It’s been almost a full decade since Gilmore Girls wrapped up its seventh and final season in May of 2007. For many fans, it was both bittersweet and unsatisfying. The fledgling quality of the series began somewhere around season six, when the creative control seemed to slip from Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino’s hands with the show’s transition from being on the WB to the then newly merged with UPN conglomerate, CW.
And though it’s arguable the integrity of Gilmore Girls started slipping somewhere around the end of season four, when Rory (Alexis Bledel) had an affair with her first–and most annoying–boyfriend, Dean (Jared Padalecki), it never fully lost that rare TV show characteristic: intelligence and sincerity. Still, it seemed as though the Palladinos had been hankering to compensate for the latter years of the series ever since it concluded. But perhaps it wasn’t meant to be until Netflix’s binge-watching platform of original programming became fully realized. Because, in truth, there is no other way Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life could have come to fruition, given more freedom than it has ever known before (whether thematically or language-wise–Emily [Kelly Bishop] screaming “bullshit,” for fuck’s sake).
For those worried that the same “magic” might not be there between Rory and Lorelai (Lauren Graham)–or worse, that the two might have changed–fear not, everything is very much the same. In point of fact, much of the four episode arc focuses on the struggle both of them have with remaining the same when it seems as though everything and everyone else around them is evolving. Beginning with “Winter,” the Gilmore girls are at their most hopeful, in spite of the recent death of Richard (Edward Herrmann, who died in real life in late 2014) four months ago as a result of yet another heart attack. Lorelai is now in a stable domestic partnership with Luke (Scott Patterson), while Rory is living “here and there” in the wake of giving up her Brooklyn apartment in search of some sort of free-wheeling writing adventure. Emily, on the other hand, is in a much more overt state of pain after losing the half that completed her for the better part of fifty years. An extremely unflattering pair of stories about Richard told by Lorelai at the wake further causes a strain in her relationship with Emily, who feels isolated and alone without even her own daughter to turn to.
Still, it wouldn’t be GG without plenty of levity thrown in for good measure, like Rory’s forgettable boyfriend, Paul (Jack Carpenter), who is white noise compared to her three former flames–all of whom make appearances, by the way. Best of all, “Winter” features one of Paris Geller’s (Liza Weil) most “Paris” moments, when she has a meltdown in the Chilton bathroom after she thinks she sees Tristan (Chad Michael Murray) at an alumni event. Now a fertility doctor, much to Luke and Lorelai’s horror when they go to consult her, Paris’ confidence can still be shaken by the notion that she’s just the same invisible girl she was in high school. Sadly, Rory’s other best friend, Lane (Keiko Agena), has a far less memorable “transformation,” her life pretty much exactly the same as when we last saw her, and a shockingly paltry appearance by her notoriously dictator-like mother, Mrs. Kim (Emily Kuroda).
“Spring” commences with Lorelai and Emily in therapy together with a helpless wisp who watches their weighty silences and heated arguments with something bordering on terror and tiredness. Ultimately, Emily backs out of the sessions, leaving Lorelai to attend them on her own, though she doesn’t tell Luke about this little detail, re-establishing a long-running trend in their relationship: secretiveness. In turn, Luke doesn’t bother to tell Lorelai that her mother took him on a nerve-racking tour of potential locations for him to franchise his diner, all at the behest of Richard, who stipulated Luke should get a certain amount of money from his Will provided it was used solely to expand the business, which most definitely proves that Gilmores can haunt from beyond. Rory’s recent piece in The New Yorker–getting less recent by the day, automatically spelling death for the freelancer hunting for the next major byline–was a well-received interview with British feminist/loose cannon Naomi Shropshire (Alex Kingston), and now she’s trying to coast on the success by co-writing a memoir with her. Only problem is, Naomi’s constant drunkenness and incoherence has Rory running in circles amounting to very little in the way of writing material. When the collaboration falls through, she even resorts to running around New York interviewing people in lines for a speculative GQ article.
And yet, her fondness for London remains as this is where Logan (Matt Czuchry) now permanently resides. Though Logan’s gotten slightly less douchey since we were first introduced to him, Gilmore Girls purists will undoubtedly lament that the Palladinos didn’t opt to instead make her and Jess (Milo Ventimiglia) an item again–though there is one brief glimmer of hope to suggest it could be possible toward the end of the final episode, “Fall.”
Arguably the most forgettable of the 90-minute narratives, “Spring” does offer up Rory at her most vulnerable and willing to admit failure, chastising herself for having her first one-night stand at 32 years old and sinking to a new low when she can’t even get a job at some fourth-rate website called SandeeSays, prompting her to storm through Lorelai’s house with several pieces of luggage at the end and declare, “Movin’ home.”
“Summer” establishes a lot of the causes for the effects of “Fall,” with Rory and Lorelai hanging out at the local public pool we never knew existed primarily to mock others wearing bathing suits. Though Rory herself feels a bit mocked, too, as all the townspeople greet her with a salutation that cuts her to the quick, “Welcome back,” setting us up to meet the Thirtysomething Gang, a group of thirtysomethings who got chewed up and spit out by the real world and now have to live with their parents as well. Rory refuses to be deemed a part of this group, taking up editorship of the Stars Hollow Gazette in the wake of Bernie Roundbottom’s (jokes galore) retirement. It’s around this time that one fully apprehends just how much more freely the liquor flows into the Gilmores’ mouths, an integral part of the coping process post-Richard’s death and post-falling back on youth (Rory quips, “I don’t need Lipitor, I need to be twenty years old again”).
Lorelai’s “beach read,” Wild, is somewhat less predictable than Eat Pray Love, but becomes slightly vexatious when it ultimately plays into her decision to pack her bags for the Pacific Crest Trail to seek some sort of answer that she can’t find in her life right now. Before this revelation, however, there is Stars Hollow: The Musical, a showcase of third-rate Broadway imitations written and directed by town narc Taylor Doose (Michael Winters) that Lorelai offers to critique in its early stages with other members of the community. While everyone else is riveted, Lorelai is appalled by the hackneyed lyrics, storyline and presentation. And, indeed, what makes “Summer” one of the most interesting episodes is just how much the Palladinos choose to focus on this musical, both as a catalyst for what propels Lorelai to take off for the west and as a statement on how the masses only love pure shit and balk at anything with actual quality. It is, you could say, Gilmore Girls at its most The Sopranos. Save for the equal surrealism of the reemergence of the Life and Death Brigade, resuscitated by Logan and his friends in an effort to end things with Rory on a positive note before he marries a French heiress named Odette.
With “Fall,” Emily has come out of the darkness and partially into the light, telling off a trophy wife in one of the most memorable monologues of the series and selling her and Richard’s home for a place in Nantucket. One of the strangest plotlines of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life hones in on her maid, Berta (rumored to be played be Rose Abdoo, who also acts as irritable mechanic Gypsy). Somehow having managed to stay employed by Emily throughout the year, she also manages to get her whole family the Gilmore hookup by bringing them into the house to perform other odd jobs for her, a development that might be seen as mildly offensive. Nonetheless, what’s most bizarre about this element is Emily’s constant mention of how she has no idea what Berta puts in the food or what it actually is, paired with her seeming occasional dementia with regard to remembering things. It’s almost as though they were thinking of setting up a murder for money plot point that never quite pans out.
Revisiting the rift aspect of Lorelai and Rory from Season Five, the ramifications of a fight the two have at Richard’s gravesite are felt strongly in this episode, after Rory has informed Lorelai she’s writing a non-fiction book about their lives, at the recommendation of Jess no less. Angry and hurt over the idea of Rory “using” her life, Lorelai refuses to give her “permission” to do it. At Lane’s, Rory grapples with Lorelai’s reaction, complaining, “She knows I’m a writer. She knows everything is fodder.” That being said, Lorelai does come to terms with Rory penning The Gilmore Girls–though she does have a “The Facebook” moment, merely suggesting, “One note. Take off the ‘The’ so it’s just Gilmore Girls. It’s cleaner.”
On the other hand, there’s nothing clean about the final four words that compose the denouement of the show, continuing to dangle loyal fans with the hope of hearing more about these characters we’ve come to feel are a part of our own family after all these years. And, yes, like family, you can always go back to them. No questions asked.