels guilty about it, and that’s probably going to lead him right into the arms of Zoya.

To be fair, the teachers – thanks to their access to information about the students and the fact that the students don’t for a moment think they’d be switched-on enough to do it – are pretty good at the whole Gossip Girl thing, and their first revelation upends the main group’s entire dynamic instantly. See, Julien’s dad funds the scholarship program that Zoya got into school on, meaning that her presence there is wholly illegitimate, which Julien didn’t tell either her or Obie about. Since they both feel betrayed, they head home together, platonically, and get undressed in front of a giant window since they can’t get Obie’s mum’s carpet wet – wouldn’t it just dry out? – and one of the teachers, Jordan (Adam Chanler-Berat), happens to be outside at just the right time. He snaps some pictures, Keller posts them, and… nobody falls for it. The joke here is that Julien is so arrogant that she immediately assumes the photos are a social rival trying to unseat her.

There has to be a counterplan, though, which involves Zoya getting left off a list for an invite-only afterparty, but Monet and Luna decide to raise the stakes by stealing her phone and airdropping a picture of Max’s junk to everyone so she gets very publicly kicked out. But this backfires on Julien. Zoya is obviously offended, and Obie can’t believe she allowed her sister to be subjected to that level of humiliation, so they both decide to distance themselves from her and go about their own lives, which will presumably cause no end of conflict. Not that the group is exactly the get-along gang at the best of times, since it seems like Audrey can only achieve orgasm with Aki if she’s looking at or fantasizing about Max, and Aki seems totally unbothered by this perhaps because he wants Max too. And you thought your high school was complicated.

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