Monday, November 28, 2016

'A Year in the Life': 'Gilmore Girls' comes full circle

Posted By on Mon, Nov 28, 2016 at 4:20 PM

click to enlarge gilmore-girls-last-four-words1.png

Even if you missed "Gilmore Girls" when it originally aired from 2000 to 2007, you've had ample opportunity to become a fan since all seven seasons landed on Netflix. And unless you’re living in a world without TV or social media (a lifestyle that Luke would approve of, by the way) there’s an even bigger chance that you’ve heard about the "Gilmore Girls" mini-series that premiered over the weekend.

"Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life" consists of four movie-length episodes that pick up nine years after the original series finale. And while the revival manages to bring the wacky and fictional town of Stars Hollow into the present day, the life paths of our favorite mother-daughter duo, Lorelai and Rory, make me feel like I’ve time-traveled to 1984.

(Warning: spoilers for the mini-series, especially concerning Amy Sherman-Palladino’s celebrated “last four words,” are ahead).

The year 1984, of course, refers to the year Lorelai became a single, teenage parent. And though Rory is in her thirties when Sherman-Palladino’s famous final words occur (“Mom?” “Yeah?” “I’m pregnant…”), Rory’s pregnancy and impending single motherhood feels equally surprising and preordained. How else could a story about a young single mother — who began the series sacrificing everything to give her daughter a better education and, arguably, a better life — come to a final end?

But the mirror imaging between the lives of Lorelai and Rory doesn’t end with their pregnancies. For the majority of the series, Lorelai is romantically involved with two men: Rory’s father Christopher, and Luke, the local diner owner. Lorelai’s history with both men is complicated and compelling, and one of the driving forces throughout the original series. By the revival’s end, Rory is the same age her mother was in the pilot — and her romantic future is strangely paralleled. She’s pregnant with the baby of her ex-boyfriend, Logan — a charming and unpredictable man of means, much like a young Christopher. When Rory asks Christopher if her mother made the right choice by raising Rory alone, Christopher says yes. At the time, we assume this question is simply book research for Rory…but after those four, final words, we know Rory is pondering her options as a parent. And after Christopher’s answer, it seems her choice is clear. Rory will likely become an independent, single mother, maintaining strong feelings for a man she’s avoided marrying.

Sound familiar?

To be clear, I’m not necessarily advocating for any of Rory’s old boyfriends to stick around. But if Logan becomes Rory’s Christopher, then who becomes her Luke? Even a neutral shipper like me can see the clear setup for Jess to become the long-pining, and potential lifelong mate, of an adult Rory. Much like his uncle, Jess is sharp, hardworking, secretly sensitive — the qualities that make Luke so beloved, and ultimately, the best match for Lorelai. If Jess’s long and lingering glance to his ex is any indication…his feelings for Rory are far from over.

Because the revival ends so abruptly, we don’t know how Lorelai responds to her daughter’s pregnancy (I imagine fast and frantic questions, alongside a few jokes mentioning their shared membership in The Single Moms Club…but I digress). And while I’m one of many mega-fans who would devour a Rory-centered spin-off, I don’t think the series needs it. Despite the sudden ending, the emotional arc between Lorelai and Rory has finally come full circle.

It’s noteworthy here to mention the many callbacks from the pilot present in the revival. Like when Rory arrives at her grandparents’ house to begin writing her book, and wanders through the dining room and kitchen wistfully. “People die, we pay,” we hear in a voiceover of Richard Gilmore, in his gentle baritone from the series’ first episode. “People crash cars, we pay. People lose feet, we pay.” We’re also given an early exchange between Lorelai and Rory (“You’re happy.” “Yeah.” “Did you do something slutty?” “I’m not that happy…”) from the kitchen of the Independence Inn, where Rory first learned she was accepted into Chilton. In the second episode of the revival, Luke is—uncharacteristically—wearing a dress shirt. “Fancy shirt,” Lorelai says. “Did you go to the bank?” Later, she smirks and says, “They like collars” — referencing when a much-younger Luke (in another dress shirt) mumbles in the first episode, “I had a meeting earlier at the bank…they like collars.”

Easter eggs, inside jokes, heaps of nostalgia — these are the things you expect from a revival, especially one almost a decade in the making. But these throwbacks seem particularly intentional given the circular nature of the story. We begin "Gilmore Girls" with Lorelai thirty-two and a single mother; we end "A Year in the Life" with Rory thirty-two and a (future) single mother. The callbacks to the pilot are not only sentimental — they’re emphasizing how the lives of Lorelai and Rory are entwined in more ways than one.

Many things did change from "Gilmore Girls" to "A Year in the Life." While Stars Hollow remains whimsical and weird, the town has progressed — fighting for inclusion in a gay pride parade, hosting a secret bar in their generally dry town. In fact, there’s more casual drinking, cursing, and sex amongst our characters…as if the writers are trying to accentuate Rory’s newfound worldliness. Speaking of, Rory’s transformation is the revival’s most realistic, but often frustrating, portrait. We expect Rory to encounter hardship, of course — not flirt with moral ambiguity at such a later age. Like any revival, "A Year in the Life" occasionally has difficulty recapturing its original magic.

But as much as the new mini-series sometimes knocks us off our feet, fans can now contemplate the end with a sense of satisfaction. We finally know Sherman-Palladino’s famous final words, which was a long time coming; but more importantly, I believe, we can appreciate how the ending fulfills suspicions we’ve held for nearly two decades: that Lorelai and Rory share much more than just their name.

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