Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, More Painful than Profound
The coveted "Gilmore Girls" return was supposed to offer closure for viewers, yet instead it only created more loose ends.
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Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life was supposed to be every early 2000s teenage girl’s opportunity to revel in the story that had shaped her perception of society, romance, and what it means to be an adolescent. A Year in the Life was, for many avid Gilmore Girls viewers, an opportunity to revisit the quaint town of Stars Hollow and its both quirky and endearing characters: from its coffee-loving protagonists, Lorelai and Rory, to its beloved male lead, Luke Danes.
The idea of A Year in the Life was born when Gilmore Girls ended abruptly after seven tumultuous seasons. The series, lasting from 2000-2007, was created and directed by Amy Sherman-Palladino for its first six seasons, someone who cultivated characters whose stories possessed a degree of charm and relatability that hooked fans almost instantaneously. Palladino famously infused allusions to real life pop-culture, from references to renowned bands like The Bangles to venerated films like Casablanca. Her tenure as director, lasting until 2006 left fans with a pleasant picture of Stars Hollow and its inhabitants.
Lorelai “Rory” Gilmore was a perfectly imperfect character whose hard work and ivy-league level achievements in her academic and professional pursuits were a constant inspiration to younger viewers. Lorelai Gilmore, Rory’s mother, was a combination of spunk, quirk, and spontaneity that captured the hearts of audiences across the board.
Yet, when Palladino left the show after a disagreement with its parent network, The CW, in 2006, the characterizations of these beloved individuals began to shift for the worst. As described by Jessica Pearlstein, a junior, “Season seven was when I noticed the show had become
repetitive, something without substance. It was also, coincidentally, when Amy Sherman-Palladino had left the show, and David Rosenthal had taken over as director.”
This was the taste burning the palette of many loyal viewers when Gilmore Girls ended in 2007–disappointment. As the camera panned up and away from Stars Hollow in the last moments of the series finale, “Bon Voyage,” many audience members were left wondering, “Is that it?”
Many intriguing and heart-wrenching dialogues and storylines had been left in abeyance: the whirlwind romance between the heartthrob of many viewers, Jess Mariano, and Rory herself, the heartbreaking ending to Rory’s relationship with Logan Huntzberger that was left to settle after she rejected his proposal, the overwhelming and seemingly everlasting tension that permeated every interaction between members of the Gilmore family…these storylines were not given closure. Naturally, fans seeking that closure were unduly excited to discover that they could finally make peace with the show that had dominated their lives in years prior. As aforementioned, A Year in the Life, to most, would be the miniseries that finally brought the narrative of Stars Hollow to a satisfying conclusion.
At least, this is the perception that most viewers had before actually watching the miniseries. Released on November 25th, 2016, almost ten months after its announcement, A Year in the Life was immediately a disappointment. With just four episodes, each lasting only approximately one hour and thirty minutes, it became clear that most loose ends were not going to be tied up. Even with the coveted return of Amy Sherman-Palladino to direct the miniseries, A Year in the Life fell short on multiple counts.
The first shortcoming was most evidently the failure in character development. As previously discussed, the protagonists of the show, Rory and Lorelai, were two headstrong individuals with a work ethic and wit unmatched by most. Rory, for example, was a Yale journalism graduate who, upon the series finale, was embarking on a promising tour across the nation with Presidential Candidate, Barack Obama. Her determination to attain success in a challenging field, simply for the purpose of fulfilling her passions, was one of the hallmarks of Rory’s character. She put in excessive effort and was able to reap the benefits of all that she had sowed.
Come the “revival” (miniseries), this character arc was immediately cut short. Rather than continuing Rory’s streak of industriousness and perseverance, Palladino opted to make a stark change. In the revival, Rory was entitled and unenthusiastic. She went from being a promising writer who could turn a story about parking lots into an emotionally and intellectually stimulating work to someone who fell asleep on the job and exhibited nothing but contempt and mediocrity in her professional life. She became incredulous when she was not awarded a position at a company after arriving at the interview unprepared and incapable of making herself seem like an optimal candidate. A Year in the Life turned a once inspirational and admirable character into someone who was second-rate and degenerate.
Yet the disappointment that is A Year in the Life did not just end with Rory’s turn towards mediocrity. It also includes the failure to emulate commonalities from the main series, one prominent example being the fast-paced exchanges between characters. As one junior summarized, “In the revival, the witty banter that once made the show quirky seemed forced and scripted. The revival failed to meet the standards set by the original T.V. show.”
Yet perhaps the biggest dereliction of the show was not its use of humor to degrade plus-size individuals, its beratement of an entire generation of individuals who were put out of work by extenuating circumstances, or its countless cracks at “millennials.” The most overwhelming shortcoming of the miniseries was its inability to provide closure to the romantic pursuits of Rory’s life, one of the elements of the original show that had kept audiences attached.
Rory had three major love-interests throughout her time on the show: Dean Forester, Jess Mariano, and Logan Huntzberger. Many adoring fans had debates and battles over which man was right for Rory, but the most overwhelmingly popular candidate for her heart was none other than Jess. By season seven, the two had not reunited following the devastating end to their relationship, making most viewers expect the revival to focus, in part, on the cultivation of their former romance.
Instead of focusing on Jess and Rory, popularly referred to by the name, “literati,” the revival instead placed more prominence on the affair between Logan and Rory. Logan, engaged to an unsuspecting fiancee, Odette, constantly cheated on her with Rory, leaving a stain on both their characters. Palladino attempted to paint these relationships in a way that established a parallel between Rory and her mother. Yet, in attempting to do so, Palladino gave viewers less than thirty minutes of Jess on screen and again, left their relationship completely in abeyance.
In the final scene of A Year in the Life, where Jess was departing from Stars Hollow after a brief and uneventful excursion, it was supposed to become apparent to the audience that “literati” is canon. In other words, while their eventual relationship was not pictured, it is intended to happen in the future outside of the events of the show and the revival. However, the use of canon to ensure a relationship does not quell the hunger of dissatisfied viewers who waited almost ten years to see this couple finally rekindle their love. As such, Jess’s departure was not the mark of a future relationship, but the present failure of the revival.
And even more jarring than Jess’s departure were the final four words of the show. Advertised prior to the miniseries’s release as ground-breaking and an epic end to the Stars Hollow storyline, these words, in actuality, served as a pitiful attempt at a dramatic cliffhanger. Coming from Rory, whose image had been disillusioned and diluted over the course of the four-episode miniseries, these words were far more painful than profound:
And so it ended.