"Gilmore Girls" revival proves you can't really return home again
This review contains spoilers for Gilmore Girls and Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.
The much-anticipated revival Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life premiered on Netflix on Nov. 25, nearly ten years after the series’ finale in 2007. After creator Amy Sherman-Palladino left the original show prior to its seventh and final season, many passionate fans felt disappointed and let down by the series finale’s lack of closure. Expectations were high and fans were ready to return to Stars Hollow in this four-episode arc. Unfortunately, despite classic Gilmore Girls references, mother-daughter moments and plenty of nostalgia, the revival feels even more flawed than the series’ original ending.
The revival spans each of the four seasons, with episodes appropriately titled “Winter,” “Spring,” “Summer” and “Fall.” When we last left Stars Hollow in 2007, Rory Gilmore (Alexis Bledel) was a 22-year-old Yale graduate who had just turned down a proposal from then-boyfriend Logan Huntzberger (Matt Czuchry) and was preparing to head off to cover Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham) and Luke Danes (Scott Patterson) finally seemed to be on the verge of a happy ending after a tumultuous relationship spanning seven seasons. Overall, the future looked bright.
Fast-forward ten years and Rory is struggling to make a living as a freelance journalist (which she is horrible at) while cheating on her forgettable boyfriend Paul (Jack Carpenter) with an engaged Logan. Back in Stars Hollow, Lorelai and Luke are feeling pressured to get married and have kids. The death of actor Edward Herrmann in 2014, who played Richard Gilmore, has a central role in the plot, as Emily Gilmore (Kelly Bishop) and her family grieve their beloved husband, father and grandfather.
The fact that Rory turns out to be so bad at journalism, after being poised for greatness throughout the series, is honestly not surprising. She is a character with extreme privilege who anticipates success in every endeavor. Her poor instincts and self-pity in the revival reflect this. She goes into a job interview completely unprepared, just because she believes she deserves to work at the publication that she considers to be beneath her (even though her sole achievement seems to be one feature in the New Yorker). She sleeps with a source, falls asleep while interviewing another and still thinks she’s an exceptional journalist. Aside from her career failings, Rory is just plain unlikable in A Year in the Life. She’s condescending, treats her boyfriend terribly and generally has yet to progress into adulthood.
Despite Rory’s regression, plenty of characters developed and shined in the revival. Emily’s grief and strength in dealing with her husband’s death was portrayed remarkably, and revealed so many complexities to her character. The infamous Jess Mariano (Milo Ventimiglia) grew up the most out of all of Rory’s ex-boyfriends and acted as the show’s voice of reason, providing clarity and helping Rory on her path to figuring out her career. Paris Geller (Liza Weil) is just as ambitious as we left her, now running a successful surrogacy clinic and generally being the indomitable woman we know and love. Certain fan-favorites didn’t receive nearly enough screen time, including Rory’s best friend Lane Kim (Keiko Agena) and Sookie St. James (Melissa McCarthy), which is a major letdown after such a long wait.
Many moments of the revival were genuinely enjoyable and quintessentially Stars Hollow, with plenty of references to the original series. From the town meetings to the spot-on picturesque set design, these moments felt authentic. Storylines like the secret bar and Luke giving customers the wrong WiFi password at the diner help to transition the show into a modern context without feeling forced. Lorelai and Luke’s wedding was cheesy but heartwarming, and felt like a well-deserved ending for the couple.
However, many of the storylines and attempts at ‘funny’ moments in the revival were problematic and cringe-worthy, ranging from the body-shaming in “Summer” (done by two thin women whose eating habits are considered ‘quirky’ throughout the series) to an uncomfortably long dialogue about the lack of an LGBTQ+ community in Stars Hollow. Rose Abdoo was cast in a double-role as both Gypsy and Emily’s housekeeper Berta, a woman of unknown ethnic origin whose large family moves into the Gilmore estate following Richard’s passing. The ongoing joke is that Emily can’t understand what language she is speaking and can’t remember the names of everyone in her growing family, which comes across as racist in a show that is already so overwhelmingly white-centric.
Aside from the show’s offensive humor and continued lack of diversity, some moments just didn’t make any sense. Drawn out musical scenes and almost an entire episode of Lorelai going to find herself on the Pacific Crest Trail in the spirit of Cheryl Strayed took up way too much time and brought fans further away from their beloved Stars Hollow. Why was Lorelai seemingly okay with Rory and Logan’s affair, after the damage that spawned from her previous relationship with a married man? Paris definitely would not have been hung up on her high school crush Tristan 15 years later, and Lorelai’s eulogy for her father felt painfully out of character, used as a device to spark a feud between her and Emily. In terms of plot holes, Emily mentions in therapy that she received an insulting letter from Lorelai, which Lorelai claims she never wrote or sent. This letter seems important, and could have impacted their relationship quite significantly, but it is never brought up again. Similarly, Lorelai and Luke’s venture into surrogacy seems meaningful, but is quickly abandoned.
The final four words were by far the most jarring moment of A Year in the Life, with Rory revealing to Lorelai that she is pregnant (presumably with Logan’s child). The words that Sherman-Palladino planned for the series’ original finale finally came to light and brought the story full circle. Rory, although she is 16 years older than Lorelai was when she gave birth, is following in the footsteps of her mother. Just like Lorelai, Rory is pregnant with a child by an entitled, manipulative father. It’s frustrating to watch the girl who seemed destined to get out of her hometown end up right back where she started and even more discouraging to realize that this would’ve been her fate 10 years ago if Sherman-Palladino had still been in the picture.
It’s possible that there will be a revival of the revival, continuing the story after Rory’s pregnancy is revealed. If the show continues on this path where Rory’s fate is predestined to be tied to her mother’s, she will have a child with an absent father and Jess, a parallel to Luke’s character, will step in and fill his shoes. Following this predictable story, it's safe to assume that Rory and her child will turn out just fine, so maybe it’s best to end on the cliffhanger and leave the world of Stars Hollow untouched from now on.
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life is available on Netflix, as is the original Gilmore Girls.
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