The long wait for the final chapter of Gilmore Girls finally dropped Friday morning, meaning that millions of fans had something to be thankful for the day after Thanksgiving. Or they were really tired on the East Coast, staying up til 3 am to see that Netflix had uploaded the 4-episode season…
It also meant that those fans spent most (or all) of Friday in Stars Hollow, the quirky little town in Connecticut that Lorelai and Rory Gilmore called home.
There was demand for a Gilmore Girls revival because of how unsatisfying the end of the show’s original run was. Without creator Amy Sherman-Palladino’s guiding presence, the show lost the thread somewhere and the creator’s planned “last four words” for the show never happened. I was introduced to the show by my wife, after the show had ended its run, so I was able to binge through all seven seasons without too much of a break, and I was let down by the final episode.
So here we are, close to 10 years later and the advent of the streaming service Netflix gave Sherman-Palladino the opportunity to bring the cast together to end the show the way she wanted to end it. The four episodes that dropped ran a total of 6 hours and 10 minutes, and would have amounted to about eight and a half episodes of the original series. The revival was chock full of call-backs and fan service. But was it worth it? Let’s do this The Good, The Bad and The Ugly style.
Lorelai Remembers Her Dad – Edward Hermann, who played Gilmore patriarch Richard Gilmore, died in 2014 but his presence still loomed large on the four-episode revival. And I’m not just talking about the wall-sized portrait that appeared in the Gilmore’s Hartford home. Richard Gilmore’s death and the immediate aftermath caused Lorelai’s relationship with her mother to take a turn for the (even) worse.
But in a scene in the final episode, while Lorelai is out in California, overlooking a beautiful vista, she remembers a story about her dad and she calls Emily and recounts it to her, a 30-year-old tale that stayed between father and daughter and hadn’t been discussed since. I won’t lie, I teared up a bit as Lauren Graham cried on screen. The story pays off the tension created in the first episode, and all the anger seems to wash away from Emily’s face as Lorelai tells her a happy memory of Richard. I’d call it easily the best scene of the revival.
Jess Mariano, the Voice of Reason – During his time on Gilmore Girls, Milo Ventimiglia’s Jess was a troublemaker and a catalyst for chaos in Stars Hallow. Luke’s nephew hastened the break-up between Rory and her first boyfriend and generally wreaked havoc on the town. Jess was just as smart as Rory but lacking in motivation. He left the town, but never stopped caring for Rory or for Luke.
There wasn’t a whole lot of focus put on Jess in A Year In The Life, but he carried a calming influence for both Luke and Rory. He set Rory on her final path and help settle Luke down when he was losing his mind over Lorelai. Jess may have been portrayed as a “bad boy” in his teen years, but he proved he was one of the good ones all those years later.
Emily Gilmore and the DAR – Kelly Bishop was fantastic in the revival, and none of her scenes were as amazing, for me, as when she met with the Daughters of the American Revolution. The DAR and Emily Gilmore’s leadership of the group was a running theme of the original series, so it was a bit of a surprise that whole episodes passed without even a mention. But when they finally brought it back to the DAR, it was with a bang. Emily ends up quitting the group in spectacular fashion, shaming a trophy wife who was looking to join the group and then shaming the rest of the DAR leadership on her way out. Repeatedly spitting out “bullshit!” was unexpected and amazing.
As a side note, one of the running gags on Gilmore Girls was that Emily could never keep a maid. Here, not only does she keep a maid longer than an episode, but she basically adopts the maid’s whole family. The growing cast of Berta’s family members surrounding Emily was a nice flip from the revolving door of help she had during the original series.
Paris Takes New York – Liza Weil frequently stole the show on Gilmore Girls as Rory’s rival and friend Paris Geller, and she did it again in the revival, even though she was only around for two of the four episodes. Paris is running a surrogacy clinic in New York City, one visited by Luke and Lorelai when they discuss having a new baby. Paris flummoxing Luke and Luke’s lack of comprehension of how surrogacy works was a great running gag. Sure, Paris was too wrapped up in her own issues to help Rory in any way, but we’re all used to that by now.
In Omnia Paratus – Rory gets one last fling when Logan, Finn, Colin and Robert come to Stars Hollow to get her out of her funk. The scene of the five of them flitting through the town (I can only imagine Colin and Robert paying Taylor off to let them do what they want for one night) and then heading off to a Tango bar was a fun bit that I would have sworn was a dream sequence by the lighting and filming.
Stars Hollow Returns – Almost anyone who made more than one appearance on the original series got a mention or a spot in the revival, so we had a chance to catch up with a lot of old friends. Of course we got a load of Kirk and Taylor, Lane and Michel, Babbette and Miss Patty. We even got a glimpse of Mr. Kim, Lane’s rarely-mentioned but never seen father! About the only people who didn’t make an appearance were Luke’s sister Liz and her husband TJ, though they were mentioned a couple of times.
We even got some great unexpected guest shots from Lauren Graham’s most recent show, Parenthood, as Mae Whitman and Peter Krause showed up in little cameos.
Rory Gilmore, Worst Journalist Ever – This is something that has, admittedly, always bothered me about the show, and it may be just my own personal problem. Rory’s quest to be a journalist always brought out a weird sense of entitlement in her and it drove me crazy. As someone who has spent the last 12 years working in newspapers, writing and editing for small-town papers before finally getting a job at a major metropolitan daily, it annoyed the hell out of me that Rory considered it a failure to start at a paper smaller than the New York Times. Talent alone doesn’t get you everything you want. Success takes hard work and a willingness to learn.
That same attitude continues in the revival, as Rory is working as a freelancer and living off of an article in The New Yorker so short it fit on the back of Luke’s menus at his diner. She’s chasing the dream of a staff position at Conde Nast and looking down her nose at a smaller website that’s courting her. When she finally deigns to sit down with the website, she expects to be lavished with praise and is unprepared when she has to actually interview. When she finally agrees to take over the Stars Hollow Gazette, she treats like a failure, instead of seeing it as a chance to work hard and prove herself as an editor. I’m not going to lie, I was pretty happy to see her not have the kind of success she wanted.
“Summer” – Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life was broken up into the four seasons, starting with Winter and ending with Fall. The third episode, “Summer,” to me was the representation of everything that ever frustrated me about Gilmore Girls. Lorelai gets into disputes with all the important people in her life and then has a life-changing realization by listening to a new song Taylor wrote for the Stars Hollow musical. It was a deus ex musical. I’m shocked they didn’t use that.
I always hated the tendency of the show to create ridiculous conflicts that most people would overcome with simple conversation and that was on overload in the third episode of the revival. I came very close to not wanting to watch any more.
Rory Gilmore, Home Wrecker – You’d think Rory would have learned her lesson about ex-boyfriends after the Dean incident in Season 5. But no, she does it again here with Logan, maintaining a “no strings attached” relationship with the heir to the Huntzberger fortune whenever she’s in London (which is pretty frequently). While Rory has a boyfriend she can barely remember long enough to break up with, Logan is engaged. And yet, Rory continues to sleep with him. Even though she set the rules for their relationship, she still manages to get upset when Logan chooses a steady relationship over their on-again, off-again romance. Shocking, right?
Rory’s terrible treatment of her men is somewhat redeemed by her conversation with Christopher, her father and Lorelai’s on-again, off-again paramour, who explained that Lorelai controlled the terms of their relationship. Rory was just doing what her mother would do. But even the conversation with her dad wasn’t enough to completely justify how she handled her relationship with Logan.
Missing – The final episode centered around the wedding of Luke and Lorelai, who decide to get married the night before they agreed to get married in a special ceremony. It was a small group at the wedding, which is understandable, but I still don’t understand why certain people weren’t included. Obviously, this was planned, so I’m confused at why would they get married without Jess there, without Emily there, who’s shown as being in Nantucket the day before the wedding! Why wasn’t Sookie there? It was a sweet scene, but the logistics there really bothered me.
Fan Reaction – After I finished the fourth episode, I wandered over to Twitter to check out the response to the show. I saw a lot of people saying they felt robbed of having closure, that they wanted a “second season” of the revival because of those famous “last four words” (no, I’m not going to repeat them here). But going into this revival hoping for closure, I think, misses the point of the show.
While Gilmore Girls was the story of three generations of Gilmores – Emily, Lorelai and Rory – it was never a generational tale. It was ALWAYS a story about Lorelai and her path towards finding and keeping happiness. She ended the fourth episode married to Luke, with an improved relationship with her mother and her daughter close to her. She found her happiness. The ramifications of the final scene is a whole other story. Life goes on, even for the characters in a show that ends. I didn’t need closure for these characters, just to know that they were doing what they wanted to be doing and were happy.
Amy Sherman-Palladino said she always knew what the final words of the show were, but she didn’t get to execute that plan, because she left the show before it ended. This was how she always wanted to finish it, and I’m OK with that.
I’m happy I got to watch Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life. Fans of the show – myself included – got a chance to see a happy ending for Lorelai and got the ending Amy Sherman-Palladino always wanted. The revival faltered at points and there were parts I could have done without – the Stars Hollow musical in episode 3 felt like it went on forever – but it was a fun show and a great way to spend Black Friday.