Please note: Although this post will discuss details of the original Gilmore Girls series and Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, I will be considerate enough to give ample warning of major spoilers.
When it was announced that Netflix would be producing four new ninety-minute episodes of Gilmore Girls, I was ecstatic. I have watched Gilmore Girls in its entirety so many times that it might actually be part of my DNA. I love the incredibly close relationship between mother-daughter Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, and I love the contrast of that to Lorelai’s own complex relationship with her own parents (who adore Rory and whom Rory adores). I love the quirky, small-town characters. I love the pop culture references. I love that Rory loves to read and write. I love that Lorelai and Rory eat nothing but junk food (as unrealistic as that is) and have movie nights and dance to the Monkees in your underwear nights. As deep-rooted as my love for this show is, then, there was also a great fear that these episodes might be disappointing. Yet, I told myself, it couldn’t be much worse than Season 7, a truly painful experience. The Palladinos, the creators, writers, directors, et al. of the original series, had departed at the end of Season 6, leaving fans to wonder what Season 7 could have/might have/should have been. With their return, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life would provide us with that answer–as well as the final four words of the series, which creator Amy Sherman-Palladino had envisioned from the start. It just had to be good.
Except it wasn’t. It wasn’t good, it wasn’t funny, it wasn’t worth six hours of my life, and it certainly was not a satisfying end to the series. (And I do hope it’s the end this time because I cannot and do not want to take anymore.) In fact, the original series finale of Season 7 (which the cast and crew did not realize would serve as a series finale until the cancellation of the series was announced months later) was more satisfying and true to the spirit of the original show.
Let’s talk about Season 7 for a quick minute. Everyone criticizes Season 7 for its too obvious pop culture references, poor plot lines, and characters not acting liking themselves. I’d argue that all started in Season 6, particularly the latter half. (Upcoming spoilers if you haven’t watched Season 6 of Gilmore Girls–and you’re not missing all that much.) Here are a few I can think of off the top of my head:
- Luke has a daughter. Really? Like really? Poor plot line. And then…he’s not gonna tell Lorelai? For months? But OH WAIT, he NEVER actually does tell her. Lorelai walks into the diner unexpectedly and meets his daughter, who tells her she’s Luke’s daughter. Would Luke have EVER told Lorelai? This is guy we’re supposed to root for? No, thank you.
- Lorelai gives Luke an ultimatum about getting married and when things don’t go her way (oh, no!), she runs to Christopher. OK, I get that. But then…she sleeps with him? But Luke’s the one! Yeah, okay.
- Rory’s whole trajectory since meeting Logan Huntzberger is awful. He’s awful. Why did she date him so long? Remember when Paris described him as the guy “with the hair, and the chin like he’s the fourth Bee Gee”? Oh Paris, I love you. You rule the world.
So really, with the exception of Lane’s storyline in Season 7, all the other major arcs of Season 7 aren’t the fault of Season 7 staff and writers in my view. They’re just trying to muddle through the mess that was left to them. But I digress. Let’s now focus on THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.
Spoilers ahead for A Year in the Life, but I will provide additional warning when I discuss the last four words and major plot developments relating to it.
(Because nothing is really better than good in this show, sadly.)
DEALING WITH GRIEF
Edward Herrmann, who played Richard Gilmore, died in 2014 of cancer. His presence as an actor and his character left a huge hole in the series. Yet, his death (and therefore, the death of his character) brings out the best moments in this revival. (I don’t really like that word. It makes me think of Burt Lancaster of Elmer Gantry…) In this revival (there’s that word again…), only two characters develop or grow significantly–and they do so because of Richard’s death. Emily is completely racked with grief and incapable of dealing with it. Yet, by the end of “Fall” (the final episode in the series), she has dealt with it — by selling her home, terminating her relationship/position with her social circles, notably the DAR (“This is bullshit,” she states repeatedly in an applicant’s interview. Go Emily!), and moving away from her life with Richard to find her own way. Emily was a woman who did everything for her husband–every facet of her life was for him–and now that he’s gone, she has to pave her own way. To watch her do so is immensely satisfying and refreshing.
Similarly satisfying and refreshing is watching Lorelai’s grief reach a resolution. In “Winter,” we learn that she was unable to share a suitable remembrance of her father after his funeral, causing another rift with her mother. Lorelai’s complex relationship with her parents and watching them rarely and momentarily connect and communicate was always one of the most rewarding aspects of the show. And so, when Lorelai makes a heartfelt and emotional phone call to Emily, sharing her favorite memory of her father, it is, without a doubt, the best moment of this new series.
WHAT’S THE WI-FI PASSWORD?
The world has changed since 2007, and a “NO CELL PHONES” sign is no longer sufficient for Luke’s Diner. This running gag, in which customers ask Luke for the WiFi password and Luke gives a different fabricated, ridiculous response each time, is delightful and 100% Luke Danes. Nice one.
SEEING OLD CHARACTERS AND STARS HOLLOW AGAIN
Even when the characters’ presence or interaction with other characters has no substance (see “The Ugly”), and the town’s musical wastes what should be valuable screen time.
PETER KRAUSE AS “PARK RANGER”
I don’t know if you know, but after Gilmore Girls, Lauren Graham went on to star in the amazingly perfect NBC television series Parenthood, loosely adapted from Ron Howard’s 1989 film. If not, you should watch it because it’s, well, amazing and perfect. Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life features a few appearances from Parenthood alums, including Mae Whitman (Amber Holt), Jason Ritter (Mark Cyr), and, my personal favorite, Peter Krause (Adam Braverman). Who’s got the fever? Krause plays Park Ranger, who denies Lorelai entrance into the Pacific Coast Trail without a permit. How perfect is that? There is literally no way Adam Braverman is ever gonna let anybody through without a permit. I love Peter Krause. Or do I just love Adam Braverman? I can’t tell, but this part was great.
Now it’s time for…
(And I’m being exceptionally kind…)
IT’S LONG, BUT IT DOESN’T DO ANYTHING
First, it’s six hours with no substance or plot or story to be found, anywhere. As fun as it was to see so many of the characters again, few of them added anything to the story. Paris Gellar rules, and she deserved more. She only shows up to answer the “Why don’t Luke and Lorelai have kids?” question. (And really, seeing where Luke and Lorelai are in their relationship by this point, I literally do not care why they don’t have kids.) There’s also Jess. Oh, Jess. Jess is great, I love Jess (who couldn’t love the artful Dodger?), don’t get me wrong, but he doesn’t add anything to the (non-existent) story or really move the plot along too much versus his return in Season 6, which prompts Rory’s return to Yale. (Well, he does suggest that Rory write a book…maybe I just wanted more Jess.) Of course, his final, longing glance at Rory is CHALKED FULL of meaning and significance.
On the other hand, Rory’s bump-in with Dean provides something resembling closure for the two and also highlights Dean’s significance for Rory–something the original series kind of let slide away. Time for another quick rant: Dean was a great boyfriend for Rory. And once again, the writing is to blame for his character’s flaws. Many believe Jess is Rory’s intellectual equal–which, hey, maybe he is, but don’t forget Logan went to YALE and wasn’t exactly brain dead–but Dean wasn’t always portrayed as so stupid, like he conveniently was once Jess entered the picture to heighten his allure for Rory. Sure, Dean was never gonna go to an Ivy league school and never aspired to, but he did have an interest in books and the world around him. He did urge Rory in Season 1 to read Hunter Thompson. Anyway, I always liked Dean and disliked Rory for the way she treated him in the end. Quick rant over.
Whereas Dean’s appearance is brief and meaningful, The Life and Death Birgade are the uninvited guest who stays ’til the end. Logan Huntzberger and his friends were meant to show Rory the “fun” side of money, whereas her grandparents had been the stuffy, uptight side. I always hated these guys. They were irresponsible, were disgustingly immature, and had no respect for anybody or anything. Ten years later, they haven’t changed one bit. Thirty-something year-old men who are still acting like they’re in college, buying bars in the middle of the night just because they can? Give me a break. And Rory’s whole tearful goodbye with them and how they meant so much to her was absolutely stupid. She should have moved beyond this, but she hasn’t.
Even though the show is lacking substance and story, it sure does love to repeat/re-hash story lines/conflicts from the series, particularly the last two seasons. Here’s a quick run-down:
- The mess that is Luke and Lorelai. Why are they even a couple?
- The Gilmores wanting Luke to franchise his diner and Luke not wanting to but not actually communicating that. You are not Charles Xavier, Luke.
- Rory still being rankled by Mitchum Huntzberger. She is so timid and shaken by his appearance, and it is a sad contrast to the girl who sassed him in the elevator after Logan’s graduation.
- Rory’s aimlessness and irresponsibility, which she already experienced with Logan and his friends during her sabbatical from Yale. I get it–to a degree. It’s a tough, competitive world out there–especially in her chosen profession. But I expect more from Rory. Not that she has to be a senior editor at the New York Times, but I expect more than frolicking with the Life and Death Birgade and showing up to an interview totally unprepared. I was disappointed in Rory (more of that to come) and didn’t see any growth or change in her at all. She was more like end-of-Season 5/early-Season 6 Rory than what I expected 32 year-old Rory to be. She’s got to get over the fact that everything is not going to go her way in life. She’s been spoiled and indulged and told she was smart and beautiful, and she therefore thinks everything should be handed to her. To quote Hall and Oates, I don’t go for that.
LUKE AND LORELAI? NO, THANK YOU.
I love Luke Danes. I love Lorelai Gilmore. And for a time, I loved Luke and Lorelai as a couple. Yet, with time, I no longer 100% believed that the two belonged together. Still, seeing the two come together again in the original series finale was fine. But to find them having the same conflicts–hiding things from each other, for example–AND not being married after the hissy-fit Lorelai threw in Season 6/7 (Lorelai repeatedly expressed her desire to be married throughout the entire series, whether that was being like her mother or not) is ridiculous and downright unhealthy. I’m now convinced you don’t really belong together. Sorry. How you continue to be in a relationship–and how anyone roots for you–is beyond me. Literally do not get it anymore.
(…and it is REALLY ugly)
You should stop reading if you do not want to read spoilers related to the last four words.
STARS HOLLOW: THE MUSICAL
Although the series as a whole was short on story and substance, this segment of the show lasted way, way, WAY too long. In fact, after about five minutes of enduring what can only be described as torture, I fast-forwarded because I was so sick of wasting my time. I’m not even sure how long it lasted, but it was completely unnecessary. Stars Hollow’s quirky characters and town functions are central to the show and its charm, but this was entirely pointless. Not only did we have to experience one song from the musical but all the songs from the musical and we had to cast it, rehearse it, discuss it, and watch Lorelai have an epiphany (being that she needs to go hike the Pacific Coast Trail and find herself) because of it. So stupid, so unbelievable, and such a waste of time.
RORY AS LOGAN’S MISTRESS
Yes, Rory (who has a clueless boyfriend named Paul that no one, including herself) is Logan’s mistress. Logan is engaged to marry a French heiress, yet he and Rory still “hook up” every time she comes to London. (By the way, how does she afford that? Must be nice.) Apparently, she didn’t learn anything from the whole sleeping-with-married-Dean fiasco, and she now thinks she can do the whole No Strings Attached (great album) relationship–even though she clearly could not do it before. That is so not Rory. It makes zero sense, and it is completely disappointing. You deserve so much better, Rory.
Now…we have to talk about those last four words. STOP–I REPEAT STOP–if you do not know and do not want to know those last four words.
Rory: I’m pregnant.
I don’t know about you, but I shouted in disbelief and disgust. That is the ending Amy Sherman-Palladino had always envisioned for these two? That is what Chilton and Yale and all those books (why is Rory never reading in these episodes?) and being hit by a deer and all that ambition were for? Don’t misunderstand me: there’s nothing wrong with being pregnant or being a mother. (Granted Rory decides to keep the baby…) I’m just disgusted and disappointed with the way it happened. Logan’s the daddy, obviously. Logan, who’s engaged to another woman, was once described as “Rory’s Christopher” — he is wealthy, reckless, rebellious, immature, but also kind-hearted and somewhat lovable. I just expect more of Rory and want more for Rory.
I understand that it’s supposed to represent everything coming full circle for the Gilmore Girls: Rory paralleling the path of her mother. Remember Rory’s graduation speech at Chilton? “My mother never gave me any idea that I couldn’t do whatever I wanted to do or be whomever I wanted to be. She filled our house with love and fun and books and music, unflagging in her efforts to give me role models from Jane Austen to Eudora Welty to Patti Smith. As she guided me through these incredible eighteen years, I don’t know if she ever realized that the person I most wanted to be was her. Thank you, Mom. You are my guidepost for everything.” And maybe Rory’s journey of having (or, perhaps not having) this baby will lead her to grow and develop as Lorelai did. I just wish it was under different circumstances, i.e. Rory not wasting her time running around with the Life and Death Birgade to the soundtrack of awful Beatles covers.
And it’s just so gimmicky. Ugh.
In conclusion, if you haven’t watched Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life or are contemplating watching it, heed my advice: Don’t. Just enjoy the first few seasons of Gilmore Girls–it was so good. As for watching A Year in the Life: I wish I hadn’t. (How’s that for four final words?)