After a season which grew progressively darker and culminated in Chuck getting shot and lying bleeding on the street, I was not sure what to expect from Season 4. However, I am happy to report that this is a much better season than the previous one. I think this is due to several factors: a move away from the college scene for the most part, a tone which is less dark and more cohesive; but mostly due to 2 major relationships which defines Season 4, and has a life-changing effect on two characters in particular.
The first half of the season focuses on new girl Juliet's mysterious vendetta against Serena, Chuck and Blair's love/hate relationship and attempt at reconciliation, and the love triangle/rectangle between Nate, Serena, Dan and Vanessa. The story with Juliet isn't what we're led to believe it is, and in fact leads to a much bigger story about a secret in Serena's past at boarding school involving a teacher.
As much as I enjoyed Chuck and Blair's interaction, after a while I began to wonder if they were in danger of becoming a bit stale after 3 years. About a quarter of the season in, I felt I'd seen every aspect of their relationship. But don't worry, C/B fans still have much to enjoy this season.
The second half of the season centres on Chuck struggling to save Bass Industries, and discovering a shocking secret of his father's. It also features Serena's new relationship with Ben. However, it is the development of Dan and Blair's unnamed friendship which really invigorates the show. 'OC' fans have labelled Dan and Blair the new Seth and Summer, but I think they have more in common with Joey and Pacey from 'Dawson's Creek.' It's a pairing which has proved to be a divisive issue among some viewers, but as a fan of Chuck and Blair, I have to say that I love Dan and Blair. The writers take a lot of time and care into building their friendship, and it soon becomes apparent that this is for a reason, and not merely a tactic to get Blair back together with Chuck. Arguably the most interesting thing to happen to 'Gossip Girl' in years, Blair and Dan showcase what the writers do best when done right: relationships. However, I felt rather let down with the way the story arc fizzled out without any explanation, and it didn't make much sense when the writers had taken a good number of episodes building up to it. The question is: when the finale apparently waves goodbye to a 'Chair' endgame, have we really seen the last of Dan/Blair? I'm sure we'll see a continuation of their story in Season 5. Season 4 isn't a perfect season by any means, and it does take a few episodes to get into, but it is a great improvement on Season 3. Its strengths out-weigh its flaws on the whole. I almost didn't buy Season 3 because it got too dark for me, but I will definitely be buying this one.