In Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, we find each Gilmore girl is facing her worst fear.
The matriarch, Emily, has lost her husband, Richard. In a couple episodes in the original series, Richard experiences life-threatening health issues. These are the only times in the whole series when anything truly shakes Emily. She’s calculating and controlling, with a vulnerable streak where her family is concerned, but you get the impression that Emily can manage anything, and it is a trait she passes down to her daughter, Lorelei. But her husband’s health and mortality is the exception. When we first see Emily, the worst has already occurred, and we get to see what happens next.
I did like that they started the series a few months after the funeral. To begin in the thick of family grief would have been a bleak starting point for the reunion. But as it begins, the mourning is still there and strong, but life is beginning to move on for everyone but Emily. I loved seeing Emily’s transition, and my favorite parts were Emily’s KonMari phase and when she decides to be aggressively honest during a DAR interview of a new member candidate.
Like her mother, Lorelei struggles with loss. In some ways, she’s already achieved what she wants. She’s opened a successful inn with her best friend, she’s raised her daughter to be independent, and she has a long term relationship with Luke. She has what she referred to in the original series as “the whole package.”
In spite of her success, she is lonely. Her daughter is so busy, they rarely see each other. Her best friend has left the inn to live in some culinary commune. She’s alienated her mother shortly after her father’s funeral, and things are not quite right with Luke. She’s also turning into her mother. While Lorelei once could not understand her mother’s inability to keep a maid, she now cannot keep a cook at her inn, The Dragonfly. It’s played as a joke, with Lorelei firing the likes of Rachael Ray and other celebrity cooks in each episode. Like Emily’s journey, Lorelei’s had great deal of emotion. It was raw and depressing at points, but ultimately, Lorelei ends up exactly where she needs to be
Rory, career woman, has lost her direction, and her identity has been wrapped up in her career for years. As the reunion begins, she has begun an experiment of organized homelessness. Her constant travel has meant she spends very little time in her Brooklyn apartment, and her sources of income are drying up, so she has spread her belongings among friends and family she often stays with. She has a story published in The New Yorker, but she has no idea where her underwear is. Basically, she is always looking for something: a new job, her lucky outfit, a coveted meeting, her undergarments, etc. Each quest is generally a failure.
Rory’s journey was probably the least interesting of the three women’s. Didn’t we go down this same road in season six, with less homelessness and searching for random pieces of clothing? I also did not like that Rory was cheating on her current boyfriend with her college boyfriend who was engaged to another woman. Aside from being soap opera-y, it just made her unlikable. I find Rory of seasons 1-7 to be very charming, but I wouldn’t want to be friends with grown up Rory. She lost her down-to-earth quality that kept her likable throughout the series, becoming aselfish creature.
A Year in the Life does have the whimsical joy that makes Gilmore Girls what it is. We get to see a second film by Kirk and a Stars Hollow musical from Taylor. Also entertaining are Kirk and his pig, Taylor’s random crusades, Kirk at Friday night dinner, anything involving Paris, Emily and Lorelei in therapy, Luke’s fake wi-fi passwords, and Emily’s hiring of a maid whose language no one could understand. Michel was fabulous in every scene, and I think his role might have been even better in than it was in the original series. There are some misses (the decoy Tristan and Rory’s weird and un-Rory-like tap dancing phase), but on the whole, the new season is charming.
Things I missed: Edward Herrmann as Richard Gilmore was obviously a lack, but nothing could be done for that. Richard’s dry humor was always the best, and he complemented Emily perfectly. I missed the crazy Lorelei/Sookie dialogue, and the inn seemed a bit sad without Sookie in the kitchen. I would have liked more Friday night dinners.
The biggest surprise for me was that I moved from being Team Logan to being Team Jess. I despised Jess in seasons two and three when he was Rory’s love interest and later her boyfriend. I was pleasantly surprised to like him in his guest appearances during Rory’s college years when he had matured from the precocious brat he had once been. In A Year in the Life, Jess definitely seems to be the clear leading man. Logan, who I had previously loved for his ability to bring carefree joy into Rory’s life, seemed like he hasn’t matured since his college days. In adulthood, his rich boy entitlement overpowered his good nature, and he became the kind of charming cad that Hugh Grant would have played in a nineties rom-com. (Well, actually, now that I write it out like that, he and Rory seem to have aged exactly the same. Maybe they are soulmates.) I was glad that Dean’s part was small, as Rory/Dean is one of those things best not revisited.
This is where the spoilers begin. If you haven’t watched it yet (but plan to do so), stop here.
Almost everyone online seems to hate the ending. I loved the ending, except one thing, and my one thing isn’t the thing to which everyone else seems to object.
The Luke and Lorelei night-time wedding is magical, whimsical, and everything worthy of a Gilmore. It is probably worth watching all four episodes just to see this wedding. It was perfect, except one detail: Emily wasn’t there. She should have been there, adjusting flowers or something.
Everyone else is objecting to the final dialogue, which is what Amy Sherman-Palladino intended from the very first episode.
I’ve seen all sorts of outrage about how Lorelei didn’t spend seven seasons sacrificing everything for her daughter’s future, only to have Rory end up a single mom like her. I disagree. The ending, while not hopeful, is brilliant. In a sense, it brought the series full-circle, but Rory’s circumstances are much more positive than Lorelei’s had been.
Rory’s pregnancy is not like Lorelei’s. Lorelei was sixteen, still in high school, and lacked a positive support system. Rory is in her early thirties, possibly even the same age Lorelei was in the pilot episode, and Ivy-League educated. She’s traveled the world, had many career successes, and has great relationships with friends and family. She has benefited from Lorelei’s sacrifices and her child will too. Also, Rory is under no obligation to give birth. From what we see of Rory’s political beliefs throughout the series, it seems likely that she is pro-choice. The ending gives the impression that she will both have and keep her baby, and if she does, it will be because it is her choice to do so.
Motherhood is not the opposite of feminism. Motherhood will not destroy Rory’s career, but it will transition it, and it was already in a state of transition. Rory already had everything she wanted as a teen, career-wise, and she burned out. She spent four episodes behaving like a hamster in its wheel, unable to see any other type of existence than the busy, overworked one she had lived over the last decade. Parenthood might give her an opportunity to evaluate whether the life she wanted at 22 is the life she wants at 32, or if she and her goals have both evolved.
I love that Rory begins writing a memoir at the end of the series, and it seems like a great career change for her, and one that could complement motherhood. In writing about her life with her mother while she becomes a mother herself, she could actually write a better book than she would otherwise.
Throughout the series, Rory has been the nurturer and the peacekeeper. In all likelihood, she would make a good mother. Like Lorelei.
Now, I want a new show when Rory’s kid is sixteen, and Lorelei is the one demanding Friday night dinners.