‘Where you lead, I will follow anywhere that you tell me to. If you need, you need me to be with you, I will follow where you lead…’ -Carole King and Louise Goffin, ‘Where You Lead’
*This post contains major spoilers about Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. Read at your own risk.*
Gilmore Girls has had a special place in my heart since the first episode aired 16 years ago. I watched it with my own mother and never missed an episode. The episode about Rory’s 16th birthday ‘Rory’s Birthday Parties’ aired on my own 16th birthday, so I grew up with Rory Gilmore (Alexis Bledel). When I heard about A Year in the Life, I was both excited and apprehensive. I wanted to see what came of the characters but thought Gilmore Girls wrapped up nicely. Even though I always wondered what the last four words that were hyped up for over 10 years were supposed to be, I never felt like it needed a revival. I was also worried a revival would ruin the mark Gilmore Girls left on me, remembering other disappointing revivals. (I’m looking at you, Arrested Development!) Unlike the others, Gilmore Girls was especially personal to me, so I tried to keep my expectations low.
My excitement and apprehension were both warranted. I enjoyed it overall, and it brought me back to my teenage years. Seeing so many old characters – and Mr. Kim! – felt like a fun, quirky family reunion. Ignoring the musical in ‘Summer’ and ridiculous Life & Death Brigade scene in ‘Fall,’ both of which lasted way too long, and other serious issues that I’ll get to, there was a lot to love about Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.
While it was difficult to watch without the late Edward Herrmann as Richard Gilmore, it was interesting to see how everyone processed his death. Richard’s death led to some brilliant work, most notably by MVP Kelly Bishop, who will surely (finally) be nominated for her role as Emily Gilmore. Watching Emily mourn the loss of her husband made for surprisingly incredibly entertaining television. It was always fun to see dignified, pretentious Emily cut loose in the original series, and Richard’s death gave her permission to do that. Her Candies T-shirt and jeans were only the beginning of the fun, carefree Emily we saw at the end of A Year in the Life. She even let a maid, who spoke a language no one knew, and her whole family move in with her, ending the running gag of Emily firing all her maids. This storyline also continued another Gilmore tradition: casting the same actors in multiple roles with Rose Abdoo playing both the maid and Gypsy. As sad as it was, Richard’s death gave us a new Emily we never knew we always wanted to see, and it was glorious.
Other highlights include Lorelai’s (Lauren Graham) award-worthy, tearjerking monologue about her thirteen birthday; Paris (Liza Weil) and her classic Paris freakout over Tristan; Alex Kingston’s appearance as the nutty Naomi Shropshire; Luke (Scott Patterson) and Lorelai’s beautiful wedding accompanied by the perfect song (though I’m still not sure why Michel and Lane were there); the Secret Bar; Kirk (Sean Gunn) being Kirk; Luke’s fake wifi passwords; questions about a dog called Sherlock being gay (Sherlock and Johnlock fans should understand why that’s funny); the return of Miss Celine (Alex Borstein); and Jess (Milo Ventimiglia) seeming to be closer to Lorelai.
Despite so many great points, I had major issues with one character from beginning to end: Rory. Her storyline ruined a lot of the revival for me. It’s time to take off the rose-coloured glasses and see Rory for who she is. I’ve always been open about my disdain for Rory, but I had hope it’d change in the revival now that she’s grown up. I’ve always seen Rory as the type who wanted what/who she couldn’t have and acted entitled to it/him. She became more and more unbearable as the series went on, and the same was true in A Year in the Life.
The jokes about Rory and everyone else forgetting her long-term boyfriend Paul (Jack Carpenter) were funny at first. Then we found out she was cheating on him with her engaged ex, Logan (Matt Czuchry). She flew to and from London regularly, even leaving her grandfather’s funeral early, to ‘work’ and see Logan. Rory’s never had a problem with cheating, whether it was kissing Jess when she was with Dean (Jared Padalecki) or sleeping with Dean when he was married. The first time could be chalked up to a mistake by a young girl; at 32, it’s a pattern. The affair is terrible in its own right, but to make it worse, her relationship with Paul was played off as a joke the whole time with her constantly reminding herself, ‘I need to break up with that guy.’ It could have been somewhat redeemable if she’d actually done so, but it never happened until the very end when Paul broke up with her in a text, naively citing scheduling conflicts.
When Rory slept with a married Dean in season four, she caused drama for everyone, and Lorelai called her out on it. It seemed as though she eventually learned her lesson, but her affair with Logan showed the opposite. When Lorelai found out she was having an affair with Logan, the main focus for both of them was that Rory had a one-night stand with a different man in a Wookiee costume while on a writing assignment. The horror! Never mind that it’s unrealistic for all these guys (We’ll get to the other one later) to still be hung up on Rory or for her to be hung up on them 10+ years later; it shows that Rory still selfishly wants what she can’t have and has learned nothing from the drama with Dean.
Logan wasn’t the only thing Rory thought she was entitled to by being Rory Gilmore. She was working as a freelance writer with her heart set on working for Condé Nast, but her meetings kept getting rescheduled. Her general attitude was that she loved journalism and deserved to work there, but the work we saw her do and her lack of professionalism (Again, Wookiee) did not back it up. This article outlines the reasons she’s not actually a good journalist, no matter how much the writers try to make her out to be. Maybe it’s time to accept that Mitchum Huntzberger (Gregg Henry) wasn’t really the villain he was made out to be and was right about Rory not having what it takes to be a good journalist. Rory still hasn’t proven herself to be the Christiane Amanpour she aspired to be but couldn’t believe it herself. A Web site called Sandee Says was initially interested in her work, but she turned her nose up at them, believing it was beneath her. When Lorelai convinced her to accept an interview with them, Rory didn’t prepare and blamed them for not just giving her the job she thought was hers. Rory also thought she was too good to get a master’s degree to teach at Chilton. She eventually took a non-paying job as editor at the Stars Hollow Gazette. Are we to assume that Rory’s become a trust fund kid who doesn’t have to work for money and food because she stayed with family and friends?
With her love life and career in turmoil, Rory returned to Stars Hollow but refused to accept/acknowledge that she was ‘back.’ She bragged in ‘Winter’ about bouncing around from place to place, essentially homeless, but acted as though there’s shame in temporarily returning home in your 30s. Star Hollow’s 30-Something Gang are 30-somethings who returned home, like Rory, and wanted her to join their circle. Rory was too good to associate herself with such pathetic losers. She barely even hung out with the seriously underused Lane (Keiko Agena). Instead, Rory pretty much stayed in her own Gilmore Bubble.
The problem with these faults is they don’t come across how they’re written. Rory has always been worshipped by everyone around her – her mom, Luke, Dean, Jess, everyone in Stars Hollow. Even when she’s awful, the writers’ intention was to empathise and feel sorry that Poor Rory she can’t get whatever she wants. Fans are starting to see through it, but the writers don’t seem to understand how difficult it is to root for her, acting as though she deserves everything because she’s Rory Gilmore. In an interview with TIME, creator Amy Sherman-Palladino said before the revival that fans should be asking if Rory had a Pulitzer yet, instead of focusing on her love life. She claimed, ‘Everybody should go back and think about their boyfriend at 16 and then reevaluate whether that should be the focus of the conversation.’ As true as this is, it’s a complete contradiction to A Year in the Life. So much of it revolved around Rory’s love life, and at the end, Jess still pined for her. Rory and Logan weren’t much older when they were together, yet they were still involved years later, even though both were in relationships. So much for not focusing on young relationships.
Rather than redeeming Rory for everything in what was likely the end of Gilmore Girls, there was a lingering vibe that we were intended to feel sorry for Rory because she didn’t have a real job or underwear. Her actions and attitude made it too difficult to pity her. Jess was the only one who always called her out in the original series. I spent the revival hoping he would find out everything she was doing and set her straight. Instead, Jess – who was great up until his last scene – became Luke 2.0, continuing to fawn over her like everyone else. (Run, Jess! You’re too good for her now!) He even inspired her to do something with her life and write a book. Even with her book plans, Rory was never redeemed; no apologies to Paul or anyone else were given. It seemed as though the writers didn’t think she needed redemption.
In the disappointing last four words we’d heard about for over 10 years, Rory revealed she was pregnant, presumably with Logan’s baby. Some have called for a spin-off, but it’d be pointless when the story came full circle to an extent: Rory became Lorelai, Logan became Christopher (David Sutcliffe), and Jess became Luke. Rory regressed since the original series and apparently learned nothing from her own mother. The difference between Rory and Lorelai is that Rory’s not 16, could potentially break up an engagement, and wouldn’t be raising her baby on her own or without financial means.
Any revival has its strengths and weaknesses, and even with that one major complaint, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life was not as disappointing as some revivals. I don’t have much faith for another revival, but everything was wrapped up enough that there’s no need for one. It focused on the most important characters – the three Gilmore girls – and did justice to two of them. It was interesting to see Rory at the age Lorelai was at the start of the show and see what become of everyone in Stars Hollow. For all my disappointment about Rory’s storyline, Gilmore Girls‘ place in my heart remains and probably always will.