When the news came out that Netflix was reviving Gilmore Girls, the news was splashed across my Facebook wall and my Twitter feed, and then my phone blew up with a number of texts.
When the trailer premiered and I watched it on my phone, my computer, and then my Roku, I cried.
When the final scene faded from the screen, my butt was sore from sitting on it for too long and my eyes and heart were aching from the roller coaster ride I had just been treated to finally.
Thank goodness Gilmore Girls is back.
Winter, Spring, Summer, & Fall
This revived version of the show takes the form of four 90-minute episodes streaming on Netflix. The beauty of that is no commercials and unlimited replays! Another bonus: cursing. Ah, Gilmore Girls the way that God (and Amy Sherman-Palladino) intended it.
Because these episodes are the length of the average movie, I will reserve the opportunity for separate reviews of each later. Needless to say, ninety minutes gives the show plenty of time to bring in the new and the old. The Palladinos attempt to wrap the show up by bringing the girls as full circle as possible, but also somehow manage to leave the door open for more if the powers that be demand it.
I think I’ll hope for more. By the time I’m done here, I hope you will be clamoring for more too.
***HERE BE SPOILERS! DON’T READ ANY FURTHER IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED THE NEW EPISODES.***
When Edward Herrmann died in 2014, Emily’s story arc practically wrote itself. In seasons two and seven, Emily and Richard dealt with his mortality, each time with Emily assuming the role of the one left behind. Now that she is alone, the question marks about where she goes from here arise. The show uses her meandering for both comic fodder and dramatic conflict.
Of all of the girls, Emily seems to undergo the most positive evolution. The carousel of maids joke seems to have ended with Richard’s death as Emily takes on not only one maid for the entire show, but also the maid’s husband as her handyman and a variety of relatives as busy bees in the background. The other things that seems to have died with Richard include Emily’s desire to stay connected with the life she lived with him. Now that he’s gone, she eschews the DAR, the house, and the life they had in Hartford. Though she misses her husband, she seems ready to move onto living for herself.
Her change of geography and then change of jobs takes her to a new place, but she stays the same Emily. She pushes her daughter’s buttons about the life that she has built with Luke, forcing Lorelai to question their decisions about kids and marriage and the like. She worries over Rory – and rightly so – but she still treats Rory with kid gloves. The eldest Gilmore girl is the catalyst for the show, a sort of deus ex machina which drives both Lorelai and Rory forward. Superficially, her changes may seem the most dramatic, but, really, Emily Gilmore remains more of an agent of change than anything else.
If Emily is the most stable of the girls in terms of character, over the course of the seven seasons plus four revival episodes, Rory appears to have changed the most and not in a good way. The overachiever with journalistic ambitions we met initially has evolved into a freelance journalist/vagabond who seems more rootless than ambitious. The new episodes make no mention of Rory’s dream of being Christiane Amanpour, but do seem to flog both her one overarching recent achievement, an article (or articles) in The New Yorker, and her relationship missteps for all of the comic and dramatic fodder it can extract. Neither takes Rory and the audience anywhere, the most disappointing part of this whole endeavor.
Her vagabond existence is understandable given the nature of journalism today. However Rory’s disdain for things that don’t seem to fit into her worldview, such as Headmaster Charleston’s suggestion that she consider getting her Master’s degree and returning to Chilton to teach, mark her as immature STILL. It’s clear that Rory is flailing and it’s clear that she’s lost her passion for her job, but the Palladinos write Rory as incapable of introspection. As smart as she is, she seems to lack any sort of ability to look inward, the most disappointing lack of change over the hiatus into the return. Her greatest achievement during these four episodes is the memoir she writes about her life with her mother, but even that is an idea that comes from someone else, not Rory herself. Rather than acting, she seems to be constantly reacting, defining herself by what she’s not and not what she is. However, the show’s last four words give me hope that I’m wrong about Rory and her creators and that there’s more to this character than all of the things she’s not.
When the youngest Gilmore announces that she’s pregnant, it seems to bring the show full circle, back to where it began for everyone involved. For Lorelai, it was the thing that matured her, to a point, of course. It was the catalyst for all of the changes in her life, but she had to do it at sixteen. At thirty-two, Rory may not face all of the same challenges, but she will have to make some tough choices. By leaving this news for the last, Amy Sherman-Palladino both ties the show up in a nice bow and opens the door for more at the same time. Clever.
As a wife, daughter, and mom myself, I feel like I identify most with Lorelai. Sure, I had shades of Rory growing up, the classic overachiever. But Lorelai’s desire to write her life her way and to get shit done makes her the one character with whom I seem to have the most in common. In the revival, Lorelai starts out in the same place, but life is changing around her. She has no control of the changes. And those moments are where she starts to flail.
With Sookie gone and Michel threatening to leave, she seems rootless and uncertain at work. With her father’s death and her mother’s questioning of her life, Lorelai questions Luke about having kids and starts to hide things from him rather than lean on him. Rory’s rootless life and then her memoir proposal are the ultimate demonstration of what happens when Lorelai loses control; rather than move closer to her daughter, she pushes her away. Now that Rory’s an adult, Lorelai seems to have lost her mothering instinct and forgoes the same sort of nurturing she would have done previously. Anytime Rory makes choices that might have previously troubled her mother, Lorelai seems to treat each one flippantly until she gets to the memoir, where the girls disagree and stop talking for a time. Lorelai’s Wild trip pushes her toward resolving all of this finally, but only after she allows the lack of control to threaten to consume her. The signs point toward her bolting, but finally, Lorelai’s maturity kicks in and the biggest changes of all become the clearest.
She proposes to Luke. Rory’s memoir gets her blessing. Lorelai shares a heartfelt story about her father with her mother. She finds a solution to the uncertainty about Michel, which, of course, leads back to her mother and the return of Emily to her life. In one fell swoop, Lorelai takes back control of her future and lets go of her past, allowing Rory to document their life, warts and all, while looking forward to the future. It is appropriate then that the final four words essentially belong to Rory. Finally content, finally with her shit together and life in place, Lorelai can take on the role Emily’s had for so long: mother and now grandmother. In one fell swoop, Gilmore Girls becomes Rory’s story rather than Lorelai’s. If the show ends there forever, even with our questions about this baby’s paternity, we can be happy with the evolution of the show’s centerpiece. Lorelai Gilmore is literally the reigning Lorelai now, content to watch over her kingdom and care for what she’s built.
With those last four words, I’m fairly certain a mountain of fan fiction was born. Loads of questions fell off the lips of fans and teeth are still being gnashed as more and more fans watch and re-watch these newest episodes. Netflix made no promises about additional seasons of the show, but certainly the Palladinos made it clear that the potential for more stories is there. Whether the cast and the other pieces necessary to make that reality can all fall into place remains to be seen.
For now, though, let’s call this revival what it is: a fitting replacement for the clusterduck that was season seven of Gilmore Girls. The stories contained within these four episodes are enough of a love letter to the fans that it should keep us all sated – for now. They bring me back to the things that made me love the show in the first place. What I find highly ironic about reality television is that it’s not at all reality but simply staged; what is beautiful about scripted shows like this is how much is real about it. People change. Life changes. Control comes and goes. Happiness ebbs and flows. In the intervening years between the end of Gilmore Girls and this revival, the changes within us are made clearest by watching the changes within our favorite characters.
And I really do love what I see.
(Despite the fact that we never do find out anything about Sookie’s third child, dammit.)
RATING: 4 SHIELDS (because the musical was just too distracting)
Have you watch Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below.