Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life is something fans have been patiently waiting (and sometimes not so patiently) for, for almost a decade. Fans have long sought after returning to the enigmatic Stars Hollow amid the comfort of Amy Sherman-Palladino’s warm and quirky sharp-witted banter.
For those who were unaware of the scandal, Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband Dan were fired from the show they created due to a disagreement over contracts. The final season of Gilmore Girls was written by a collection of different writers, which is why season seven was lacking that authentic and piquant feel the previous six seasons had. Sherman-Palladino has stated she has known exactly how the show will conclude (even the final four words!) and Netflix finally gave her the opportunity to end the show the way she has always wanted to – much to the enthusiasm and elation of millions of devoted Gilmore fans.
There was an abundance of pressure placed on Netflix and the Palladinos in order to pander to the fans’ expectations for the show in giving the series a truly deserved and satisfying end. The revival focuses on one year in the lives of Lorelai and Rory Gilmore. Each episode is centered on a season of the year and runs for about 90 minutes.
So, did Netflix deliver or did they fall short? Was Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life worth the hype?
(Warning: spoilers follow. I tried really hard to make this a spoiler free review, but found I couldn’t give my full opinion, as well as the experience of watching the show, without spoilers. Come back and read this once you have watched Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life).
The first episode was an immediate throwback to the good old days, featuring a mash-up of all the famous one-liners the show is known for. My personal favourite is Paris, Rory’s old nemesis but current friend, screaming in front of a camera at school, “I didn’t get into Harvard, but I had sex!” Already I had a large smile on my face and the screen was still black! Amy SP wrote the first episode which is instantly apparent as the opening scene features a snow globe-like setting and Lorelai smiling up at the falling snow, a cup of coffee in her hands. She is soon accompanied by Rory and the familiar, loquacious repertoire begins.
It was a little harrowing and startling to hear the girls chat about modern pop culture references, when I was so accustomed to late 90s and early 2000s references. I only binge-watched the seven seasons of Gilmore Girls early this year and so I was familiar with about 70% of the fast pop-culture remarks Lorelai spouted (don’t judge me). The reference to Lena Dunham was a little unexpected and it took me a half the episode to wrap my head around the fact that Gilmore Girls has moved on from The Cranberries and Natalie Wood, but it was so in tune with the original show’s approach. The “Winter” episode was essentially a chance for the show to re-establish and assert the central features of the original Gilmore Girls and to allow for an easy return to this beloved world.
Stars Hollow hasn’t changed all that much but that was part of the fun. The town’s usual eccentrics – Kirk, Babette, Ms Patty, Taylor and so many more – were just as whimsical and entertaining as they once were. Kirk has always been a favourite character of mine and his attempts to pioneer a car pick-up company called Ooooo-ber had me in stitches.
Of course the show wouldn’t be typical Gilmore Girls without a certain amount of drama and tension. Rory is living life like Jack Kerouac, on the road with no permanent address, frequently travelling from London to America for work. While this freelance type of work can be a great way to live with no commitments, it doesn’t seem like something Rory would do and eventually becomes a central source of pressure and worry for her in the remaining episodes. Not to mention, Rory is in a casual relationship with her old flame Logan Huntzberger – who is engaged (!!!). Rory, Rory, Rory. I could not say ‘hypocritical’ fast enough.
Lorelai, on the other hand, is in a committed relationship with Luke but begins to feel the strain of de-facto life when she lets her mother get to her head and worries that Luke wants more. Lorelai decides that surrogacy is the way to go; while a child doesn’t magically cure a relationship of its issues, I’m glad this scene was included because it is something couples genuinely experience. Also this plotline featured a return of Paris Geller, my absolute favourite character. She is just as savage, rude and socially-awkward as she used to be. God love her.
One of the most tragic scenes in the episode is Richard’s funeral. Edward Herrman, the actor who played Richard, passed away in 2014 and the revival did a lovely dedication to him across all four episodes. Richard’s passing serves as a reminder that, no matter how fairytale-like Stars Hollow is and how fanciful the Gilmore world is, unfortunate events still occur.
All in all, the first episode was a wonderful re-introduction into a beloved and sorely missed world. There were a few occasions where the plot dwindled, but I thoroughly enjoyed the return to the warm and wonderful life of the Gilmore girls.
The second episode begins with Emily and Lorelai in therapy, which I admit they have needed to go to for years. Emily and Lorelai have so many issues in their relationship, it is heartening that they are finally attempting to repair them. However, this episode, at least in my opinion, was the slowest and the poorest of the four.
There’s something missing from this episode and it was difficult to put my finger on the main problem. Then I looked up the writer and the puzzle made sense. Daniel Palladino wrote the episode which is why I believe it was missing the witty and delightful methodology that Amy is known for. Dan’s writing is a quite atypical and it fell a little flat for me, although that pains me to say.
Not much seems to occur plot-wise either. Aside from the Spring Festival, which was incredibly funny as Taylor tried to incorporate all 195 countries, as well as the sequel to Kirk’s short-film, the plot diminishes and, after the success of “Winter,” this was a little disappointing.
Emily reveals that Richard left Luke a buck-load of money in order for Luke to franchise his diner, which is the last thing Luke has ever wanted to do. And that’s all that really occurs for Luke and Lorelai in this episode – and it was quite uninteresting as it feels like a rehash of an episode from a few seasons ago, where Richard attempted to franchise Luke’s Diner once before.
While Lorelai’s plot was tedious, Rory’s was much more attention-grabbing, but that might be because it struck a personal cord with me. As a (sort-of) writer myself, I know how difficult it is to break into the industry and Rory’s constant efforts are so real and genuine, it almost broke my heart. Rory is reeling from the success of her New Yorker article and she finds herself unable to move past that one achievement. Her book-deal with a feminist, but slightly off-kilter, writer (played by the phenomenal Alex Kingston), falls through and she interviews at a Buzzfeed-type website, which also doesn’t work. It is a little sad to see Rory fall on such rough times, but at the same time, it is incredibly realistic as journalism is such a difficult field. I’m glad that the show went in this direction for Rory; it’s simply improbable that her career could be prosperous so quickly. However, her brief attempt at writing an article about lines was slow and didn’t really add anything to the plot.
By far the best scene was the Chilton reunion, where alumnis were invited to return to the school and give lectures to the crop of students about to graduate. Paris makes another return and I could not stop laughing every time she was on the screen. My favourite scene from Paris is when she invoked Joseph Stalin and then made half of her class cry. Her breakdown in the school bathroom reminded me that, even if you are in your thirties, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have your life put together just yet.
Headmaster Charleston was a great inclusion in the cast, as he has always had a soft spot for Rory and wanted to see her go on to do great things. I really hope Rory does take Charleston up on his offer to teach at the school. I have always thought that is where Rory would end up one day, teaching a new generation of students just like herself.
Essentially, “Spring” felt like a filler episode where the drama was increased by a tenfold in order to set up for the last two episodes of the revival. It was still enjoyable, but probably my least favourite of the new series.
I found “Summer” to be a strange, yet highly enjoyable episode. This was probably my second favourite episode of the new series as it was packed full of long-time running gags, new jokes and even … a musical!
Of course it comes as no surprise that Taylor, the town’s local busybody, has taken it upon himself to create Stars Hollow: The Musical, a show that recants the long and proud history of Stars Hollow. The songs were both hilarious and genuinely entertaining; my only negative comment is that the scenes went on for perhaps a little too long. I think Dan Palladino, who wrote and directed the episode, should have cut at least five minutes off the musical act. The musical was amusing and engaging, but it didn’t really add anything to the central plot of the revival, other than allowing for Lorelai to be both exasperated and beguiled by the town like old times.
Like in “Spring,” Rory’s storyline was far more interesting than Lorelai’s. When Rory hears that the Stars Hollow Gazette is closing down, she takes it upon herself to protect the newspaper by becoming the new editor. Rory tries to liven up the old newspaper, but has to contend with an entire town attempting to keep things the same. I’m glad that Rory has returned to Stars Hollow, although she would emphatically deny that.
By far the most exciting thing to come out of this episode is the return of Jess Mariano, Luke’s bad-boy nephew and Rory’s one-time boyfriend. Jess is all grown up now and a semi-successful publisher. Out of Rory’s three famous boyfriends, Jess has always been my favourite and I have been rooting for him to be the one who captures Rory’s heart (not Logan with the silly surname). So when Jess suddenly popped up on the screen, I sat up like a dog waiting for a treat and started paying much more attention to the show.
Jess’ return to Stars Hollow was not simple fan service (like Dean’s cameo in “Fall”). He serves a purpose. He returns at a moment where Rory is disinterested with her career and questioning everything about her life. Jess gives her great advice and offers her an idea for her future … A BOOK! And he already knows what she should write about … RORY AND HER MOTHER. (Sorry about the caps, I’m still excited).
When Jess suggested this, I thought, Yes, that’s it, that is what Rory should pursue. I could not believe I hadn’t thought about Rory writing a book on her life with Lorelai sooner. It is the perfect career choice for Rory, a girl who loves books so much she always has about five or six of them in her handbag (like me). Rory’s excitement over the novel only boosted my own. It’s heart-warming to see her finally have some sense of where she should be and what she wants to do. This being Gilmore Girls, however, there can’t always been rainbows and sunshine – more angst must be developed, too.
The only person who has an issue with the book is Lorelai, which is understandable. Lorelai hates her past, as well as anything before giving birth to Rory, and she certainly doesn’t want millions of strangers reading about the worst years of her life, and those awkward first years as a single, teenage mother. Predictably, Rory and Lorelai have a dreadful fight over the memoir which was heart-wrenching, because we almost never see them disagree over anything. However, I do enjoy it when Lorelai argues with Rory; she shows that, deep down, sometimes she is not so different from Emily.
“Summer” was a major step up from “Spring.” The episode was comical, entertaining, enlightening and heartbreaking. Once I finished this episode, I just knew the finale would be worth it.
Amy Sherman-Palladino returns to write the very last episode of the revival and concludes the series with a proverbial bang.
The episode begins with Lorelai on her soul-searching journey, inspired by Cheryl Strayed’s Wild. I don’t know how to feel about Lorelai’s sort-of breakdown/self-discovery venture. On one hand, I think it is a good idea to take some time away from reality to get one’s bearings, but on the other hand, this is something that Lorelai frequently fell back on in the original series whenever the stress of the world got too much for her. I feel like, at some point in your life, you need to grow up and face whatever scares you instead of constantly running away. Lorelai’s refusal to do that can get quite dry. However, Amy SP’s take on this journey was both charming and comical. The many references to the debate on whether the book or the movie was better was, frankly, hilarious and reminded me of many similar debates I have partaken in. (Quick nit-pick: the fact that Lorelai preferred the book over the movie, when Lorelai is the biggest movie aficionado in fictional history. I thought she would have been more on #TeamMovie).
Once Lorelai has her great epiphany, one of the most touching scenes in the entire series follows. Lorelai calls Emily and relates her favourite memory of her father where she skipped out on school after being publicly embarrassed and Richard spent the day with her. After this scene, Lorelai’s plot finally picks up and is simply perfect. Lorelai and Luke have a long overdue talk about their relationship in which Luke is surprisingly verbose and passionate. And then the scene fans have been waiting years for finally occurs: they decide to get married. And this time, god help us, it actually happens.
Let me take a quick detour to Rory before I go too far with the flawlessness of that wedding. Rory may have finally found her calling in her work life, but her personal life is still a mess. Old friends make a brief appearance and get Rory out of her rut. The Life and Death Brigade makes an exultant return and I couldn’t decide if this decision was well justified or just plain silly. I have never liked Logan and I especially detested his super rich Yale friends. I never particularly understood Rory’s friendship with them and why she ever put up with them. In my opinion, they’re just douchebags: annoying, self-centred fakers. I did not enjoy the scenes where Logan’s gang takes Rory out for a joyride and tries to cheer her up. Paired with a cover of “With a Little Help From My Friends,” the scene was cheesy and a little imbecilic. I can understand, from a writer’s perspective, why Amy chose to include the Brigade in the new series: the revival’s central theme is about coming full circle. I just wish, like the musical, not so much time was spent on the scenes so that more effort could go into other important characters.
However, the gang was, in part, responsible for Rory finally being able to get over Logan. Rory and Logan’s relationship in this new series is unhealthy: both of them rely too heavily on one another, especially considering they are each in separate relationships. I am glad that Rory seems to have finally gotten her closure with Logan. But, that won’t last long.
A character that has been sorely missed from the revival makes her triumphant cameo: SOOKIE! I was in tears when she finally came onto the screen and it seemed like a little more life went into Lorelai as well. Lorelai has not been herself since Sookie left the inn and went on to eat dirt (literally). Sookie’s arrival reaffirmed the show’s loving and charming atmosphere and I didn’t realise how lacking that vibe was until Sookie was smiling on screen again. Of course it wouldn’t be the real Sookie without her eccentric personality and obsession with her kitchen, which was just what this episode needed to drive out the sorrowful and cheerless tone.
Another fantastic and comical scene is Emily’s long overdue tirade against the self-important women at the DAR club. Just being able to hear Emily swear at these women would have made the scene in my opinion, but her rant was especially amusing too. I’m so happy that Emily has finally seen that part of her life for the pretence that it was. She has discovered who she is without her husband by her side and that is a great message to send out to young women watching the show. Emily will always miss Richard, but she does not need to remain in a haze of confusion and depression for the rest of her life. She can finally make a life for herself and become independent. Emily received a bittersweet ending and it was perfect.
Christopher makes a brief appearance and I’m glad it wasn’t much longer than a few minutes. He has always been a pretty shoddy and selfish father with his empty promises and buckets of money, but Rory needed closure and that was the right decision. It took four episodes, but the giant puppy dog that is Jared Padalecki finally made his cameo as Dean, Rory’s first boyfriend. Rory asks Dean if she could write about him in her book and finally admitted what a perfect and sweet boyfriend he was. I’m so thankful Amy SP wrote this brief scene as I never like the way Rory and Dean’s relationship concluded, with the destruction of Dean’s first marriage. Dean deserved better and he finally received recognition.
Lorelai and Luke’s elopement was perhaps the sweetest scene of the new series. The elopement was silent with a beautiful song played during the ceremony, which only resulted in a buck-load of tears on my part. The show comes to an end minutes later, with Rory and Lorelai sitting in the town square’s gazebo and Rory drops a massive bombshell: she is pregnant.
Fade to black.
And that’s it. That is how Amy Sherman-Palladino had planned to conclude Gilmore Girls from the very beginning.
Personally, I loved this ending. The revival centered on the familiar and the beloved themes from the original series, so it has truly come full circle as Rory is now the same age Lorelai was when Gilmore Girls premiered in 2000. I know a lot of people were disappointed in this ending, primarily because they want to know what happens next. They want another season, but we don’t need one.
When you think about it, we already know what will happen after the screen turns black. Rory told us during her conversation with Christopher. Rory’s child will be able to grow up without an ever-present father, just like Rory did. As the theme of the show is coming full circle, we know that Rory will raise an intelligent child with the assistance of her mother. Rory is essentially re-doing Lorelai’s own journey, the path Lorelai should have gone through, but a happier version: instead of a distant and domineering mother like Emily, Rory has Lorelai; instead of falling pregnant at such a young age, Rory is in the prime of her life and able to properly provide for her child. And, of course, if Jess’ expression was anything to go by, Rory will, like Lorelai, eventually find her happy ending in the arms of a man who has loved her for years. Logan is Rory’s Christopher and Jess her Luke. When you think about it like that, you realise that Amy Sherman-Palladino’s conclusion was a truly deserved end to a wonderful and charming series.
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life was an extraordinary revival of a classic series. I’m so thankful to Netflix for allowing Amy Sherman-Palladino the opportunity to end her creation the way she has always desired to. There were many things I loved about the new show, while there were also a few creative decisions I disagreed with. Regardless, I am happy I watched this series and now I sorely need a cup of coffee.