'Gossip Girl' Final Season Premiere Recap: Chuck And Blair Have A Pact, Has Serena Cleaned Up Her Act?

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Note: Do not read on if you have not seen Season 6, Episode 1 of The CW's "Gossip Girl," titled "Gone Maybe Gone."

Welcome back to the Upper East Side for the sixth and final time, Gossips. I assume that many of us are here (some of us grudgingly) because we've invested five years in the lives of the Manhattan elite, and whether we like what the show has become in its latter seasons or not, we want to see how the story ends.

So how does the ending begin? The episode was penned by Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, the creators and executive producers of the show. Because both are intelligent and jocular human beings, the script for "Gone Maybe Gone" at least succeeded in recapturing some of the sparkle that has been missing for the past few years. There were in-jokes, knowing winks and sharp one-liners, with all of the characters generally behaving like sane and rational versions of themselves (except for Georgina, of course, since she has no sane and rational version of herself).

There were snoozeworthy storylines too, as there always are, because when we don't care about Ivy, why should we care about Ivy sucking face with Rufus? (A plot point I found far more cringe-inducing than I expected to, especially when we caught them in a literal tangle of limbs like a creepy koosh ball of questionable life choices.) Likewise, Lily and Bart's reunion is the height of "blah," and I still couldn't care less what dirty dealings Bass Sr. has been up to in Dubai or anywhere else. The heart of the show beats firmly within its core group of flawed, fickle rich kids (and Lonely Boy) and the show pumped the brakes any time it strayed away from their quest to find Serena.

The final season started as it apparently means to go on, with Blair and Chuck firmly reinserted into each other's lives, humping like there's no tomorrow in Monte Carlo. Though the rest of the episode revealed that they'd made another pact (thankfully not involving any deities this time around), it was actually a fairly sensible agreement: "We have things we need to do on our own, but when we are in that next place, we will be together for good," as Blair said.

I wrote at great length last season about the problematic and bipolar portrayals of Blair and Chuck -- she as chattel, emotional punching-bag, delusional Bible-basher, megalomaniacal dictator and insecure schoolgirl depending on the episode; he as redeemed nice guy and loyal white knight right up until the moment Bart hurt his feelings and turned him back into an insecure, emotionally abusive cad -- because the writers seemed to delight in throwing away all prior characterization on an episode-by-episode basis under Josh Safran's rule. Now that Safran has departed for "Smash" (god help them), it seems that new showrunner Sara Goodman wants to return some equilibrium to the series, and it's long overdue.

"Gone Maybe Gone" furthered the idea that Chuck and Blair were (at long last) capable of being strong, separate entities, able to function without a partner, but both invested in being together when the timing was finally right for both of them. It's a much healthier position to be in, neither one sacrificing everything to be with the other, or feeling the need to prove their love, and if the show can keep that up for the next nine episodes, I'll be far less furious with it on a weekly basis.

"In the past, I blamed my mistakes on you -- Bart was right on that count; it's the boy that blames the girl, not the man. And that's what I want to be with you," Chuck told Blair towards the end of the episode, the culmination of so many seasons of "one step forward and two steps back" characterization. Blair still allowed Dan to get into her head about their decision to wait, but I'm hoping that Humphrey's wisdom won't rock the boat too severely now that we're finally in the home stretch.

Dan's story (about writing his story) is the most childish of the bunch -- in this episode, we saw him turn to the dark side and truly rely on Georgina Sparks for guidance, which must be a sign of the apocalypse. A tell-all book without any fake names to hide the truth just seems petty at this point, so I hope he learns the error of his ways before the season is out. He might resent these bratty socialites for all they've done to him over the years, but at this point, his hands are just as dirty as theirs are, and no good can come of airing everyone's dirty laundry all over again.

I'm not terribly compelled by Serena's new beau Steven (Barry Watson), but it would be both shocking and way past time for her to find a healthy, adult relationship, without him turning out to be a secret gold-digger or some gossip-hungry stalker who'll end up betraying her. "Gossip Girl" loves its twists, so I'm still not discounting those options, but with only 10 episodes in the final season, I hope it doesn't need them. I'm more invested in Serena's relationship with Blair, which, at this point, looks to be beyond repair. It's entirely true that Serena and Blair are the loves of each other's lives, and it seems like rekindling that central friendship is going to be at the heart of this season's story, as it should be.

Nate once again looks like he's going to be landed with a coma-inducing romantic storyline with another wide-eyed ingenue who can't really act, but hopefully he'll also be the one to finally unmask Gossip Girl in the end, since he's the one with the biggest link to her at this point. That would be a meaty plot the likes of which he hasn't really had before. But the show has never found a good use for him outside of being someone's boyfriend before now, so I'm not betting on them suddenly discovering one for him in the last 10 episodes.

And then there's Bart and his mysterious translator from Dubai, who seems to be ... I'm sorry, I just fell asleep while writing that sentence. When have the machinations of Bass Industries ever borne fascinating fruit? And why are we wasting time on it now? Like Ivy and Rufus' skeevy subplot, I hope we can shelve it ASAP and focus on our core five.

Some stray observations from the episode:

  • We learn that The Ostroff Center (which has seen many a meltdown over the show's run) has been renamed The Pedowitz Institute -- a nod to the changing of the guard at the top of The CW's food chain, after Mark Pedowitz replaced Dawn Ostroff as the president of the network.

  • During Ivy's Bond villain-esque call to Lola, detailing her evil scheme to manipulate Rufus, she mentions that Lola has got a new TV series over at NBC -- a nod to Safran's exit to join "Smash?"
  • Though there was sadly no sign of Kevin Zegers as drug-dealing Damien, it was nice to see his name in text, if nothing else.
  • What did you think of "Gossip Girl's" final season premiere, scandal-seekers? Did it give you hope for the nine episodes yet to come, or are you ready to break up with the show for good? Weigh in below!

    "Gossip Girl" airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on The CW.