Review of Gilmore Girls Season 4

In Pixar’s film Inside Out, the embodiments of the emotions Joy and Sadness pull their human host in two opposite directions until they come to learn that a person’s emotional outlook on a given event can be complex enough to include both feelings.

That life lesson is relevant when considering Gilmore Girls season 4.

Previously on Gilmore Girls…

Rory graduated high school before she and Lorelai embarked on their long-planned backpacking through Europe trip.

The Lorelais’ First Day at Yale (4.02)

Only in Stars Hollow would it be safe to drive a truck backwards for multiple street blocks.

I relate to and appreciate Lorelai and Rory a lot for their capacity to eat junk food, but even I marvel at the amount of take-out that they ordered.

Chicken or Beef? (4.04)

If you stop and think about what Kirk is doing, it’s suddenly not so endearing. He breaks into Lorelai’s house after deciding that she needs “saving,” installs an alarm without telling her, and leaves behind his gun!! If it was anyone other than Kirk, Lorelai would have had him arrested.

Being young and stupid can’t be the only reason why Dean and Lindsay are getting married. I’d want more screen time dedicated to explaining it, but I will never want more screen time for Dean.

The Fundamental Things Apply (4.05)

Me once again being me, I can’t help but wonder if Rory learned some of the things she’s saying about Hemingway in class from her literary discussions with Jess.

The Festival of Living Art (4.07)

How can Nicole think that dating Luke will work any better in the long-run than marrying Luke? I don’t get it. The same issues will still be there.

In the Clamor and the Clangor (4.11)

Regardless of whether that guy was talking about Rory or not, he’s still a douche for using a girl’s moment of vulnerability to make himself look like a catch.

A Family Matter (4.12)

Liz appears to have gotten her life together, but that doesn’t invalidate the negative, toxic things that we’ve heard about her previously through Luke and Jess. She’s still the same woman who shipped her son off to her brother in a strange town because she couldn’t handle him. She’s still the same woman that, as Luke says in this episode, brought men into her and Jess’ lives who were dangerous influences. It’s easy to forget that in the face of her new eccentric and colorful lifestyle, but the strains in her relationships with Luke and Jess are not simply caused by clashes in personality.

Nag Hammadi is Where They Found the Gnostic Gospels (4.13)

Luke says to Liz that she was, “depressed for a month, [she] cut all [her] hair, [she] threw out all [her] clothes…” There’s someone else we know who cut her hair abruptly recently, as Gypsy points out to Jess…

Speaking of Liz, the extent to which she damaged Jess is further hinted at by him in this episode, “Of course I don’t like this guy. I don’t like any of the guys, but she’s gonna do what she’s gonna do..She does not care what we think. She really doesn’t care what I think. I’ve got nineteen years of proof to back me up.” That sounds like a healthy, loving relationship between mother and son.

Rory, for the first time all season, explicitly betrays how much Jess’ leaving affected her. She’s “imagine[d] hundreds of different scenarios with a hundred different great last parting lines” if she were to ever see him again, even after a year had gone by. I often wonder what would have changed if Rory had taken Jess up on his request to sit down, and I bet she did in the aftermath of his “I love you”-and-run, too.

The Reigning Lorelai (4.16)

Emily’s off-the-cuff anecdote about the catalyst for her friend Sweetie’s nickname to appease Lorelai is yet another instance that shows how similar to Lorelai she can be. Their senses of humor can be quite similar in the proper contexts.

Glenn seems like he’s going to snap at any moment. It’s a miracle he never does anything drastic.

Rory has to look up how to tie Richard’s tie on the Internet, but Emily knows how to do it the proper, dignified way-a nugget of knowledge from her generation that she fears is growing obsolete and undervalued, but proves to still have its place.

Girls in Bikinis, Boys Doing the Twist (4.17)

The writers managed to find a pretty organic way to get Rory to go on spring break. It wouldn’t be in character for her to go for the sake of partying or anything else of the like, but I buy that she would go to escape the frigid weather.

Unpopular opinion: I like Jason. I have no delusions about him being Lorelai’s perfect long-term partner, but I do find him amusing.

Overall, though, I tend to avoid this episode upon rewatch because I hate the machinations that go into getting Rory to leave Dean an awkward, uncomfortable, stumbling voicemail. The writing is on the wall, folks, but that doesn’t mean I can’t and won’t avert my eyes while I still can.

Luke Can See Her Face (4.20)

Luke’s realization of what Lorelai means to him turns him into a completely new person. You can see the weight that has been lifted off his shoulders-weight that he got so used to since he fell in love with her he didn’t even know it was there.

Luke and Jess’ conversation in the diner at the end of the episode reveals so much about both of their characters with so little said. Luke says that he, “didn’t think [Jess] was listening.” Jess replies, straightforwardly, “I was listening.” Luke is still carrying the scars caused by what Jess said to him in the last episode we saw them interact, even though Luke still gave him money because that’s just who Luke is. Jess, meanwhile, truly is always listening. He may not react the way you want him to, he may not let you know of his reaction at all, but he always internalizes and analyzes what he hears-especially from Luke and Rory.

Last Week Fights, This Week Tights (4.21)

Jess actually reading the self-help books that Luke gives him at the end of the last episode shows both how much he respects Luke as well as how low he’s sunk. He’s desperate for help from any place he can get it.

One last telling line this season about Liz’s history as a mother: “This is my first wedding of mine that I’ve ever been sober for. I’m probably gonna remember this one.”

How are we meant to take Lorelai’s reassurance to Liz’s question of if Jess broke Rory’s heart, “No, no, he didn’t, it just didn’t work out?” Was it said from a place of maternal instinct, as she had just heard Liz say various unsightly things about her past that provided new insight into what Jess’ childhood had been like? Or, was it said from a place of a misguided, willful interpretation of Rory’s feelings after Jess left and she genuinely believes that Rory wasn’t heartbroken? I’ve always leaned towards the latter, but it’s certainly possible that it was also influenced by the former.

Rory calling Dean to pick her up from her disastrous date is similar to Lorelai calling Chris at her bachelorette party. The settings may be polar opposites, but the phone calls  illustrate who each of the Gilmore girls feel are their back-ups.

Based on the fact that Jess spent all episode reading self-help books and earning “reciprocation” from Luke, I find it hard to believe that asking Rory to run away with him was his plan from the get-go. It’s likely that Jess had a much more rational plan/idea in mind, but then panicked when he saw Dean. Thanks to the scene where he runs into Dean at Doose’s, a scene which otherwise serves no other apparent purpose, Jess knows that Dean is married. He’s probably able to deduce the dangerous road Rory is close to going down, which would send him into an even greater panic than simple jealousy/resentment. It’s also worth noting that Rory has not seen Jess since he said “I love you” and drove away before she could respond, nor has she heard anything positive about him. She can’t be blamed for thinking that Jess remains as unreliable as ever and making her choice accordingly. Still hurts like a bitch, though.

Best Character: Luke Danes

In a season where, for the first time, all three Gilmore girls are struggling with serious, potentially life-changing issues simultaneously, it is Luke that refreshingly remains the lovingly gruff presence he’s always been while also progressing to the place the audience has long-awaited him to be: ready and willing to enter into a relationship with Lorelai. Luke’s arc throughout the series centers around being able to articulate and accept love, familial and romantic. He’s struggled with that throughout his doomed marriage to Nicole as well as his seemingly failed guardianship of Jess. However, by the final two episodes of the season, he no longer allows his fear of being vulnerable to stop him from being emotionally close with arguably the two most defining figures in his life- his nephew and his soul mate.

Best and Worst Episode: Raincoats and Recipes (4.22)

Every Gilmore Girls fan has a love/hate relationship with “Raincoats and Recipes.” It’s the episode that gives and takes in equal measure, that makes reality both a fan’s sweetest dream and most horrid nightmare when it comes to this series. To put it succinctly, it’s an episode dedicated to what happens when you satisfy the little voice inside you that asks, “What if?” Sometimes it can be the greatest leap of faith you ever made, but other times it can be the first misstep down a slippery slope.

Luke and Lorelai, for the past four seasons, have been the will they/won’t they couple done right. They have a foundation of mutual friendship and support that has never been about one biding their time until they can earn the love of the other (I’m looking at you Ross/Rachel). Rather, their relationship has always been about waiting for both of them to open their eyes to the possibility in front of them that anyone and everyone else could see at first glance. “Raincoats and Recipes”‘ handling of how Luke and Lorelai enter into this new phase pays off the viewer’s four seasons of breath-catching anticipation in full.

You know what else can make one’s breath catch? The kind of shock, disgust, and disappointment that is evoked by witnessing Rory becoming Dean’s “other woman.” When I think rationally, I understand why she did it. Rory’s life and sense of self has been in turmoil all season: transitioning to Yale, not seeing her mom as much, having to drop a class, her grandparents separating, and, in the previous episode, Jess asking her to run away with him. While Jess’ unpredictability was part of what made him so appealing to Rory in early season 3- “There’s just something about not knowing what the other person is going to do at all times that’s just exciting.”-it is exactly what works against him now when every other aspect of Rory’s life is already in chaos. Her reaching out to Dean is a desperate attempt to find comfort and familiarity.

That’s when I think rationally. When I don’t think rationally it’s more like unintelligible Kill Bill sirens in my head.

Every Time Dean Forrester was the Worst:

15. Getting married despite still being in love with Rory.

16. HAVING SEX WITH RORY, THUS CHEATING ON HIS WIFE!!!!

Best lines (in chronological order):

“This is a misogynistic truck!…It’s anti-woman, it’s gender-selective, it’s ‘Oh, let’s drink a beer and watch the game and hike our shorts up.’… [You said you could drive a stick] Yeah, not the Joe Sixpack of sticks. Not the ‘Oh, let’s scratch our bellies and eat some corn nuts and pick our teeth.'”-Lorelai (“The Lorelais’ First Day at Yale”)

“He’s a grown man with an etch-a-sketch!” Luke talking about TJ (“Nag Hammadi is Where They Found the Gnostic Gospels”)

“It’s just I can easily picture [Charles Dickens] in his study with his dog and his pipe and his fancy feathered pen, writing [British accent] ‘Cheerio, old bean. Have a cup of tea. How’s Big Ben? How’s the Tower of London, Sister Suffragette? Tuppence a bag.’-Lorelai (“Scene in a Mall”)

“As kids we shared our toys/with all the girls and boys/barrel of monkeys/your battleship sunk me/please recall the joy/Wheelo, Clue, Mousetrap/bash and spirograph/kaleidoscopes spinning/Yahtzee I’m winning/think of how we laughed/but today we share our love/today we share our love/for love is the greatest toy around/around, around.”-Minister of Liz and TJ’s wedding. (“Last Week Fights, This Week Tights”)

“You’re ready. And I’m ready. I’m ready for this. You can count on me now. I know you couldn’t count on me before, but you can now. You can..Look, you know we’re supposed to be together. I knew it the first time I saw you two years ago, and you know it, too. I know you do.”-Jess to Rory (“Last Week Fights, This Week Tights”)

“Luke can waltz.“-Lorelai (“Raincoats and Recipes”)

“Will you just stand still?”-Lorelai and Luke, right before kissing each other (“Raincoats and Recipes”)

RANKINGS OF GILMORE GIRLS SEASONS:

  1. Season 2
  2. Season 4
  3. Season 3
  4. Season 1

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