I realize literally(!) everyone has already written about the latest Gilmore Girls season released on Netflix. Well, it’s still bothering me, and my wife Claire (who is real) and I have discussed it many times over (a lot of these points are hers). So I decided to write those thoughts down for all the world to see!
I’ve watched the show, but it’s my wife Claire (who is real) was the real fan. That said, I was pulled in by the witty dialogue and endearing, conflicted relationships. The reunion was intriguing on several levels; beyond the character storylines, the fact that nostalgia was being targeted at women rather than male fans was exciting. Hell, I even checked out the surprisingly entertaining promotional materials:
Rory Gilmore doesn't know how to hold everyday objects, a series pic.twitter.com/qYZq0CdhXV
— Jackson McHenry (@McHenryJD) October 18, 2016
So I wasn’t as amped as I would be if it was a Friday Night Lights reunion or a chance to correct the horrible injustice that was the How I Met Your Mother finale, but I was looking forward to a pleasant T-Give weekend with the Gilmores.
Before we get to what worked, in general, most of the scenes were fine, albeit a little indulgent. Some cameos felt more forced than others, but it’s a reunion show, what were you expecting?
That said, some scenes were painfully bad. Many have already complained about the Stars Hollow Musical scene, but it is worth the rant. This scene went on for a whopping 9 minutes. If it’s an intricate staging of the history of the town starring beloved but nutty residents, you might have an argument. But this was just strangers singing with cutaways to an annoyed Lorelai scribbling frantically in her notebooks. Oh and just to repeat, this went on for NINE MINUTES. Let’s put that in perspective. Remember Lorelai singing to Luke at karaoke?
Yeah, that’s her serenading the man she is destined to be with, telling him that she never stopped loving him and she never will. It’s arguably the apex of Lorelai’s storyline for the entire series – the looks, the banter, the fights, the misunderstandings, everything was building to this.
And it lasted under three minutes.
Oh, and one more thing: How goddamn old were the writers on this show? At times the storylines reeked of email forwards about entitled millennials. Oh no, there’s a trendy news site that really wants to hire Rory, but they don’t have offices!!! AND they have the audacity to…ask her to pitch story ideas. Same for the whole three phones issue (kids today and their electronic devices!!), and Luke’s wi-fi password was a joke that landed with all the topical humor of Curb’s brilliant Bernie Madoff and iPhone apps, only here they appear to be taking themselves seriously. Isn’t it way more effort to pretend to have wi-fi? What’s the endgame?
So there were plenty of missteps, but these two storylines flat-out worked.
First and foremost, the Emily Gilmore plot was perfect. Perfect. I assumed this would be the weakest part following the passing of the great Edward Herrmann, but I was way off. Emily’s transformation into the woman she (perhaps) was always meant to be was delightful, poignant, and essential. Her “bullshit” monologue at her DAR meeting was flawless and was directed as much to herself as the other committee members. Throughout the series, Emily was often her own worst enemy, torpedoing every kind gesture with clueless or petty indifference. Here, we see her true self revealed, a brazen, bold, fiercely independent woman determined to find happiness on her own terms…remind you of anyone?
Most of the reunion felt unnecessary, particularly following the excellent original series finale. But Emily’s evolution actually developed her character and strengthened the entire series; suddenly, it all made sense.
There’s this great exercise where you identify someone who you cannot stand and write down everything about them that bothers you. In doing so, the goal is that you realize the list is really a list of things you hate about yourself. This is what we see with Emily. The reason she would lash out, the reason she kept pushing Lorelai toward a certain type of man, the reason she seemed so bothered by Lorelai’s very existence: Emily saw herself in Lorelai, and she saw Lorelai living the life she could have had. She wasn’t mad at Lorelai, she was mad at herself. Because of this reunion show, Emily ended up with not one, but two happy endings. Good for her!
The second successful storyline was Logan’s. I’m not part of Team Logan – he was never strong enough for Rory. I am not on Team Jess – anyone who does hope for those two to reconcile is ignoring how short-lived and tumultuous their relationship actually was. As for Dean…well, I was hoping that the first shot of the series would take place at Dean’s funeral…so no, not Dean. Ultimately, I was hoping Rory would find someone new and amazing and refreshingly, wonderfully different.
But it makes sense Logan would get so much screen time. For as much of an impact as Jess has had in Rory’s life, it was Logan who dominated much of the original series (three seasons – 59 episodes!). And yet, the last we saw of Logan was him walking away from Rory after graduation, seemingly forever. Logan had plenty of flaws – mostly involving his family relationships – but he was also kind and supportive throughout most of his time with Rory, despite his occasional entitled outburst. Anyone who loves Jess likely loves the idea of him, the potential that Jess had, and anyone who loves Dean is a psychopath. And again, Logan is not the one for her. This was underscored by the fact that he was cheating on his fiancé with Rory until like a week before she moved in – completely consistent with Logan’s character.
That said, Logan felt like he never got the goodbye that they both deserved, the goodbye that all college loves deserve. They had shared so much at such a transformative time in both of their lives, I was glad to see them get a true, meaningful farewell. The scene with the brigade went on almost as long as the interminable musical numbers, but the last kiss in Finn’s new bed & breakfast felt genuine and earned.
But few people are discussing those stories because everyone is fixated with those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad final four words.
This ending was a massive, tone-deaf, clueless disappointment. It’s not quite on the level of the disastrous betrayal that was the How I Met Your Mother finale, but it’s still awful.
One of the most important themes of the series was Lorelai struggling to give Rory the opportunities her mom never had, bolstering and supporting Rory’s dreams without smothering her with rules. The idea was to get Rory out of their idyllic town. First it was Chilton, then it was Yale, then it was following Barack Obama around the country. Every once in a while, we caught a glimpse of Lorelai lamenting the life she could have led – the scene at Harvard where she saw a photo of her valedictorian doppelgänger (Erika Palmer) was an especially poignant reminder of what could have been. Lorelai was determined for Rory to dream big, and Lorelai did everything she could to help make those dreams come true. And after all that, Rory ends up in Stars Hollow.
Since the second episode of the series, Rory wanted to be Christiane Amanpour, to travel the world up close and see what’s really going on (Mitchum Huntzberger be damned). It seemed she was well on her way at the end of season 7. Now, I think you can make an argument that she only thinks she wants to be a journalist, and the idea that Rory Gilmore is not a good journalist is an intriguing one. But in this extra season, Rory either needs to become a world-beater journalist, or she needs to find her true calling (she always had a knack for politics) and pursue that dream. Instead we got a Lifetime original movie ending, and I don’t mean that in a good way.
Here’s the thing: You can make the Pregnant in Stars Hollow storyline work. Here are three free ideas:
- Home Sweet Home: Rory spends the four episodes talking about how much she missed Stars Hollow while she was on the campaign trail, about how she longs for that small-town charm. Now she has seen the world, she realizes that it’s time to come back to Stars Hollow for good.
- You Can Go Home Again: Rory is living the dream, traveling all over the world covering fascinating stories in exotic locations (for budget purposes, Rory will mostly be talking about them, with a few photos of her in front of a palm tree). She either tires of her on-the-go lifestyle or the producers regurgitate that time-tested old standby that small-town life is perfect and cities are evil and Rory falls in love with her hometown all over again (I’m picturing a lot of montages).
- Rory Saves the Day: Rory returns home after her freelance gigs dried up. She goes to work at the Stars Hollow Gazette because the paper is in danger of shutting down. She vows to not only save the Gazette but to improve it. She lands some amazing interviews, her stories get picked up by the AP wire service, and she is nominated for a Pulitzer. Rory becomes an inspiration for countless budding journalists who learn that you can make a difference no matter where you are. **NOTE** This is my favorite option.
And yes, they tried to shoehorn in an Outsiders-esque ending where she was going to write her own story. Generally speaking, I have no problem with ambiguity, but if we’re getting the whole gang back together for a reunion tour, and we spend the majority of Rory’s scenes with her drifting aimlessly through a career and love life that offers no real answers. She’s going to write the Gilmore Girls book…hey, that’s great. Then what? Nothing in this season suggested she had any other ideas or motivations for future projects. So that leaves us with Rory pregnant in Stars Hollow working for the Gazette.
Here’s a reminder for all you writers out there:
YOU CAN HAVE A CHILD AND STILL HAVE AN EXCITING CAREER!
But in order for that to work, you must establish one of two things: that your job/career that you love is going to remain the same and you’re going to find a way to make it fit perfectly with a child, or your job/career is going to change significantly to adjust to a child, but doing so will result in an exciting new adventure.
Neither of these things happen with Rory.
And that leads to the biggest problem with this sham of an ending: Rory does not have…a…choice.
Nothing here suggests Rory is going to end the pregnancy – Gilmore Girls has always purported to be a pretty feminist show (lunch basket auctions notwithstanding), but given her talk with Christopher, the signs point to the fact that she’s made up her mind, she’s keeping her baby.
Lack of choice is unfortunately not new to the Gilmore Girls universe – just look at Lane Kim. Here was a true free spirit, rebelling against her mother’s strict rules in the hopes of becoming a famous musician. All that came to a crashing halt after she had horrible sex one time with her husband on her honeymoon. Several episodes later, the twins were born. But have no fear because as we saw from this season, Lane is now…working in her mother’s antique store? Ugh. And none of this is terribly surprising; bold, amazing over-achieving Paris didn’t get her happy ending either.
So Rory is definitely not trying to get pregnant, she spends most of the final episode insisting she is not back to stay in Stars Hollow, she is soon to be rejected (again) by the baby’s father, and she is stuck at the local paper because there are no other options. As I said, no choice, no agency, only reacting helplessly to life events. Moreover, it seems that she has completely given up and accepted that this is the end of the road. This is embodied her short-lived crusade to not publish a poem at the beginning of each season on the front page of the paper. She fights this for (apparently) three months before her convictions die a mediocre death. Valuable lesson here: If something has always been done a certain way, it’s best not to challenge it.
And the writers failed to give us any semblance of hope beyond the inferred, “Well Lorelai was happy raising Rory in Stars Hollow, so yeah.” For Rory, nothing is going to change, she’s going to trudge to the paper every day, not have anything or anyone challenge here creatively at the paper, and then trudge home, wondering what the hell happened. Somewhere, Christiane Amanpour is weeping.
And here’s the thing that’s most frustrating: This is a TV show. It can end any way you want it to end. My god, Mad Men had a happy ending! Of course in real life there are people whose lives don’t end up being the non-stop adventures they dreamed of having, but this isn’t a documentary. Let Lane go on tour. Put Paris and Doyle back together and have her find something she loves doing, not just something she’s good at. Have Jess marry someone he didn’t date for a month in high school. Murder Dean. Let Rory succeed in her career or love life (or…dare I say…both!). If this wasn’t going to improve on the ending we were given in the seventh season, then what was the point?
I reference HIMYM because that finale was a perfect example of flying a plan into the ground. The creators had
great existing footage of their oh-so-clever ending shot in the first season, and so they ignored nine years of character development, relationships, and emotions because by god that was the way the show was supposed to end from Day 1. The same thing happened with Gilmore Girls: The show creators had an idea of what they wanted the last four words to be and stuck with it. And now, we’re all stuck with another tone-deaf ending to an otherwise creative, unique series.