'Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life' review: What we loved, hated and everything in between

Sneha Khale

Dec 03, 2016 09:04:01 IST

Those final four words. True to her fast script-writing word, co-writer and co-creator Amy Sherman-Palladino revealed those long-anticipated last four words she had planned for Gilmore Girls in last weekend’s Netflix original, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. Finally! After a nine year wait (ten, if you consider the fact that season 7 of the original series didn’t have either of the Palladinos, Amy or her husband Dan, at the helm), the revival has posed more questions than answers.

 Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life review: What we loved, hated and everything in between

This image released by Netflix shows Lauren Graham, left, and Alexis Bledel in a scene from, 'Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life'. Image courtesy: Saeed Adyani/Netflix via AP

And there were plenty of questions to begin with: are Luke and Lorelai still together, is Paris super successful, is she a lawyer or a doctor, is April still as annoying as she was, and what’s the resolution of the whole team Dean/Jess/Logan dilemma? The answers: yes, yes, both (she runs a fertility clinic that also specialises in all things legal that come with surrogacy; classic Paris I tell ya!), yes, and WTH!

As fans of the original series who identified with Rory, it’s difficult to disentangle yourself from her story as it stands at the end of the revival, post the last four words. But a lot else went on in these four 90-minute episodes, so let’s get on with them one at a time, shall we?

Winter, the revival’s first episode, opened with a lovely montage of some of the original series’ most iconic quotes, with the original voiceovers.

Sitting at the gazebo, Lorelai smells snow. For anyone who knows her and her relationship with snow, this is a good sign. Rory is back from London looking fresh-faced and lovely as ever, prompting Lorelai to conclude that she must be Goop’d (which, according to Lorelai, means Rory’s “doing yoga in the plane aisle, wearing cashmere sweatpants, while her comfort dog watches Zoolander 2 on his watch”).

All this happens in the first few minutes: fast-talking, mother-daughter bonding, pop culture references, the Gilmore girls as we know them are back alright! Your first impression is that nothing has changed: Stars Hollow is as picturesque as ever; its inhabitants as “living-in-their-own-little-snow-globe” as always; Luke and Lorelai are together and living in the latter’s house (they aren’t married though); Lane and Zach are still married; Rory is still writing (despite theories that she may be a teacher at Chilton, based on this photo) successfully, with bylines in Slate and The Atlantic, and a terrific (according to everyone) Talk of the Town piece in The New Yorker that Luke prints on the back of his Luke’s Diner’s menu! Cue aawwws.

But the deeper we look, the easier it is to spot the cracks: Richard’s death (which was handled offscreen beautifully, in perfect homage to the great late Edward Herrmann who played him for seven seasons) looms large over all the three Gilmore women (funnily enough, quite literally, because of a giant wall-size portrait of his that Emily orders; the folks who do it get the proportions of the portrait horribly wrong). Despite a good start, Rory hasn’t had a successful, Christiane Amanpour-ish kinda life as a journalist; in fact, she’s freelancing, and struggling to find a full-time job. Lorelai, while she’s happy with Luke, has started obsessing about her own mortality; the fact that she and Luke don’t have children of their own weighs down on her. And Emily is responding to her obvious grief about Richard’s death in the unlikeliest of manners: wearing jeans and a t-shirt, and meticulously getting rid of all her thoughtfully (and quite often, tastefully) bought material possessions (in a bid to Marie Kondo her life by keeping only those possessions that “bring her joy”).

It was the perfect setup for Gilmore Girls; this is what the original show did best: deal with pain, loss and misunderstandings with empathy, humour, and lots of coffee. We sat down to watch what I thought would be the Gilmore women struggling with their existential crises and overcoming them through the course of the titular “year” of their lives (presented to us viewers as four episodes aptly titled Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall) with quirky dialogues, cartoonish asides, and heart wrenching monologues. And it did do that. Well, almost.

Midnight gossip sessions between Lorelai and Rory are adorable, but it is in grief that most of these characters have been brutally honest with each other. Mother-daughter fights (between both Emily and Lorelai, and Lorelai and Rory) always felt visceral and achingly real in the original series. And that continues in the revival with Lorelai’s behavior after Richard’s funeral: when Emily asks a few of Richard’s friends to each recall a memory of him, Lorelai comes up with a harsh story about her father that paints his memory in the darkest, most unflattering of lights (something about her being in a steam trunk, while Richard takes off on one of his many business trips to Italy...or maybe it’s Denmark...or...it doesn’t matter). It’s essentially word vomit on her part, and the argument that ensues between mother and daughter after everyone has left (because, of course they’re going to be civil in front of guests) evokes seven seasons of their troubled history and is among the best acting scenes on television in 2016.

And there are plenty of terrific scenes in the revival; in fact, both the quirkiness and the emotional wrenching is amped up to compensate for the past nine years. But this is where the weakness of the show starts to creep in: four 90-minute “episodes” (although let’s be honest, they’re essentially “films”), which most fans would’ve watched in a marathon six-hour binge session, feels a bit bloated even for Gilmore Girls, which in its original run aired 45-minute episodes with a tighter narrative.

The series suffers on account of that: musicals and other drawn-out runnings gags become quickly tiresome in this format, than they would have in a shorter weekly-episode format. That two of these musicals were meant to be eye-opening for our leading Gilmore women, is ironic. The could’ve-been-cut-to-a-third Stars Hollow: The Musical (with the amazingly talented Sutton Foster) makes Lorelai realise she wants to take some time off Luke and her inn to go Wild (yes, the Cheryl-Strayed-I’m-going-to-hike-the-entire-Pacific-Crest-Trail Wild, although we learn later when she’s on the trail that Lorelai is more inspired by the “movie” Wild, which means she’s less Strayed and more Reese Witherspoon!). Rory’s musical epiphany, on the other hand, is much stranger: she’s kidnapped by Logan (the blond Huntzberger returns!) and his jerk Life and Death Brigade friends, and taken on her own private Mr Toad’s Wild Ride (her words, not ours), when she’s in the middle of a career and personal crisis, ultimately not resolving either. Which brings us to the revival’s weakest storyline, and its biggest disappointment. So let’s talk about that, shall we?

As hard as it was for anyone who loved Rory’s shy bookish ways, to watch them give way to an entitled, overly-indulged adult (remember her stealing a yacht, getting arrested, dropping out of Yale, living in her grandparents’ pool house, working for the stuffy Daughters of the American Revolution - DAR, while partying her way into Logan’s rich, even more entitled circle of friends? Or remember how she slept with a still-married Dean and later justified her actions because “he was hers first?” Ugh!), at least the original series had her sorting her life out to graduate from Yale and take on a writing job for an online website, covering then-Senator Barack Obama’s campaign. We’d been told that Rory was special and deserving so many times that the fact that she would definitely be someone worthwhile, do something meaningful with her life, felt like cannon. When we meet her now, the things she does are so uncharacteristic, so un-Rory like, it’s frightening:

1. Rory now has a boyfriend (Paul), a sweet guy who’s apparently forgettable. People forget meeting him, they forget he’s coming over or staying back, it’s a hoot. Not! Rory’s been dating him for two (!) years, and she wants to break up with him, but keeps forgetting to do so. Can’t even!

2. What’s taking up all her time, besides writing one Talk of the Town article and a few other pieces here and there, is travel between New York (where she used to live) and London. We’re led to believe that the visits to London have everything to do with a biography she’s writing for a more-than-nuts British feminist Nancy Shropshire. Fine, we tell ourselves, until we see her on Logan’s couch, talking and kissing. Okay, if the Sherman-Palladinos want us to pretend like season 7 of the original series never happened (when Logan proposed to Rory and she turned him down), ask us nicely. And don’t have Rory cheating on a hapless boyfriend of hers, while Logan is engaged to some woman called Odette! What is happening?

3. Between all this drama (Rory and Logan are “together when they are, and not when they’re away”), no wonder she doesn’t have time to prepare pitches for her interviews.

4. A long-overdue Condé Nast interview keeps getting postponed, prompting Rory to do the unthinkable: she asks Logan to have his dad Mitchum (he of the hard hitting “you don’t got it, Rory” words back in season 5) to put in a word for her. When she does get an appointment to meet the editors, not only is she ill-prepared but she also doesn’t have anything remotely interesting to say about herself, the editors or the publication, or anything/anyone else in the world.

5. She decides to give an idea of theirs a shot (something about the culture of lines in NY, and how people are always lining up for things: the must-eat cronut, the must-buy sneakers, the must-visit bar). High school Rory would’ve owned this, writing a wonderful essay from a fresh perspective. In the revival, she hangs outside a few stores and restaurants, falls asleep while interviewing someone who’s dressed in costume outside a comic book store, and then actually sleeps with a random dude dressed as a Wookie! Are we in a parallel universe?

6. Knowing she’s blown this opportunity, Rory finally goes to meet the editor of a lifestyle website SandeeSays (they claim to be the next Huffington Post, sound like a mix between that and Hello Giggles, and they’ve been after Rory for a while), without a single decent pitch, and then gets offended when they tell her it’s not going to work out. Sheesh. This goes beyond entitled and narcissistic. This is an appalling story arc for one of television’s most interesting characters of the last two decades; Rory, with her love for reading and her introverted charm, had seemed like such a promising heroine for the long haul, writing her way to glory. With her behaviour, attitude, and life choices in the revival, you can’t help but think that Mitchum Huntzberger was right all this time!

Rory Gilmore’s uncharacteristically sad storyline in the revival is highlighted multiple times: when the long-running Stars Hollow Gazette is closing, Rory takes over the reigns of the town newspaper. Without a full-time job, she could have done something brilliant with it. Instead, she caves in her first week; when her ex-boyfriend and Luke’s nephew Jess visits her while he’s in town, she comes across asdefeated and without ideas (she even brings out the whiskey in the middle of the afternoon!). It’s Jess who suggests that Rory focus her attention on writing a book instead; he also literally hands her the idea for the book: a memoir about her relationship with her mother, something she knows intimately. When she realises it’s a good idea (duh!) and tells her mother about this, Lorelai outright refuses to have her extremely private story made public. Not only does Rory ignore that and continue working on the manuscript, but Logan even offers her the keys to his family’s house in Maine for her to live in while she’s jobless and writing the book! Silver platter, meet Rory. Yet again.

Plenty has been written about Rory’s entitled life or how she peaked when she was in high school, all of which makes sense after the revival.

What made it worse were those final four words [SPOILERS AHEAD]; just like Lorelai, Rory is going to be a single mother. Just like Lorelai, Rory’s baby daddy is a rich, entitled cad who doesn’t really have the balls to give up said riches to be a father to the baby (it’s Logan, FYI). Lorelai had a tough 16 years, and she made it on her own; with a little help from benefactors and a great circle of friends, she managed to raise Rory well. Luke was clearly her soulmate, right from the start. Will Jess be Rory’s? There was a moment towards the end when he gazes at her through the window (when she’s not looking). Well, if it looks like a torch and feels like a torch... Some have argued that maybe this was Rory’s story all along, that she was never going to be a good journalist or have a high flying career, that it was always supposed to come full circle like it has; others have expressed disappointment at the fact that these were Amy Sherman-Palladino’s choice words for Rory back at the end of season 7, if the Palladinos had continued to be showrunners. Rory was 22 then. Let’s take a moment to digest the utter sadness of that thought. Wasted potential is one thing, but deliberate manipulation of a beloved character is something else altogether!

Despite the (many) drawbacks of the revival, it soared when it came to the relationships at heart. Lorelai’s relationship with Luke, her realisation on the trail that she wants to be married to him (and they do!), and her phone call to Emily to tell her a wonderful sad little story about Richard, were wonderful. Emily’s strength in dealing with her grief (she was married for 50 years and had forgotten which side of the bed she slept on) is remarkable and inspiring.

Overall, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life was as exciting as it was exhausting. Being back in Stars Hollow, Lauren Graham’s pitch-perfect delivery, Kelly Bishop playing Emily only the way she can, Melissa McCarthy’s Sookie returning for the briefest (but sweetest, literally, because she bakes a zillion cakes for Lorelai and Luke’s wedding) of cameos: it all felt right. The coffee was hot, the town was pretty, the references were on point, the music was terrific, and Kirk owned a piglet named Petal. What’s not to like?

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life - ★★★★★★★✰✰✰

Best episode: Winter

Best cameo: Melissa McCarthy as Sookie

Best pop culture reference: Inspired by Wild (the book, not the movie), Lorelai decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. Inspired by real life, she realises she doesn’t have to. Totally in keeping with Lorelai’s character!

Best quote: Jennifer Lawrence is never going to stay here, and what's the point of living if we're never going to bag Jennifer Lawrence? — Michel to Lorelai, when he’s upset about the Dragonfly’s failure to attract A-list actors.

Best thing that finally happened: Michel is confirmed gay! After seven seasons of “is he gay or just French?”, it comes out rather matter-of-factly while he’s ranting about his husband Frederick.

Best description of a character on the show: “He's a superhero, but his power is no matter how much time you spend with him, you can't remember him. Kinda like every Marvel movie ever!” — Lorelai describing Rory’s forgettable boyfriend Paul, in the process also coming up with the burn of the year.

Interesting trivia about Lorelai: She organises her magazines by Kardashian.

Interesting trivia about Rory: She brings Princess Charlotte iced-tea spoons as a present for Lorelai.

Interesting trivia about Stars Hollow: They have a secret bar; everyone in the town knows about this except for Taylor.

Updated Date: Dec 03, 2016 09:04:01 IST