Thursday, December 01, 2016

4 Random Thoughts on Gilmore Girls: A Year in the LIfe

As some of you may know, Gilmore Girls has been a staple on this blog, and is one of my all-time favorite shows.  In fact, if you ever go to the back catalog of posts on this blog (before I reinvented it four years ago), the first post I ever did that wasn't a test to see if I knew how to post was about Gilmore Girls.  So I've had a long relationship with them, and was deeply vested in seeing where they ended up in Netflix's "final?" chapter with the women.  Here, as a longtime fan, is where I ended up with the show.


1. Amy Sherman-Palladino Clearly Had a Plan

Many times when it comes to an add-on to a series, it's something that the creators are doing out of popular demand from fans (more on that in a second).  You see something like Fuller House or Girl Meets World and it's largely reacting to a market need, and creates something that's basically just a reinvention of the first series.

Here, however, it's quite clear that Sherman-Palladino, the longtime creator of Gilmore Girls had a specific idea in mind when she ended up creating the series initially, and wasn't going to let certain aspects of the seventh season (namely the evolution Rory made from being stuck on her rich boyfriend to being a confident journalist willing to finally take risks away from home), which she didn't take part in, get in her way.

This makes the season, while still abbreviated and occasionally a bit out-of-place (there are moments where there's less emphasis put on the fact that these people have had seven years worth of life in-between now and then), feel more authentic, and vital to the series.  The reality is that while the original Gilmore Girls run had an ending that worked, it was nowhere near what you'd expect from the series.  It was a neatly-wrapped bow, with Lorelai and Luke together, Rory off to cover the fledgling Obama campaign, and Emily finally burying the hatchet with her daughter.  It didn't have the messiness that frequently accompanied the darker half of Gilmore Girls, and it didn't have proper swan songs or future stories for some of the side characters on the program.  Sherman-Palladino brought that here, and did it with her trademark GG panache (also missing from that dreadful Season 7).  As a fan, it's easy to pretend this is what accompanied that troubadour-filled finale in Season 6, and not the odiously-bad season that followed.

2. Actors Were More than Game

One of the nicest things about moments like this, when you see a fan favorite that got clawed down before it was supposed to, is seeing all of the actors that come back to join us one last time, regardless of their fame levels.  We saw that with Arrested Development, we saw that with Veronica Mars, and now we get it once again with Gilmore Girls.  Because for true Stars Hollow fans, it was a joy to see pretty much everyone came back for this one.

Yes, certain characters had more abbreviated scenes than others, and yes, they all did it for a paycheck, but come on-who didn't get misty-eyed, just moments from the ending, when Sookie and Dean both made brief appearances that filled us with a warm gooey center.  I would have personally loved it if Melissa McCarthy had kept the secret of her late appearance quiet since the rumor for a while was she couldn't show up, but Netflix couldn't possibly have managed to do something like that with such a major star (why would you not advertise such a moment?), and the rest of the cast was wonderfully willing to step back into their old characters.  Side characters like Babette, Miss Patty, Gypsy, Cesar, Francie-they all show up in random positions and occasionally gave us giant winks to storylines that we have memorized by heart (whose heart didn't skip with teenage glee over mention of "the Puffs").  By my estimation the only person who was a scrooge about coming back was Chad Michael Murray, whose two second part as Tristan was recast (though he didn't have lines, I suspect he would have if Murray had been free...honestly, what is he even up to now that One Tree Hill is off the air?).  All-in-all, though, this was a marvelous place to be.

3. About that Ending...

Okay, so the thing that everyone's focusing on, at least on my Twitter feed and in articles, is on how the ending of the miniseries frames itself against the backdrop of the entire series, and specifically what it means for Rory, whose journey we have seen most fully-fleshed throughout.  For those who haven't seen it (and apparently don't care about spoilers), Rory, in the last seconds of the series, announces to her mother that she's pregnant, without any indication of who the father is or what this means for her future.  Amy Sherman-Palladino has indicated that this is how she always intended to end the series, and that this is a way of pulling the show full-circle, but (appropriately) the show's most ardent fans have opinions, and I am included amongst them.

My first thought after seeing this, once the shock wore off, has remained the same: this is a brilliant idea.  And anyone who disagrees hasn't really paid attention to Rory's arch (minus Season 7).  Rory Gilmore was once a promising young student, brightest in her class, but as the series went on she exhibited a decidedly weak backbone for her life and for her ambitions.  Whereas her mother, who had simply the goal for herself of leaving her parents and the world she grew up in behind to strike it out on her own, was punished for her independence, Rory was kind of the inverse.  As the years went on she strove to please everyone around her, including her grandparents, her motley crew of boyfriends, and her out-of-the-picture father, and in the process she gave up on her dream of Harvard, ended up abandoning her relationship with her best friend (Lane was largely absent from her life as she got older), and even forcing deep strains with her mother over her need to live a more privileged, "Gilmore" lifestyle.  In the process, she became less the girl who studied and read books, and more the girl who used that past goodness as a crutch, an excuse, to make her present behavior which became increasingly vapid and spoiled, forgivable.

The final four installments of the series are not kind to Rory.  She lives her life mostly based on past reputation rather than focusing on future accomplishments.  She frequently talks about a famed New Yorker piece, but let's ego or lack of preparation allow her to think she's too good to write an article for GQ or prepare properly for a job interview with a company she sees as beneath her.  In fact, we see her spend more time working on finding a superficial outfit and jetting off to see her soon-to-be-married lover in London than preparing for these opportunities.  She eventually settles into the life of comfort that is afforded to her in Stars Hollow, with her mother's strong reputation and everyone still seeing her as a 16-year-old wunderkind, and her grandmother's money to back up every decision she makes.  It's a nasty commentary on the character, but it's also a reflection of your early thirties in some part.  The goals you once had for yourself slip away from you at that point, and you're left with what you were able to scrounge together in your twenties.  For Rory, who spent perhaps too much time being scared, that means that she has to let go of her career as an independent journalist, and instead will settle into being the editor of the Stars Hollow Gazette, perhaps writing a great book, perhaps abandoning that project as well.  Because for all of the similarities between Lorelai and Rory, one that never got passed down was nerve-Rory is very much Christopher, playing it safe, in that regard, and not Lorelai or even Emily in that way.  She will do what is safe and easiest and people-pleasing.

It also means we have a rough idea of where the next chapter of her life takes her-into one of her mother's.  We see her repeat the same patterns her mom did, having a baby with a wealthy man who loves her, but can never quite get it together enough to be with her (Logan is almost certainly meant to be the father, give or take a Wookie).  She'll live in Stars Hollow since it's easier to raise a child alone there in a sea of smiling, friendly faces, and will have a complicated relationship with her strong-willed mother, who will have opinions on how to raise her child that Rory will occasionally disagree with.   And it means, dear friends, that she will end up with Jess.  Yes, Jess shows up for a moment or two here, and shows that he still loves Rory (and that his arms are the same of my thighs-hot damn Rory's boyfriends aged well), and is destined to be the Luke in her life: loving her from a distance for a while, aiding her with her young child, and then eventually ending up the guy she should have chosen to begin with.  Sherman-Palladino wisely keeps the "which guy does Rory pick?" game that launched a thousand Buzzfeed articles to a minimum, but it's clear that Jess is the ultimate victor of that contest, and in the way she ends the series, that makes sense.

4. So What's Next?

Many people look at this cliffhanger and say, "so we need follow-up!"  Who is the father, what happens next for Rory?  These are questions that any passionate GG fan is going to debate internally (and to unfortunately-trapped cocktail party guests) outwardly for the next several years.  But for me, and really for you, this is where we want to end this chapter.  Because this is as close as we got to the ending we deserved nine years ago.

Honestly-I know the fashion here is to go back to products and tinker and change, but that ruins the endings that were crafted in the first place for those shows.  Look at Star Wars-we'll now never live in a world where we don't see that Han Solo is eventually killed by his son (shut up-it's been a year, you didn't need the spoiler alert).  Series are meant to have finality-they aren't meant to be stretched until we don't love them anymore.  It's why shows like Lost I wouldn't want to see back even if I have dozens of questions and don't have enough will power to resist seeing such an invention-it's because the way they ended gave us finality, but not closure.

The best series finales do just that.  They show not a world where everything is tied neatly in a ribbon (ie Sex and the City, Friends, Frasier), but instead give us complicated, interpretative endings that could go either way.  Think of Lost, think of The Sopranos, think of now Gilmore Girls.  These series don't tie things up neatly and as a result are mired in controversy, but they show that these characters move on, and as they did during the series, some have demons that aren't entirely gone because that's not plausible.  There's no happily-ever-after in real life-we just keep going until we don't.  Gilmore Girls did that here, and gave us a stopping place that felt appropriately definitive.  So no, I don't want to get back into the series again, even if I still love these characters.  We have enough answered questions, and as fans we can interact with the clues of what happens next (they're all there for the taking if you don't mind them being translucent instead of opaque).

Those are my thoughts on the series.  I could go on and on (and may pick up that baton of nostalgia being a double-edged sword in the future, but this feels like a stopping point.  If you've seen the series, please let me know your thoughts.  Are you satisfied, or wanting more?  Do you like the twist ending, or do you feel it was a bit too "mic drop?"  And were there any characters you were hoping would show up (Marty, Madeline & Louise, Max Medina) that didn't?  Share below!

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