I always get reamed for going on and on about Serena, but I mean it's the most basic use of capital-T Theory: take apart the pieces of a story and see what they're resting on, because the most interesting parts of a story are the parts you don't think about, and that's always going to be Serena. Any binary opposition you can draw, Serena's on the bottom of it, so she's the key to like every deconstruction you can perform on the text, and the most interesting moments on the show, to me, are the parts where they let her do that particular operation on the text, because she always catches fire, and it causes everybody else to grow and change at twice their normal rate. I do identify with her an awful lot, I'm not really secretive about that, but it's not why I'm interested in investigating her character. I promise not to bring Buffy into this, but you can see it from here: I'm obsessed with Serena's use and significance because she embodies the line you can draw from Gatsby's Daisy to Jessica Simpson: a girl who is vitally important, but for everything that surrounds her and isn't her. She's essentially a negative space.
Which isn't the end of the story, because she's also subjectively a person regardless of how we, or they, view her. That's a lot closer to my actual experience of being alive. There's a feminism that is about the constrictions of the constructs and a very evocative and exciting outrage about the ways that we are hedged in; there are humanisms and gay schools of thought that go those ways, and they offer a sense of community and an exhilarating sense of victimhood in which nothing we do matters, because somebody else is oppressing us and therefore our decisions aren't our own. And then there's a feminism that says there's a utility in understanding and being conscious and eventually working magic with the actual reality around us. The hard yucky facts that won't go away no matter how often we get together and complain to each other about them. And the main thing that I have learned in thirty years is that there is incredible power in being an object, as long as you don't fall in and forget your options for getting out.
Watching Serena dance around that abyss and construct these elaborate rules for herself, and honestly try to stay in contact at all times with her own unnatural capacity for compassion, when it would be so easy to coast on the It Girl thing, is really empowering. So I like that this episode is essentially a finale, and thank God for the Blair/Chuck wonderment and Blair/Eleanor reconciliation, but as a single episode: Serena making war on Gossip Girl is Serena making war on everything that's not Serena. And because of who she is, that's everything and nothing at all, because it's all her. Blair's the hero, but she works outside the system to do so, and takes some fucking lumps for it. Blair's the taste of the meal, but Serena's the ingredients, and the smell of it all cooking.
Anyway. Nate tells everybody to be nice to Serena, and Dan joins in the chorus, and Blair unloads gorgeously on him too. "What do you know about anything? Besides, your label was the only one that was true: You're friends with Nate Archibald, you played on the soccer team, you got into Yale." He gets more and more embarrassed, her voice speeds up faster and faster. "...You got the lead role in the school play, you got published in The New Yorker. You had sex with a teacher..." Nelly Yuki bumbles into the scene for some more terrible acting and being in love with Dan, and Blair resumes once she's done. "You pretend not to be like us, but you are. To the bone." And even more wonderfully, she turns to Serena: "And you should have known better."
Hands up everybody who assumed Blair would take to the postapocalyptic complete-disclosure thing faster than anybody else? That's what I thought. Like a duck to water. At some point in this flurry of activity she yells at Chuck for sleeping with the "dregs of DUMBO" (to which Vanessa screams, "I'm standing right here!") but it's such a drive-by moment of awesomeness it's sort of just punctuation before she storms off to lay down some more motherfucking science on some people, while Serena quietly thanks Dan and Nate -- who's back to staring into space -- for taking up for her. Especially, note, because the divide started with him. He was the harbinger of this, when he said they would all die alone and he didn't like her anymore or whatever, so the fact that he was the one that jumped in with Nate and tried to scoop everybody back together for her actually really means something. And even better, because it's the secret awesomeness of Dan, is that he can't be trusted for shit about these things, because even if he says he doesn't love you he still totally does, and all it takes is for him -- or Rufus -- to act out of that love instead of a pose is to startle him, like with a loud noise or something.
Penelope says some snarky shit to Serena, obligatorily, and asks Jenny what she was going to say, because they both know it doesn't matter anymore. Meanwhile, Blair's trying to help Chuck jump over this latest thing, back in that room. He turns with his hands up, palms wide, exhausted, and begs her to leave him alone. But she's too smart: between Eleanor and the end of the world, she's got everything she needs. He spent so long trying to bring her life crashing down around her so that she would come back to her, remember? Before Bart died, and he sabotaged all her shit. And then after he went crazy, she started doing it to herself because she could tell there was something outside the movie theatre of her life. But he was right all along, and they both knew it: after the world ends, at midnight when the masks come off, only then could they be together.
But he's still smarting from it, and she's not having it. "You're not mad at me because of that. Just like I'm not mad at you about Vanessa. We're just doing what we always do, finding excuses. Well... I won't do it anymore. I know you told Serena you love me." He grits and yells and fusses ("Don't tell me what I feel!"), but it's just... Through another lens, the burlesque is about shapechanging. They've been going through so many poses and outfits and movies, both of them. It's easy to see the Blair ones because she titles them and assigns them placecards -- "femme fatale," "socialite philanthropist" -- but it's true of him too, maybe to the point that burlesque isn't really his metaphor anymore.
If you know your myths, you know that shapechangers and love are a terrible combination, because it always gets real bad. Usually around midnight, actually: You go to them at the crossroads and you have to hold onto them no matter what happens, until the changes are over. They turn into dogs and wolves and dragons, they turn into your mother and your father, your face looking back at you, nightmares unimaginable, they bite and scratch and turn in your hands, they turn into fire and burn your hands, they turn into ice and freeze you to death. And this is the part that would appeal to Blair: if it's true, if it's real, if it's meant to be, you will have the strength to do this until the sun comes up, and they're released from the spell. Not a beast, not a frog, not a monster or a God: just the man you love, looking back at you, finally free. You can see his true face.
That's honestly how it looks, onscreen: she holds him so hard, like a frightened horse wheezing and blowing and rearing away, and she doesn't let go for anything. He fights back with words and tears and shame, and he turns into flame and ice, and the harder he fights the more love she has in her eyes. He tries to escape, and he can't, and the words just keep coming, ripping at him, taking him apart. "Gossip Girl can be right about you all she wants, but I won't let her be right about me. I will not be weak anymore. You can't run. You have to stay here and hear it this time. Chuck Bass... I love you. I love you so much it consumes me. I love