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'Gossip Girl': Catching up with the fourth season

Ed Westwick

Ed Westwick Credit: Handout

In prime-time-soap years, “Gossip Girl” is reaching its empty-nest era, when all the obvious plotlines have been exhausted and the endgame is finally in sight.

But as the still-gorgeous cast plods on, backs bristling with daggers from takedowns gone by, memories of Hilary Duff threesomes and museum-step lunches now faded, what remains?

Though ratings have stumbled a bit (the last pre-hiatus episode reached 1.39 million viewers, down from a season high of 2.06 million), a look ahead promises major developments for those who remain mildly amused by the show’s Upper East Side amorality.

And so, as the series lurches into the final five episodes of Season 4, amNewYork takes a core sample:

What we know
Having almost given up even the pretense of education, the glittering youth are now full-time socialites — even writerly Dan Humphrey (Penn Badgley), who is so poor he lives alone in a tasteful DUMBO loft. As the new day dawns, the unlikely-yet-oddly-plausible pairing of Dan and queen bee Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester) sits awkwardly in plain view, which as teased in a recently released promo, causes some friction when Prince Louis Grimaldi (Hugo Becker) — he of the impenetrable accent — shows up bearing jewelry of the marrying kind.

What we love
The continued brilliance of the Empire Hotel’s very own Hamlet: the one, the only Mr. Chuck Bass. Rich, randy and lost in his rage, the ever-squinting scion of Bass Industries has long been the show’s best asset, and Ed Westwick has mastered the art of serving up Sue Sylvester-perfect lines with a slither and a smile. When he learns of former flame Blair’s new entanglements, he appears to go full-on brood. Long live the crested blazer.

What we hate
The carelessly discarded characters. We understand that, like a game preserve with dwindling bloodlines, fresh stock must be imported from time to time, but when major characters such as the ruthlessly ineffectual Rufus Humphrey (Matthew Settle) spend the majority of their screen time making waffles, something is sorely amiss.

What we hope
At its cutting best, the show resembles a low-cal version of “Vanity Fair.” That its writers recognize this lack of seriousness and continue to boldly present the ridiculous as the real until Chuck and Blair live moodily ever after (preferably at the end of Season 5) is our fondest wish.

What does it all mean?
In a word, nothing. Glorious, brand-bedecked, finely boned nothing. Swaddled in wealth and operating on a plane unbeknownst to most New Yorkers, where all memory is reduced to social slights and surmountable grudges, these characters exist for no reason but our pleasure. Escapism? Undoubtedly. Enjoyable? Absolutely.

On TV: “Gossip Girl” airs on CW/11 Monday night at 9.

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