The beloved mother-daughter duo of Gilmore Girls has returned after a 10-year break. But in the third episode of the Netflix Original revival of the show, a 32-year old Rory Gilmore says that she’s “not back” in her hometown of Stars Hollow, Connecticut, for good.
With four 90-minute episodes suited for binge-watching and jokes about Amy Schumer, what more could an avid fan of the show want? Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, adjusted to the culture of 2016, feels too good to be true at most points.
The revival isn’t grounded in the fictional Connecticut town. It begins with Rory “rootless” and living between London, New York City and her hometown. Her first written piece has been published in the New Yorker and she’s trying to find her next job. Her mother, Lorelai, is living with her long-time partner, Luke, but feels that something is shifting in their relationship.
Lorelai’s father and Rory’s grandfather, Richard Gilmore, played by the late Edward Herrmann, has passed away and Emily, Richard’s wife, must cope with her new life as a widow.
Herrmann’s presence is missed throughout the show and the clearest moments of the revival are the ones surrounding Richard’s death when the three generations of Gilmore women show their vulnerability.
Emily and Lorelai continue their raging fights, but this time the fights are impactful because the acting has improved since the original series. The speedy dialogue between Lorelai and Rory as they reunite in the episode “Winter” reminds the audience of the best Gilmore episodes and their warm, fuzzy atmosphere.
Maybe it’s the self awareness presented through the long running jokes, or the way in which characters like Jess Mariano make their final exit, but the revival’s following three episodes ultimately do not deliver the same type of warmth as the original series.
As the revival progresses and Rory’s job offers fall through one by one, things become weird for Stars Hollow, an admittedly quirky town to begin with. Gilmore Girls used to thrive on its slight campiness, but there’s too much cheese in the revival to pull it off.
In a scene where Rory’s college friends from Yale appear with her former beau Logan Huntzberger to romp through the town, there are steampunk costumes and Beatles songs galore. The overly dramatic “Stars Hollow: The Musical” starring Sutton Foster and Christian Borle lasts for an unbearable ten minutes when it could have lasted five.
Those last 4 words — the ones that creator Amy Sherman-Palladino says to keep a secret — don’t help the cheesiness either.
Maybe there’s a reason for all this hullaballoo, though. Transforming a show like Gilmore Girls from a comforting binge watch to a painful long-term commitment teaches the audience a lesson that all things must change.
Rory, who always seemed too innocent and perfect in the original series, is a flawed character and horrible person in the revival. Lorelai’s selfishness shows through even more than usual in her fights with Emily. Sookie St. James, Lorelai’s best friend and coworker, doesn’t even show up until the last moments when Lorelai conveniently needs a wedding cake.
By amping up the cheesiness and showing the characters in this light, maybe Sherman-Palladino is saying something about the way the series should have ended in the first place. She wasn’t part of the previous season due to contractual problems, so she didn’t get to end the series in the way she wanted.
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life shows that beloved things aren’t always meant to be brought back from the past because in their return, they might lose their original merit.