A writer’s dilemma

Serena (Blake Lively) and Blair (Leighton Meester) confront Dan (Penn Badgley).

For the past couple of weeks, I have been reluctantly murmuring under my breath, “Gossip Girl is kind of legitimately good this season.”

Season five, episode four, “Memoirs of an Invisible Dan” has turned that murmur into a casual statement. In fact, I would even say that the show is actually kind of brilliant–by its own standards, of course. Gossip Girl will never be Mad Men, but perhaps, this episode marks its return as television’s most prized guilty pleasure.

Gossip Girl is the only show I keep up with right now. My standards tend to be quite low.

I just need to know if Dan and Blair will ever get together.

Yes, even after this show manipulated me into thinking that Dan and Blair were actually going to get together after their cliffhanger kiss and betrayed me (tore my heart out) with the Chuck and Blair sex scene back in season four.

However, season five has been giving the Dan and Blair fans some hope.

I would now like to take a brief moment to apologize for writing about a CW teen soap opera after writing about Martin Scorsese. It’s a bit of a travesty, I know, but please bear with me.

The publication of Dan’s semi-autobiographical memoir, Inside, is probably one of the cleverest catalysts I’ve ever seen on a teen drama.

Teen dramas are usually melodramatic and self-serious, but with the publication of Dan’s satirical look at the Upper East Side, it not only allows the writers to be incredibly meta, self-referential, and mock the show’s self-seriousness, but gives the writers an opportunity to make the characters look at themselves the way other characters (and the audience) view them. And, hopefully, the characters will realize their shortcomings and grow.

Which is exactly what the writers did this episode.

When the characters discover how Dan portrayed them in the book, all hell breaks loose.

Serena becomes furious. She’s portrayed as a sexy blond, but also selfish and shallow. This revelation puts her position at her new job in jeopardy.

Blair realizes that Dan wrote that they had sex, which might endanger her engagement to Prince Louis. But that kiss. With The Duke Spirit’s “Don’t Wait” playing. Oh, the memories! Remember February 28? I was in my freshman college dorm room, almost crying because Dan and Blair just kissed, after an amazing, multi-episode build-up. As you can probably guess, my freshman year was quite exciting. Quite.

Rufus is heartbroken that Dan portrayed him as a mere trophy husband.

Nate is mad that Dan blended his character with Eric; he feels that Dan doesn’t think that he’s important enough to warrant his own character. Is this an end of a bromance?

Only Chuck is fine with Dan’s portrayal of him…a portrayal where he commits suicide. As one bromance ends, another inevitably begins.

I haven’t been so entertained with Gossip Girl since, well, the Dan and Blair friendship in season four. But I have never been so genuinely surprised by Gossip Girl since season one.

It’s Woody Allen’s Deconstructing Harry for the kids. Sure, it’s been done before, but it’s never been so much fun.

What makes this episode so brilliant is that not only is it witty, clever, and funny, but it’s also incredibly sad. It’s a tragicomedy. I didn’t know the Gossip Girl writers were capable of that.

I didn’t know that the writers were capable of analyzing their own characters so well, considering how inconsistent and erratic the characters can be. But in this episode, the writers demonstrated full knowledge of these characters at their best, their worst, and perhaps, their most irrelevant.

And Penn Badgley.

I cannot even begin to describe Penn Badgley’s performance.

While accolades have been going to Leighton Meester since the beginning of this show’s existence and deservingly so, I just can’t ignore how well Badgley carries this episode.

Badgley delivers a smart, funny, and heartbreaking performance. He embodies Dan Humphrey so well–to Dan’s glee and hesitation as a published author, to Dan’s heartbreak as the woman he loves angrily announces the end of their friendship, to Dan’s desperation as his father confronts him. I could have never imagined that Badgley is capable of such range, even after his solid performances in season four, but in this episode, he completely carries the show, in the same way Ed Westwick once did.

Don’t disappoint me, you terrible show.