Though its fans were fiercely loyal, The Gilmore Girls skated from season to season with marginal ratings.
Will Luke and Lorelai live happily ever after? Will Rory reunite with Logan? Will whiny-ass Michel ever shut the hell up?
The one good thing about the end of a long-running series, such as the CW's The Gilmore Girls, is that fans can make up whatever futures they like for the characters. In my mind, Luke (Scott Patterson) and Lorelai (Lauren Graham) never marry, but settle into happy monogamy. Rory (Alexis Bledel) finds a man more worthy of her brains and good nature than Logan (Matt Czurchy), some time after winning her first Pulitzer. And Michel (Yanic Truesdale) is killed by a pack of lions that escapes from a circus passing through Stars Hollow.
The 15 May series finale wisely left the door open for various futures. After seven seasons, The Gilmore Girls ended as the story came full circle, from a daughter's return to a daughter's departure. The first daughter was Lorelai, seeking a renewed relationship with her wealthy parents, Richard (Edward Herrmann) and Emily (Kelly Bishop), in order to send young Rory to a prestigious private school. Now, Rory is a Yale graduate, setting out to be a political reporter, covering the Obama campaign for an online magazine. In between these two events, there were lots of fights, romances, Friday night dinners, breakfasts at Luke's diner, and fast talk and banter. It's been a whirlwind ride, at its best one of television's funniest shows, and at its worst still better than the usual soapy fare targeting female viewers.
When longtime producer/writer Amy Sherman-Palladino left, following in a contract dispute with the network, critics and fans alike complained that the show lost its "edge" under David S. Rosenthal's guidance. While it's true that the dialogue wasn't quite so rapid-fire during the final season, the series retained familiar elements. Rory and Lorelai remained devoted to one another, and their relationships with men were still complicated. And many storylines -- such as Lorelai's renewed connection with Rory's father Christopher (David Sutcliffe) -- were inherited from Sherman-Palladino.
Fans on GG bulletin boards railed against Lorelai's marriage to Christopher. But these fans said the same thing about the separation between mother and daughter last season, the introduction of Luke's daughter, and Rory's ex, Dean (Jared Palecki), getting married to someone else. Such is the nature of dedicated fandom: when the plot doesn't go exactly as you want or expect, you scream foul. Truthfully, the three generations of Gilmore women were always worth watching, no matter their contrived plots or dialogue.
Still, The Gilmore Girls ended as it began, with Lorelai rattling off her peculiar brand of motherly advise ("Sit in the back of the [campaign] bus -- and get a window seat."), much as she had done in Episode One, when Rory was headed off to Chilton Academy. The series' final scene showed mother and daughter enjoying an early breakfast at Luke's, mirroring the final scene of the pilot episode. The plot revolved around a celebration, literally, with the local citizens planning a party in honor of Rory's new gig. When her new job demanded she leave town a week early, the focus shifted from congratulations to goodbye. It was up to Luke to reorganize the party, an act of kindness that reunited him with Lorelai.
The party structure allowed almost all the cast members an opportunity to appear. Lorelai and Rory's best girlfriends -- Sookie (Melissa McCarthy) and Lane (Keiko Ageno) -- Taylor (Michael Winters), Kirk (Sean Gunn), and the grand dames of Stars Hollow, Miss Patty (Liz Torres) and Babette (Sally Struthers), each had two minutes to say their farewells. Few surprises, but lots of memories.
The Gilmore Girls generated more media attention no its cancellation than it ever seemed to in its seven-year run. Everyone from Salon's' Joy Press to the Washington Post's Jennifer Frey agreed it was a bright spot on the CW schedule (where it lived out its last season, following six on the WB), and several reviewers lamented the fact that Graham and Bishop were perpetually overlooked in the Emmy races. Though its fans were fiercely loyal, the show ritually skated from season to season with marginal ratings.
And so The Gilmore Girls leaves us with a kind of lesson, that the major networks and their cable affiliates are increasingly not the place to find quality series, and especially, series that might be nurtured despite less than brilliant ratings. Compare this past season of GG, its weakest, to most of what NBC-ABC-CBS offer, and you'll understand why we feel the show's end so deeply.