Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life “Winter” & “Spring” Review

Has there ever been a TV revival as anticipated as Gilmore Girls? Maybe, but from the moment A Year in the Life was announced, this felt special. Nine years in the making, it felt inevitable, like a reunion that was intended even when Amy Sherman-Palladino left as showrunner after the sixth season of its original run. That’s impossible, of course, but now that the four mini-movies – “Winter”, “Spring”, “Summer”, and “Fall” – have hit Netflix, things feel more settled, more complete and like they always had to happen one way or another.

“I smell snow.” – Lorelai Gilmore, 2016

We begin with “Winter”, which allows the show to reintroduce Stars Hollow at its most magical. Rory is back in town for a fly-in visit on her way to London, and her quick tour of those familiar sights (the gazebo, Doose’s, the Gilmore house) gives a lot of fan favorites the chance to enter frame, remind us why we love them, and then scuttle off to continue the lives we know they’ve been living (they’re real people, dammit!) since 2007.

Lane and Zack, with occasional houseguest Brian, are still rocking out, Michel is married (to a man), Kirk is starting his own Uber – sorry, OOOber – a gag that pays off wonderfully later in the episode, and almost everything else is right where we left it. Well except one thing. Luke is living in Lorelai’s house, and the two have been together steadily since that kiss in the seventh season finale.

Rory’s career is much less settled, which makes sense given her chosen path. Journalism was in crisis back in 2007, but it’s unrecognizable a decade later. She might tell herself that not having a steady income (or any income, as far as we can tell) or place to live is exciting and her “chance to be rootless”, but reality sets in when she interviews for a job she didn’t want, only to be reminded how entitled she’s been.

This is a consistent trait of Rory’s, and continues in both her personal and professional lives. She thinks she’s lowered herself to work at a Huffington Post-style website, but really she comes off as unprepared and arrogant. Then there’s Logan. Their relationship in A Year in the Life is unexpectedly present, and it’s not clear why until “Fall”. I won’t, then, discuss it too much, but to say that this is a pattern for Rory, and it’s not a healthy one.

But that’s good, because Gilmore Girls always thrived when it exposed the less likable side of its protagonists. We’ve been away and the girls are older now, but if they were fully-mature and (for lack of a better term) ‘done’, then there would be no point to this revival. Lorelai and Emily are still at loggerheads, Rory is still looking out for Rory at the expense of others (poor Paul), and Lorelai and Luke haven’t yet gotten around to tying the knot.

Reasons for that last one are sprinkled throughout the series, with “Winter” and “Spring” focusing almost entirely on Lorelai’s somewhat misplaced guilt over the fact she and Luke never discussed having more children. He’s fine, he claims, because he has April, Jess, and considers Rory a little bit his (aww). But she doesn’t believe him because this, too, is one of her patterns. She wants more, and so assumes Luke does also.

This plot can’t be faulted because it gives us all-too brief time with Paris Gellar, which is always a blessing.

The elephant in the room for the initial 20-minutes is obviously Richard’s absence, but the first and fourth episodes manage to honor Richard Herman’s memory in such fitting and touching ways. It could easily have been glossed over in favor of other things, but thankfully the Palladinos chose to acknowledge Richard’s place in the center of the Gilmore family dynamic.

The potential trouble with reunions is that things have to be reset to some extent in order for previous themes and character arcs to be wrapped up satisfyingly – the likely reason for Lorelai and Luke not being married, Rory sleeping with Logan and Emily’s blow-up at the funeral.

So the show is still at its best dramatically, but it’s also very funny. A lot of that humor is gained from time passing – Luke giving out fake WI-FI passwords to his customers; digs at the lack of diversity in Stars Hollow – but otherwise it’s down to the performances. Alexis Bledel seems different, older but still Rory, and Kelly Bishop and Lauren Graham pick up right where they left off without missing a single beat.

The pair have arguably never been better than they are during their argument, channeling all of the rage and grief and old grudges into one heartbreaking confrontation.

“Spring” is markedly worse than “Winter”, with the former packing more pathos and nostalgia into the 90-minutes than its immediate successor. In many ways, the middle two episodes are what would be filler in the original run, with random unconnected plots and moments there simply to make us laugh or feature a cameo. “Spring” is the superior middle-episode, but may suffer on rewatch.

But it’s still utterly delightful to be back in this world, with the anticipation and build-up adding to the experience rather than lessening its impact. This has clearly been made with love, and that love is right there on-screen.