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Little has changed for the Gilmore Girls in Year in the Life’s “Winter”

By on November 28, 2016

Lauren Graham, Alexis Bledel | Photo Credit Saeed Adyani/Netflix

By Chelsea Hensley

Do you ever think about David S. Rosenthal, the showrunner who replaced Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino and was responsible for Gilmore Girls’s awful, awful final season? No? Me either because I try not to think about season seven. That being said, oh my goodness, does he know what he did? But I digress because we’re not talking about it. We’re talking about A Year in the Life, which doesn’t require you to remember that dark time.

But that dent in the show’s charming run makes the revival both necessity and novelty as the Palladinos return to wrap things up and wipe season seven from our memories (not that there’s anything worth remembering).

If you weren’t a fan of Gilmore Girls before, the revival won’t change your mind. It’s everything the original series had and then some, a nostalgic return to the land of Stars Hollow, down to the folksy la la la. As the first installment, “Winter” has less plot and more exposition, primarily concerned with reorienting us to this world. But after so much time as passed, and with so little time to revisit the show’s quirks and characters, it always threatens to be too much, and “Winter” occasionally is (Lorelai’s ex actually asks if she’s “happy” at her father’s funeral). There’s little that’s actually new, but since we didn’t wait all this time for an all-new revival, it’s not the worst thing.

 

“I smell snow”

It’s fitting we return to Gilmore Girls in Lorelai’s favorite season, when Stars Hollow closely resembles a snow globe. And, of course, when Emily is frosty following Richard’s funeral.

As a new widow navigating the world, Kelly Bishop gets more to work with than she has in the past (and she got plenty in the past). She compensates for Richard’s absence with new maid Berta and her family. It’s all Emily can do with Rory flitting from place to place and she and Lorelai not speaking, but it’s deeply sad to watch even as it’s shrouded in humor. When she sits on her sofa and despondently remarks that she “doesn’t know how to do this”, it’s heartbreaking.

As is the fight between Emily and Lorelai at the funeral. We’ve seen many conflicts between them (their troubled relationship is just as essential as Rory and Lorelai’s close one), and even before we see this one we watch Lorelai badger Emily until she angrily admits a mistake on her part is to blame for Richard’s massive portrait. It’s residual angst from their funeral blowout, where a drunken Lorelai, asked for memories of Richard, instead offers ones that are insensitive (at best) and insulting (at worst).

I could have come up with plenty of stories, like the time Richard found Lorelai sneaking out of her window at dinner but said nothing because he knew how bored she was. That’s a pleasant memory. Him leaving her hiding in a trunk while he jets off to Croatia? Not so much. But Lorelai would rather play duck duck goose than try to remember this! It’s an understatement to say that this is a bad look for our plucky heroine. Lorelai’s crass, even cruel, and she only breaks Emily’s heart further.

Gilmore Girls has never hesitated to make Emily and Lorelai’s relationship as painful as possible, but this is excruciating. Both are grieving, and an already bad situation is made worse when Emily declares Lorelai “couldn’t care less” that her father’s died and throws her out. But not before calling Lorelai selfish and promising Lorelai will ruin things with Luke, a blow so low only Emily could have landed it.

If there’s a plot in “Winter”, this is it. Emily and Lorelai at odds is an easy and familiar entry point back into the Gilmore’s world and is easier to latch onto than Rory’s middling journalism career (more on that later). There’s a chance the revival will end up burying the hatchet between them, but we’ve got a ways to go, and Emily and Lorelai return to being tentatively fine as Emily tricks Lorelai into coming to therapy. Which probably should have happened eons ago.

Nothing makes this clearer than Lorelai’s reaction to Emily’s words. Convinced Luke is unsatisfied and secretly wants kids, she insists on finding a surrogate. For a moment I worried that this whole revival would trace the birth of Lorelai and Luke’s baby, but Luke (who really is happy) nipped that in that bud. But he can’t do anything about Lorelai’s worry that she’s limited him in some way, which seems more likely the storyline where we’re headed.

But this momentarily terrifying surrogacy story does gift us with Paris Gellar. How she came to be showing off surrogates to hopeful couples, I’m not certain. But who cares because Liza Weil is in perfect form as Paris. Since Weil took up her role on How To Get Away With Murder I’d forgotten about her ability to nail Paris’s unflinching intensity and caustic humor, but she slips right back into the role. Putting her up against Lauren Graham and Scott Patterson, who play it straight against Paris’s declarations of love for Lorelai and promises of “mondo discounts”, makes it all the more hilarious.

 

“Super proud!”

I expected little to have changed in the ten years since we last saw the Gilmores but the one thing I knew wouldn’t ever change (even with Donald Trump as president-elect and Prince dead) is that everyone would be boringly proud of Rory Gilmore. This isn’t to say this pride is undeserved. It’s just…okay, it’s sort of undeserved.

Rory’s character has always consisted more of what people expect of her than what she actually does, and A Year in the Life is no different. Everything Rory does is golden, even when it’s not all that much. Three phones aside (why does she have three phones? All a writer needs is an email address), her journalism career is little more than coasting off the glowing reception to a New Yorker piece, down to co-writing a biography with her eccentric and drunken subject, which we can already guess will end badly. But Rory isn’t pitching any other publications, despite a meeting with Conde Nast (like…all of Conde Nast?) and is definitely not looking hard for steady work. If you ask Rory, she’s “rootless”, but Emily’s right: Rory’s homeless, zipping from one guest room to another. (She flies back and forth from London to Connecticut way too much for a person with no steady income). But everyone’s just so proud and are acting like Rory is Roxane Gay.

She’s not Roxane Gay.

And Rory’s personal life is no better. But that at least, we expected. There was no way we’d find her in a healthy relationship. She definitely wasn’t going to be like soon-to-be-divorced-with-children Paris (her and Doyle will totally get back together, right?). Whatever Rory’s relationship with boyfriend Paul is, the Palladinos make it clear we aren’t supposed to care. No one, not even his own girlfriend (of two years!), can remember him or anything about him. And while he doesn’t stack up to Rory’s other boyfriends in terms of eye candy (sorry, Paul) he’s probably a better boyfriend than all of them were (sorry, Dean/Jess/Logan), and he can likely do better than Rory, who literally doesn’t remember him enough not to start dating Logan again.

Seriously, Rory, that’s just jerky. But everyone’s “super proud!” so it’s fine.

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