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Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life Reviewed

[Image via Netflix]

WARNING: A CRAZY AMOUNT OF SPOILERS AHEAD …

After what seems like an actual year of waiting, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life has finally made its caffeinated, fast-talking, pop-culture-referencing debut on Netflix. While the very first scene—Lorelai and Rory doing their back-and-forth thing beneath the town gazebo—felt more like a poorly choreographed and nervously performed opening to an off-off-Broadway play than it did a welcome back to Stars Hollow, we were welcomed back nonetheless, and that’s all that matters.

The prosaic beginning may have given fair-weather fans pause but the true Gilmore-ites among us were in it for the binge-watching long haul. We did NOT wait an entire decade or sit through the decrepitude of season 7—when the original writers, Amy and Daniel Sherman-Palladino left the series—for nothing. Once the cast settled back into their roles for this Netflix revival, it became clear what about the Gilmore Girls’ universe still worked, what kind of worked and what fell flatter than Rachael Ray’s acting or Lorelai’s reasons for not being on Twitter. (Twitter? Really?)

The Good

Lauren Graham and Kelly Bishop carried the show. The end. Years ago I saw Graham in Guys & Dolls on Broadway and oh my gosh, the girl can sing, dance, act and time her comedy better than an egg-timer of comedy might ever hope it could. She’s a true talent and it shows in scenes that require theatrical dexterity and dramatic range. Same goes for Bishop, who plays the matriarch of matriarchs, Emily Gilmore. Although is anyone surprised? Bishop hasn’t stopped being fabulous since nobody put her baby in a corner as she nailed the role of uptight but forgiving mother in Dirty Dancing. Allegedly, Graham and Bishop maintained a close relationship in their Gilmore Girls-less years, which was lucky for the Sherman-Palladino writing duo who penned this remake because both Graham and Bishop had the most emotionally charged storylines; Lorelai struggled with the dark profundity of her father’s death and a shattered Emily tried to recreate some semblance of a new life devoid of her longtime love and partner in dine, Richard Gilmore.

Rory doesn’t have it all together and that seemed right. I mean, the girl goes to Yale, dates only the most beautiful men to grace the planet, walks around looking like a neon-blue-eyed Abercrombie ad and yet, she just cannot make it work. Ever. At 32, Rory’s sleeping with an engaged man from her past (she’s no stranger to extramarital dalliances though because uh, Dean), is a “freelance writer,” which is the literary term for “unemployed,” and doesn’t even have a closet-sized, Lower East Side rental or driver’s license to her name. Kudos to the Sherman-Palladinos for not allowing Rory to find love in her mid-20s, launch a wildly successful investigative magazine called The Trumpled Troubadour and live a life as absurdly perfect as her academic GPA. Also, double kudos for that scene when the Life and Death Brigade kidnaps Rory from The Star’s Hollow Gazette floppy disk of an office only to trollop epicly together in trenchcoats, Beatles-style, across the little Connecticut roads then buy the world’s coolest tango club. Because when you’re crazy rich and drunk, why not purchase a tango club and declare it your own, personal Rosemary Clooney tribute lounge?

The Suki reunion was as great as we all knew it would be. You could almost see Melissa McCarthy’s mega-stardom oozing out from every glorious inch of her as she confidently bantered with onetime bestie, Lorelai. The whole exchange, complete with a delightful, homemade Stars Hollow-themed wedding cake, was Gilmore Girls delish.

Luke delivered the best monologue of the series. “This, right here, is all I would ever need. I never imagined that in my wildest dreams that it would happen, that you and me, that we would happen. But we did,” Luke says as he stands in Lorelai’s pastel-colored kitchen, blowing on a piece of steak he’s making for Paul Anka the dog and speaking to the woman he loves who recently left him to traipse across the Pacific Northwest (but really drink boxed wine with middle-aged divorcees and stale energy bar-enthusiasts). “There is no one who will be more here for you than me,” Luke tells Lorelai in his loving yet stoic Luke way. And then they wed. P.S. Lorelai wearing a tophat at their wedding was a not-so-subtle wink to show creator Amy’s love of chapeaus.

The Bad

Just say no to Ooober. I was never the biggest Kirk fan and his character is once again just as annoying and grating as he was 10 years ago. Also, anyone else think the town hall meetings, Taylor’s incessant nagginess and the dueling troubadour bits played out more like platitudes that had to be included in this remake rather than organic elements of 2016 Stars Hollow life? At least April wasn’t too unnerving in her return. I guess going to MIT, getting a nose ring and faking a weed addiction can really change a girl …

Tristan and the ghost of Chad Michael Murray past. Soooo when did Tristan decide to become a Hallmark holiday movie star/part-time Shutterstock model? Because no other explanation will do for why a generic-looking blonde replaced Chad Michael Murray for a five-second scene when his character, Tristan, appears to be flirting with some unnamed woman as Paris watches in a creepy/not creepy girl crush kind of way. If Francie could come back for a brief bathroom fight with Paris, the real Tristan could at least return for one day on set to lean longingly against the storied walls of Chilton as Paris looses her shiz. And if Chad (can I call him Chad?) had scheduling conflicts when this was being filmed, then cut his scene out. There is no room for a Chad Michael Murray not-look-alike in this world. We have enough evil.

The Wild-inspired hike was really far-fetched. There is no part of me that believes Lorelai Gilmore, the woman who considers picking up and putting down donuts “rigorous exercise,” would fly to the Pacific Northwest and want to hike a treacherous trail alone with not a drop of fresh coffee or Chinese takeout to keep her warm. Sorry. Not buying it.

The Ugly

What’s with the unfinished storylines? We start to see glimpses of the trouble brewing amid Paris Geller’s seemingly polished life (an impending divorce and maid drama) but her character kind of fades away as the seasons turn from Winter to Spring. And what of Rory’s offer by Headmaster Charleston to teach at Chilton? Too much time was devoted to that scene for it to simply become a reference point in later conversations about what she doesn’t want to do with her life. So, Rory can consider fictitious fluff-blog Sandee Says but not a steady job at a prestigious school with a probable 401k and health benefits? That doesn’t sound like pragmatic Rory to me.

Jess. Need I write more? I’m only putting this one into the ugly because while he does dole out the best piece of advice Rory receives—You should write about you and your mom—there was not nearly enough Jess Mariano to satisfy the true Season 3/4 Gilmore Girls fans’ needs. Fine, that achingly tender look at the end of Fall helped but only a little …

Rory. I know, I know. Earlier I waxed poetic about her disheveled state of being. But certain aspects of Rory’s life totally annoyed me. And she pretty much whined throughout all four seasons of this remake. See an excellent Buzzfeed recap of her general whininess here. Then see The Atlantic’s overview of why she’s a terrible journalist and will never win a Pulitzer Prize here.

Well, we finally got the last four words … and are we OK with them? Amy Sherman-Palladino went on record just before A Year in the Life was released to say the new series would not tie unexplained narrative pieces up into a neat bow and that major storylines would instead remain “messy” because such is life. Were they really messy though? Much of the central plots wrapped up quite neatly—Emily teaching at the whaling museum and living a happy life by the sea, Lorelai getting an extension to her inn so Michel can stay, Luke and Lorelai getting married, on and on … I can only think Sherman-Palladino was referencing those now-famous last four words: “Mom,” says Rory as she sits with her mother on that same gazebo they plopped down at to start this grand Netflix affair. “Yeah?” Lorelai asks, to which Rory replies: “I’m pregnant.”

In the name of all things narratively sound, the baby daddy has to be Logan. It can’t be the Wookie Rory hooked up with in NYC. It just can’t. I guess it’s good in a way that Rory is preggers if only for the selfish prospects of a Season 2 on Netflix. Ooh, or maybe this pregnancy means … a spin-off where Rory gives birth to an adorable daughter and names her Lorelai but calls her Laila for short and because the real Lorelai eventually rejects Rory’s manuscript, Rory is forced to run away from Stars Hollow with no money and live in some small town in Rhode Island. And it’s there in this place called Moons Infundibular (I thesaurus.com-ed “Hollow”) that Jess just so happens to run a small imprint for long-haired, emo poets and Logan lives there, too, and still wants to be in the baby’s life so Rory and Laila are forced to have Friday night dinners at HIS parents’ house next to the Kennedy’s Rhode Island mansion and an estate belonging to one vengeful Taylor Swift. Then the whole thing begins again for a brand-new generation of viewers as Carole King croons, “Where you lead, I will follow” and we do because when it comes to Gilmore Girls, we always will.

Melissa Kandel is a Southern California-based writer and the founder/president of little word studio. If you really want, you can follow little word studio on Instagram here.

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