First of all, if you haven’t watched the Gilmore Girls: A Year In the Life revival on Netflix yet, please stop right here and go binge for about 6 hours like the rest of us.
This will serve as a bit of a meta-review of all the episodes, but with particular focus on “Winter” and “Fall.”
It’s important for me to say that there’s a lot of duality in me about the revival. On the one hand, it’s always lovely to return back to a world and characters that you love, and I try not to judge too harshly any artist’s creative process.
On the other hand, it’s also our right as consumers of media to find fault. As you will often hear on this blog, it’s also especially important for us to point out the kind of flaws that blindside marginalized portions of our world.
I’ll start off by saying that the writers did a really tender job in “Winter” of dropping us right back off nine years later in our beloved Stars Hollow. Taylor is still on a town-improvement crusade. Michel is still whining about the quality of The Dragonfly Inn’s guests. Kirk is still jumping from mad-cap scheme to mad-cap scheme. Luke still wears his baseball cap backwards.
We know where we stand, when we stand in the Stars Hollow gazebo.
But things have changed, even while our beloved town has stayed the same, and the cracks show. Sookie has moved on to the next phase in her life. Miss Pattie is thinner and more worn. Lane is still hard-rocking, but the mom of two little boys, working at her parent’s antique store. And most important, there is a gaping emptiness in the Friday-night dinner chair where Richard Gilmore once sat.
The revival does such a wonderful job at showcasing how Richard’s sudden passing affects both Emily and Lorelei. It has left Lorelei contemplating where she stands and where her life journey is headed now that she is no longer defined (as she was for so many years) by her role as a mother. In “Winter”, we are dropped immediately into Emily’s new status, wondering what “Mrs. Richard Gilmore” is meant to do when their life becomes only hers.
Where the Emily plotline fails for me is the continuous dismissive treatment of her foreign house staff. While the show continually played Emily’s bad behavior toward her staff for laughs, in the revival, we see continual jokes about how no one can understand what her new Spanish-speaking maid, Berta, is saying. To paraphrase the way that a friend of mine put it, “if I, a non-native speaker fluent in Spanish, can understand her, why is this played up for laughs with the idea that even a ‘UN ambassador’ can’t understand her?” Emily is shown as being increasingly dependent upon Berta and her family, but she can’t be bothered to even attempt to converse with her as a person and not an object of amusement? It falls short.
Lorelei & Luke:
Lauren Graham, playing our winsome heroine of the show, is at her comedic and dramatic best. There is nothing so spectacular as her scenes with Emily. But I have to say that the scenes with her, Luke, and Paris discussing surrogacy might be the highlight of this episode. Any time that Paris and Luke have to share a scene is a tiny miracle. How better to work in that Paris was pre-med and pre-law than to have her become an adoption/surrogacy specialist? (Yes, I recognize the public commentary that it would be very unlikely for her to complete medical and law school in only 9 years, but if anyone can do it, we believe Paris can.) The question of whether Luke and Lorelei will have any more children comes to a final-feeling conclusion: they are happy the way they are. However, this conversation feels like it’s coming about 9 years too late. REALLY, in all that time, Luke and Lorelei never had pillow talk about more kids?
It’s my theory that Amy Sherman-Palladino had her ideas about the 7th season and un-artfully plopped them into this revival.
Luke is still the gruff, steady man that we know and love, always convincing his girls to please eat more vegetables. It’s nice to see him again. (Luke’s Diner having Wi-Fi to which he gives out fake passwords is an other tiny treasure.) However, the revival does him a serious discredit by dumbing down who he is. Seriously, he doesn’t know what a surrogate is? He’s a man of simple tastes, but he’s not dumb.
And what was with the “guess we can’t find enough gays in our town” jokes in this episode about the first Stars Hollow Gay Pride Parade? It’s like the Palladino team is paying joking homage to the fact that the original series was almost entirely devoid of LGBTQIA characters, while still spitting in the eye of their many fans in those communities. As a heterosexual, cis-gendered white woman, I don’t want to speak for anyone. It just sat badly with me and it’s scarcely believable that the town that loves its festivals and pageantry doesn’t realize that a gay pride parade is an opportunity to show support for all of the members of their community, no matter how few or many LGBTQIA individuals there may be in Stars Hollow. It’s about saying “this is a safe space for you,” not trotting them down the street in order to gawk.
Dear, dear Rory. What happened to the darling girl who considered a good date having her boyfriend wander through the bookstore? Or who prepared four binders of her articles to demand a staff role at the Stanford Gazette? The Rory we get from “Winter” moving forward is aimless, floundering, and (dare I say that terrible adjective often aimed at the millennial generation…) entitled. And it only gets worse.
It reminds me of the feeling when you have a good friend, a BEST friend who you adored in your youth. Life happens, you lose touch, grow up. But then one day, you meet up again, and amidst all the initial excitement of seeing them, the ugly truths start sinking in. About how mean they’ve become. How pretentious. How selfish.
And you wonder what kind of person you might have been for liking her in the first place.
The Revival Rory is not a friend I’d want to remake. She is selfish and thoughtless, continually forgetting about her boyfriend of two years Paul (a gag, of course, but not a joke that puts Rory in a very good light) and actively sleeping with an engaged Logan. Did she not learn her lesson the first time when she slept with Dean while he was married? Oh, wait… guess she didn’t. Like Daisy Buchanan, she smashed up Dean’s entire life in season four/five, then blithely returned to her tiaras and cocktails. (Literally.) Rinse and repeat with Logan.
In “Winter,” she stores her stuff in four different people’s houses, while blithely couch-surfing between them with no real regard to the things happening in their lives (for example, Paris’ divorce and her grandmother’s grief over the loss of her grandfather). People allow her to do it to them because she is the illustrious RORY GILMORE. And she’s entitled to people doing whatever it is that she wants because that’s how she’s always been.
While there is no doubt that she, like so many of our millennial generation, is floundering with what success looks like, it is irksome to watch someone who has had every advantage not make the most of her opportunities. A single episode or two of Rory figuring out where she is going at least in the short term, would have been very true to character and the theme of the show. Four episodes, consisting of six hours of plot, to potentially move her along to an unsatisfactory conclusion, is simply too much.
The one compensation we get in “Winter” is Rory facing a dazzling River Song… ahem, Alex Kingston, at her zany best.
My favorites scenes:
Rory tap-dancing her stress away: “Don’t make my stress-relief stressful.” Rory and Lorelei both struggling with insomnia and a tinge of anxiety is so true to character. (My husband turned to me and joked: “Maybe that’s a new hobby you need to take up.”)
Richard’s Funeral Scene: many of his beloved books; his golf clubs; his favorite album that Rory had given him as a birthday gift; the gorgeous photo from Richard and Emily’s marriage renewal celebration. But the coup de grace of that scene was the leaf, falling off the maple onto his coffin as Emily stands over it to say goodbye, like Richard sending a sign to tell her that she would be okay.
Emily conning Lorelei into joining her at the psychologist. The final scene of Winter where Lorelei is talking to Emily, thrilled that her mom agreed to take her advice and go see a therapist, while Luke is making “Danger, Will Robinson” arms in the background, just had me in stitches. “Crap. I’m going to a therapist with my mother.”