[This is a review of the Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life premiere. There will be SPOILERS.]
Originally introduced in 2000, Gilmore Girls spanned seven seasons following the lives of Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham) and her daughter Rory (Alexis Bledel). Their small Connecticut town of Stars Hollow was populated by lovable and quirky characters, including the diner owner Luke Danes (Scott Patterson), Lorelai’s best friend/business partner Sookie St. James (Melissa McCarthy), and Rory’s best friend Lane Kim (Keiko Agena), among others. Lorelai and her daughter’s lives were also intertwined with her parents, Emily (Kelly Bishop) and Richard Gilmore (Edward Herrmann).
However, when The WB merged with UPN to become The CW in 2006, series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino and her partner/husband Daniel Palladino left the show due to contract disputes. Gilmore Girls went on for one more season, the much-debated season 7, before being canceled by The CW. But, as reported late last year and officially announced earlier in 2016 by Netflix, Gilmore Girls is back with Sherman-Palladino at the helm of a revival. Now, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life looks to wrap up the series in the way Sherman-Palladino initially intended — with those infamous final four words.
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life doesn’t follow a typical season of the show. Rather, the Netflix revival consists of four extended episodes, each based in a single season of the year — starting with ‘Winter’. Written by Sherman-Palladino herself, ‘Winter’ sees Lorelai and Rory back together in Stars Hollow for the holidays, drinking copious amounts of coffee and eating a typically strange, unhealthy diet while they talk fast and, together, traverse the ups and downs of their lives.
Though fans of Gilmore Girls may have been wary of the revival — since, as TV fans have come to learn very well in recent years, revivals rarely live up to their predecessors — A Year in the Life captures all the charm, wacky hijinks, pop culture references, and heart of the original series. The opening sequence of ‘Winter’ sees Lorelai and Rory reunite in the Stars Hollow gazebo, with Lorelai quipping, “How long’s it been?” and Rory answering: “Feels like years” — a sentiment Gilmore Girls fans know too well.
Lorelai and Rory banter their way through Stars Hollow throughout the rest of the opening sequence, ending in Rory picking up a Stars Hollow Gazette and Lorelai proclaiming, “I smell snow,” just before her prediction comes true. The sequence helps to welcome viewers back to the fast-talking, pop culture reference-laden back-and-forth quintessential to the characters, while also establishing how times have changed — Rory owns at least three cellphones, and has to run all over the town square while looking for service.
But, truthfully, the opening sequence is rather clunky, shaking off the dust of nine years since Gilmore Girls‘ cancellation and re-establishing many of the characters fans know and love from the original series — all while trying to seamlessly pick up story threads from seasons 6 and 7 of the show. Certainly, while viewers may appreciate much of Lorelai and Rory’s banter, which Graham and Bledel still pull off well, the opening sequence seems to be an ode to the fans. Though the fans will no doubt appreciate it, the fan service makes for a somewhat awkward transition into the main narratives of A Year in the Life. That said, once ‘Winter’ dives into its major story arcs, the show really picks up.
In ‘Winter’, Rory is back in Stars Hollow for a very brief visit with her mother before flying to London, where she meets with the delightfully strange Naomi Shropshire (Alex Kingston), with whom she may co-write a book. However, while the scene with Naomi is perhaps the highlight of Rory’s professional career arc in ‘Winter’, the youngest Gilmore is more preoccupied with an upcoming meeting with Conde Nast. She spends much of the extended episode looking for her lucky outfit in the boxes from her recently vacated Brooklyn apartment.
Rather than send her boxes all to one location, Rory sent them to various friends and family members with whom she plans to stay as she lives a vagabond, Jack Kerouac — as Lorelai puts it — life while pursuing her freelance journalism career. Of course, Rory’s choice of lifestyle is a point of contention with her grandmother, who views it as homelessness and worries for Rory’s wellbeing. Still, Lorelai is supportive of her daughter, though Rory is clearly keeping secrets — staying with her ex-boyfriend/current flame Logan Huntzberger (Matt Czuchry) while in London — picking up a thread of the original series that Rory has grown more apart from her mother as she has come of age into adulthood.
While Rory is off vagabonding it up, Lorelai is dealing with a recurring dream about a dirty bathroom, returning to the conversation of children with Luke, and reconciling with her mother after a Gilmore-style blow-up at Richard’s funeral four months prior to ‘Winter’. The episode features an extended flashback sequence depicting some of the funeral and much of the reception afterward — including when Lorelai fails to tell a nice story about her father. Rather, she recounts more negative stories from her childhood and teenage years. Lorelai’s drunk stumbling leads to a massive fight with Emily and the two hadn’t spoken before their dinner with Rory in ‘Winter’.
However, in true Gilmore Girls fashion, Lorelai and Emily come to a kind of reconciliation, with Lorelai walking in on Emily doing a massive purge of her house; she’s only allowed to keep things that bring her joy, though as Lorelai points out, nothing will bring her joy while she’s still grieving for Richard. Emily is handling her grief in much the way fans will expect — she did, of course, struggle with the idea of Richard’s death more than once during the show’s initial run — and Bishop brings back all the charm and gravitas to the role, elegantly depicting Emily Gilmore dealing with exceptionally tragic grief (made all the more real by Herrmann’s passing in early 2015).
Although the extended episode format of A Year in the Life may take some getting used to for fans — though they won’t have much chance to get used to it since there are only four episodes in the series — the 90-minute runtime of ‘Winter’ allows Sherman-Palladino to dig deeper into the character’s lives (both present and past). Additionally, given everything it appears the Gilmore Girls revival is hoping to achieve, the longer episodes allow the characters to breathe in between hitting all the story points and revisiting a number of beloved characters from the original show. For instance, Hep Alien is alive and well, and fans at treated to a fun sequence showing the band’s practice.
All in all, ‘Winter’ is a near-perfect re-entry to the world of Gilmore Girls. Once A Year in the Life gets over the initial clunkiness of re-establishing the characters, everything falls into place as what diehard and casual Gilmore Girls fans will recognize as the world wholly unique to Stars Hollow and its residents. Whether the following three extended episodes of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life manage to wrap up the series in a satisfactory way remains to be seen, but ‘Winter’ sets up the revival for success.
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life season 1 is available in its entirety on Netflix.