Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life seems more a reflection on privilege, on bubbles, on sociological sameness, than it does a simple drama or comedy. I’m primarily discomfited by that, especially in light of American society right now. To be sure, I’m satisfied by it inherently because it exists and we all knew that the 7th season wasn’t the way the show was supposed to end. I’m inherently comforted by seeing the town of Stars Hollow again, hearing the banter between characters who I’ve grown to love and to miss. I love anticipating Lorelai’s crazy outfits for each new scene and watching Luke continue to wear different variations of the same plaid shirt. To be sure, some of the dialogue (especially at the very beginning of the Winter episode) felt stilted, but that’s to be expected after a show comes back from a hiatus of years with the original writers returning for the first time. By and large, though, it made me happy to see the show back again. It delivered on the things that the fans would have been up in arms about, had they not been included. Yet, the revival seems to include those moments to provide closure for the fans and there isn’t much in the way of new experiences and moments for Rory and Lorelai- in fact, almost none at all.
Rory’s interactions with Dean and Jess were incredibly satisfying for a long-time Gilmore fan, including the fact that Jess seems not to be over Rory and there seems to be a possibility of that relationship blooming in the future. I was hoping for a Jess/Rory interaction at Luke and Lorelai’s wedding, but just the fact that Luke asked Jess if he was over Rory and seemed not to believe him was satisfying enough for me. I’m confident that in the fictional alternate reality of my mind, the two got together. The one with Dean was nice too, if a little awkward to be taking place in the middle of Doosie’s. But I like that Rory’s manuscript idea seemed to trigger her desire for closure with some of the people in her life, mostly past boyfriends.
The part that discomfits me about the ending of the series, these newest instalments, is one that it’s going to be difficult for me to articulate. The Gilmore world seems- lonelier. Michele and Sookie have both moved on from the Dragonfly Inn, leaving Lorelai there to run it alone, with no resolution regarding who will take their place. All Lorelai gets in terms of “leaving” is a quick hiking trip during which she doesn’t even hike but instead finds some clarity after being on the top of a hill for 30 seconds. It seems that everything clicked in her mind about Luke but rather than resolving any of the glaringly obvious issues they have as a couple, she instead returns to hear a (fairly pathetic, and lonely) Luke rant about how much he needs her. He is operating from the idea that Lorelai is going to leave him, when in fact she was going to say that she thinks they should get married. So often with that relationship it seems they leave too much unspoken, assuming that the other person understands when, in fact, they are on entirely different pages.
I wish Amy and Dan had done a better job of showing the way that Luke and Lorelai learned to grow their partnership. That theme does come up throughout A Year in the Life, when Emily accuses Lorelai of not having a real partnership multiple times, but it’s never rectified. No conversation is ever had to change that. Instead, Luke and Lorelai have a fight about it in the diner and then Lorelai, with no context or explanation to Luke, tells him she needs to leave to the mountains. She doesn’t owe Luke an explanation, per se, but it would be very nice of her to provide one, especially if she were trying to strengthen the “partnership” that she and Luke theoretically have. But they don’t have those conversations, and the power dynamic in their relationship never changes at all. Luke continues to follow Lorelai around like a puppy, acquiescing to her crazy demands without demanding anything of her. In his rant, actually, he even says that he will do anything she wants him to do in order to keep the partnership going, because he never thought in his wildest dreams that it would even happen. It makes me feel sad and it makes me wish that Amy and Dan had gone a different route- one in which Lorelai learns how to give, how to do for others, how to compromise.
It leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth as if Lorelai only “chose” Luke because of how much he loves her, and how much he will let her get away with in terms of taking advantage of that love. It makes me feel lonely for Luke. Even though he says that he isn’t dissatisfied or unhappy, that all of it is all he will ever need, I don’t really believe him or I don’t want to believe him. I don’t want to believe that a relationship where he is effectively Lorelai’s roommate is one that is enough for him, but apparently it is enough for him to simply be in her presence. After his speech, too, I did want to see Lorelai express something similar, which I suppose was theoretically the meaning behind her saying they should get married, but it didn’t feel like enough in comparison to what Luke said. It reminded me of an earlier dialogue in which Luke is ranting about how they need to put Rory back in school, and Luke will do anything to help, and then Lorelai just says “Luke will you marry me?” It seems that Lorelai primarily loves Luke because he loves and cares about her so much, and I know there is more to it but I wish it were emphasized more throughout the series, and especially during A Year in the Life.
Aside from Lorelai’s relationship with Luke, she doesn’t seem to have much else in terms of an immediate support system- and he isn’t even given the chance to support her, because she is so fiercely independent that she sometimes doesn’t even tell him important things that happen in her life. There is no more Sookie, no other close friends. And perhaps the loneliest part of all, for me, is the fact that Lorelai and Rory both seem less invested in one another’s lives than they once were. Perhaps it’s due to how much happened between them, but most of their dialogue is witty banter and almost none of it is meaningful conversations about life. Their relationship doesn’t build anymore, or get any stronger, which it did throughout all 7 original seasons. For example, Lorelai shares that she’s sad about Michele leaving the Dragonfly, and says “I’ll miss him.” Rory says, “me too”, pours them a drink, and switches the conversation to talk about herself.
I think examples like these illustrate the idea that Rory is even more similar to Lorelai than she used to be. In early seasons, 1 and 2, Rory was always levelheaded. She would provide the genuine care, empathy, introspection, that Lorelai often lacked. As she got older, she lost some of these fundamentally “Rory” qualities and became continually more absorbed in the bubble of her privileged life. This is fully fleshed out in A Year in the Life: Lorelai and Rory’s storylines exist separately, not really intersecting. Emily’s does, too, but that feels right to me. Emily’s storyline is supposed to exist entirely on its own. Lorelai’s and Rory’s, though, are supposed to weave together to some extent, their relationship usually filled with deep talks, advice giving, balancing one another out, providing perspectives that one lacked. None of that happens in A Year in the Life and it makes me feel nostalgic for past seasons.
Lastly, Rory’s life itself seems incredibly lonely. She’s 32, not sure how to pursue the career in journalism that she so desperately aspired towards for so much of her life. It’s clear that she didn’t plan much besides “I want to be a journalist”, which reflects a level of privilege that Rory possesses. She has always thought she can just glide through life and opportunities will fall into her lap. She has always operated under the assumption that someone will look at her, see genius/greatness/etc, and simply give her jobs. She assumed that because her name is Gilmore she will automatically become something Great without having to try at all. She never learned about what she was passionate to write about, what her angle would be, how to pitch herself. And her journalistic career reflects this lack of preparedness- it didn’t work.
She didn’t become a journalist, a foreign correspondent. She saw the world and she didn’t do anything with it. It makes me sad to think of her teaching at Chilton, or working at the Stars Hollow Gazette. It makes me feel like she didn’t make it in the big wide world that she always so wanted to see. I know that that’s the lesson, but as a 23 year old, recent college grad trying to find a job and feeling similar to Rory, it’s difficult to watch. I try hard to deflate myself, to remember that although people have called me great and I am great I still have to prove it over and over again. The world is scary, and the point is that Rory wasn’t ready and hadn’t been prepared, and so retreated back to the small world of Stars Hollow where everyone had always praised her and known how smart and capable she was. She’s going to become a star in Stars Hollow, just like Lorelai did.
There’s a lesson about the importance and uniqueness of community, sure, but there’s also one about failure and expectations and the big, bad world. And that makes me feel lonely. It exposes that Stars Hollow isn’t realistic. It’s a place which tries to pretend the big bad world doesn’t exist. That’s why Rory didn’t have an angle- in Stars Hollow, there’s no angle to have. People only care about the poem on the front of the Gazette, after all.