The last thing a TV show as convoluted and morally perplexing as this one needs is a #MeToo narrative. And I don’t just mean a storyline involving sexual misconduct, which we technically already had this season. I mean one that involves the fall of a public figure and corresponding discussions about cancel culture, believing women, the court of public opinion, and the court of law. I knew the writers wouldn’t be able to resist this subject matter, seeing as though they’re going out of their way to represent a more socially conscious generation of teens. But after watching this scandal involving Davis play out (which may or may not be the last time it’s explored on the show, knowing how plot points are quickly abandoned), I’m not sure there’s anything particularly incisive or new to be gained about this topic that hasn’t already been publicly discussed in the media for the past four years, let alone from the perspective of these flip-flopping kids and ridiculous teachers who have the most confounding code of ethics!
Likewise, it’s predictable at this point that Keller would secretly record Lola’s drunken spiel about Davis’ transgressions and then spend half the episode talking about how irresponsible it is to expose it on Gossip Girl. We’re only two new episodes in, and my cerebrum has been destroyed from listening to these ridiculous adults go back and forth about what’s right and what’s wrong, accountability and “obstructing justice,” while making the worst choices humanly possible! However, Jordan, Wendy, and the new band of teachers they recruit for reasons I don’t understand end up pressuring her into exposing the allegation that Davis coerced a woman named Lauren into having sex when she was drunk.
Aki gives Julien a heads up that his media mogul father has a scoop that could affect her, but she assumes it will be more of a Lea Michele/Ellen DeGeneres-level takedown. When it gets posted to Gossip Girl, she immediately confronts Davis about it. He explains that Lauren is just a disgruntled assistant of a former artist he used to work with named Riley and that he’s never had relations with her. This scene is incredibly cringey — this episode has a LOT of cringe — because Davis recycles all the language and explanations we’ve been hearing from accused men since the rise of the #MeToo movement. I also think Luke Kirby deserves to play a character with a better arc than this.
Speaking of recycled language, Zoya calls out her dad for not believing women when he suggests that they shouldn’t cut Davis out of their lives without any proof that he’s guilty, especially after he just offered them free housing in a swanky apartment. In this scene, nothing that comes out of Zoya’s mouth, particularly about the low percentage of false rape allegations and the challenges victims face in the court of law, is wrong. It’s more that she sounds like she’s reading a Wikipedia page or doing a PowerPoint, which is how Zoya expresses all of her political opinions. While technically being on the right side of the issue, Zoya seems completely self-righteous and unsympathetic to Julien’s predicament as a daughter who happens to have a shitty dad.
In a scene that looks straight out of Succession, Aki’s dad Roger, a character that seems like it’s Malcolm McDowell’s failed audition for Logan Roy, tells Aki that his newsroom killed the story because they couldn’t verify the claims. Julien, obviously eager to believe it’s false, shares this news with Zoya, who can’t understand why a teenage girl would want to believe in the innocence of the only parent she has. She also expects Julien to hold her grown-ass father accountable, which isn’t a thing you can do when you’re a literal child?? So Zoya takes things into her own hands by telling Gossip Girl about Davis owning a second apartment (which isn’t inherently damning) and how he awfully treated her dad. She completely ignores the fact that this woman’s accusation is released without her consent and that she should probably let the events play out without any more input from anonymous strangers. But that’s Zoya!
Meanwhile, this show is really trying to make Aki’s fractured relationship with his dad a thing, primarily, I feel, because his dad is played by an iconic actor that they want to get as much use out of. I honestly couldn’t care less whether Aki gets along with his dad or Obie with his mom, for that matter. However, their shared experience of being raised by austere, wealthy parents is a way for the two of them to bond and overcome that unexpected hurdle of Obie being briefly uncomfortable with Aki’s sexuality. This leads to a big “fuck you” moment where they ditch their parents at a fancy restaurant for the food of the working class, a slice of pizza. On their walk home, they both agree that their parents deserve to be exposed for their bad behavior as if the world isn’t already aware that rich people suck. Obie sends pictures of his parents’ tax returns to Gossip Girl because, as we all know, people really care that billionaires are paying taxes. I also love how Gossip Girl went from petty high school bullshit to WikiLeaks.
The same night, Julien and Zoya both attend a concert for Davis’ record label where a crowd of protesters is outside screaming, “cancel Calloway!” I loathe the general assumption that the word “cancel” is something activists or socially-minded people say in earnest. Anyway, after receiving phone records obtained during the investigation into Lauren’s claim from Aki, Julien grabs Zoya to search through her dad’s office for his old Blackberry. In a strange unraveling of facts, we find out that Riley is actually the woman her father assaulted, and Lauren lied. Hopefully, this will be explained later. But I’m not sure why a female character must lie in a narrative involving sexual assault when women are constantly accused of lying about this in real life. This “twist” just feels a little lazy to me.
When Davis returns home from the party, he’s ambushed by Julien and Zoya with the texts, which gives me war flashbacks to one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen, Promising Young Woman. This scene is also acted terribly by Jordan Alexander, who can emote as well as a cardboard box. Her head is also partially bedazzled, which is very distracting.
Of course, it’s only when Julien and Zoya are on the same page about her dad being trash that Zoya can offer her sister the slightest bit of compassion and support. So I guess this means we’re back on this dysfunctional sisterhood rollercoaster that we’ll never get off!
• I found the subplot about Max’s erectile issues hilarious during this episode. Like, okay???
• Monet and Luna are back, to my partial excitement. Luna has proven to be the more fascinating, well-acted character, while Monet still feels like she’s a basic mean girl from some show in 2005.
• It’s noteworthy that Jia Tolentino’s Trick Mirror has finally appeared on this show thanks to book influencer Audrey. I’m surprised it didn’t show up sooner.
• I’m interested to see how Keller will fare after being fired from her primary snitching role by the teachers. I’m hoping to see some real infighting amongst the faculty and not just these faux-intellectual debates about “justice.”
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