When Season 3 began in the UK I felt a certain degree of trepidation. The Second Season was brilliant, but it also raised the stakes for the show creatively, and with the start of college, I wasn't sure how it was going to work out. My fears were confirmed from the beginning, which was rather disappointing, and the following episodes weren't much better to be honest. I think this is due to the unneccessary introduction of secondary characters which takes the focus away from the cast, such as Olivia (Hilary Duff), and the irritating Georgina (Michelle Trachtenberg). The problem with these characters is that they are only there to add arbitrary drama which the show doesn't really need. Apart from that, the transition from high school to college is a rocky one, for the audience and the characters. It's only when the writers step away from the college scene and back into familiar territory that the show finally gets back into the swing of things again, such as Chuck dealing with the anniversary of his father's death in 'The Dearly Debarted'. Undoubtedly one of 'Gossip Girl's' most interesting characters, Chuck has a lot to deal with this season: the apparent reappearance of his mother (whom he believed had died giving birth to him), the possibility of losing his father's empire to his evil Uncle Jack, and his insecurity that he isn't living up to his father's expectations. Naturally, 'Gossip Girl' is a show about secrets and nothing is ever what it seems to be.
Relationships-wise, much of the 'hot' scenes have shifted from Chuck and Blair to Upper East Side's newest reigning prince and princess, Serena and Nate. But if you thought any hope of Jenny and Nate maybe getting together died sometime last season, you would be wrong. Nate continues to play knight in shining armour to damsel in distress Jenny whenever the situation arises; saving her from a potentially dangerous party scene and advising her against losing her virginity to dubious new boyfriend Damien: "You're a really special girl Jenny, and you deserve a guy who sees that...you deserve a guy who's gonna be there in the morning." As for Chuck and Blair, we watch as they go from being a solid couple to hitting rock bottom. But every scene they share, no matter how heartbreaking or romantic is simply mesmerising to watch. I've been a big fan of Chuck and Blair from Season One, but what I found slightly disconcerting this time round was that the writers didn't seem to know what to do with them once they had become a couple, which may have influenced their decision to break them up lest their relationship became too pedestrian. But even if Chuck and Blair are one of TV's ill-fated couples who will never stay together for very long, or whose chemistry seems to work better apart rather than as a conventional couple, I still favour them over Serena and Nate ("Your biggest concern has been whose hair is shinier," says Chuck), and Dan and Vanessa. Dan and Vanessa look like a match made in eHarmony heaven, but for some reason, they just do not work. I don't know why, but they just don't. Maybe they are too alike. It's a relationship that makes perfect sense on paper, but on screen, I'm afraid they are bland, and therefore boring to watch. I don't even know if Vanessa has been well established as a character on her own. She seems strangely detached from the rest of the group and it seems that the only way she can be integrated as one of them - and thus have a story - is by being in a relationship with one of the guys.
Three characters that really annoyed me this season were Serena, Jenny and Lily. Serena's unwavering loyalty to her father grated on my nerves, as did her refusal to try and see things from her friends perspectives. I didn't understand why Serena sided so quickly with her father against Rufus, when her father hadn't been around for years and had done nothing except show up again to earn her support or trust. Any sympathy I once had for Jenny dissolved completely. I'm afraid that by the end of the season, I just didn't like her - whereas Blair can be manipulative and still convey emotion, Jenny does not, and comes across as aloof and cold-hearted. Lily on the other hand, irritated me by failing to see that her ex-husband was up to no good, and was trying to cause a wedge between her and Rufus.
Overall, I'm not sure how I feel about this season. When the writing is strong, it all comes together, but much of 'Gossip Girl' depends on strong and likeable characters and the relationships they have. When these elements don't deliver, then I don't feel suitably engaged with the show. There are some good moments but...unlike the previous two seasons, I'm not sure if I'll be buying this one.