Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life Review
And just like that, with four long episodes and six short hours, we’re brought to the end of nearly ten long years of suspense and speculation on the latter lives of the Gilmore Girls and those fabled four final words. The result was a charming and nostalgic, if often incredibly uneven, return to Stars Hollow in a fully HD, post-Trump world.
Let’s get this out of the way: many of the Palladino’s usually quirky bits and gimmicks were not nearly as cute in execution as in concept.
Cute: Luke making up WiFi passwords for freeloading hipster customers; the young boys attending to Lorelai and Rory’s whims, fetching drinks and holding parasols, referring to them as "khaleesi”; and, a delicious Easter egg for the loyal viewer, the off-hand acknowledgement of the existence of Mr. Kim.
Not cute: Berta's indecipherable language and the borderline racist whimsy with which she was treated; the cruelty to poor, forgettable Paul, who despite giving thoughtful gifts to Rory’s stepfather and exercising patience with her “career” travel, was mocked and scorned; and dear GOD we never want to hear the words "Stars Hollow" and "Musical" in the same sentence ever, ever again.
The musical did have some redeeming bits, like the obvious attempt at ripping off Hamilton and Carole King’s brief interlude, and at first recalled the macabrely strange and hilarious Twickham Museum from Season 5’s “To Live and Let Diorama.” I know Sherman-Palladino loves Sutton Foster (star of her short-lived series Bunheads), and she is a Broadway powerhouse in her own right, but the majority of this sequence desperately needed to be left on the cutting room floor.
Now, onto the Girls. The years have not been kind to Rory Gilmore, who, now in her early 30s, is floundering in her “journalism” career and still carrying on an immature fantasy affair with her college boyfriend. Even prior to the release of A Year in the Life, the tide seemed to have turned against the erstwhile golden girl, and conventional internet wisdom seemed to concur - Rory pretty much sucks. OK – they kind of have a point. She’s completely spoiled by her grandparents’ wealth and privilege, accepting all the advantages afforded to her with little to no conflict, the complete opposite of her mother’s fiery self-sufficiency. In this way, Rory is the ultimate entitled millennial stereotype – constantly praised as perfect and unique, the best at anything she attempted. The revival serves perfect little Rory some pretty harsh comeuppance. Maddeningly, she doesn’t seem to recognize her own privilege, and continues to be blinded by her entitlement. She gives up on ghost writing as "impossible" because of the subject gets drunk in restaurants sometimes, choosing to spend their sessions doodling rather than make any serious attempt to wrangle the eccentric woman. She’s a journalist who FALLS ASLEEP during interviews. Must be those red-eyes to London for quickies with Logan wiping her of that go-getter tenacity we once saw. And finally, she shows up to a job interview completely unprepared, with no pitches whatsoever, expecting to land the job simply by gracing them with her presence. Was the “30-Something Gang,” with all their ardent love of Paul Thomas Anderson, a confirmation of the stereotype Rory typifies here, or a wink at it?
Returning to Lorelai’s orbit was a much more pleasant experience, though not without its hiccups. Besides the bizarre wrinkle of the unexplained “letter” alleged by Emily and never revisited(?!), Lorelai’s story had some real emotional heft to it. She’s a successful business owner settled into a committed partnership, but her life has essentially plateaued, and she’s left wondering, is that all there is? She must contend with first Sookie, her best friend and business partner, and then Michel, moving on with their lives. This explains her half-hearted attempt at exploring surrogacy, seeking to fill the void. But really, were we really supposed to believe that over the course of ten years Luke and Lorelai never seriously discussed having children of their own? It’s as if we pressed pause after Luke & Lorelai’s reuniting kiss at Rory’s graduation party in 2007 and only resumed the story at the start of “Winter.”
However, the scene in the kitchen, when Lorelai reveals to Luke her desire to leave, really brought their relationship back down to earth for us. And, unlike many, we thought the Wild interlude was pitch-perfect Palladino charm – of course she was never going to go, but it was a welcome detour from where we all knew we were headed (and a great excuse for a Braverman family reunion).
And finally, those four fucking words – SPOILERS, obviously.
Rory: “I’m pregnant.”
Fade to black. We’re left with a Sopranos-style cliffhanger as we learn there will soon be a new generation of Gilmore. After the initial shock wears off, Rory’s conversation with her father takes on a completely new significance. Rather than asking Christopher about his own decisions as a father, she’s weighing her own pregnancy in regards to Logan (who so clearly has always been a Christopher parallel).
Additionally, at the time of her pregnancy, Rory is thirty-two, the same age as Lorelai when Gilmore Girls began. This provides another interesting parallel and attempts to close the circle on their story – Lorelai always wanted Rory to have a better chance at life, when perhaps she was always meant to follow Lorelai, to meet her greatest joy and challenge in a relationship with her child and the world they create for themselves together. And Jess’s long, mournful, and jarringly unexplained gaze at Rory through the window foreshadows his destiny as a Luke-like paternal presence in Rory’s child’s life. Some may see this as regressive, but we think it encapsulates the series perfectly.
Odds & Ends
Why the lack of theme music? The goddess Carole King herself can sing “I Feel the Earth” and we don’t even get to belt out the iconic “Where You Lead” at the top of our lungs?
Did Zach age 100 years in the intervening decade?
We have to bring up the letter again. The extremely hurtful and pivotal letter Emily insists Lorelai wrote her, which Lorelai insists does not exist. At first, we thought surely her vista-side call to Emily would address this glaring plot hole. The Richard mall monologue was lovely, but seriously, what gives?
Why does the show insist on rhapsodizing about Dean being “the perfect first boyfriend”? There are no Dean apologists here at SQ. Teenage Dean was a little twerp: he was super jealous and controlling, threw shit fits when Rory wanted to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity rather than bum around Stars Hollow with him, and broke up with her in Season 1 because a 16-year old raised by a single parent wasn’t ready to say “I love you” after six months. We're glad he lives in Scranton with a million kids. Good riddance.
The casually offhand way Logan cheated on his French fiancée, Odette, was sociopathic. He treated Rory like a shady side-piece and continues to cower under Mitchum’s control so Daddy will bankroll his swinging London lifestyle. Jess is the only one of Rory’s love interests to show any self-awareness or character growth whatsoever. Except poor nice-guy Paul – shout-out to Paul! Call us.
We loved every single second of Paris badassedly strutting around in her power suit, but she was ultimately so underused.
Conversely, Lane was somehow overused without adding a single ounce of depth to a character that had already been given a raw deal. It makes sense – Lane is a childhood friend that provides important comfort and familiarity to Rory in a time of transition. But other than a terrible haircut, Lane has evolved very little in 10 years. What happened to the rebellious teen hiding contraband CDs under her floorboards? She's basically a suburban mom running her mother's business. The real issue is that all of these revelations are anecdotal: Lane sole function is to react to Rory's moments of quarterlife crisis.
There were quite a few strange and unexplained tonal and visual shifts – most glaringly, Rory and the Life & Death Brigade's dream sequence romp through a bad Tarantino knock-off.
Unfortunately, high definition has also robbed Stars Hollow of a great deal of its whimsical charm. The scenery vacillates between garish and obviously fake – the New York street scenes in Friends were more believable.
Art imitating life at its finest: the reveal of Doyle as a self-important Hollywood screenwriter hanging out with Michael Bay.
Before the big reveal, the final, wordless wedding scene in the town square is visually stunning and so lovely from start to finish, from Ms. Patty’s ballerinas and the twinkle lights to the dreamy Wonderland details and the final snow shower. However, was anyone else disappointed not to see all the hijinks of our Stars Hollow favorites with the whole gang together at the wedding? We know it was probably a scheduling issue, but we still feel gypped somehow.
Speaking of that scene, Sam Phillip’s “Reflecting Light” will now be our wedding song. Future husbands: get on board.
Between the shocking cliffhanger and enormous amount of buzz surrounding A Year in the Life, it seems likely that Netflix will commission more new episodes. And we will always be willing to take a trip back to Stars Hollow.
All 4 episodes of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life are now streaming on Netflix.