Anywhere that you tell me to. Through Rory dropping out of Yale and the big fight with Lorelai. Through the season four finale. Through the Luke and Lorelai will-they-won’t-they mess. Through any episode with April. Through the last ten, Gilmore-less, years. And now, all the way to Netflix. This Thanksgiving between turkey and debates over deflategate (yep, mine is still having those) I found time to watch — and rewatch — the “Gilmore Girls” revival.
I was excited, and a little terrified, to watch the show when it dropped on Netflix last Friday. I’m a fan. But I’m one of those second wave fans that found “Gilmore Girls” after the show stopped airing on TV. Even before the days of Netflix, I had the box-set of “Gilmore Girls” DVDs and watched and rewatched them a hundred times. I was scared that the revival would fall into “Fuller House” territory, that it would feel false and gimmicky. But it wasn’t. It was flawed, but it was pretty wonderful.
Part of that comes from the fact that creators Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband Dan knew exactly the audience they were writing for. They were writing for their fan base. They were writing for people who were going to watch the revival no matter what.
The queen of the revival was Emily, which is surprising given the show’s primary focus on the relationship between Rory and Lorelai. But here, it’s Emily who undergoes the most interesting character change. Lorelai is pretty much the same (Lauren Graham has not aged a day; it’s remarkable), Rory is a mess, but I’ll get into that later. When the revival begins, Emily is floundering after the death of her husband, Richard. She sells all her belongings, tries going to therapy, fights with her daughter and ultimately decides to move to Nantucket and start fresh. She takes on an unexpected role as the voice of reason across the four episodes and demonstrates the most strength and resilience.
The oddest part of the revival is how little it lets its women grow. The original series was full of strong young women with ambition and passion — women, like Rory or Paris and to a lesser extent Laine, who were smart and set on cutting their way to the top of a world that valued their male classmates above them. But now, in the revival, all three women — especially Rory and Paris — seem less mature and more aimless than ever. Rory is adrift, riding on a trust fund and a couple New Yorker bylines. She gives off the illusion of drive with her “business” trips to London, but even those seem more focused on seeing Logan than advancing her career. Paris has set up a multimillion-dollar company but melts at the sight of her high school crush, Tristan (who isn’t even played by Chad Michael Murray anymore!). It’s disappointing, although not wholly surprising, that the show prioritized an avenue to a neat Stars Hollow reunion over the success and passion of its female leads.
I’ve been waiting so impatiently for those last four words. I thought that maybe they were going to be the key to redemption and progress for our stunted heroine. Besides “the zombies are here,” there wasn’t much that I’d ruled out, so I can’t say I was totally surprised by the four that were chosen. I did have to rewind the last minute a few times to make sure I heard it right.
Rory’s pregnant — that makes sense, it keeps with the trend of coming full-circle that’s especially apparent in the “Fall” installment. Lorelai has to make a bargain with Emily in exchange for a loan, Rory is writing a story — probably the story we just spent seven years and six hours watching. Everything seems to be ending where it began. Rory, now 32, is now the same age Lorelai was when the series began. It’s spooky how well all the timing worked out.
It seems pretty clear to me now that the Rory/Lorelai parallels go further than that. Logan seems to be the most obvious contender for the baby’s father. He takes on the role of Christopher — wealthy, absent but well intentioned — while the path has been cleared for Jess to step into the role of Luke. The look he gives Rory through the window late in the final episode confirms what viewers have been suspecting and hoping for — he’s still in love with Rory.
But is Rory ready for a guy like Jess? As of the end of the original series, I would say no. And at the end of the revival I would still say no. While Jess has matured into a mildly successful writer/publisher, Rory is still directionless. She’s emotionally stunted — making many of the same mistakes she made at 22, the last time we saw her. Even at 32, Rory has a lot of growing up to do. She still uses Logan — despite his engagement to someone named Odette — as a crutch, leaning on him for emotional fulfillment and companionship. Two things he can’t give her.
I’ll admit, I’m biased. I’ve been stubbornly team Jess since he came into our lives back in season two. I still hold out that the Rory/Jess kiss at Sookie’s wedding is one of the best kisses in TV history. The dance marathon episode is the best episode because Rory finally realizes Jess is a million times better than Dean, who is actually the worst character ever.
So now I’m conflicted. More episodes seem well within the realm of possibility; I just don’t know if I want them. No matter how much she annoys me, I would love nothing more than to see Rory healthy, happy and successful. But sometimes — especially in the world of sequels — less really is more. I can only hope that “Gilmore Girls” takes notes from TV shows that tanked in quality in their final seasons (“The Office” is a great example) and learns when to quit.