BONUS Review of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

On January 29, 2016, the entertainment juggernaut that is Netflix announced to the world that after almost a decade of speculation and hope, Gilmore Girls was being revived to seek closure for its fans. On November 25 of that same year, the four-part mini series was released. While it did provide closure on some fronts-occasionally even to its detriment-, fans were ultimately left with new questions rather than the closure they had sought. The biggest question being: Will there eventually be more Gilmore?

Winter:

The first episode tips off the viewer that in this revival some aspects from the original series will be carried over for the better, some aspects for the worse, and some will be so prevalent over these scant four episodes that what was once easily overlooked is now the worst.

The opening shots of the town gorgeously welcome the viewer back to Stars Hollow, assuring them that though its inhabitants-and its viewers-have grown older, the town itself has refreshingly remained the picturesque snow globe its always been.

A more unfortunate aspect of the original series that also remains constant? The presence of continuity flubs. Lorelai explains to Rory, who has been away working in London, that, “Taylor has decided that septic systems are beneath us and he wants to go full-on sewer.” The problem with that is that Stars Hollow was said to have gotten off the septic tank system back in the first season of the original series. In “Star-Crossed Lovers and Other Strangers,” Rory tells Dean that the town “had a month long carnival when we finally got off the septic tank system.”

The original series was never the most socially conscious show on network television, but the revival gives less of a shit about not being offensive than ever before. In fact, it goes out of its way to mock anyone who does care about such things. In this episode, Lorelai irreverently uses the language of social justice in response to Luke’s outrage that she and Rory are eating tacos while he’s making dinner for them, “Wow, so I’m fat?… Body shaming…Trigger warnings!…War on Christmas!” We’ve come a long way in the decade since Amy Sherman-Palladino last wrote for this world, but instead of elevating her writing to the new standard AS-P decided to use it as an ill conceived punch line.

Speaking of ill conceived punch lines, Rory’s boyfriend Paul. She has been serial cheating on this poor man for God knows how long, but the audience is led to simply laugh at him because he is deemed “forgettable.” Is his entire existence within the story meant to be a comedic device? He’s certainly not an obstacle between Logan and Rory, as she has no consideration or affection for him whatsoever and could easily break up with him if she just remembered to. Is the fact that she manages not to remember meant to shine a light on the negative facets of Rory’s character? It’s difficult to think so when she faces no consequences or backlash for her actions.

If Luke is no longer living above the diner, and he doesn’t want his patrons on their devices, why did he get Wi-Fi in the first place?

From what we’re being told, Lorelai and Rory’s dinner at the Gilmore mansion is the first time Lorelai and Emily have spoken since their blow up at Richard’s funeral four months prior. While I find it relatable and certainly in character that Lorelai would pretend that nothing had happened and go on to criticize the ginormous portrait of Richard, it’s not exactly sensitive to Emily’s plight.

Continuity flub #2: Back in season two’s “Richard in Stars Hollow,” it was discussed that the Gilmore family had a mausoleum for them all to be put to rest in. Richard is not placed there, nor is it ever mentioned.

The fight between Lorelai and Emily in the flashback is one of the most powerful scenes in the entire run of Gilmore Girls and manages to singlehandedly make the revival worth it. To see these two strong women mourn an imperfect man who did his best by them both, but who didn’t always succeed in the way his daughter needed, is heart wrenching. It’s devastatingly in character for Lorelai to regress to her childhood mind-set about Richard in the drunken aftermath of his funeral, just as it is for Emily to viciously defend her husband’s reputation in the only way she has left, even against her own daughter. It brings tears to my eyes every time I watch it.

One of the experiences Lorelai fears Luke will miss out on from not having a kid with her is not seeing his kid’s graduation, to which Luke replies, “I went to Rory’s graduation.” A sweet sentiment, but did he not attend April’s as well? She came into his life when she was twelve years old-plenty of time to attend multiple of her graduations.

ASP’s shorthand for impressive spaces is a TV coming out of a box. In the original series it was settings like Jason’s bedroom, now it’s Paris’ office at her fertility clinic.

Rory being with Logan at this point in her life is yet another case of her wanting/needing stability and the comfort of the familiar whilst not thinking of the consequences. However, Rory is now in her early 30s, making mistakes such as participating in adultery even less forgivable than ever before.

Spring:

Explicitly showing Mr. Kim after all of these years was a mistake, as all it does is raise new questions. Where has he been all this time? Are he and Mrs. Kim still together? Why wasn’t he at Lane’s wedding? If AS-P wanted to have an inside joke with the audience, she should have had Lane and Rory say hello to him and then cut away without showing his face. It would undermine the reality of the situation and turn it into a successful gag.

Is Michel gay or bisexual? He did occasionally talk about appealing to the ladies in the original series, but a case could be made that that was compulsory heterosexuality. On the other hand, Michel being bisexual could explain why Taylor doesn’t mention him as participating in Stars Hollow’s gay pride parade. It’s a flimsy argument, but it’s possible.

Possibly continuity flub #3: Michel says that the A-list celebrities of the movie filming in Woodbury are staying at the Cheshire Cat Inn. The Cheshire Cat is the name of the eccentric inn that Lorelai and Rory stayed at in Portsmouth, New Hampshire during their “Road Trip to Harvard” in season two. Weird that there would be an inn with the same name close to Stars Hollow.

AS-P can’t just dangle the conflict of Emily believing Lorelai left her a “heinous letter” on her birthday without resolving any of the questions that arise as a result. Who did send Emily the letter? Why? What did the letter say? Did whoever send it intentionally disguise the letter as being from Lorelai?

Apparently, Richard left Luke money to franchise Luke’s Diner but didn’t leave anything to Lorelai for an expansion of the inn or to Rory for underwear. Speaking of Rory’s financial problems in particular, what happened to the trust fund that she was supposed to have access to when she turned twenty-five as per season six’s “Twenty-One is the Loneliest Number?” I highly doubt she’s blown through all of it in the seven years since.

The way Rory’s speech to the students at Chilton is shot, it feels like it’s meant to have more of an impact on the viewer than it does, a deeper meaning to be comprehended in hindsight. Yet, there’s no perfect analogy to be made. One could argue that Rory’s stated faith in her “extensive familiarity with Nick Cave, Radiohead and a smattering of Stravinsky” to bring her success in her music composition class is reminiscent of the way she’s long believed that her extensive reading and admiration of journalists like Christiane Amanpour destines her for success in her own journalistic career. However, the difference is that Rory persevered in her class, completed the daunting assignment, and learned a life-long lesson from the experience that made the struggle worth it. As far as we are shown or even told by the end of the revival, she’s not so fortunate in her career.

I don’t know how Paris physically managed to become a doctor, a lawyer, an expert on neoclassical architecture, and a certified dental technician within the past nine years, but if there’s anyone who I believe would be capable of doing so, it’s her.

Frustratingly, the only explanation given for why Luke and Lorelai aren’t married is, “I just don’t do things like my mother,” before promptly sweeping the matter under the rug and moving on to a different subject. An attentive viewer can see the strings, can see the thought process of “well, we have to give some kind of explanation,” that usually betray a piece of sloppy writing.

Rory had a ton of possible angles to work the lines story from. She could have talked about how Lorelai was able to get each of the items in advance with just a bit of kindness. She could have examined the psychology/origins behind the people lining up for nothing. There were possibilities for this story and yet, for a girl who once wrote a revelatory piece on the repaving of the school parking lot, Rory wasn’t able to see any of them.

Lorelai voices no criticism of Rory sleeping with an engaged Logan, when once upon a time back at the end of season four/the beginning of season five she chewed Rory out for sleeping with a married Dean. I guess it’s acceptable when the man is only engaged, but it’s once that ring is on that all bets are off.

Worst Episode: Summer

The pool scenes of Summer are when the viewer really starts to question the characterization choices of this revival. These aren’t the girls we’ve grown to know and love over the course of the original series. Yes, they were always priviliged, but they had an innate kindness and whimsy that was likable by the audience. They would never stand to inexplicably have child servants who they’ve dragged away from the fun of summer. It’s a choice I can see them criticizing Emily for in outrage, then finding a way to sneak the child away when Emily wasn’t looking. The fat shaming, though unfortunately not as out of character, crosses the scenes over into becoming intolerable to watch. These characters we’re being shown are blatantly and unsympathetically cruel, and that has never before been Lorelai and Rory.

If one compares Emily’s sleeping position in this episode to her sleeping position in season six’s “New and Improved Lorelai,” they realize with a breaking heart that Emily is now sleeping on Richard’s side of the bed.

The Stars Hollow Musical is far, far too long. The most infuriating thing about it is that with just a bit of editing, it could have been great. Ideally, I would have had the scene cut from Lorelai’s horrified face at the “Working on Building Stars Hollow” song directly to where she voices her criticism to the group eight full minutes later. To only have a taste of the musical live and then hear the rest of the ridiculousness through Lorelai’s point of view would have been more effective, as well as saved time for other characters/storylines that deserved additional focus.

I call absolute bullshit on Jess not getting in touch with Rory for four years, especially when he would have heard about Richard’s passing and would have wanted to make sure she was okay.

The way Lorelai reacts to Rory’s memoir is…curious. She says that she’s “went to all this effort for many, many years, making sure people only knew what I wanted them to,” but is that something we’ve ever seen? Lorelai has always seemed fairly open about her past, her mistakes, her desires, her struggles. Or, do those “people” include us, the audience? It’s compelling to ponder the possibility that the original series was a groomed version of the series of events that actually occurred in the girls’ lives, but it also feels like a betrayal to our investment in them.

Best Episode: Fall

How is the Life and Death Brigade sequence not a dream? There’s a magically changing sign and talking crow. I know the Brigade’s members are obnoxiously rich, but it really is just ridiculous. These are thirty-three year old men who are gathering together to give one of their own’s mistress a “proper” send off. Let that sink in.

From a character standpoint, Rory and Logan shouldn’t even have a romantic storyline left to tell after the phone call in “Summer.” Having their affair end there, with Rory saying, “I know I keep going back to Logan as an emotional crutch and it needs to stop,” would have been a powerful moment of agency for her. Instead, their scenes in “Fall” are motivated by AS-P’s desire for the narrative to lead to a place that makes the final four words, in all its heavy implications, plausible.

It’s upon multiple viewings that I’ve learned to love what has been dubbed as “the pretzel scene.” Not for any sentimentality towards Richard-there’s nothing said during the phone call that makes me go ah yes, that was the epitome of Richard Gilmore-but for what it reveals about Lorelai’s childhood and character. She was told at thirteen years old that she must not truly be a Gilmore because she was “loud” and “weird,” when Gilmores and the caste of people they represented built their lives and reputations upon making themselves as subdued as possible. However, while some would allow that to silence them, to crush their burgeoning spirit, Lorelai made it her strength. She decided that she was going to mock and pity the type of people who thought her weird, and later that she would raise her daughter in the kind of environment in which she was just one weirdo among many. That is the epitome of Lorelai Gilmore.

Once the Life and Death Brigade has exited stage left, the rest of the episode is tightly packed with scene after scene that are each filled with emotional punch. Personally, the montage of Rory reminiscing while walking around the Gilmore house before sitting down to write at Richard’s desk is my second favorite scene of the revival after Lorelai and Emily’s fight in “Winter.” It felt right to see Richard’s face here towards the end of this long-awaited journey, even if it wasn’t newly performed by Edward Hermann. It felt right for Rory to pay homage to her grandfather, whom she first bonded with over books, by writing her own novel where he spent decades of his life working. I have to ask though…where is she going to write once Emily sells the house? She’s only written the first three chapters.

Last time we saw him, Christopher would have had little to no reason to go back into the family business when both his father and grandfather are dead and he inherited boatloads of money upon their passing. What went wrong in his finances or personal life since that drove him to go back?

By this point my seething hatred for Dean Forrester has been well documented, but his cameo scene is surprisingly great. It’s like Jared Padalecki, the actor who played Dean, just walked on camera the day he was called to shoot and gave an updated report on his own home life since he left the original series, with names changed to protect the innocent.

Rory and Jess repeat the same dialogue about weddings that Luke and Lorelai have moments prior-“You’re not supposed to see the bride before the wedding.” “Are we doing that?”-hopefully foreshadowing their own eventual future together.

Continuity flub #4: In season six’s “The Perfect Dress,” Lorelai says getting married in the town gazebo is “Gaze-blah.” Yet, she does so anyway in this episode.

If Lorelai could call Michel and Lane in the middle of the night to get up and be at the impromptu wedding, someone could have called Jess so that Luke had support too. The only reason he’s not there is because AS-P wanted his gaze through the window at Rory to be his last shot, which I respect, but there are conflicting emotions at play in my heart.

Even while the original series was still on the air, fans knew about, discussed, and debated the legendary final four words that AS-P had long planned to end the series with. For a decade, it seemed like we were never going to have the privilege of knowing what they were, but we do now: “Mom?” “Yeah?” “I’m pregnant.” It’s a bold ending to be sure, but I wonder if they retain the impact that AS-P felt they would have when she first imagined them. If AS-P had remained as showrunner for season seven, Rory would have said these words at twenty-two years old. She would have had to recalibrate her dreams and plans for the future before she even got out into the world, just as a young Lorelai had. The series would have truly and organically come full circle the way AS-P obviously intended it to.

However, to get Rory to say those same words now at thirty-two years old came at the price of not just her characterization, but also the characterization of most everyone around her. She’s not only back with Logan a decade after turning down his marriage proposal, but she doesn’t get to leave the relationship on an empowered note as she would have if it had ended in “Summer.” Lorelai is relatively calm about her being involved with an engaged man, after being incredibly disappointed when Rory slept with a married Dean. Logan and Christopher are inexplicably both back into the family business despite having fought for their independence in the original series. While my Rory and Jess shipping heart loves the implication that he will be a Luke-like father figure in her child’s life, pigeon-holing these characters into their assigned roles in the “Circle of Life” is not a satisfying way of getting there.

As if that’s not enough, Paris and Lane are dragged down the “full circle” rabbit hole along with her-both of them have also turned into their mothers. Paris tells Rory that her kids hate her and love the nanny, just as she felt about her own maternal figures when she was in Chilton. Lane, in one of the few precious scenes we get of her, is seen working for Kim’s Antiques.

I know I’m not alone when I say I wanted more for these characters than what this revival showed us. However, rather than being bitter about it, I hold onto the hope that there will eventually be a Gilmore Christmas special that repairs the worst of the damage done.

Best character: Emily Gilmore

I chose Emily for Best Character because she is the only one who a) goes through a positive arc that b) she could not have undergone in the seventh or even eighth season of the original series. There are some criticisms I have of that arc i.e. most if not all of her development, including her sudden interest in whales, is in “Fall,” but at the end of the day there is no better contender for the title.

Best lines (in chronological order):

“[Paul’s] like a superhero, but his power is that you can’t remember him no matter how much time you spend with him. Kind of like every Marvel movie ever.”-Lorelai in “Winter.”

“Um, can I be excused? [The kids] are playing soccer and they seem to be short a man.”- Kirk in “Winter.”

“Don’t stand there shaking. Just go. Apologize to your parents. Tell them you’ll pay them back for the semesters you studied Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s effect on the feminist agenda.”-Paris calling me out in “Winter.”

“Aren’t these glasses gorgeous? They won’t tell me where they got them from. They’re proprietary. God, I hate England. I’m voting for Brexit. It’s just a protest vote. It’ll never win.”-Naomi Shropshire in “Spring.”

“I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.”-Paris quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson in “Spring.”

“Bullshit!”-Emily multiple times in “Fall”

“Drop the ‘the.’ Just Gilmore Girls. It’s cleaner.”-Lorelai in “Fall.”

 

 

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