The third season of "Gossip Girl" was a bit of a disjointed mess.
There were still high points within the season, but for 22 episodes, it felt like the writers were steered much more by certain very valid character objectives than by any sort of compelling narrative.
Among those character objectives the writers seemingly tackled:
*** After a couple seasons of mooning over Dan and straightening out her reputation, Serena ceased to be Serena. How much wacky stuff can we put her through in a single season to remind you that she's still Serena? Let's just forget about that whole dalliance with the married Congressman, shall we? That was just dumb.
*** Everybody loves Chuck Bass and his rakish charm. How far can we push that? And is there a place where he can do something so bad that not even a well-timed "I'm Chuck Bass" can save him? Normally using your girlfriend as a sexual bargaining chip and then deflowering Cindy Lou Who would be damning for a character but, as you may have heard, he's Chuck Bass.
*** Along the same lines, how pathetic can we make Blair, while still convincing you that she remains Blair Waldorf, Once and Future Queen Bee?
*** How much can we make you hate Jenny Humphrey and how grateful will you then be when Taylor Momsen goes on sabbatical?
And then, of much less interest to everybody, we had extraneous plotlines like Dan and Vanessa finally finding love despite a total absence of chemistry (marring even a threesome involving Hillary Duff), like Dorota getting pregnant and married, like whatever soapy show Billy Baldwin wandered in from for a few episodes and like whatever terminally mopey show Chace Crawford is still sometimes a part of.
When it comes to the objectives, the one that was most successfully executed was making Jenny Humphrey into an unbearably toxic character. Momsen became such a vortex of faux-arty, black eye-lined bitchery that her mere absence is sure to elevate Season Four immeasurably.
As for the rest? Who can even remember.
With that in mind, it's a pleasure to report that "Gossip Girl" launches its fourth season with two confidently satisfying episodes, returning to The CW on Monday, Sept. 13. Because the episodes are designed almost as a stand-alone chapter, I can't say for sure if this bodes well for the season to come, but hey... Good "Gossip Girl."
[More on the "Gossip Girl" return, with some minor spoilers, I suppose, after the break...]