Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

gilmore-girlsWinter (Episode 1)

It’s been nearly 10 years since Lorelai and Rory were last on our screens and the anticipation of these final (final, final) episodes, brought back by Netflix, has been enormous. I have read more articles about this TV show comeback than I have about any other show in the last 5 years. Everybody has had an opinion about what our fast talking, coffee guzzling mother and daughter team should have been getting up to in the intervening years; whether Rory’s lost loves would return, if she’s become the jet setting journalist she’d always dreamed of, whether Lorelai and Luke have been busy having dozens of babies and what each of the ensemble cast has become.

The first episode couldn’t possible cover all of the answers but in true Gilmore Girls fashion, it tries to get through a fair few (and at break neck speed).

This series contains 4 feature length episodes named after the seasons (bringing to mind the Carole King song “You’ve got a Friend”, appropriate given that her and her daughter sing the Gilmore Girls theme tune “Where you lead”), in this post I’ll just be going over Winter because a) I want to milk this writing about the Gilmore Girls gig for 4 posts and b) because I’m old skool and unlike the rest of the world who now binge watch box sets, I’m ekeing these final episodes out one at a time.

Spoilers for episode 1 from here on in

So did the first episode live up to the hype and anticipation? Could it?

I think, in the whole, it did.

It started, giddily, in the centre of Stars Hollow (accompanied as ever by the irritating ‘la la las’ that are (and always have been) the wrong side of twee) with a returning Rory meeting Lorelai in the bandstand and the pair breathlessly telling each other all their news.

This sort of exposition is key to the Gilmore Girls, ‘why show when you can tell?’ seems to be the creators, Amy and Daniel Palladino’s mantra (at odds with every screenwriting manual I’ve ever read) and you either love it or run screaming from the room within moments. The ‘talking without pausing about stuff the audience wants to know quickly’ tactic is used throughout and although in this instance it’s for catch up purposes, it’s entirely in keeping with the series of yore. If you can’t keep up, drink more coffee.

The pace of the dialogue & their prolonged absence from the screen is cutely referenced in this first scene by Lauren Graham and Alex Bledel when the former has to take a huge breath at the end of a particularly long sentence.

Rory: “wow, winded”

Lorelai: “Haven’t done that for a while”

Rory: “Felt good”

The pair look SO PLEASED to be back together, unable to keep the grins from their faces, its infectious – those of us who have been waiting for this, were doing the same. I actually felt pretty emotional and seeing the excitement on their faces was delightful enough to forgive the first of many real life references “you’ve been Gooped” (a reference to Gwyneth Paltrow’s nauseating lifestyle website).

For me, the most important part of this episode were the scenes with Emily Gilmore, Lorelai’s proud and prissy mother, played faultlessly by the incomparable Kelly Bishop. With the sad loss of Edward Herrmann in 2014, we knew that the death of Richard Gilmore would feature in some way and I have no complaints about the treatment of this at all. The flashbacks to the funeral were gentle and moving, contrasted beautifully with the slapstick of a drunk Lorelai at the wake, struggling to come up with an affectionate anecdote about her father.

Everyone holding their breath when Luke almost sat in Richard’s chair had me choke back a tear as I remember that exact scene played out at my Grandmother’s house.

Ultimately though, the Gilmore Girls is about the relationships between mothers and daughters, the whole series juxtaposes different scenarios. Whether that be Rory and Lorelai’s ‘best pals’, the dysfunctional, fraught relationship between Lorelai and Emily, the authoratian matriarch and the rebellious teen with Mrs Kim and Lane or Paris’ absentee mother and Mexican nanny surrogate. This series resonates with women in particular, not just because of the numerous brilliant women in it, but because we all recognise something in the mother daughter relationships in the show – both good and bad.

It’s conveniently neat that Rory is now the age Lorelai was when the show started, and I enjoyed the comparisons that this draws, whether explicit in the script or not. Emily voicing her concerns about the jet-setting (see, that one worked out!) Rory, echo her previous concerns about her own daughter and had the audience comparing the two women’s different life paths.

Emily: “Why is everyone ok with this? Rory is a 32 year old college educated woman with no permanent address. This isn’t normal!”

For me, this highlighted how much the world has changed since Gilmore Girls first appeared on our screens: this IS normality for many 30 somethings now. In 2000, the fact Lorelai owned a very nice house for her and her daughter, wasn’t noteworthy, now it would be.

Things I loved about the episode:

  • The poignant start – a black screen and dialogue snippets from the original series, no theme tune and Richard’s voice reminding us immediately of his absence
  • The sheer joy of everyone involved, much needed this year
  • Emily getting rid of everything that didn’t bring her joy so reduced to wearing jeans and a t-shirt, until Lorelai sweetly pointed out that “nothing will bring you joy, you’re grieving”
  • Kelly Bishop looking so damn good (even in her daughter’s old jeans)
  • Paris’ hair, Rory’s hair, dammit everyone’s hair!
  • Michel got married! To a man! I’m sure they tried to pretend he wasn’t gay in the series previously, so delighted he’s come out and handled in such a lovely way
  • Luke… just being Luke
  • Rory’s forgettable boyfriend – lovely nod to how the fandom all want to see the ‘old’ boyfriends back and anyone new just won’t do
  • Logan is Rory’s FWB and its all okay (for now)
  • Was that Louise Goffin (Carole King’s daughter) playing the trabadour’s sister?
  • Kirk’s Oooober business. Wouldn’t be GG without him

Things I could do without/did not bring me joy

  • Paris’ career choice – it just felt, off. She should be running the world, not match making designer babies (still, did I mention her fabulous hair?)
  • The trope that you’d still be with your childhood sweetheart (or only recently split up with, in Paris’ case) 10 years later – am I the only one who hoped Lane would finally be with someone worthy of her awesomeness?
  • ‘Oh did I not tell you about this really important thing that happened 4 months ago’ (queue flashback) – come on now
  • The lack of the theme tune

Apologoes for the length of this post, could hardly write about the Gilmore Girls without saying more than was needed, now can I?

See you next time for Spring (probably in a day or two, I doubt I’ll last the week!)

 

3 Comments

Filed under Gilmore Girls

3 responses to “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

  1. Jack

    I think this review pretty much sums it up for me – the weight of expectation on Amy Sherman-Palladino was almost impossible to live up to, and yet I think she pulled it off. I agree, however, that the plotline that worked the least is what happened to Paris. It felt somewhat unnatural that after eight years Lorelai would suddenly decide that she and Luke needed to have children (this hadn’t come up in a decade, save for a throwaway remark? Really?) and furthermore to take the rather drastic step of using a surrogate. It felt cartoonish and Hollywood in a way that the Gilmore Girls was, in its earlier years, very deft at avoiding. (Also it would have been interesting to see Paris calm down a little! This felt like a continuation of the caricature Paris had turned into by season 7, rather than, say, the character Liza Weil played on Bunheads, a thinly veiled, yet very successful, projection of the kind of adult she might have matured into.

    But I don’t mean to focus on the negatives – that’s just picking up on an interesting point you made. Overall this was a very successful return, and really quite emotional for those of us who followed and loved the rest of the series. The scenes with Emily were, I absolutely agree, the high point – but then that complicated, painful relationship between mother and daughter was always the Gilmore Girls’ emotional core. Roger Ebert once wrote a wonderful review of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita in which he described how differently he interpreted the central character of that film according to the different stages in his life at which he watched it. When I first saw the Gilmore Girls, in 20s, I found Emily to be a calculating, overbearing figure, not without sympathy, but terribly unfair to Lorelai, who was by far the more sympathetic of the two. I wouldn’t say that now, in my 30s, my opinion had flipped, exactly; but I certainly have far more appreciation for her vulnerability, and the emotional nuance of the character. It helps, of course, that Emily Bishop is such a damn fine actor.

    Some small points on which I disagree with you. I understand why you’d cite the lack of opening titles as a criticism – it makes it feel less, well, Gilmore Girls – and at first this was my reaction. But actually I think their absence speaks in part to why this was such a difficult task to pull off, narratively, and why it was so successful. They had to turn what was already well established episodic television narrative into a four film cycle narrative, which is structurally very different – simultaneously requiring a slower pace while cramming in what could easily amount to a full season’s worth of character development for a very well established ensemble cast, into what amounts to eight traditional-length episodes of screen time. AND have a satisfying narrative arc woven through it all. What she couldn’t do was treat them simply as over-length TV episodes, tempting though it might have been just to put on the old shoes and dance the same routines. It had to move on. So I think the lack of titles is actually emblematic for why it succeeds. Although I’m not sure the show as a whole entirely avoided the ‘cameo of the week’ syndrome in reintroducing all the old characters – but hey, something’s gotta give. (And you’re right, that was a fantastic way to handle the opening flashbacks, in audio).

    I also very much agree with your assessment of Rory’s character – I thought they got that spot on, as much about how being a 30-something in 2016 compares with 1999/2000. Also it was fascinating to see how social mores have changed in the intervening years (the exact span of time of the Obama administration!) that not only allowed Michel to FINALLY have a boyfriend, but also for nobody to bat an eyelid about it. See also Rory’s very modern and comfortable seeming sex life.

    I can’t wait to see what they do with the other three. And I’m not sure how long I can hold out either!

  2. Yes to everything in this piece. YES. And I hadn’t even thought of the symbolism of Rory being homeless. And even though I find the theme song annoying, I miss it. But I sang along with Dolly at the end…

  3. Jack

    KELLY Bishop. Not Emily Bishop. See – transference! Sure sign of a damn good performance. 😉

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