Where the Gilmore Girls lead, I will follow. I’ve been waiting for the Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life Netflix revival series for so long that I knew it could not possibly meet all of my expectations. However, it felt incredibly good to be back in Stars Hollow and among all my favorite characters again. Delving back into their lives was like opening an early Christmas gift – one wrapped with sparkly, snowflake-covered paper. It’s never been just about Rory and Lorelai. There’s Luke and Taylor and Miss Patty and Gypsy and Kirk and Lane and Zach and Mrs. Kim and Sookie and Michel and Paris and Doyle and Dean and Jess and Logan. The Netflix original series managed to squeeze in just about everybody in a semi-satisfying way. Everyone from the faithful town troubadour (Grant-Lee Phillips) to Sebastian Bach reprising his role as Gil in the band Hep Alien was back.
Gilmore Girls is beloved not only for its witty repartee and the strong bond of friendship between a mother and her daughter, but partially because Stars Hollow is such a special place itself. It’s a place where community still regularly comes together for town meetings, no matter how ridiculous some of the topics may be (in the revival series the town actually discusses the possibility of holding a Gay Pride Parade but comes to the realization that they don’t have enough gays in the town to make it a worthwhile event unless they can borrow some gays from a neighboring town). It’s a place where everybody congregates in the local diner no matter how cantankerous the owner may be or whether or not the WiFi is working (Luke’s).
It’s a place that comes together for the cutest, most magical-looking festivals you’ve ever seen (who hasn’t secretly or not-so-secretly yearned to move to Stars Hollow to be part of their Winter Festival?). It’s a place where every patron is a unique character. It’s a place where everyone knows your closely guarded secrets and manages to love and appreciate you anyway. It’s the only place on earth that I can think of in which an entire town gathered to give a wake for the death of a cat. It’s a place where a young, single mother found solace and the courage to begin her life anew with her brand-new baby. Stars Hollow’s residents opened their hearts and welcomed Lorelai and Rory, and viewers in turn, opened their hearts and welcomed Stars Hollow and its quirky cast of characters into their lives.
I’m around Rory’s age, so I could always relate to her. I, too, was bookish as a child and wanted to be a writer and studied journalism in college. I, too, had a young mother who had had me when she was 16. I also didn’t have a father and maintained a close relationship with my grandparents. The only thing I couldn’t really relate to was Rory’s love life. Are you Team Dean, Jess or Logan? I don’t know where you stand on that issue, but I would’ve been happy to have experienced young love in all its heartbreaks and glories with any of the three. (If pressed, I’m Team Jess. I know he was a bit of an asshole to Rory when they were together. However, I still maintain things would be different between them as adults now that he’s more mature and not rebelliously running away from something.)
One of the most innovative things about Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life is the way the producers chose to split it up into four supercharged episodes, each representing a different season of the year. This made the story arcs easier to follow and allowed viewers to see their favorite town decorated for the various holidays and seasons. The series seems to come full circle, especially when one considers that it ends with the final four words the show’s creator Amy Sherman-Palladino always envisioned it would (she wasn’t around for the final TV season due to contractual issues). If you haven’t yet watched the revival series, fair warning that there are spoilers ahead.
Winter is traditionally Lorelai’s favorite season because she anticipates the smell of fresh snow. Therefore, I thought Winter was the perfect season to begin the revival, as we were also full of hope and anticipation at the beginning. The possibilities for our favorite characters were endless. We learned several key pieces of information during this season’s festivities. Luke and Lorelai have indeed been together since the original series ended, but they’re still not married. Nor have they had any more children. The couple briefly considers surrogacy until Paris scares them out of that with her intensity as the surrogacy agency’s leader. Paris manages to make anything seem scary and intense.
I got misty-eyed when they showed Richard Gilmore’s funeral. Rationally, I knew it was coming because the actor who portrayed him has long been dead (Edward Herrman), but I wasn’t emotionally prepared for it. It was tastefully done, and Richard’s presence is still felt throughout the revival series, as all three of the Gilmore Girls struggle with the patriarch’s death and manage their grief in very different ways. Bonus: It was good to see Jason “Digger” Stiles (Chris Eigeman) paying his respects and inquiring if Lorelai is happy with the way her life has turned out since he’s seen her last. I always liked Jason, although he wasn’t Luke. However, I was surprised not to see Rory’s father Christopher during the funeral scenes.
During the past decade, Rory has managed to lead a semi-successful journalistic career – she’s even recently had a “think piece” published in The New Yorker. Everyone is very proud, especially Luke who has laminated a copy of her article on the back of his diner’s menus. Color me jealous. My own journalistic career didn’t pan out quite as well. It’s a little difficult to be a writer in the digital age and especially during a failing economy. But Rory manages to make it look glamorous, splitting up her time between New York City, London, Hartford and Stars Hollow.
Can we also talk about Rory’s forgettable boyfriend Paul for a second? Why does he last throughout the revival even though she clearly has no feelings for him and we never see him but the one time? This seemed so disappointingly uncharacteristic of Rory. Break up with the boy already! I’m sick of hearing about him.
Out of the four seasons, I think Spring was my least favorite. Much of the emphasis was placed on the therapy sessions between Emily and Lorelai, and Rory heading further into a downward spiral (losing her book deal, not feeling connected to the piece requested by a magazine, getting rejected at the website that had been after her for a year and continuing to romantically mess around with Logan whenever she’s in London even though he’s clearly engaged to someone else). I got excited when Rory went back to Chilton to speak at an alumni event and the headmaster invited her to become a teacher there if she’d just go back to school for her master’s degree. That would make sense!
You are introduced to Kirk’s latest brilliant theatrical masterpiece during this season, which can’t be unseen once it’s been seen. Rory has her first one-night stand … with a Wookiee. Why is that a big deal? And seeing Rachael Ray in The Dragonfly Inn’s kitchen was a treat. Not quite as good as Sookie herself but almost. It was also good to see Francie Jarvis (Emily Bergl) still hanging out in the bathrooms at Chilton, but what was up with that fake stand-in Tristan (should’ve been Chad Michael Murray from the original series … seriously he had something better to do)? I would’ve also liked to have seen Max Medina (Scott Cohen) in some capacity. He used to be Rory’s teacher at Chilton before he was engaged to Lorelai – this seemed like the most logical place for a Max cameo to have taken place. Alas, that was a missed opportunity.
Luke and Lorelai’s relationship doesn’t seem as stable as one would think, as the two are clearly still keeping secrets from one another. Luke doesn’t tell Lorelai when her mother makes him look at real estate to expand Luke’s into a franchise (part of her father’s dying wish), nor does Lorelai tell Luke that she’s been going to therapy alone once Emily bailed on it. A defeated Rory moves back in with Lorelai at the end of the season, and I had my serious doubts about the second half of the series. Things were starting to feel pretty emotionally heavy.
Summer has some fun highlights at the community pool and with the Stars Hollow Musical. Rory continues to sink further into the despairs of a crippling mid-life crisis. However, once she learns that the town’s beloved Stars Hollow Gazette has closed down just because its editor has retired, she at least has something to light her journalistic fires again. There are many times during the revival in which I wanted to yell at her, “Rory, what’s wrong with you? You’re better than this.” Then again, there are times in which I want to yell things of a similar ilk at myself. Thirties are hard. You’re no longer a college kid. You’re an adult with real-life responsibilities. Some don’t adjust as well as others – just look at “The Thirty-Something Gang” who have all gone to college, went out in the real world, failed and moved back into their childhood rooms. I think that’s a far too common sight these days.
Seeing a grown-up, pot-smoking, nose-pierced MIT-going April (Luke’s daughter, played by Vanessa Marano) was a little unnerving. I think seeing her college-aged and Lane and Zach’s twins being fully grown children reinforced how much time has passed since the original series aired. However, Miss Patty still wins hands down for the most dramatic transformation between the two series. I barely recognized her until she spoke.
My favorite thing about Summer was the reintroduction of Luke’s bad boy nephew, Jess Mariano (Milo Ventimiglia). I think he’s still my favorite of her three boyfriends (well four, if you count Paul). He stops in to assist Luke with a crisis involving his mother and her husband joining a vegetable cult and manages to give Rory some life-changing advice. He tells Rory she should write a book about her and her mother. This lights a bigger fire underneath Rory – Jess to the rescue! But predictably, Lorelai doesn’t take the news very well (especially when she finds out it was Jess’ idea) and this leads to another mini-rift between mother and daughter by season’s end. Lorelai is also at odds with her mother because it seems as if she is moving on with one of the father’s former friends at the club.
By the time Fall rolls around, Lorelai has decided she needs to go on a hiking/wilderness adventure to rediscover herself and gain some clarity about her relations with her mother, daughter and Luke, as well as what she wants to do about expanding her inn and keeping Sookie and Michel in her life. Rory is still writing her book about the Gilmore Girls and eventually Lorelai gives her her blessing. Meanwhile, Emily sells the family home and moves to Nantucket. And Luke and Lorelai are finally getting married!
Fall was the most satisfying of seasons. Where Stars Hollow felt like it slightly derailed throughout the Spring and Summer, everything I love about the show came full circle by the end (it began with Lorelai and Rory talking in the town’s gazebo and it ended with Lorelai and Rory talking in the town’s gazebo). Luke and Lorelai came to their senses and decided to get married, and seeing the way the town gazebo was decorated for that affair made me misty-eyed all over again. I couldn’t think of a more beautiful way to celebrate these two characters’ love for each other. The wedding montage song choice was also perfection (“Reflecting Light” by Sam Phillips, which is also the song Luke and Lorelai first danced to at his sister’s wedding on the original series).
And we were finally reunited with Sookie (the ever-busy Melissa McCarthy) who was on-hand at The Dragonfly Inn to decorate Lorelai’s many wedding cakes. Jess was on-hand to be a smart ass to Luke, and Rory is reunited briefly with the Life and Death Brigade (where it feels like she finally admits to herself and to Logan that what they had is finally truly over) and she even runs into a happily remarried (and father of three) Dean at Doose’s Market (fitting because that’s where their love began in high school). Rory also has a heart-to-heart with her father Christopher who was notably absent from the rest of the revival. (But that might be a good thing, as he typically only showed up to ruin Lorelai’s love life throughout the years.)
The main theme of the revival seems to be about the Gilmore Girls feeling lost and finding themselves again. I’ve already discussed Rory’s existential crises and a little about Lorelai’s but Emily is also seen going through feelings of displacement. Emily hasn’t been herself since the death of Richard. She sleeps until afternoon, gets rid of her possessions, gives up on her responsibilities at the club and with the DAR and she’s seen with the same maid throughout the entire revival (Berta, who it turns out was played by Rose Abdoo (Gypsy) in a very different outfit). I think a fresh start in Nantucket will be cathartic for Emily. The three generations of Gilmore Girls are very different people, each with their individual strengths and weaknesses. What I’ve always enjoyed about this program is the fact that they can each be fiercely independent and yet they each rely upon each other and their bond for survival. I think that sums up womanhood fairly accurately.
However, what has tongues wagging the most in-between bites of Thanksgiving leftovers are the series’ final four words, which have forever changed the fabric of the Gilmore Girls universe:
Who is the father of Rory’s baby? Is it Logan? Is it Paul? Is it the Wookiee? Could she have slept with Jess when we weren’t looking? Wouldn’t it be wild if it turned out to be Marty’s baby? (Do you remember friend-zoned Marty from college? I do.) Hmm. Will we ever know? It’s uncertain whether or not Netflix will give them a second season and uncertain if they can successfully gather the entire cast again. Also, those were always the intended final words from the creator who apparently doesn’t care if some fans are left feeling dissatisfied with a cliffhanger ending. I’m satisfied feeling like it has all come full circle, but I really want to see the dynamic between them with Lorelai as a grandmother. And I’d still love to see Rory and Jess back together. Wherever the Gilmore Girls lead, I will follow.
“If you’re out on the road
Feeling lonely, and so cold.
All you have to do is call my name
And I’ll be there on the next train.
Where you lead, I will follow.
Anywhere that you tell me to.
If you need, you need me to be with you –
I will follow where you lead.”
Did the Gilmore Girls revival satisfy? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!