26 November 2016

‘Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life’ and Four Last Words

The welcome return of Gilmore Girls in four new episodes entitled A Year in the Life to Netflix has been for this admirer a tremendous success. Naturally, it helps that Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband, Dan Palladino, took charge, because the new episodes’ sense of the history of the show — the lives these characters have led — was just about impeccable. Actors returned to familiar roles, even minor ones, and only in a few instances did their homecomings strike me as contrived. And the look of the show couldn’t have been closer to the original.

No matter that the original interiors had been discarded, no matter that the exteriors for Stars Hollow had been, right up until the day before production started, the exteriors for Grease Live, production designer Denny Dugally and art director Natasha Gerasimova recaptured every detail. When Emily (Kelly Bishop) points out all the changes she’s made to her living room, it’s an in-joke: nobody, Lorelai (Lauren Graham) included, can tell the difference.

Costume designer Brenda Maben had a little more latitude — fashions change over the course of nine years — yet she got everything right, too. There’s never a scene in which you think, “Oh, she would never wear that.” The exception to that rule is, of course, Emily’s T-shirt and jeans, but that aberration is intended to show how badly she’s responding to the death of her husband. The T-shirt and jeans are all wrong, which means they’re perfect.

The reunion of writers, producers, actors, and designers lends a sense of community to the proceedings, and since the community of Stars Hollow provides much of the appeal of Gilmore Girls, the episodes are even more satisfying to watch. When my worst complaint is that each episode doesn’t start off with Carole King’s “Where You Lead, I Will Follow,” we’re in pretty good shape.

We got terrific performances from actors such as Graham, Bishop, and Liza Weil (the indispensable Paris Geller), and Alexis Bledel was charming as ever — though it’s getting harder to ignore Rory’s flaws. We got plenty of Stars Hollow eccentricity and Hartford snobbery. We even got a pig, which only raises the question why we never had one before.

Above all, we got the sense that, while we had left the Gilmore Universe for nine long years, that universe proceeded. And there’s the suggestion that it will continue to do so, whether or not we’re privileged to return.

There follow some plot spoilers. If you haven’t watched A Year in the Life and you’re a fan of the show, please don’t scroll further or click “Read more.” Seriously. Don’t do that to yourself. Do what I did: go to a friend’s house, order takeout, and watch the show. Enjoy it. This blog will still be here when you’re finished.

As for the rest of you — click away.

First, let the show surprise you.

Let’s start with the biggie: the Four Last Words. For years, Sherman-Palladino, who was bumped off the show before its final broadcast season went into production, teased us, telling us that she knew exactly how she would have ended the series. Speculation built as the revival drew nigh, and now I gather that quite a few people are disappointed (or worse) in the four-word exchange between Rory and Lorelai.

It made sense to me. The original idea of Gilmore Girls was that a single mother and her daughter were best friends, and the show explored the ways in which mothers and daughters can be alike and different. Emily factors in, to display similarities and contrasts with Lorelai, of course, to the point where young Lorelai rebels constantly and eventually flees Hartford to keep from being like Emily. Lane and Mrs. Kim were foils to the other mother-daughter pairs. If the show had ended its original run with Sherman-Palladino in charge, then Rory would have announced that she was about to become a young single mother — like young Lorelai.

Now, since the likely father, Logan (Matt Czuchry), presumably can't call off his engagement to the French heiress, Rory is facing the prospect of becoming a less-young single mother. (On the bright side, that means she doesn't have to listen to Logan call her "Ace" all the time.) Naturally, she'll turn to her trusted friend and advisor — Lorelai — for help. Lorelai even alludes to “the cycle of life” earlier. Well, we’re coming full circle now.

And yeah, it does leave open the possibility of another new series (or single movie?).

To support my analysis, I cite Richard Gilmore’s will, which leaves Luke (Scott Patterson) money on the condition that he expand and franchise his diner. A contrivance? A steal from Middlemarch? No, it’s a callback to the early days of Luke’s first affair with Lorelai, when Richard took him golfing. From the start, Richard didn’t believe that Luke’s Diner was a concern large enough to make Luke worthy of his daughter. After seeing Luke and Lorelai reunite, and last for nine years, naturally Richard is going to want to try one last time to instill some ambition in Luke, and the kind of success that Richard admires. The Palladinos really thought this stuff through.

(By the way, there are several references to Luke and Lorelai’s having been together for nine years. Which means that, yes, just as we suspected and hoped, they did rekindle their relationship at the end of the last episode of Season Seven. History!)

All that said, I could never stand Logan and am hoping the Wookiee is the baby daddy. After all, Lorelai got pregnant accidentally. This is a different kind of mistake — but like mother, like daughter....

I also wouldn't be surprised if Jess (Milo Ventimiglia) stepped in and offered to marry Rory or to help her bring up the baby that isn't his own. Clearly he still carries a torch for her. And after all, Luke effectively adopted Rory — and like uncle, like nephew…. That idea probably appeals to me because I thought always Jess was a terrible boyfriend and a wonderful ex-boyfriend (which he proves again in A Year in the Life).

The suspense in a future episode/series/movie, then, wouldn't be “Who's the daddy?” but “Will Rory really do this on her own — with an entire town to help her — the way Lorelai did?”

To ask that question may be to answer it.

In the space of a few minutes, Lorelai goes from becoming a Sadie to finding out that she’s going to be a zaydie.
Oy, with the milestones already.

Read more!