Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

gilmore_girls_netflix_poster Gilmore Girls revival! Gilmore Girls revival!!

There was part of me -- a super naive part, I admit -- that thought that Gilmore Girls would give me the comforting warm fuzzy feelings I needed this month. A return to Stars Hollow, all that fast talking and cultural references, that general "hug and a hot chocolate" feeling that watching the show always gives me... perfect.

But of course, Gilmore Girls has never actually been sunshine and rainbows, and the revival was no exception. After I finished watching it, I felt raw. I felt like it ripped through me, emotionally. I cried so hard. Super ugly crying. (Thanks, phone call in Fall). If the goal of a story is to make me emotionally connected to the characters, then the revival was a huge success.

It wasn't perfect. Some episodes felt a little long and lacked a focussed plot, like the entire thing was a sprawling six-hour story rather than four 90 minute episodes. And maybe not every episode needed an off-topic set piece like a Movie By Kirk or a Stars Hollow musical. But as an overall experience, I thought it was excellent.

First, let's talk about Emily. My heart absolutely broke over her story here. But I love the way that Emily's story echoed the stories of the other, younger Gilmore Girls. This is the beginning of her tale of figuring out who she is. Her old self was so tied up with Richard that she doesn't have anything left in that life with him gone. She was very happy being Mrs Richard Gilmore, but she never really had an identity separate from that. Without him, everything is pointless and joyless, and so she must spend her year figuring out who this new self, Emily Gilmore, will be.

And apparently, that person moves to Nantucket with her maid and her maid's extended family and works as a docent terrifying children in a whaling museum. Which is pretty fantastic, if you ask me. And we see the story cycling around to this new phase in everyone's life with the repeat of the conversation from the pilot -- "You need money" -- except this time, Emily is the one saying she'll get the checkbook.

Speaking of stories circling back around, then there's Rory.

First things first: Rory, stop having affairs. It's not that hard!

But beyond that, I definitely over-identified with this story of Rory, of Yale fame, slowly being forced to admit that she's lost. She's scrambling to keep afloat, and feels like she's missed her chance to really be someone. She's just had this really big piece of iconic success -- a piece in the New Yorker that everyone loved! -- but actually, underneath that, everything is falling apart, like her life and her dreams are ending, and now she's back where she started, in Stars Hollow, in her early thirties and no idea where everything went.

Rory eventually realises that things were collapsing, in part, because there wasn't anything authentic left in her pursuit of her "dreams." She's dating a guy who is a punchline for always being forgotten, and hiding the fact that she's still in love with Logan, who, by the way, is engaged. She's trying to write a book that's someone else's story, while grabbing at any story pitch that other people come up with. She tries to fix things by taking a job at a publication she disdains, and her lack of enthusiasm inevitably makes the entire thing collapse. Some of Rory's worst traits are on show here as she scrambles for something to grab hold of, but Rory has always invoked a mix of entitlement and denial when feeling lost, so even if some people found her unbearable unlikeable here, I thought it all fit together.

But then there's the pregnancy thing. The magic four words that Amy Sherman-Palladino wanted to end the series with. I have a lot of feelings that I think are a whole different post about the idea of the original series ending this way, but the "ten years later" element of the revival puts it in a very different context. Even then, I'm not sure how I feel about it. It's another "full circle" ending for the series, as Rory reflects on her life with her mom by writing a book that is, in fact, the series, and the new generation of Gilmore Girls is potentially beginning. But there's a huge sense of sadness to this ending too, of history coming back around. Rory spent the entire revival increasingly lost and directionless, and although she has a plan now, in the form of a book, she's still somewhat untethered. Those four words certainly don't feel like an ending, since even if the story is circling back around, it's just undoing the work of the final episode and making Rory even more lost and uncertain.

And of course, although the internet immediately jumps all over theorising who the father is (like it isn't obvious), it doesn't really matter. Because this is about the Gilmore Girls. After everyone talked obsessively about shipping Rory and who she'd live happily ever after with, the series was far more about Team Rory, what Rory wants in life. Logan was obviously the most prominent of her boyfriends, but otherwise, she has one conversation with Jess (which, in true Jess fashion, has him sweeping in and putting Rory on the right path in about two minutes), and a bittersweet reminiscing chat with Dean. And yes, the 17-year-old in me did gasp when Jess first appeared, because Jess, and I like all the online theories debating whether Logan is like Christopher and Jess is like Luke, but in the end, I think it's better that this relationship stuff doesn't matter. I think everyone can fill in the blanks for the future however they want. In the moment, Rory and Lorelai are what matter.

That said, I need more. I know the series should be done. Rory is writing a book of their story, and Amy Sherman-Palladino has used the ending words she always imagined. But we need more. Please. They even labelled it as "season one" on Netflix. That has to count for something! Lorelai and Emily's stories feel like they've had an ending. Not like their lives and conflicts are entirely resolved, but like we've seen this chapter of their lives through and are bidding goodbye to them as they step onto the next one. But although Rory's story potentially has a similar structure, so much about it feels unfinished. The ending felt like a cliffhanger. So many things are up in the air, and the pregnancy feels like another complication, another way her life is unexpected and off-track, rather than a step into a new beginning.