'Gilmore Girls' Revival: Life, Love, and Legacy

9:42 AM Amanda Prahl 2 Comments

While the rest of the country was stalking Amazon for lightning deals and braving the crowds at malls, I spent my Black Friday in a place that has brought me joy since I was in middle school: with the Gilmore Girls. After nearly a decade, creator Amy Sherman-Palladino brings us back to Stars Hollow for a highly-anticipated revival miniseries. After marathoning six hours of rapid-fire dialogue, fraught familial relationships, and endless return appearances, I've finally begun to process the new episodes and what they mean for our favorite girls and for a fanbase that came of age alongside them. Spoilers abound ahead, so proceed with caution!


The returns
Ever since the revival was announced, there was a constant stream of cast announcements. If you walked through a scene in the original, it seemed, you were in for the revival. Some returns amounted to glorified cameos; it was lovely to see Melissa McCarthy back as Sookie for a scene with Lorelai, and long-absent Dean shared a lovely moment of closure with Rory that was sweet and awkward and warm. And in one of the funniest storylines of the miniseries, Paris Gellar is back, as ferocious and funny as ever. Every appearance was like a jolt of warmth, a love letter to longtime fans.

When I heard that the Life and Death Brigade were returning, I admit, I rolled my eyes. And their "wild ride" - one part Alice in Wonderland, one part Moulin Rouge, and one part The Wizard of Oz - was a fun sequence, but the question of why these thirtysomethings were still acting like spoiled college kids kept creeping into my mind. When the adventure was over and it was time to say goodbye and grow up, however, these foolish side characters provided one of the most touching moments of the series as they bid a genuinely fond farewell to Rory. Entitled, yes. Careless, yes. Truly do love Rory? Also yes.

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But it was a return that never happened that loomed largest over the new series. Edward Hermann, who played the beloved patriarch Richard Gilmore, passed away in 2014, before the revival began shooting. The loss was felt acutely throughout the entire series. Most affecting, however, was Rory's decision in "Fall" to write her memoir sitting in his study- and when she walks in, for a brief moment, she sees him sitting there, poring over papers. It was a heartwrenching moment that underlined this irreplaceable character and person.


The musical

We interrupt this discussion to remind you that Stars Hollow: The Musical! exists. And that it's weird and glorious and goes on too long and is absolutely insane. Part of the charm of Gilmore Girls has always been its quirkiness, the strange little details that give Stars Hollow life without a drop of cynicism. Although the sequence, at nearly 15 minutes, takes up more time than necessary, it's a hilarious delight, and one that brings a pair of two-time Tony winners into the fold as the leads in this acid-trip endeavor: Sutton Foster (formerly of Sherman-Palladino's late, lamented Bunheads) and Christian Borle. It manages to mock history, theater, and the show itself with a loving, loony style.

The relationships

For as long as the series has existed, one of the most polarizing and debated elements of Gilmore Girls has been the romantic relationships of Lorelai and Rory. As many longtime fans had predicted (and hoped), the last few minutes of the final episode "Fall" featured Luke and Lorelai's wedding, a quasi "elopement" in the town square the night before their official wedding. After dealing with questions of their "separate" lives and potential future children, it was uplifting to see the relationship that started in the first scene of the pilot finally make good.


But, as always, it was the love life of the youngest Gilmore girl that proved the most divisive and complicated. Much of the series saw Rory unable to quit her friends-with-benefits relationship with Logan. While the feelings and chemistry between them were undeniable, it was uncomfortable, to say the least, to see their mutual disrespect for Logan's engagement and his continued poor-little-rich-boy ways. (I would like to note here that, as I wrote the first draft of this article, I forgot that Rory was also cheating on her boyfriend Paul- so forgettable I forgot to even write about him. Oh, the irony). Though his love for Rory was clear, what was equally clear was Logan's prince-charming complex, reliant on grand gestures and big spending. Even so, their bittersweet farewell of realizing their time was finally up provided one of the most poignant moments of the entire miniseries.

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There was one relationship on which the door wasn't closed; indeed, it was left wide, wide open. I'm talking, of course, about Jess, who is much like we last saw him in Season 6: still snarky, still brutally honest, but with a layer of kindness and wisdom that came with growing up. It is Jess, as always, who gives Rory an idea that pulls her out of a rut. And it is Jess who, after promising Luke that he's "over" Rory, proceeds to gaze at her through a window:

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And you know what? I'm actually okay with that ending. Gilmore Girls has always been about family first, romance second, and I'm perfectly pleased with the idea of leaving romance as an open-ended question, implying a possible future. And it's a way of allowing devoted fans their own interpretations of what lies ahead.

The Gilmore Girls

Before we discuss the ending, we have to talk about the core of the series: the three Gilmore Girls themselves. Rory's restlessness and uncertainty has been called out of character, but I would argue it's very much in character and very timely; an ambitious young woman who has won all her struggles up to this point would flounder when life becomes unsteady. Lorelai, meanwhile, runs the emotional gamut, particularly in scenes with her mother.

Emily Gilmore is perhaps the most revelatory thing about A Year in the Life. Set adrift following Richard's death, she evolves into a different Emily than we've ever seen before - and I'm not just talking about her gleeful embracing of Netflix's more relaxed profanity guidelines (although that does provide one of the funniest, most satisfying scenes in all six hours):


It is the relationship between Lorelai and Emily that, as always, provides the most horrifying and most wonderful moments. There is a chillingly cruel confrontation in "Winter" between the two regarding Richard's death and Lorelai's attitude towards her family, and yet it is a lovely, simple phone call in "Fall" that brings things full circle. The "Gilmore girls" of the title have always been three in number, not two, and seeing Emily brought to the forefront was one of the best things about this revival.

The ending
All right, time to talk about that ending. For the past decade, the last four words have been a source of never-ending debate, the great mystery of Gilmore lore. And in the end, they emphasized the theme that this is a generational story (which, a prevailing theory goes, is good news for Jess fans and bad news for Team Logan).

In some ways, it's a bit of a letdown - it wasn't exactly unpredictable, and it was rather on-the-nose. As elegant as it is to have generations mirror each other, it also pushes the differences between the generations to the back burner, which was a long-running theme of the show.

I came of age on the original run of Gilmore Girls and its reruns. It taught me about the value of family, both blood and chosen. It taught me that even the best people make mistakes, and that doesn't make them bad people. It taught me that people grow up and change, and that's okay. It taught me that living life with an undercurrent of love can make all the difference. I've been Lorelai, and I've been Rory, and, yes, I've even had my Paris days. That's why, despite its imperfections, it was a genuine joy to live again in Stars Hollow.

2 comments:

  1. Love this, Amanda. You touched on a number of themes that I did in my post as well. And of course, beautifully written - as always.

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    1. Thanks so much Jen! I loved your post as well :) I would say it would have been fun to watch the revival together, but we might have ended throwing things at the TV sometimes :)

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