Gilmore Girls review: A weekend in the life of a fan
Warning, this article contains spoilers for Gilmore Girls: A Year in the LIfe.
REVIEW: Watching the Gilmore Girls reunion - currently streaming on Netflix, in case the rock you're under doesn't get reception - felt like catching up with family.
Occasionally, it was frustrating. Sometimes you wish they'd hurry up and finish their anecdote so you could sneak away and get another beer. But, ultimately, the joy and warmth of being connected with characters you care about won out.
A fitting (or on-the-nose) metaphor for a show that spent its original 7-season run dissecting complex family relationships with nuance, sympathy and endless amounts of wit (and coffee).
Gilmore Girls ended its original run in 2007 not with a bang but with a whimper, after show-runner Amy Palladino was supplanted, and it feels like she's taken this opportunity to give herself, as well as her fans, closure - down to those mythical "final four words".
* Girlmore Girls: It's a happy return to Stars Hollow
* Gilmore Girls: 15 things we hope to see on A Year in the Life
* Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life promises TV comfort food when we need it most
* Thank you 'Gilmore Girls' for raising my daughter
* Netflix's Gilmore Girls 2016: Five reasons to be excited about the revival
* Gilmore Girls reboot: Fans shouldn't get too excited
* Gilmore Girls to return with Netflix for a final hurrah
After retreating to a cave with supplies of coffee, donuts and takeaways, I spent the weekend in raptures watching the revival.
So, in honour of the girls predilection for pop culture references, here's the good, the bad and - this being Stars Hollow - the weird of the season.
Gilmore Girls, much like Lorelai's ancient car, has been idling for 8 years, but the restart feels incredibly natural.
We catch up with the characters and discover that, on the whole, not much has changed. Rory has written for the New Yorker (hey, that's my pipe dream), Lorelai and Luke are entwined in domestic bliss, Emily is responding to Richard's death in a predictably Emily way.
But digging beneath the surface - something the show excels at - reveals that not all is well in Stars Hollow. Rory has become an itinerant, feeling more unmoored than the time she stole that boat; Lorelai is worried she has selfishly placed her needs and whims above Luke's (she has, but more on that later); and Richard's ghost lingers over every family interaction like a sword of Damocles, ready to plunge everything into disarray.
Palladino exploits this tension beautifully throughout, while maintaining the wit and pop culture nous the show is renowned for.
If anything, the Netflix format - instead of conventional episodes, we're treated to four 90-minute movies, each representing a season - gives the showrunner room to show off her comedic chops. This season made me belly-laugh harder than I think Gilmore Girls ever has; it's not just witty, but funny. This is largely due to the antics of the townfolk - Sean Gunn, as Kirk, is endearing and an endless source of mirth, and Taylor is, well, Taylor. We get both narrative momentum and the comfort of the picturesque small town inhabited by eccentrics.
In the absence of Melissa McCarthy, who played Lorelai's best friend Suki, we get more Michelle (he has a husband? he might become a father)? and the actor commits to his greater role with aplomb.
But it's Palladino's refusal to deify her characters that makes Gilmore Girls such riveting television.
Rory, Lorelai and Emily all come with flaws, foibles and bete noirs. Rory is as self-absorbed and entitled as her arc threatened she would become, Lorelai's eagerness to perform a doting partner leads her, ironically, to completely ignore what it is he really wants (which is: her. aww!) and Emily is arch and high-minded when compassion would be more suitable.
This willingness of the show to explore flawed protagonists that aren't trite antiheros or prissy do-gooders is often construed as a flaw of the show's characterisations.
It is in fact its largest asset, as the show is anchored in identifiable characters trying -- and not always succeeding -- to do right by the people they love.
It's realism focalised through a magical and comfortable backdrop, a wonderful interplay of TV tropes we usually see in juxtaposition.
Oh, and how finely-wrought a character is Paris? More of her please; Liza Weil steals scenes and my heart.
And a note on those final four words: I won't spoil them here, but suffice to say the foreshadowing of them, and the way their reveal completely changes the way you read the final episode, is a masterclass of narrative fakery and ingenuity. Bravo Palladino.
As brilliant as the reboot was, it didn't go off without a hitch (or several).
First of all, the cameos: while some made me shriek with ill-concealed glee, after a while they got a bit wearying, fan service in extremis.
This wouldn't have been as large an issue in a conventional season, but with limited time to spend with the characters it resulted in some fascinating character arcs being short-changed - some more Jess, Paris and the chronically disserviced Lane would not have gone amiss.
And Melissa McCarthy's long awaited cameo as Suki was, honestly, a disaster - McCarthy, who didn't want to do it, ended up caving to public backlash, and it shows. The energy and rapport of her reunion with Lorelai was flat (and not for lack of trying on Lauren Graham's part) and her very being exuded wanting to be elsewhere. If she had have literally phoned it in it would have been more enjoyable.
Therein lies a problem: Lauren Graham and Emily Bishop are such accomplished, talented actors that others - especially Alexis Bledel - pale quite obviously in comparison.
It was fine when Rory was, ostensibly, young: now the age gap has been levelled by time, Bledel's tinny readings and inability to keep up with the razor-sharp script shows.
And don't get me started on the musical number, through the course of which entire universes began, flourished, and then crumbled while I yawned at my screen. The steampunk montage in the following episode, similarly, was more embarrassing than riveting.
Finally, poor old Luke.
While I acknowledge Lorelai's interactions with Luke were necessary to point out the formers flawed psyche, Gilmore Girls is best when it doesn't treat its characters as means but ends with their own preoccupations, feelings, dreams and motives. The fiercely independent Luke from seasons past has been replaced by a Luke who will do anything - including offering a personality transplant - to keep Lorelai in his life.
This lets Lorelai off the hook; it also does a disservice to the character, and the narrative tension. In a show filled with richly-hewn personalities, tempering back Luke's was a misstep.
- No opening credits? Preposterous!
- We finally meet Mr. Kim. Oh Daniel Palladino, you recalcitrant troll.
- A jump scare in Gilmore Girls? As I live and breath.
- The genteel Emily Gilmore intones the words "booty buddies"; the universe tilts off its axis.
- Jess got buff???
- Michelle being bisexual spearheads a weird, tonally inconsistent scene, we learn that either Taylor or Gypsy is gay (like I said, it was a weird scene). While I support Gilmore Girls being able to embrace diversity now it's not beholden to "family-friendly" programming, watching the townspeople trying to out Taylor (or Gypsy) felt a little icky and childish.
- Kirk has a pig, but it's so charmingly integrated it's hard to believe there wasn't always a wild pig roaming around the streets of Stars Hollow. Seeing him dressed in an Eraserhead costume to introduce his new short film was a scream, as was the film itself - if it doesn't win something at Cannes I'll eat my hat.
- The Bunhead cameos, including a Sutton Foster firing on all cylinders, made me miss that short-lived, under-rated show with a passion. Maybe we could revive that one as well? Just a thought.
- The meta "Rory writing a book called... Gilmore Girls" is a bit too cute for my liking.
Ultimately: this show is a gem.
In what has been a turbulent year, it made me laugh, cry and feel more than any piece of pop culture I've been entertained by. The wit and the gravitas is back (try watching Rory sitting at Richard's old desk and not feel so much earned emotional catharsis it glues you to your chair) and the characters hold true to what made us, I don't know, want to drink coffee in a small town diner while discussing the New Yorker and Survivor in the same breath, all those years ago.
While there are rumours of another season en route, it's testament to the quality of the revival that I'd be perfectly content if it concluded here.
Everything feels complete. We have closure where we need it, ambiguity and theories where we don't.
This is clever, emotionally generous television that comes at the perfect time. Cherish it. And if you still remain one of those "I'll never watch it" detractors:
Oy with the poodles already.
What did you think of the Gilmore Girls revival? Let us know in the comments.