I hate to say it, but with its sixth season, the Gilmore Girls lost its edge. And the recent announcement that executive producers Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino won’t be back next year doesn’t bring much hope for the final season. The sixth started slowly, with a long estrangement between Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Rory (Alexis Bledel). Worse, this drawn-out storyline did away with the witty dialogue that attracted me to the show in the first place.
The series shifted instead towards the Gilmores’ romantic entanglements, a focus that endured even after mother and daughter reunited mid-season. The emphasis on independent, single women slipped away as the Gilmores became increasingly dependent on the men around them. In short, the show is moving from an articulate consideration of single womanhood to typical melodrama.
The unresolved sexual tension between Lorelai and diner owner Luke (Scott Patterson) created a certain “energy” for the first several seasons. But their “chemistry” grew dull after they got cozy in the fifth. Luke was always Rory’s stand-in father figure, admonishing her for poor nutritional habits, so it seemed possible this was a means to end the series with a tidy nuclear family. Lorelai proposed at the beginning of Season Six, desperate to fill the hole left by Rory, and viewers were promised a wedding.
The viewers did get a wedding this season, but unexpectedly, it was between Lane (Keiko Agena) and Zach (Todd Lowe). Luke and Lorelai’s union was put on hold when his previously unknown daughter, April (Vanessa Marano), showed up. Luke then began behaving much like Lorelai had until now: he made his daughter his number one priority.
Gilmore Girls has repeatedly posed complicated question about the lives of single parents. Is it possible to maintain a platonic friendship with the co-parent/ex-partner (whether Anna [Danielle Stratton] or Chris [David Sutcliffe]) and a romantic relationship with someone else at the same time? (Lorelai’s answer was usually “no.”) And how would the custodial parent’s various entanglements affect the child? Lorelai was forced to reevaluate these priorities in the sixth season, when Lorelai and Rory’s lives were separate like never before, and Luke’s sudden fatherhood only emphasized how empty Lorelai’s life was without Rory.
The beginning of Season Six saw Rory having fully bought into her grandparents’ (Kelly Bishop and Edward Hermann) ritzy, conservative world and having turned away from everything that was formerly important to her: her relationship with her mother and her education at Yale. When Mitchum (Gregg Henry) told her that she wasn’t “cut out” to be a journalist (her life dream), she freaked, immediately losing confidence in herself. Given that show creator Amy Sherman-Palladino said repeatedly she wanted to offer a “positive” role model for young women, Rory’s about-face seemed strange. Such a shift might be somewhat “realistic,” as many of us would probably want to give up after such an ego-crushing evaluation (still, not many would have a pool house to move into). But the seeming “lesson,” that Rory needed to step back up to the plate, was a long time in coming.
Happily, the catalyst for her reawakening was Jess (Milo Ventimiliga), who returned for an episode and served as a foil to Logan (Matt Czuchry), the spoiled rich boy, and reminded everyone of exactly how far Rory had fallen. Jess, apparently reformed, had published his first novel. And what was Rory doing? She was a college dropout living at her grandparents’, dating the type of guy she and Jess used to make fun of, and apparently a puppet of the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution). Not exactly the Rory Jess knew and loved.
But Rory was hardly a victim. After getting that kick in the pants from Jess, she left the pool house to move into Logan’s all-expenses-paid apartment. Surprisingly, her transformation didn’t include a separation from Logan, even when she discovered he cheated on her with his sister’s entire wedding party. Chris came into big money, allowing her to achieve some measure of financial “independence” from her grandparents, but only at the cost of accepting money from the father she never wanted to acknowledge. She took over as editor of the Yale Daily News, supposedly evidence of the return of the “old Rory.”
But this promotion came a little too easily, and only after the breakdown of her best friend. In short, she’s still privileged. She rejected financial and emotional support from her grandparents and Lorelai only to accept it from Chris and Logan. At the end of the season, Rory accepted at least temporary separation from Logan. She finally agreed with his father Mitchum, realizing that Logan needed to leave for a year and avoid further mishaps with the Life and Death Brigade. Falling back into her grandmother Emily’s preferred mode of operating, Rory threw Logan a swinging party.
After their (admittedly moving) goodbye, she was left to her own devices, but not without the material comfort of Logan’s apartment. Is this really any better than living in her grandparents’ pool house? Back in Stars Hollow, Lorelai was hardly in more stable straits. She told Luke she was “tired of waiting,” then she ran back into Chris’ arms.
Rory and Lorelai have supposedly patched up their differences. But they’ll never get back to the tête-à-têtes, slumber parties, movie fests, and junkfood binges that made them so Gilmore girly.