Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, on Netflix
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So... Gilmore Girls ran for seven seasons, from 2000 to 2007. But the final season didn't involve the show's creator, Amy Sherman-Palladino (or her husband, Daniel). Then in 2016, there was a revival on Netflix, which Sherman-Palladino (and Daniel) were very much involved with. I heard about the revival at least a year before it happened, and of course I was excited about it... even if I knew I wouldn't be able to watch it, since I don't get Netflix. (Actually, my sister subscribed to Netflix for a little while, and I probably could have watched it then, but for some reason, I didn't.) About a year after it aired, it was released on DVD, and some months later I got the DVD, and then... some months after that, I started watching it. I should say... the revival consists of four movies, named for the four seasons. (Which is appropriate, considering the use of the seasons in the lyrics of the Carole King song "You've Got a Friend," and the fact that another King song, "Where You Lead," was the theme song of the original Gilmore Girls series.) I also want to say that when I first heard about the revival... I may have thought the four movies would be released throughout the year, in the appropriate seasons. But they were actually all released on the same day. So, um... I wasn't quite sure where I'd put my review. Would it be four separate entries in my TV movies section? Would I call it a miniseries, or a limited series? But I finally decided all that was moot, because... I would call it a web series. (For years, I wasn't sure whether I would consider Netflix shows as web series or TV series. But watching this on DVD forced me to decide, finally, that Netflix shows are web shows. ...Well, I say "I decided." Actually that just means I chose to go along with what society had decided. Or something.) I also also want to say that I decided I would watch each movie (or episode, if you prefer) within the season it was named for. Except, I didn't get around to watching the first one, "Winter," until April 22, 2018. So, technically spring... but in my defense, where I live there was still a lot of snow on the ground.
...Yeah, but dirty snow. Receding snow. I really can't think of it as spring, quite yet, but... the way the movie starts, winter has its magical, Christmasy vibe going on, which is far removed from the "winter" that is currently going on. Sigh. But no matter. The show is magical enough. I still love the characters. I still love the humor and the drama and everything. I will say I'm not quite sure what this episode feels like as a format... Well, it does feel more like a long episode than like a movie. But it's also a bit confusing, in terms of time frame. It begins with Rory coming back to Stars Hollow for a very brief visit. Later, when she's still in town, I was like "Wait, this has been at least a few days, I thought she was only supposed to be here for one day." It finally dawned on me that time had passed between visits, without anything that I recognized as a break in between. It seemed like the same visit. I dunno, maybe that's my fault. But... it makes sense. If this is a year in the life of the characters, of course the "winter" movie would take place over the course of a few months. (But I really do wish that had been made clearer.)
Anyway, Rory has a boyfriend named Paul. Everyone finds him ridiculously forgettable, which I find odd, because he seems like a really nice guy, who genuinely cares about not just Rory, but everyone she cares about. And they don't remember him at all. This is a running gag. (Even Rory keeps meaning to break up with him, but she keeps forgetting to do so. And she's still involved with Logan.) I felt bad for Paul. But... the movie is not about Paul. It's actually kind of hard to say what it is about. It's not really as cohesive as a normal TV episode, considering how much time it covers. So, a lot's going on. And a lot of it seems to have been created merely to give a bit of screen time to a bunch of familiar characters. There is the fact that Richard died four months before the start of the episode. And that led to a rift between Lorelai and Emily (again). There's the fact that Lorelai is having a lot of trouble trying to replace Sookie as head chef at the Dragonfly Inn, since she went on an extended sabbatical. (This will become a running gag, with each episode having a different famous chef. This time it's Roy Choi. Honestly, it makes no sense that any of the celebrity chefs would be working at a small inn, but just go with it.) There's the fact that Emily is having trouble figuring out how to live without Richard in her life. There's the fact that Rory is going to start collaborating on a book with someone named Naomi Shropshire (Alex Kingston). There's the fact that Kirk starts a ride share business called Ooober. There's the fact that Michel is now married (though we don't yet meet his husband). There's the fact that Paris now has a job I never in a million years would have thought she'd have (though she's still totally Paris about it). There's the fact that Taylor wants to convert Stars Hollow from septic systems to a sewer. (Yes. That is an actual plot point, and how dare you question it?) There's the fact that Lorelai and Luke are starting to think about possibly having a kid together.
Oh my... all this, and so many more little things going on. It's just... it's all so amusing and dramatic and fun. Honestly, so many plot points... and yet none of it really feels like a "plot." It's just people we love, living their lives. Maybe it will all come together in the end. I don't know, and I don't care. I look forward to watching all of the other three movies... and yes, resolution would be nice... but mainly I'm just happy to be able to see old friends again.
The episode begins with Lorelai and Emily in therapy together, with a therapist named Claudia. This will be repeated a few times throughout the episode. It never goes well. But it does lead to discovering that Lorelai may not be quite as happy with the status quo of her relationship with Luke as Luke is. Also, we learn that Richard had left money in a trust for Luke to franchise his diner, which Luke doesn't really want to do. Meanwhile, Rory continues to work on trying to figure out the book deal with Naomi, who is pretty much impossible. And that finally falls through. (Naomi gets a lawyer, or whatever, played by Jason Mantzoukas, whom I know from Brooklyn Nine-Nine, to put an end to the working relationship with Rory.) But Rory has been courted by an online magazine, and a print magazine. And... both of those opportunities ultimately fall through, as well. So at the end of the episode, Rory moves into her mother's house. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Um... oh, Rory got an offer to teach at Chilton, which she wasn't interested in at the time. (During an alumnus event where she and Paris were both speakers. And also there was a scene with Francie.) But I have to wonder if she'll reconsider, after her other irons got yanked out of the fire. Also... Lorelai is worried that Michel might quit working at the Dragonfly. And the current chef is Rachael Ray. And OMG, we get to see at least part of Kirk's second ever short film, which is awesome in the way that only a film by Kirk can be. And we get to see Doyle... I guess we learned in the previous episode that Paris was going through a divorce with him, though I'm still not quite clear on whether the divorce has been finalized or not. We also get to see their kids, but they're too young to be of any real importance to the story. (Well, I don't suppose age necessarily matters, but whatever. They're not important.) And Rory is still involved with Paul (whom we don't see) and Logan (whom we do). But Logan is engaged to someone named Odette, whom we don't meet. (I forget whether this fiancee was mentioned in the previous episode or not.) And at one point Lorelai goes to New York to spend time with Rory, and of course she masters the art of obtaining food and coffee immediately. (There's also a cameo by Mae Whitman, which I thought was totally awesome for her brief interaction with Lorelai, because she had played Lauren Graham's daughter on Parenthood, you know. Very meta. Sort of. I guess. Whatever.) And... of course Stars Hollow is still totally Stars Hollow. And I hope I'm not forgetting anything important. Anyway, it was fun.
I thought most of this episode was just fun and funny. It gets into some heavy stuff towards the end, but I enjoyed so much stuff that just felt like classic "Gilmore Girls" to me. (Although the day after I watched it, I read a review on AV Club that sounded very negative about a lot of parts I had liked.) We start with Lorelai and Rory lounging by a pool, in full, you know, Lorelai-and-Rory shtick mode. And throughout the episode, residents of Stars Hollow keep welcoming Rory back, but she keeps saying "I'm not back!" (Because she's understandably frustrated at the downturn her career has taken... though I suppose I must agree with the AV Club reviewer that she could have been less rude about it... and other things.) And at one point there's a scene with April, a character I've always liked (and I'm always annoyed when I read about other fans of the show disliking her). So it was fun to see her again, and weird to think of her being 22 and in college. And really, she seemed less "together" than she was as a teenager. (But hey, the same thing happened to Alexis Castle, right?) The highlight of the episode is Stars Hollow: The Musical. One of the stars of the play (written by Taylor) was played by Sutton Foster, who I was aware of being on another Sherman-Palladino show, which unfortunately I didn't have a chance to see. But she's great, anyway. (And reading AV Club, I learned that the other star of the play was Foster's ex-husband in real life, but I don't think I'd ever heard of him.) Anyway, I was a bit disappointed in Lorelai for completely failing to enjoy the musical. I mean, of course it was bad, but it was hilariously bad, and I've always thought of Lorelai as absolutely the best at enjoying bad entertainment ironically. So I didn't understand why she didn't love the play.
Another important development in this episode is that the editor of the Stars Hollow Gazette retired, so the paper was going to be shut down, but instead Rory becomes its editor (though unfortunately, the job doesn't come with a paycheck). Meanwhile, she seems to be starting to realize that her relationship with Logan can't really last, though she's not quite done with him, yet. (She's also not quite done with Paul, whom we once again don't see, though he is mentioned. And I can't help but wonder if in the final episode she'll realize she doesn't want to break up with him, after all.) And... Jess stops by, and gives Rory the idea of writing a book about her and her mother. Rory soon fully embraces the idea, becoming passionate about it in a way she hasn't been passionate about anything in quite awhile. However, when she tells her mother about it, Lorelai is totally against the idea. Let's see, what else? Luke was filling in as a cook at the Dragonfly Inn, apparently one day a week. (I have no idea who might have been running the kitchen the rest of the week.) And Michel is thinking about having a child with his husband. (I assume this means adopting, but who knows?) He's also planning on taking a job somewhere else, where he can have more to do and make more money doing it. (Oh, and it is very Stars Hollow to find out that the town has a "secret bar," which is where Michel delivers his news to Lorelai... and where Lane and Zack are playing a gig.) Also, I guess I never mentioned that Ray Wise had a minor role in "Winter," as an old friend of Richard's named Jack Smith. Well, he was back in a slightly larger role in "Summer," spending time with Emily... which kind of freaks Lorelai out, as she thinks Jack may be interested in being more than friends with Emily. And... there's a part where Lorelai and Luke have a big argument. It doesn't seem like a relationship-ending kind of thing, but it wasn't pretty. And later, Lorelai decides she needs to go away for awhile, for... something inspired by the book Wild. (I haven't read the book or seen the film that was based on it, but I was aware of it.) And I suppose that will happen in "Fall." Well, I hope I'm not forgetting anything. I mean, of course I've left out any number of details, but I've tried to include all the major plot points, just so you're up to speed. Anyway... as I said, there was a lot of fun stuff in this episode.
I watched this on Thanksgiving, by which time there was plenty of snow on the ground, and it was cold, and definitely seemed like winter. So it kind of brought me full circle to watching the "Winter" episode in spring, when it still seemed like winter.
Anyway, it begins with Lorelai in a motel room the night before she's supposed to begin her hike. She has way too much stuff to fit into her backpack (which is actually quite large), because of course she does. The next day, she meets some other women who are also going on the hike, also inspired by the book "Wild." (There are also people there who were inspired by the movie "Wild," but the book people and the movie people really don't get along.) There is a park ranger played by Jason Ritter (who played one of Lauren Graham's boyfriends on "Parenthood"), who says something about the conditions that day that makes Lorelai and her new friends decide to wait for tomorrow to go hiking. And they all have a good talk, that night. The next day, there's a different park ranger, this one played by Peter Krause (who played Lauren's brother on "Parenthood"). Even though Lorelai had shown her hiking permit to the other guy yesterday, she has to show it to the new guy, but she can't find it. So she ultimately gives up on hiking, but she soon has the sort of epiphany she'd been hoping the hike would bring, anyway. That leads to a very touching phone call to Emily, which resolves a major rift that had developed between them way back in the "Winter" episode.
Meanwhile, back in Stars Hollow, Rory has been noticing mysterious signs of some impending... something. It turns out to be a visit from Logan and a few of his friends, who take her on a very fun night out. (I read later that part of that was based on the movie "Across the Universe," which I haven't seen, but would like to. In any event, it seemed pretty cool, to me.) And... they engage in other rich-folk shenanigans, which some might find annoying (I know the A.V. club reviewer thought so), but I still found it fun. Alas, it ends, as it inevitably had to, with things finally ending between Rory and Logan. There's also a scene where Jess tries to console Luke, who is very worried that Lorelai's trip means she's going to leave him.
Well... Lorelai returns to Stars Hollow, and after listening to Luke freak out, tells him she wants to get married. Later, Lorelai thinks about expanding the Dragonfly to another location. Rory writes the first three chapters of her book, and reconciles with Lorelai. And Emily makes some major changes in her own life. Rory pays a visit to her father to talk about her book, but also to ask questions about his lack of involvement in raising her. (It wasn't until some time after watching the episode that I realized what had really been on her mind during that visit; I'm sure other fans caught on much more quickly.) Later, Rory runs into Dean, and they have a nice little chat. And Sookie returns to the Dragonfly, to prepare for Lorelai and Luke's upcoming wedding. (It was really great to see her again.) Kirk also makes preparations for the wedding.
And... well, those, in a nut shell, are the major bullet points of the episode. I've tried to leave out some details. Of course, as always, there's a lot of humor and drama and all kinds of feels. But also, of course, it's all leading up to what fans have been waiting for for many years, now: the final four words. (I had always sort of thought it was going to be one person speaking them, but it turned out to be an exchange between two people. Which, now that I think about it, makes sense.) Of course I'm not going to spoil what the words were. I'll say I hadn't exactly anticipated them, though I can easily imagine others had. Certainly, it involves a plot twist I had been thinking about earlier in the episode as something that might happen, but I hadn't considered that if it did, it would have anything to do with the words we were all waiting for. In any event... when the words were finally spoken, I thought it made perfect sense, from a storytelling perspective, to end the series that way. (I can't help but wonder how different the circumstances may have been than whatever Sherman-Palladino had originally planned on leading up to those words, but regardless of specific circumstances, it remains a great ending.)
...And yet, I can't help but hope there will be more Gilmore Girls stories yet to come. I love all these characters, and I don't want to believe we'll never get to see them again. Especially since, the way it ends can't help but leave fans wanting to see what happens next. (What works for stories in a technical narrative sense doesn't always make for a perfectly satisfying ending, from a viewer's perspective, y'know?)
Oh yeah, I almost forgot. Paul is once again mentioned but not seen.