Kate Keller (Tavi Gevinson) has always been one of them Gossip Girl‘s more morally questionable characters. But the high school teacher who has become Gossip Girl’s mastermind has finally reached villain status. It took until this week’s episode, the penultimate of Season 2 of the HBO Max reboot — which saw both Julien (Jordan Alexander) and Camille de Haan (Amanda Warren) go to war against Gossip Girl — for her to let go.
Things fall apart for members of Manhattan’s elite as the season draws to a close. Julien has alienated Audrey (Emily Alyn Lind) and Zoya (Whitney Peak) with her constant intrigue; Monet (Savannah Lee Smith) has fallen from queen bee to persona non grata; Obie (Eli Brown) is somehow still the most boring character on television, despite a conspiracy to send his mother to prison; Grayson de Haan (Rick Worthy) puts a bounty on Gossip Girl’s identity, ending her secondment; and the trouple’s bond begins to break.
All of this comes to a head at the annual Rhinebeck Summit, or, as Obie so eloquently puts it, “that whole billionaire thing.” It’s an event so exclusive that somehow the de Haans manage to add four more guests to their list at the last minute – including Kate, who sneaks in as Monet’s tutor but is really there to connect with Camille ; Nick Lott (Johnathan Fernandez), supposedly delivering some very important documents; and Nick’s two plus-ones, his daughter Zoya and her half-sister Julien.
Kate is convinced that Camille is on GG’s side and tries to make a side deal with her to get incriminating documents on Grayson to get him off her back. The catch: Camille will only meet GG in person. Momentarily (after an appropriate number of hijinks) Kate beats Camille at her own game, keeping her identity a secret and getting her hands on those top secret documents. But it’s not long before the other shoe drops: It turns out Camille was playing GG all along. After Kate uses the documents to accuse Grayson of union fraud, he turns around and blames Nick, destroying Nick’s reputation as a legal professional.
It was bad enough when Kate posted pictures of a 14-year-old Zoya Lott changing clothes in Obie’s apartment, driving a wedge between two teenage sisters. But getting Nick fired, even accidentally, has taken her to a whole new level of evil. When Kate went after Constance Billard’s teens and posted about their sex lives and petty rivalries, that was definitely icky, but it was the kind of icky that Gossip Girl fans may overlook. If the drama is juicy and absurd enough, we can forgive the fact that the show is essentially about a white woman in her 20s who uses her position of power to anonymously cyberbully her teenage students, many of them non-white.
But looking back at the reboot so far, it’s hard not to notice that Kate has a pattern of harming Nick in the real world. Damage that cannot be remedied by a heart-to-heart or sleepover.
What makes Kate’s continued abuse of Nick is that he’s the kind of person Kate predicts will be a champion. He is not wealthy like the other Constance parents, and he raised Zoya to be respectful of teachers and her peers. He should be the only parent avoiding Kate not destroy. And yet he is the one who hurt them the most.
In the very first episode, Kate revealed the truth about Julien paying for Zoya’s scholarship, jeopardizing the freshman’s education. Later in the season, her GG henchmen – Jordan (Adam Chanler-Berat) and Wendy (Megan Ferguson), her fellow teachers – helped uncover that Zoya and Nick were living in his mother’s rent-controlled apartment, which in fact led to them being evicted.
And now she’s inadvertently helped frame him for union fraud, leaving him unemployed in New York City and a target for potential legal action. Let’s put it another way: a white woman may have ruined a black man’s life for no other reason than protecting her own ego and continuing to spy on minors. And we’re supposed to… be okay with that?
Long time GG fans know that a lot of bad, horrible, unforgivable things happened because of the anonymous blogger, but it felt less sinister when it only affected (mostly) rich white people. No matter what happened, no matter how horrible or devastating the plot twists, the main characters always came back because of their youth and privilege. It’s part of why Serena accepted Dan when he revealed himself as Gossip Girl in the original series – in the end, everyone survived, despite all the rumors. (Almost everyone. RIP Bart Bass.)
The fact that we didn’t know GG’s identity until the end of that show also helped us forgive him for his wrongdoings. By the time the public learned about Dan’s double life, it was too late to be angry with him for what he had done to destroy his best friends. Who remembered at the end of Season 6 when Gossip Girl published a tip about Jenny sleeping with Chuck? Not me. If we had known then that Dan was GG, more people would remember Dan as a creep who shared details about his teenage sister’s sex life on the internet, not the Lonely Boy we all loved.
However, revealing GG’s identity in the first episode of the reboot was a great twist at the time. But almost two seasons later, it feels contradictory. Gossip Girl presented Kate as a character you’re looking for, but what she just did to Nick makes that impossible. Even the best redemption arc in the world couldn’t make Kate remotely likable after this, and it makes all the time and effort spent on her season 2 arc become a waste of time.
Fans watched eight episodes as Kate beat Georgina Sparks (Michelle Trachtenberg) at her own game and not one, but two love interests! That’s more than we can say for Luna (Zión Moreno), Zoya, Monet, and Shan (Grace Duah), all of whom were tragically underused. And for what? Putting Kate front and center may have been a nice idea at first, but it could turn out to be the show’s biggest flaw.