Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life
Lauren Graham, Alexis Bledel, Scott Patterson
US: 25 Nov 2016
After a year of conflict, loss, and highs and lows, the Gilmore girls are all in different places, focused on different things and trying to find some peace and meaning. As the once heated summer air begins to turn brisk and chilled, Emily (Kelly Bishop) heads to Nantucket for some time away. Lorelai (Lauren Graham) is packed and ready to go on her adventure in the Wild, and Rory (Alexis Bledel) is making progress on her book, without Lorelai’s support.
Rory and Lorelai’s story parallel each other for the first half of the episode. Rory’s story begins at the Stars Hollow Gazette office when she meets three familiar gentlemen, although all are wearing steampunk suits and gorilla masks. Yes, Colin (Alan Loayza), Finn (Tanc Sade), and Robert (Nick Holmes) make their revival reappearance in a rather elaborate trip down the yellow brick road. Modeled after the Wizard of Oz and Across the Universe, the episode morphs into a psychedelic music video featuring the Across the Universe version of the Beatles classic. As much as I found the Stars Hollow musical to be meaningless, this sequence seems fitting to introduce our Life and Death Brigade friends. Always ones for an overpriced, overproduced, and over-the-top outing, the gang, now complete with Rory tear, across Stars Hollow and beyond, visiting a tango club and bed and breakfast in New Hampshire before the night is over.
The question is: is this sequence actually happening? The Stars Hollow musical took up real time and ruined Lorelai’s day, but this sequence, because of its color, style, and direction, could easily be a dream sequence, although no one ever wakes up. With Tin Man, Scarecrow, and Lion (Colin, Robert, and Finn) in tow, the Wizard [Logan] (Matt Czuchry) offers Rory (Dorothy) a costume befitting their planned adventures, as well as offering Rory a way back into his world with this olive branch gesture after their break-up in “Summer”.
Rory and Logan sit apart from the group while visiting the tango club, and Rory asks Logan why he returned. Quite earnestly, he says that he didn’t like how things ended between them, or that they ended at all. He also offers her a key to his family’s house in Maine to live in and work on her book. Although he does make life complicated for Rory because of his decision to remain engaged to someone else, he does have a way of fixing her smaller problems. Making it to their final destination the New Hampshire bed and breakfast (bought out for the night, of course), Rory and Logan spend the night together.
Rory returns the key to Logan, making it clear that she doesn’t need anything from him, and they part ways. Our Dorothy bids goodbye to her charming companions, but leaves goodbye with the Wizard for last. Ever the showman, in a sorrowful, but hopeful ending sealed with a kiss, we last see Logan framing Rory with his fingers to take a mental picture. So ends Rory’s trip to Oz with a sense of closure, but no official pronouncements about the state of her relationship.
All the while, Lorelai is packing for her Wild trip in her humble motel room. Her stated motivations for going on this trip were a little vague, but it seemed that they weren’t clear to her either. She sets out with a group of other women on their own Wild adventure. Held up at the gate by a park ranger, the women are asked to wait one more day, so Lorelai returns to the motel and befriends her fellow hikers. Her monologue around the campfire gives some clues into why she’s decided to make the trip, even if it feels out of place with the rest of the conversation. With this monologue being said to people Lorelai doesn’t know well, she inevitably meanders into a stream of consciousness discussion about how she’s been feeling for the last few months. I appreciate that he needed to go out on her own, but the sentiments she’s sharing are ideas and thoughts that don’t seem new as a viewer. Maybe only now has she found the right words.
Following her heartfelt moment over box wine, she starts out again the next morning to officially start her journey. But, alas, she’s lost her permit. This leads to a long chat in which she unsuccessfully tries to convince the park ranger, played by Graham’s Parenthood co-star (and significant other), Peter Krause, to let her on the trail anyway, she decides she’ll return yet another day. There’s a lot of build up to her going on this trip and the importance of taking on this challenge, but she never actually does it. Half the episode leads up to her going on this journey, but because she doesn’t even get on the trail, it feels like a waste of time.
In fact, her final moment of clarity comes to her while in search of coffee following her second rejection from the trail. She pulls over to a closed diner and walks over to a vista nearby. Something about that scene prompts her to make an emotional call to Emily. This phone call with her mother connects back to the fight they had in “Winter”, and she tells Emily a story about Richard, a small moment in her life that remained a fond memory. Not to take away from Graham’s great performance of this speech, but this all comes a little too late and without much motivation. The path to this moment doesn’t live up to the quality of it. That being said, it does move Emily and Lorelai’s relationship forward, as Emily thanks her for the story.
Following this, Lorelai becomes anxious to return home; she leaves her hiking pack labeled “free” on the side of the road and speeds off. When she gets home, Luke is ready with a speech to persuade her to stay with him, but she, in turn, offers a marriage proposal. Shocked, but beyond happy (and relieved), Luke agrees.
Rory, now parted from Logan, is more focused than ever on writing her book and chooses Emily and Richard’s house as her quiet place to write. As she walks through the house we see flashbacks to the original series, starting with a season one flashback at the dining room table. She moves to the office where the ghost of Richard (Edward Herrmann) sits at his rarified desk. Rory seats herself in this special place and begins to type the story of how it all began. This is one of the best flashback sequences I’ve seen; by not making it a montage of clips, it looks and feels much more like a memory than a flashback.
She presents the first three chapters to Lorelai in the middle of the night over Chinese food, ice cream, and Red Vines. They make amends for lost time. We see the title of the book is “The Gilmore Girls”. The title is obviously fitting, but it does follow a bit of a TV trope used by shows about writers to break the fourth wall with titles of books written by the characters about the events of series. Then again, what else would you call this book? Giving it another title would seem like a missed opportunity, despite how instilled the trope has become.
As the book storyline comes to a close, Rory visits Christopher (David Sutcliffe), her father. His first (and only) appearance in the revival proves awkward for the both of them. Rory seems out of sorts and asks him very pointed questions about her childhood, which she claims is research for her book. The moment is strange but does push a now adult Rory to get answers to questions she always wanted to know. Most important to her is how he felt about Lorelai raising Rory alone.
As a fan, it’s nice to hear more of Christopher’s side of the story. He’s always been seen as a bad guy, playing the part of absentee father a little too well, but he does seem to have a lot of remorse about how his life and relationship with Rory turned out. Rory seems settled with his responses, but still seems unsettled. Ex-boyfriend Dean (Jared Padalecki) also makes his only revival appearance when he runs into Rory at Doose’s market. She asks if he can be mentioned in the book, and Rory shares an earnest portrayal of her first and long-lost love. With her love life on the ropes, the ever-charming Dean seems the perfect antidote for Rory’s tired heart, if only for a moment. “Team Dean” fans can rejoice in their singular, but perfect scene.
For Emily, her storyline draws to a quiet close throughout this episode; this too is perfect. She’s made several decisions about her life that seem to make her happy while setting her on a path for all new adventures. She sells the house she and Richard shared and buys a new one in Nantucket, where she lives with her maid’s family in tow and serves as an exhibitor at the Nantucket whaling museum, giving dark interpretations of whaling history.
In a glorious scene, we see the precise, and dramatic moment she leaves her former life, when she quits her beloved D.A.R. Once a proud and uber-involved member, she now sees no point in the judgment and belittlement of others while posing as historical pillars of the community. Post-Richard Emily doesn’t have time for your “bullshit” anymore, and it makes it clear that Emily exhibits the most character growth, hitting the lowest low when she loses Richard, but also recovering the best over the course of the revival.
The last surprise revival appearance is from none other than the honorary Gilmore girl herself, Lorelai’s BFF, Sookie (Melissa McCarthy). She returns to her inn to finally make Lorelai’s wedding cake. Lorelai takes a moment to appreciate the sound of Sookie and Michel’s (Yanic Truesdale) bickering (and so does the audience), as the Dragonfly Inn finally sounds like itself again.
Rory meets with Lorelai one last time to review her first few chapters, but Lorelai isn’t giving notes. She doesn’t want to put her daughter’s dream on hold, so she only offers some advice on the title: “drop the ‘the’, it’s cleaner; just ‘Gilmore Girls’”. Now it feels complete. Rory runs out to Jess (Milo Ventimiglia) to show off her work, offering just a glimpse as he walks off the porch indicating that he might still be pining for his first love. “Team Jess” fans also get their moment of maybe from a well-performed look from their recovering bad boy.
With Emily settled, and Rory well on her way to success, it’s time to get Luke and Lorelai married. They never cease to be out of the ordinary, so they decide on eloping to the town’s famous gazebo to get married the night before their wedding. A montage commences as the beautiful wedding décor sparkles gold and pink; an Alice in Wonderland-style event fit for a Gilmore Girl: kitschy, fun, and full of personality. Luke, Lorelai, and Rory dance their way through this particular wonderland. We get a glimpse of a happy Emily settling into life on the coast. And, just as this relationship was always meant to end, Luke and Lorelai are now happily married. It may have taken a decade or two to happen, but it’s wonderful to see.
To close the series, we see our favorite women sitting on the steps of the gazebo yet again, now a year older and a year wiser. The two look to the future when Rory reveals that she’s pregnant. The coveted and long-awaited “last four words” have now been shared. This does perfectly close the series; the daughter is now becoming the mom.
It’s assumed that the baby is Logan’s, though this was never made official. This reveal makes Rory’s odd encounter with her father come into focus. Her ploy to discuss single parenting with her absentee father proves to be more of a discussion of her plans for raising her child and an imagining of what her life could look like with or without her baby’s father involved.
This ending has and will continue to give fans a lot to discuss and speculate about. If we never meet the Gilmore girls again, however, everything has come full circle, and we can have faith that all is well because they’re all together. After all, “where you lead, I will follow” has always been their motto.