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Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life 

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life
Photo Credit: Robert Voets/Netflix


After what feels like eons of waiting, we all finally got the chance to devour Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life this past weekend. With all the anticipation surrounding it, it feels like a serious comedown after the fact. On top of that, I’m surprised that the revival left me so emotionally drained. I never considered Gilmore Girls that kind of show. In fact, I considered it the opposite, something light and uplifting to make your feel better when you’re emotionally drained. The revival was definitely different than I expected, but I’ve had some time to process and it’s clear that there were parts of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life that worked beautifully and the parts that didn’t at all.

What worked:

Lorelai’s storyline: I think this may be a testament to Lauren Graham’s devotion to Lorelai Gilmore as a character, but Lorelai’s arc was much stronger than Rory’s in A Year in the Life. I was always interested in Rory’s life in the original Gilmore Girls, but Lorelai’s existential breakdown felt so much more significant than Rory’s, and it was believable, so it worked. At 48 years old, Lorelai’s options really are dwindling. The show approached the idea of childbearing slipping through your fingertips, mostly due to poor communication, with aplomb. Even if the solutions to Lorelai’s problems were exceedingly simple (duh, marry your live-in boyfriend of a decade, oh look here’s building for sale exactly the right size for an expanded Dragonfly!) it was fun to watch. And Lauren Graham and Kelly Bishop are electric on-screen, which leads to my next “yes, this definitely worked.”

Photo Credit: Robert Voets/Netflix
Photo Credit: Robert Voets/Netflix

Mourning Richard/Emily’s storyline: It feels like everything surrounding Richard’s death was actually the point of A Year in the Life. Everything else could have been left out and we would have had a gorgeous, painful standalone story. And the blowout that Lorelai and Emily have is the rawest, most emotionally charged moments of the series. And those Emily/Lorelai scenes are often some of the best scenes in the original series as well. Emily Gilmore is such a nuanced character, and I think in many ways more compelling than Lorelai and Rory. Seeing her deal with Richard’s death and then embrace change was practically life-affirming. I would have never imagined Emily Gilmore, Museum Docent as something that I would ever want to see, but it was absolutely perfect. All the pieces of her transformation were on point, from changing the headstone fives times (Girl, I feel the same way about singe quotes) all the way to changing into sneakers, and her peace at the end felt so earned.

Emotional beats: Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life was a much more serious affair than the original Gilmore Girls. This could have led to melodrama, but luckily, for the most part the major emotional moments land, and land big. I’m not a TV crier. I never got misty-eyed during Parenthood or Everwood. But I’ll be damned if I wasn’t feeling some things ate end of “Summer.” The scene with Sutton Foster singing and Lorelai realizing how lost she is and what she has to do to rectify the situation was stunning. I even got strangely sad during the Rory/Dean scene! And the spur-of-the-moment nighttime wedding between Luke and Lorelai was as perfect as any fan could have asked for, save for some key missing characters (Emily, Sookie, and Jess not showing for this? But Lane’s there?), it was a great ode to the relationship. And although I’m not going to discuss my actual opinions on the last four words here, the final scene of the series, with Lorelai and Rory sitting on the gazebo steps in the early morning hours, was perfectly sweet, then bittersweet, before turning panicked. Alexis Bledel and Lauren Graham nailed the look that they give each other at the very end.

Photo Credit: Saeed Adyani/Netflix
Photo Credit: Saeed Adyani/Netflix

What didn’t

Rory’s storyline: Oh wow, where to begin with this. Very little of Rory’s story landed for me. There have been plenty of articles over the years about how “Rory is the worst” and the storylines in the revival amplified the problematic aspects of Rory’s character. Starting a casual relationship with the guy who proposed to you and you turned down is downright cold. And while in a committed relationship with another guy for over two years who you treat like trash? Unbelievable. And when she finds out that Logan is engaged, she continues on, seemingly content to be his mistress until he has the audacity to relegate her to a hotel when she visits to pick up their affair. Watching A Year in the Life, all I could think of was that I’m actually on #TeamNotRory. The only one of Rory’s love interests that comes out on top is Dean, because was actually able to get away from her and have a happy life. This was a literal text exchange between me and my sister while watching:

Me: All of Rory’s bfs aged like fine wine
Sister: Yes indeed
Me: Also, I’m like y’all need to get tf away from Rory cuz she’s poison and you can do better
Sister: God I hate them all. All the Gilmore.

Complaints about Rory’s treatment of others aside, the idea that she had spent somewhere around nine years floundering around the journalism world doesn’t seem very believable. And would the Rory Gilmore who hounded the editor of the Stamford-Eagle Gazette everyday for a week to get him to look at her clips really come strangely unprepared when meeting with Conde Nast? It felt out of character and it just seemed like a story that should have happened when she was in her mid-twenties, not 32.

I appreciated the idea of an aimless Rory, since it’s so true to life for many young people, but I’d argue we got plenty of that in the original. I would have loved more focus on her mourning her grandfather, since Rory and Richard did have a close relationship. But there’s very little time spent on it, other than when she walks through her grandparents home before beginning her book in Richard’s study. It was a missed opportunity, especially since Richard’s work ethic was frequently what drove Rory to push harder during her time at Yale.

Photo Credit: Saeed Adyani/Netflix
Photo Credit: Saeed Adyani/Netflix

Quirky Interludes: “Summer” and “Fall” both include lengthy non-plot relevant bits that I am referring to as “quirky interludes.” In “Summer” we have the Sutton Foster-led musical, which while certainly funny as it’s own isolated thing, is boring and tedious in the episode. I actually skipped it all together when watching “Summer,” only to watch it the next day when I wasn’t exhausted from already watching three hours of Gilmore Girls. It’s a very funny piece! But my god, it would have been significantly better if it had been a quarter of the length. It’s also the kind of think that Lorelai would love, at least ironically, instead she criticizes it heavily.

In “Fall” we have to sit through a nearly fifteen-minute block of Rory running around with the washed-up Life and Death Brigade. The beginning, with the strange clues and hazy air (very Pretty Little Liars with the set and all) was fun, but the rooftop golfing and the foray into the tango club and then on to New Hampshire was exhausting. I also think Life and Death Brigade Rory is my least favorite iteration, since this was the era where she was the most entitled, careless, and unlikable. And it’s kind of funny when a 25-year-old with no concept of the value of money buys a club, but a 35-year-old doing it is sad. Plus, there was something undeniably Mystery the Pickup Artist-esque about their ensembles. But I was happy to see the characters again, though as with the musical in “Summer,” the length could have easily been cut with better results.

Length: Even though they are twice as long as a typical Gilmore Girls episode, the 90-minute long features don’t actually work that well as standalone stories. There aren’t really beginnings, middles, and ends. It’s as if these were created to be binge-watched. But with the amount of time covered in the series, it feels like significant portions of the story are missing, which is especially noticeable when watching the episodes back-to-back. The longer length also sucked humor out of the show, since tightness is important for the type of humor Gilmore Girls plays with. We also just had so much story to fit into six hours, and so although each episode was long, we didn’t actually get the space to let the characters breathe. Some of the best moments of Gilmore Girls happen with a longer bit of silence, rare in a show so focused on dialogue. I just wanted the moments to be longer. Emily on the beach, Lorelai on in the faux-wilderness, Rory sitting at her grandfather’s desk. Just an extra beat would have hoped, though I do count these scenes as some of the good ones of the series. But they could have been exalted.

What’s up for debate:

Rory’s book. I rolled my eyes when I got a glimpse of the title of Rory’s book, since the idea of a character writing a book about what has happened over the course of a show is so incredibly derivative at this point. But at least she didn’t have Doyle turn it into a script? That said, although it was cliché, it didn’t actually bother me that much in the moment. It doesn’t seem entirely out of left field that Rory attempt to write a book when her journalism career was failing. I did find Lorelai’s reaction bizarre, since she’s never been the type to hide facets of her life. Hell, this is the woman who called her mother Pol Pot in an interview with a magazine. Lorelai is frequently shown as being a bit narcissistic (seriously, her firing all of the chefs? What a ridiculous, mean-spirited, selfish thing to do), and what narcissist wouldn’t want a book written about them? Was it a good narrative choice to create a rift between Rory and Lorelai because of a book idea that the ever narcissistic Lorelai? It did push Rory’s meandering story to a finish line, but I’m not sure if it was the best tactic.

Photo Credit: Saeed Adyani/Netflix
Photo Credit: Saeed Adyani/Netflix

Jess looking through the window. I’ve owned up to being a Jess/Rory OTP kind of person, so on one hand, this gave me hope. Logan is to Rory as Christopher is to Lorelai (the guy you can’t quit, but should), so Jess is Luke (the guy who’s been pining for you all along and will make you happy). But in on the other hand, Jess looking all heartbreakingly through the window at Rory bummed me out big time. They haven’t been an item since they were teenagers. And the last memory we have of them together is Rory using Jess as a piece of a revenge plan to get back at Logan. Jess, you are a smart, attractive, successful man. Go find someone who will treat you right. #TeamNotRory.

The final four words. I hated them when I heard them. I had a moment when I thought the entire show was ruined. But after getting a little space, I understand what the creators were getting at. Part of me wonders if this is a huge mistake, like a How I Met Your Mother type of misreading of what should happen with a planned ending. But that part of me is shrinking. The verdict is still out, but initial negative reaction is tempering.

It was far from perfect, but regardless of the missteps, I legitimately liked watching Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. I’m impressed by the heft of the revival. I warned against anything too ambitious since the less serious Gilmore Girls is, the more it works for me, but I have a lot of respect for the direction Amy Sherman-Palladino decided to take. And one thing’s for sure, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since I finished, which says a lot about the impression it’s left on me.

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life is streaming on Netflix now.

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