Gossip Girl: The Complete Second Season (DVD)
Welcome to Manhattan's Upper East Side, where affluent prep-school students live for gossip and scandal … and fashion, shopping and partying in New York's trendiest hotspots. Based on the best-selling series of young-adult novels, this drama is told through the all-knowing eyes of a blogger, Gossip Girl. The tension between friends and lovers is high, and age is no barrier in this world full of wealth and power. Executive produced by Josh Schwartz (Chuck, The O.C.) and Stephanie Savage (The O.C.), and starring an impressive ensemble of young stars, season two continues with Serena van der Woodsen's (Blake Lively) rising social status, as she becomes a New York City It Girl. Taking Manhattan by storm is fun, but when elements of her bad-girl personality begin to emerge, will her newfound status fuel bad habits? Also starring are Leighton Meester, Penn Badgley, Chace Crawford, Taylor Momsen, Ed Westwick, Jessica Szohr, Kelly Rutherford and Matthew Settle.
Gossip Girl loses a smidge of snark in season 2, but it's only a smidge, as the Upper East Siders ride out the senior-year traditions of college applications, prom, and graduation, but with Fashion Week and the Hamptons as glamorous backdrops. Serena (Blake Lively), wounded from her breakup/reunion/breakup with Dan (Penn Badgely), spends much of the season searching for her identity, which often steps on the toes of best frenemy Blair (Leighton Meester). Whether it be vying for a slot at Yale, or as queen bee of their prep school, these two have a complicated friendship perfectly summed up by another character: "You might be privileged, Blair, but you work for every single thing you achieve … Serena just glides through." Meanwhile, Nate (Chace Crawford) dallies with an older woman (Mädchen Amick) and his upper-crust family falls into financial ruin; Jenny attempts to break into fashion on her own assisted by an unhinged model (Willa Holland); and Dan finds himself drawn to the new, young English teacher (Laura Breckinridge). But the key story line throughout season 2 is the evolution of the romance between Blair and Chuck (Ed Westwick). The starts and stops aren't as frustrating are they are heartbreaking--particularly when the two admit they might just love the chase more than the reality of couplehood--but Meester and Westwick make a compelling portrayal of a couple so screwed up they may actually last. Other stories that don't involve Blair and/or Chuck are weak by comparison, particularly the season-ending Madoff story line, inspired by Anne Hathaway's real-life ex-boyfriend who made headlines when he was indicted for fraud. Moreover, characters and subplots fizzle out abruptly (Nate and Jenny's fleeting romance, the embezzlement finale). An '80s-set flashback episode, intended as a launch pad for a spinoff about Serena's mother, Lily, also fails to connect (the pilot was eventually rejected). But standout episodes include "The Age of Dissonance," set during a hilarious senior production of Edith Wharton's play, and "Seder Anything," centered around a Passover dinner hosted by Blair's new stepdad (Wallace Shawn, a welcome comic relief). Bonus features on the seven-disc set include Webisodes of Blair's scene-stealing Polish maid Dorota, unaired scenes, a gag reel, and a behind-the-scenes interview with the show's wardrobe supervisor, Eric Daman, who details his process for picking out the cast's designer wardrobe, which could be a supporting character on its own. --Ellen A. Kim