Welcome to Stars Hollow! Or should I say: Welcome back to Stars Hollow! The only place in the world where winter comes with the welcome smell of snow, while the town selectman is pitching for a new sewer system. A place where the tenants are so used to the way things are the thought of bringing in parking meters is ridiculous. A place that very well may exist inside a snow globe. But alas, our guides to this world are just as eccentric as all other town folk, Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Rory Gilmore (Alexis Bledel), a mom and daughter duo who look more like best friends than mother/daughter to any outsider.
Netflix launched its revival of the series at 12:01AM on Black Friday; it’s currently charting as the most binge-watched Netflix original of the year. The highly anticipated four-part, 90-minute each event was a departure from other approaches to reboots series. There was also something different about Gilmore Girls, a show that never played by the rules and talked too fast, but left a lasting impressions on fans around the globe.
“Winter” relaunches us into Stars Hollow; all the townsfolk are displayed in a beautifully lit crane shot that shows off just how great this town looks with Christmas lights. The episode spends a fair amount of time reminding the viewer of everyone’s names and playing catch up on what’s been happening while trying not to create expository summary monologues. Instead, viewers get comments on where people have been and new jobs, but it also feels as though no time has passed with our small town friends.
For the most part, Lorelai hasn’t changed. She still runs her inn, The Dragonfly. She’s happily non-married to Luke, and she’s looking towards what to do next in her life after accomplishing so much. The always collected and driven Rory we remember from the original series has been replaced by a more mature, but more worn, tired, and lost version. Our first insight into this is when the meticulous Rory moves out of her Brooklyn apartment without labeling her boxes, launching a running joke about her lack of underwear that occurs throughout the season. She wants to be rootless and adventurous, but often forgets well-intentioned boyfriend, Paul (Jack Carpenter), in the process.
Rory is traveling a lot, which indicates one of the weaknesses of the series: it’s difficult to track her seemingly endless trips to London and back. While theoretically, three months pass within each “mini-movie”, it feels more like a day here and there, only to imply that a week has passed and you didn’t notice and begin to feel lost.
Rory’s constant traveling is due in part to a potential book deal co-writing the life and times of eccentric feminist/environmental Naomi Shropshire (Alex Kingston), and Rory’s affair with her beau from the original series, Logan Huntzberger (Matt Czuchry). He and Rory have a “when in Vegas” hook-up style relationship — no strings, no commitments — a far cry from her monogamous relationship-centered younger days. All offer further evidence that Rory’s having an early-30s identity crisis.
The longest and strongest portion of the episode is when we see Richard’s funeral, a tear-jerking moment for any original fan. Edward Herrmann, who played patriarch Richard Gilmore, had passed away about a year before production began; the series pays homage by having his passing be a pivotal and influential part of the revival’s storyline. There’s no dialogue going into the funeral itself, just shots of the three women most important to Richard assembled into an emotional, but quiet montage.
It also allows Emily (Kelly Bishop) and Lorelai’s strained relationship takes center stage, when Emily asks a small group of friends who’ve stayed until the end of the wake to share a brief story about Richard. Lorelai all but leaves to avoid telling a story. Claiming drunkenness and grief later, she finally blurts out a colorful, but less-than-endearing anecdote, about her father. The relationship between Lorelai and her father was difficult at times, but Emily expected more from her and Richard’s only daughter, especially in front of company.
In the best scene of the episode, Lorelai and Emily fight it out in the kitchen. Bishop is powerfully quiet to the usual scene-stealing Graham. Lorelai’s actions were childish, falling back into old habits of a no-longer-justified rebellious nature that only adds one more conflict to their long list of disagreements. For some reason Lorelai feels the need to shed the worst light on parents in order to live up to how she feels they must think of her: bitterly disappointed. With as many bridges Lorelai and her parents repaired between them throughout the original series, it’s no wonder why Emily is so upset at the thought that her 48-year-old daughter would be so, seemingly intentionally, mean.
Overall, this episode is a solid relaunch to the world of Stars Hollow and Gilmore Girls. Longtime fans will feel satisfied that their daydream of a small town seems unchanged, and new fans are introduced to new conflicts and some new characters while being welcomed by some familiar faces. Gilmore Girls spent nearly ten years off the air only to find its way back into our lives and pop culture consciousnesses. “Winter” feels less like a “mini-movie” and more like an extended episode, but it still feels very much like the Gilmore Girls we know and love.