Starting November 25, 2016, Gilmore geeks everywhere (or at least those who have active subscriptions to Netflix) can treat themselves to a six-hour update on the lives of Lorelai, Rory, and the rest of the Gilmore Girls crew, via four 90-minute revival episodes featuring what our favorite characters have become since the show wrapped almost a decade ago. #GilmoreGirlsAYearInTheLife trended on Facebook and Twitter all weekend, testament to the near-cult status following that this series still has up to now.
As of writing, it has only been a few days since the streaming giant released the aforementioned webisodes. Since then, there have been numerous reviews written, and while the impressions are mixed, I did notice that the less-than-enthusiastic analyses were from those who admitted to not really being fans of the show in the first place. Although they probably have the most unbiased views, that is really not the point of the revival, as I have come to learn after the first few minutes in.
For true followers of the show, it really doesn’t matter what underwhelmed critics say. This continuation was made for fans of the original series, and not for casual watchers. It is for those of us who did not make plans on Monday nights to catch the new Gilmore Girls episode on Channel 5; those who made do with bad DVD copies when the show stopped airing locally, who brought original DVDs anyway (despite good fake copies being available) for the bonus clips and director commentaries. For die-hard Gilmore geeks, it is writer Amy Sherman-Palladino’s timely apology for abandoning the show after the 6th season, leaving fans at the mercy of a poorly written last season and an uninspired finale.
The consensus among bona fide series enthusiasts seems to be that the revival episodes satisfied their craving for one last escape to that wonderful snow globe world that is Stars Hollow.
Having only recently subscribed to Netflix a few days ago for the purpose of catching the revival, I was under the impression that each chapter in the mini-series would be released in weekly chunks. I was pleasantly surprised (albeit a little puzzled) to find that all four episodes spanning the year in focus were already available in my playlist. But as tempted as I was to binge and finish all six hours of the mini-series in one sitting, at the moment, I have only seen the first and second installments, in all their hour-and-a-half-each glory. This article contains my impressions regarding what I have seen so far.
The opening scene of the pilot episode, Winter, did feel like stepping into an enchanting Christmas-scene papier-mâché world set in small-town New England, in more ways than one. Stars Hollow always looked its prettiest covered in frost and twinkle-lights. In the first act, viewers are immediately bombarded with the feels as they find Lorelai at the nostalgic town gazebo waiting for Rory to fly in from the big city, romancing the snow while clutching her signature cup of coffee, and delivering the now-classic Gilmorism “I smell sno-ow!”. To quote Jennifer Lopez, “goosies”.
When I first started watching Gilmore Girls as a teenager, I related more to the shy, introverted, but quietly determined Rory, than her fast-talking, wise-cracking caffed-up mother, but I always suspected that, although the story is about two girls, Amy Sherman-Palladino formed the narrative with Lorelai as her main muse, and this first gazebo scene confirmed it. From that point on, fans are watching the story unfold through the older Gilmore’s eyes.
I have read negative reviews about Lorelai’s supposedly disappointing story line, and how unfortunate it was that she was further relegated to the confines of her small business and stagnant relationship with Luke over the past nine years, while her daughter lives her journalistic dreams in New York and has glamorous illicit affairs in London. As the plot unravels, that may very well seem like the case.
Lorelai has the same boyfriend (yes, she and Luke did not get married), lives in the same house, runs the same inn (she has not expanded her business like I thought she would have by now), and has the same petty squabbles that are obviously rooted in a deep-seated intimacy void from childhood, with her mother Emily.
But it’s not just Lorelai, too. Most of the main characters seem to be up to the same old shenanigans, as if they were frozen in time, and the last decade never happened. I had Pleasantville flashbacks watching Kirk explain about his crazy new business idea, or when Babette and her strange husband start grilling sausages at the showing of Kirk’s new movie, and or course, there’s Kirks’ new movie. Rory’s spirited best friend Lane is still trying to make up for breaking her mother’s heart when she did not end up marrying a Korean proctologist, and she and her husband Zach still play in a band in their living room with the same band mates, including Skid Row front man Sebastian Bach.
It does not help that in the second episode, Spring, Rory visits her high school alma mater during an alumni homecoming event, where she has a short interview with Headmaster Charleston (who freakishly does not seem to have aged at all) and consoles a hysterical Paris Gellar, who, despite her MD, law degree, and successful medical practice in in vitro fertilization technology, still has the energy to have another one of her famous meltdowns in the bathroom, after almost running into ghosts of unrequited love past via Tristan Dugray (recast from Chad Michael Murray to Anton Narinskiy). Also making an appearance in the same scene was mean Puff girl Francie, who triggers Paris’ misplaced paranoia and sends her into another fit of rage that apparently only gets more explosive in time.
But rather than being cheap re-hashes of what made the old series tick, I think these familiar scenes were placed in the story by design. Again I go back to my previous point about the revival being meant to be enjoyed by those who loved the old series, and how everything goes back to Lorelai, and her point of view.
What few changes we find are because they are inevitable, like Rory’s grandfather’s death, since actor Edward Hermann passed away two years ago, or Sookie’s absence from the Dragonfly’s kitchen, because or Melissa McCarthy’s issues with Palladino (she does return for a brief cameo in later episodes).
In fact, Lorelai’s tolerance for change is limited to matters concerning her daughter’s career. In her own personal life, the older Gilmore likes her small-town routines and small-town neighbors. She is a beautiful and smart woman who could have done anything she wanted, lived anywhere in the world, but she chose Stars Hollow, and built her whole existence around the town. Actually, she built her whole life around the place where she could raise her daughter to have all opportunities to be the version of the child her parents wanted. By watching these episodes, viewers are in fact going on an excursion into Lorelai’s happy place – all things familiar.
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