‘Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life’ TV REVIEW: The Send-Off We Deserved

Image via Robert Voets/Netflix
Image via Robert Voets/Netflix

It took us nine years to get here, but boy did creator-writer-producer Amy Sherman-Palladino knock it out of the park.

Gilmore Girls means a lot to its fans, and this series has been near and dear to my own heart for almost a decade now. There has been an unbelievable amount of hype surrounding the revival since it was announced a year ago, not to mention hundreds of articles dictating which boyfriend Rory should end up with (they’re mostly all garbage). Without Amy Sherman-Palladino and co-executive producer/writer Dan Palladino at the helm, season seven was thoroughly underwhelming and ultimately unsatisfying to viewers. For years, rumours of an eighth season floated around, but most fans probably never imagined that we would finally get the Gilmore Girls send-off that we deserved, final four words and all. I have all the admiration in the world for people who are planning to spread out their consumption of the new episodes, but since I don’t have the capacity to restrain myself or practice even a modicum of patience, I binged all six hours from 7pm to 1am. Thank you, Netflix.

A Year in the Life consists of four lovingly crafted, ninety-minute episodes; Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall. Winter opens with a black screen and a compilation of some of the series most memorable quotes ““ “Oy with the poodles already” ““ and already the nostalgia levels are amped up to a ten. There is so much to discuss and unpack in this revival, but it is best broken down by the character journeys of the three titular Gilmore girls: Lorelai (Lauren Graham), Rory (Alexis Bledel) and Emily (Kelly Bishop).

Image via Saeed Adyani/Netflix
Image via Saeed Adyani/Netflix

Ten years after the end of season seven, Rory is now thirty-two ““ the age Lorelai was at the beginning of the original series; the first of many full-circle moments in the revival. Rory spends much of A Year in the Life untethered, listless and living a “nomadic existence” as she divides her time between London, New York and Connecticut. It’s an incredibly refreshing change of pace from the devout pro/con list maker we have come to know, and perfectly in line with the journalistic ambitions Rory always dreamed of pursuing. The original series had a frustrating habit of painting Rory as the golden girl who always, always got what she wanted so it’s oddly satisfying to watch her get knocked off that pedestal, to make mistakes and have career setbacks.

Lorelai still owns the Dragonfly Inn, sans Sookie (Melissa McCarthy), and refuses to hire a new chef or expand the property at Michel’s (Yanic Truesdale) insistence. Luke (Scott Patterson) is still very much in the picture (thank the lord) and he and Lorelai have been living together for years, unmarried, much to Emily’s distaste, who refers to the two us “roommates”. Where Rory is constantly shifting between cities without a permanent address, Lorelai has stayed put in Stars Hollow, resistant to any kind of real change. After the languid will-they-won’t-they plot and the upsetting mess that was season six and seven, it’s a little disheartening to find Lorelai and Luke’s relationship has hardly evolved in the last ten years. They are still terrible at communicating with one another and it takes an eye opening Wild expedition (the book, not the movie) for Lorelai to realise that she and Luke have no need to keep their lives separate and should have gotten married years ago.

Emily’s arc in the revival is arguably the most compelling as she grieves the sudden death of Richard and attempts to carve out her own independence and moves forward with her life, something her daughter and granddaughter managed to do long before her. Richard’s death (and subsequently Edward Hermann’s) is handled so beautifully and his lingering presence underpins some of the revival’s most touching (and heartbreaking) story beats.

Image via Saeed Adyani/Netflix
Image via Saeed Adyani/Netflix

A Year in the Life makes a point of bringing back almost every supporting character. Stars Hollow’s colourful cast of townies remain largely unchanged; Kirk (Sean Gunn) has adopted a pig named Petal at the gentle behest of the town (it was a ploy to keep him and Lulu from procreating), Taylor (Michael Winters) is trying to convince the town to install a sewerage system and is later writing the world’s worst musical, and Lane (Keiko Agena) is–well, Lane is kind of pointless in the revival. She exists once again as a sounding board for Rory and watching her rehearse with Hep Alien in her living room while her kids are in the kitchen has a certain tragic air about it.

Certain roles are expanded in the revival, namely Michel’s. While Melissa McCarthy’s schedule doesn’t allow for much more than a cameo, Michel is given more screen time than he was afforded during the series’ initial run. The reveal that Michel is now married to a man is appropriately understated, but unfortunately the town meeting regarding the fledging Stars Hollow gay pride parade is in poorer taste, feeling like a clumsy attempt to finally diversify Gilmore Girls. Like the shitty gift that keeps on giving, Logan (Matt Czuchry) is featured in all four episodes as he and Rory carry on an affair whenever she visits London. If anybody needed more proof that he is terrible for Rory, the revival offers it up on a silver platter. The return of Paris Gellar (Liza Weil) is nothing short of wonderful as we learn she is an incredibly successful fertility doctor who has two children with ex-husband Doyle and lives in a five-story townhouse. The fact that Paris and Rory are still BFF’s gives me indescribable joy.

A nine-year gap is a significant amount of time and many fans were sceptical about Gilmore Girls being revived during an era where the Internet, social media and technology are so prevalent. Thankfully, texting is kept to a minimum and there is not a Snapchat filter in sight. The revival also has fun with Luke’s hatred of mobile phones and technology with a recurring gag that involves him giving fake Wi-Fi passwords to customers in the diner. A Year in the Life incorporates just enough technology and current pop-culture references that it doesn’t feel outdated, but takes great care to retain the small-town whimsy of the original episodes.

Image via Saeed Adyani/Netflix
Image via Saeed Adyani/Netflix

Occasionally, A Year in the Life gets a little too meta, like Carole King’s Sophie singing “I Feel the Earth Move”, Mr Kim’s cameo, or the plethora of Parenthood and Bunheads actor appearances. I adored these moments, yes, but I can recognise them as pure fan service. The recurring gag of Rory’s generic, forgettable boyfriend, Paul, is hilarious at first when Luke can’t remember taking him fishing and Rory forgetting that she invited him to dinner. However, after four episodes of Rory failing to remember that she’s even dating him it feels like flogging a dead horse and reinforces the ugly truth that the Gilmore girls are a self-involved lot.

Ultimately, A Year in the Life comes down to three generations of Gilmore women. While still intrinsically linked, Lorelai and Rory’s relationship is far less co-dependent than when they were younger and more closely resembles friendship than ever before. Rory decides to honour their relationship in the best way she knows how ““ to write a book about it, a decision made all the more sweet by the fact that Jess (Milo Ventimiglia) is the person who first puts the idea in her head. While the book causes friction between Lorelai and Rory, Lorelai eventually offers her blessing. As much as Rory and Lorelai’s relationship anchors the series, Lorelai and Emily’s strained dynamic carries the revival. Next to Luke and Lorelai, these two fight like nobody else and their venomous argument at Richard’s funeral is devastating. The healing process kicks off with some very amusing therapy scenes and arrives at a raw moment of vulnerability for Lorelai when she shares her most treasured memory of her father with Emily, something she couldn’t manage at his funeral. It’s such an incredible piece of acting from Lauren Graham and the monologue will have everyone violently sobbing.

Be it the final twist, Jess’ return, Emily wearing jeans or Luke and Lorelai’s gorgeous, understated wedding, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life has moments that will satisfy every type of fan. After nine years off the air, it’s comforting to be dropped back into the world of Stars Hollow, complete with coffee, town festivals, rapid-fire dialogue and the musical stylings of Sam Phillips, and feel like we didn’t miss a beat.