Gilmore Girls: A Year In the Life Is Amy Sherman-Palladino’s Best Yet

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        The internet is littered with articles with their individual takes on the Gilmore Girls revival, some pleasant, some raging, and some still wondering where episode 5 went.  I add my own thoughts not as the defining opinion but rather as another testament to the show’s ability to connect to its audience no matter how old the characters are, what circumstances they find themselves, or even (especially?) the mistakes they make along the way.

Rather than save my opinion for the end of the piece, I will say that I absolutely loved it.  Perhaps that means 45% of you will read along with me to validate your own opinions, 45% of you will scroll down to the comment section and tell how wrong that I am, and 10% of you will search valiantly for the release date of episode 5.  But, by saying that I loved it does not mean that everything about it was 100% amazing.

We’ve spent over 15 years with these characters in our minds.  We experienced life with them through multiple screenings, each time picking up the amazing subtle jokes of the Paladino’s and the brilliance in which the actors portrayed their characters.  During the times we weren’t actively watching them, they still stayed on our minds: the diners we wished were Luke’s, the coffee trips that made you question if you were becoming Lorelai, and the infamous “Rory Booklist” that we pretended like we’d someday read…if we found the time.  Like the best written characters, they became ours.  That’s the miracle and beauty of writing.  The moment a character emerges from the mind of the author, they become what the reader intends them to be.

We celebrate their joys and weep through their heartaches as if they were our own.  Like family, we instinctively become protective of them.  So, to come back several years later in a storyline is probably the hardest thing a writer can do if their goal is to please their audience.  So what do you do?  You tell the story you always envisioned the best you can.  While internet forums will debate endlessly everything from the choice of wardrobe to the decisions of characters, it’s the writer that must go to bed feeling satisfied they have told their story.

While every character deserves their own admiration and praise, I will only focus on the ones that I felt had significant character development.  So, shall we begin?

Lane & Zack

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        I admit that I was not a big fan of Zack when he came along and even less a fan of the unexpected pregnancy the derailed some of their plans.  So, I was pleasantly surprised to be so satisfied with Lane & Zack’s life in Stars Hollow.  They never made Hep Alien the worldwide sensation they hoped it would be but, they still play.  Whether they are jamming in their house or strumming sultry tones in The Secret Bar, they still continue to follow and fight for their passion no matter how “small” it may seem and I think that’s beautiful.  Just because we can’t all be JK Rowling or Bono doesn’t diminish our own talents and the joy it can bring us and others.  Also, Lane having kids bodes very well for her future relationship with Rory.

Michel

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        Michel made me laugh throughout the entire series but I have to confess that I never knew why Lorelai put up with him and kept him around.  He seemed more trouble than he was worth.  But, I think there are those people in your life that do a lot for you even if they aren’t the most pleasant of people.  Obviously Michel stayed around Lorelai for years for a reason and I think it’s because he loved being…loved.  While he rarely shows appreciation for it in a socially acceptable way, he does have his moments.  It was good to see him moving on with his life and finding ways to find happiness.  Let’s just hope the Dragonfly II has space for a spa.

Dean

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        As much as I really hated Dean, his scene in Doose’s was the best I could have asked for.  It was a great testament to first loves and, while they may not be perfect, they sometimes guide us to our next phase of life.  When Rory said that he made her know what safe felt like was a great tribute to him and what she took away from that relationship.  While no one can be completely perfect, there are those we associate with that teach us to recognize what we do eventually want in a partner.  So, here’s the best compliment I can give to you Dean…you made Rory learn to find someone to make her feel safe.  Kudos.  Also, can we pretend that he got a job at a paper company while living in Scranton?  Because that might me like him more.

Paris & Doyle

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        If there was one person that stands out at being able to jump back into their role perfectly, it would have to be Paris.  Everything about her screamed Paris and the audience loved every bit of it.  The snide comments, the mental breakdowns, and the overall uneasiness she made everyone around her feel.  Classic Paris.  As to her current situation, it came as no surprise to me that she held multiple degrees and titles.  Anyone who thought that she would be satisfied in one position in life obviously didn’t pay too much attention to this character.  Once she accomplished one thing, I am sure she has a list ready and waiting for the next.  I envision her at the end of her life looking at her accomplishments like Alexander the Great, “And when Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept for there were no more worlds to conquer.”

While I am sad that Doyle had some sort of early mid-life crisis which left his marriage in shambles, I am glad they had children.  In the end I think this will be part of the reason he ends up coming back and staying.  I see a role-reversal where Paris takes a stubborn approach and says that she will uproot the family and bring them to LA or wherever he decides he needs to be.  Paris Gellar…. giving up a medical practice to follow her acting career she originally started at Chilton (O true apothecary! Thy drugs are quick!)

Logan

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        I never disliked Logan.  In fact, I thought he was great for Rory at first.  He taught her how to take risks and enjoy the daily moments that life can bring and never refuse to settle for “good enough.”  He had such drive and independence that it was hard not to like him.  Unfortunately, for whatever reason, he went back to what was comfortable to him.  I am not sure whether this was because of pressure from his father or the fact that it’s easier to do what you know than to find something new.  Whatever the reason, he felt cold and uninspired.  And if Rory has been seeing him frequently, no wonder she’s losing her edge as well.  Even if he wasn’t engaged (more about that in a minute) and Rory ended up with him, I could easily see her becoming the “Emily” to his “Richard.”  Not that either of those people aren’t without their qualities, but definitely not what we had hoped for her.

There was a spark of the old Logan with the Life & Death Brigade montage and it was great to see the old gang again.  Once I realized it wasn’t a dream (about 10 minute in) I was able to appreciate it for what it was.  While there were artistic liberties taken, I appreciated that it was less about what actually happened and more about what the group made Rory feel like.  But dude, Logan, you are an engaged man.

The only way I would have accepted this situation was if it was understood that both of these people were only getting married to “join the kingdoms” and he had his own mistress and she had her own “Mister…ess?” like olden times.  But, it is quite clear that she knows nothing of Logan’s indiscretions and that’s despicable.  If he truly wanted Rory, he could have had her but was unwilling to let go of his new life.  So, Christop….I mean Logan, you can learn to grow up and check back with us later.

Jess

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        Who knew that Jess would be one of the most stable characters on the show?  Oh, that’s right, #teamjess did.  Really though, who made the most progress as a character throughout the span of the show?  He started as a troubled teen in the inner-city to a responsible and caring human being.  Did he suck as a human being to start?  Yeah, but at least he made it funny (“Basket!  Basket maker!  Guy who didn’t bring enough money.”)  But we saw him leave, struggle, and find out who he is and make it on his own.  He even tried to make it up to Luke by repaying him what he thought was owed.

But!  Most importantly?  He put Rory back on the path she was supposed to be on…more than once.  First, when he told her she was supposed to be in school.  No one could help her see that except him.  In some ways, she trusts his opinion above Lorelai’s and he can’t get much higher praise than that.  The second time was when her life was spiraling and she couldn’t find her place in life.  What does he do?  Sees who she is and helps find her purpose.

Who is this starting to sound like?  Someone’s life is out of control and they keep coming back to them time and time again to seek comfort, guidance, and direction…. I’m not saying Jess should buy a diner and invest in flannel but…it couldn’t hurt.  His last scene says so much about his future in Rory’s life.  He’ll wait.  He’ll wait and be as lame as he thought Luke was to wait for Lorelai.  Their destiny remains to be years off but he’ll be there when Rory needs him most.

 

Kirk

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        Did we think that Kirk would be a major player in the new series?  I think we all assumed he would be there to provide the weird comic relief we have come to know and love but I’m not sure we thought he would carry the heart of Stars Hollow.  The more I thought about it, the more I think Kirk IS Stars Hollow.  We love all the quirky characters but non epitomize the strangeness and endearing qualities better than Kirk.  He is at the center of every town event we know and love.  While many towns have similar activities, it’s Kirk that makes them memorable in Stars Hollow.  New Inn opening?  Normal.  Naked Kirk having night terrors and being tackled by local diner owner?  Stars Hollow.  Easter egg hunt in town square?  Normal.  Not making an egg map and making the town smell like rotten eggs?  Stars Hollow.  Buying a house?  Normal.  Being outbid by a guy who somehow works at every store in town?   Stars Hollow.  The list is overwhelming and only goes to prove my point.  And while many of the reasons we remember him is because of his screw-ups the one time we, as fans, needed him most to provide the perfect wedding for Luke & Lorelai he came through with shining colors.

Emily

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        What a road we have been down with Emily.  Just like Lorelai, we have laughed with her one minute and wanted to smack her smug face the next.  What an amazing character and incredibly brought to life by Kelly Bishop.  Relationships to mothers can tend to be complicated.  Much of who we are is really shaped by that person so it’s no wonder Emily stands at the center of Lorelai’s complicated life.

Like her or not, it was gut wrenching to see her mourn the loss of her husband after spending the majority of her life as his partner.  The brilliance Amy Sherman-Palladino took to give her a full year to grieve was amazing.  So often, a grieving spouse “finds themselves” and move on after a brief montage featuring Sarah McLachlan.  Real grief takes time and the year provided in this narrative allows us to see how that unfolds.

The thing I think I appreciate the most about Emily’s storyline was the subtle way in which she slowly starts building a family around herself.  While she doesn’t stand as the mother, she does stand at the center as the provider and caretaker which is what I think she craved for so many years with Lorelai.  While Lorelai never needed someone to take care of her, this new family does.

What I wanted most out of the series (perhaps tied with Luke & Lorelai marrying) was a reconciliation with Emily and her daughter.  There was such bitterness and heartache in that relationship that affected both of them to their cores.  The fight in the kitchen in “Winter” was the pinnacle of these hurt feelings that were only brought out by the grief they both felt by Richard’s death.  Nasty words were spoken and barring the relationship that Rory helped mend, could have been the end of their relationship completely.  While unpleasant, it did finally show what Emily really feared most.  That her daughter would only remember the nasty parts about her and especially her husband.  Whatever you think about either her or Richard, they did love each other dearly and to think that your only daughter has contempt for him would hurt deeper than Lorelai probably understands.

Luckily we do get to see that relationship begin to heal more than it has before.  While there was no hugging and crying of “I love you” we did get to see bridges being mended.  I’m going to borrow a chunk from Lorelai’s section and say that she deserves several acting accolades for her performance on the phone with Emily.  For Emily to hear how much Richard meant to Lorelai despite the decades of hurt and disappointment meant the beginning of a new and happier chapter for the mother daughter combo.

To see Emily, at the end of “Fall” finding peace being her own person was more satisfying than I thought it would be.  She was one person with Richard but now found herself in a new, unexpected life that brought her joy.  Her kissing Richard’s portrait at the end still shows echoes of pain but being surrounded by a new family bodes well for her new future.

Rory

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        Oh Rory.  I go back and forth on the moments when I like you and when I think it might have been better for the show to be “Gilmore Girl.”  Overall, I do enjoy her character and what she brought to the show and the characters around her.  There is something to be admired with someone as tenacious and driven as she (mostly) is.

The biggest complaint that I hear from people I talk to about the new series is how disappointed they were with Rory.  Honestly, her storyline didn’t bother nor surprise me.  I have always felt that Rory has been taken care of her entire life.  It was rare for her to take a risk without there being a safety net close beneath her.  While I don’t think that this diminishes her accomplishments, I do think that it set her up for disappointment in the future.

Sure, she grew up poor, lived in a shed, and evidently was left in a bucket somewhere.  But she was always provided for.  I don’t think there was a moment in her life that she was left wanting for anything.  This contrasts deeply with Lorelai’s life where she struggled to earn everything she wanted.  Yes, she could have had the life of being provided for but she chose to turn away from that in order to achieve it for herself.  This is something that Rory lacked and probably was the cause of much of her disappointment with life.

Was I upset she was with an engaged Logan?  Oh yes.  Was I surprised?  No.  Rory was always one who fell back to her ways that made her feel better about herself (no matter the cost).  In this way, she was a lot like Lorelai (can we count the number of Christopher slip-ups?).  Did it matter to her that Logan was engaged?  No.  She was pretty clear when she slept with Dean that she could justify those morals away.  She felt they were supposed to be together so they were together.  She felt something for Logan and probably did the same thing.

I’m just going to say this to get it out there.  I never believed Rory as a journalist.  I believed her as an avid traveler anxious to see the world, a personable and relatable person, and an excellent writer.  I did not, however, see her as a gritty newshound jotting down notes in an alleyway, taking cover behind a brick wall in Bagdad journalist which she claimed she wanted to be.  Which begs the question, was Mitcham (Trump) right about her?  It’s a bit sickening to agree with the man but, did he have a point?  It’s worth thinking about.  This isn’t to say she couldn’t make an amazing editor or author but hard hitting journalism seems a bit out of her reach.

The one thing that has me looking forward to her character is this cross-road she finds herself in.  We all have moments in our lives when we start to become to person we were meant to.  For Lorelai, it was the minute that stick turned pink.  I am hoping for the same from Rory and I think we already saw a glimpse of that.  The focus she started taking in her life.  The refusal to be part of Logan’s life or accept his charity.  The acceptance of her situation and the calmness to move forward all indicates she is on the path to find her own way in life.  I look forward to her becoming who she is and what this child will help turn her into.  Though the ups and downs, she really is a good kid.

Luke

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        I almost saved Luke for last but I just couldn’t.  I believe Gilmore Girls to be Lorelai’s story and not saving her for last would feel wrong.  I did, however, put him ahead of Rory and here is why.  Luke is the heart and soul of this show.  Despite the few screw ups he has made in the series, he is the rock that the show relies on to be consistently solid.

While the Gilmore Girls are having their crisis we have Luke at the center just being Luke.  From the first scene of the show his situation hasn’t changed much.  Aside from knocking down a wall and changing his menu, his professional life remains the same.  An outsider would see his relationship status as normal and nothing remarkable.

But, that is what makes Luke an incredible character.  He is so happy with his life that he doesn’t want any of it to change so long as he has Lorelai.  He even says that he will do anything she wants; be anything he wants him to be so long as it meant she was by his side.  That is a guy worth writing about.  Remarkable not by his position but by what he means to everyone around him.  A guy who accomplishes more by making cheeseburgers and pancakes than any trust fund kid did with their money.

Every story needs an anchor to attach itself to and Luke is that anchor in Gilmore Girls.

Lorelai

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        It’s funny to think that Alexis Bledel was the same age in this story as Lauren Graham was when she first started filming.  May we all live to be that good looking when we approach 50.  Lorelai is also another character that sometimes deserves to be screamed at.  As much as we love the quick paced rants referencing about 37 things I have to look up later, she has her own flaws that prove infuriating.

Why she continues to always find herself asking what more she needs out life I’m not sure I’ll fully understand.  It always feels like she keeps reaching for this goal that is never there.  It’s the “something more” that always gets her in trouble professionally and especially in her relationships.  I kind of like to think it was always there because there was a gaping hole in her life left by a disconnect from her parents.  So much of her identity had been centered on her finding her own way with a new child that she didn’t realize what she was leaving behind.  While the decision to leave might have been the right one, cutting off that relationship did more damage than good in the long run.  While her parents may never have understood her, they could have loved her in the only way they knew how.

This doesn’t mean I am siding with Richard & Emily nor admitting their way was best.  They have the corner in manipulation and pulling strings when needed.  Ideally, the therapy sessions could have come a lot sooner but, then again, who would’ve shown up to them?

Lorelai’s journey of self-discovery was a great one.  Sometimes we all think we have to go on this great journey in order to figure things out.  In reality, it’s usually just a moment of clarity that we need in order to put our lives on the right course.  No one comes back from a trip a different person.  As wonderful as we might feel, there is still the moment of coming home that we have to face when making changes.  I think they demonstrated this beautifully.

Honestly, I think we found Lorelai in a great place in her life.  Grief did follow her but it set her up for the change she needed to take the next step in her life.  That’s all I think we needed to see from Lorelai.  She had already achieved so much that we didn’t need to see a new character, just one that was moving in the right direction.  Seeing her realize that she and Luke would be better married is that step.  Luke bends over backwards to make her happy and this was a major thing that he wanted but probably never vocalized because he thought she was happy the way things were.  But really, the decision to get married wasn’t for one of them, it was for both.  That’s the direction we see them going in.  Not making decisions for themselves, but together.  And that’s all I could have ever hoped to see in this revival.

The Last 4 Words

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        Much has been said about these words and I think everyone knows where they stand with them.  For me, I love ending stories with a new beginning.  There is no such thing as an “ending.”  There’s where we stop reading or watching but we never really stop thinking about that story (at least the good ones).  Rory being pregnant is the next chapter, the next beginning.  I think it’s beautiful in its own way.  Like I said, this is Rory’s turning point that will form her into the person she is hoping to be and the person Lorelai hope she raised.  The only thing I would have changed (that’s the only time I used that word) would have been the way it was filmed.  The abrupt cut to black was a bit jarring.  I would have, instead, opted for Lorelai to adopt her wide-eyed lips pursed look of acceptance, pull Rory into a head on shoulder hug as the camera pulled away gradually over the town as it faded to black with a slow rendition of the theme song playing in the background.  I think they would have eased us all into processing the information and what it means for the future.

As I stated in the beginning, what matters most is what the writer wanted to tell.  Trying to please an audience is a dangerous game and what results in not one but two National Treasure movies.  At the end of the day we have to be satisfied that Amy Sherman Palladino was able to finish the story she wanted to tell and that we were able to join in on the ride together.

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