HBO Max’s Gossip Girl debuted to a tepid response in 2021, but the series managed to find its footing by the end of the season.
The second season, debuting December 1, improves in many areas, but some of the issues that plagued the freshman season remain.
We’ll start with the good. Savannah Lee Smith, who was largely on the periphery of Gossip Girl Season 1, is now front and center, where she belongs.
Monet has evolved from a plot device in Julien’s story to a full-blown villain who thrives on chaos.
Armed with the desire to dethrone Julien and take the Upper East Side by storm, we get a feud that serves as a worthy follow-up to the early dynamic between Blair and Serena from the original series.
You can tell off the bat that Savannah is having the time of her life playing this more nuanced villain, and her reign of terror on the other students at the school sends this storyline in an intriguing direction.
We also get a deeper dive into Monet’s home life, which makes for a nice change of pace. If you’re going to set up a new villain, we need the backstory to understand why they desire so much power.
If the focus remains on the feud between Julien and Monet, the show might start living up to the high bar set by its predecessor.
Speaking of Julien, she continues to try to navigate a very different lifestyle, but she’s completely blindsided by her friend’s scheming.
Julien was a decent enough character in the first season, and her arc in the sophomore season is organic, given what happened to her.
She is understandably in a bit of a tailspin because Monet is now firing shots at her in an attempt to usurp the power.
Zoya, who had a lot of growth in the first season’s second half, falls by the wayside in the first five episodes of the second season.
She’s more judgemental than ever and gets some of the least memorable stuff to work with in these new episodes.
Whitney Peak is an excellent actress, but she’s being given some of the worst material on the show, which is a shame.
Zoya doesn’t feel like a three-dimensional character by the end of the first five episodes and is more used as a plot device to incite drama that doesn’t hold a candle to the other storylines.
The same can be said for Obie. He’s missing the entire premiere, and I let out an audible sigh when he popped up in the second episode.
Again, Eli Brown was great on Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists, but he isn’t getting anything decent to work with in the second season.
The broader issue with Obie is that the show desperately wants him to serve as a moral compass, a la Nate Archibald, but the character doesn’t work amongst this group of teenagers.
Max, Audrey, and Aki’s relationship continues to be one of the most dynamic, and there’s a lot to love about their constant questioning of boundaries.
There’s no harmony in sight for them, unfortunately, because they struggle to agree on anything, making me think the journey for them this season will be about understanding how to better communicate with your partners.
The biggest problem that plagued the reboot since its inception is the pacing, which continues to be a big issue in the second season.
The episodes are much stronger this season, but they’re still bursting at the seams with frivolous content that would have been better omitted to make leaner episodes that have much more impact.
Gossip Girl Season 2 is a marked improvement on the first season, providing catfights, high fashion, and enough grandeur to immerse viewers in the world of the Upper East Side.
What more could we want?
Check out the trailer below and return to TV Fanatic on December 1 for our coverage of the season premiere.
Paul Dailly is the Associate Editor for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.