To call Monday night's series finale of "Gossip Girl" the "end of an era" probably isn't accurate, even within the stretched definition of "era" as it applies to scripted television. The show's era, if it ever had one, likely ended sometime around the time Jenny slept with Chuck then was exiled from New York, but it limped along beyond that point, steadily declining each week along the way.
That, in part, is what made Monday's episode -- "New York, I Love You XOXO" -- so stunning. It was easily the best single episode the show has produced in years, wrapping up the biggest lingering couplings (Blair/Chuck and Serena/Dan) in ways that both made sense and were satisfying. It was fun, caring, emotional, and even had the trademark "Gossip Girl" schemeing, but in a way that made you root for the characters, rather than despise them (an element that had been missing for much of this season).
But the episode's success comes with a major caveat. The show finally played its last card, revealing the identity of the title character, and in doing so introducing a litany of plot holes and inconsitancies to the previous six seasons worth of episodes.
SPOILER ALERT. If you haven't seen Monday's episode yet, and don't want to know the identity of Gossip Girl, then stop reading now. END SPOILER ALERT.
After six years, we now know that Dan Humphrey, "Lonely Boy" himself, was Gossip Girl. The episode did a masterful job weaving the backstory of how he developed the idea for the site, the trademark "voice" of the Gossip Girl alerts and his justification behind the whole thing. It was sweet, in its own twisted "Gossip Girl" way. However, it failed to explain the countless times Dan reacted in shock to a Gossip Girl blast, the times Dan ended up on Gossip Girl seconds after being "spotted" out with Serena (or Blair, or Rachel, or... well, you get the picture) or the time he almost got himself kicked out of school. Just about the only inconsistencies addressed were Gossip Girl's awful treatment of Jenny (who, we were told, was in on everything) and the high school graduation incident where Serena demanded that Gossip Girl meet her at a bar and Dan showed up.
There's already a massive Tumblr blog dedicated to documenting -- and mostly mocking -- these newly-created plot holes, and it's a great read, if you don't think too much about the fact that you'll never be able to watch the series without thinking about them again (which, of course, assumes you think at all while watching "Gossip Girl"). Also, it'll be impossible to hear those Kristen Bell voiceovers without translating them in your head to Penn Badgley's voice, which is just... awkward.
Speaking of Bell, she made an actual on-screen appearance in the series finale, in one of the episode's many, many cameos. Just about anyone who'd ever played a significant role in the series appeared in some way, which could've been cheesy, but instead was pleasantly delightful. It was just one of the many bright spots of the episode. Others included the fun way in which the Chuck/Blair wedding came together, the one last scheme that worked and even the epilogue, in which Dan and Serena finally tied the knot.
(Aside: I couldn't help but watch that scene, with such an intimate family gathering, and think that maybe it wasn't Dan and Serena's first wedding. I then imagined this entire timeline in the five-year gap in which Dan and Serena jumped too quickly into marriage, which fell apart after the intense scrutiny of Dan's role as Gossip Girl and the Hollywood adaptation of "Inside Out". They became estranged, didn't talk for months, then reconciled at Rufus' wedding to Lisa Loeb, before finally getting re-married five years after Dan's big revelation. I'm sure that's not what the writers intended, but that's how I'll always view that scene.)
The episode struck just the right tone for a finale. It was a conclusion, but not an ending. It actually went quite a long way toward reversing the ill-will toward the characters that had built up in recent years, and only had one real misfire on a thread resolution (outside of the Gossip Girl identity): the Lola/Ivy/Lily/William scheme plot was wrapped up so strangely and so abruptly that it felt like the writers had forgotten about it until just minutes before filming.
I'm sure that a lot of how people feel about the "Gossip Girl" finale will be intertwined with how they feel about the reveal of Gossip Girl's identity, but plot inconsistencies aside, that was handled about as well as it could've been. I loved the jokes about people thinking it was Eric or Dorota, two of the most frequently mentioned characters in fan speculation, and the way everyone just sat around trying to digest the information and the ups and downs of their relationships with the previously anonymous blogger was actually insightful. And regardless of my own feelings about Dan being Gossip Girl (or, Gossip Guy, I guess), I have to admit that Monday's episode was one of the more enjoyable series finales I've seen.
Our journey into the scandelous lives of Manhattan's elite has come to an end, and though at times it wasn't always great, I can truly say that, after the series finale, I know I loved it. XOXO.