Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life “Summer” & “Fall” Review


One of the biggest problems with Netflix’s release model, in which all of the episodes of a given series are released at the exact same time, is that things tend to be taken as a whole rather than as individual episodes. That can go both ways – if a show sticks the landing then all manner of sins will be forgiven but, if it doesn’t, then it can color the entire experience.

So, whether or not you agree with the much-hyped final four words, I am of the camp of people who would rather treat it as just another plot point in a heap of others.

Summer has been talked about widely as the worst of the four installments, and it’s easy to discern why. It’s bloated and self-indulgent – a microcosm of Netflix’s most persistent problems – and wastes an inordinate amount of time on gags that go nowhere instead of allowing the audience to spend time with characters like Lane or Jess. There are body-shaming jokes and multiple shots taken at man-buns, which leaves behind little more than a vision of writer Daniel Palladino embodying the ‘old man yells at cloud’ meme.

Not every episode of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life had to be full of mind-blowing twists and massive character moments – it wouldn’t have been the thing we remember if they had – but, unlike ‘Spring’, ‘Summer’ feels aimless. Even those who enjoyed the Stars Hollow musical must have tired around the 9-minute mark, and in retrospect the realization that it leads absolutely nowhere is just salt in the wound.

It has its moments – April’s appearance; the secret bar and the conversation between Michel and Lorelai it contains; the brilliant newspaper delivery sequence – and, for my money, the scene between Lorelai and Rory in the graveyard is some of the best work either actress put in during the revival.

Because in the end, that’s why we’re here. Some viewers wanted more resolution, but pretty much everyone is tuning in for the dynamics between Rory, Lorelai and Emily. Seeing all of that repressed embarrassment and shame buried within Lorelai is something we’ve really only seen hints of in the original show (hence Rory’s surprise at her mother’s reaction), emerging due to the possibility of her life choices being presented for public approval.

On the other hand, ‘Fall’ ties with ‘Winter’ as the most solid single episode of A Year in the Life, and ties together many of the threads left over from both the first seven seasons and the preceding three episodes. It’s far too long, but it fills those minutes with tons of emotional goodbyes and payoffs.

The main ones are Rory and Logan’s farewell and Lorelai and Luke’s wedding, both of which are executed perfectly. The break from the show’s style to welcome the Life and Death Brigade to Stars Hollow may have left many fans cold, but it’s a brave and visually compelling detour nonetheless. I hate Finn and Colin (and the other one) with a fiery passion, but this is most likely one of the things I’ll remember most fondly from the new episodes.

The same goes for Logan, who was always my least favorite of Rory’s suitors. Not being a shipper, I tend to forgive relationships I don’t approve of if and when they hit upon a poignant moment of humanity along the way, and that’s what this was for me. Rory and Logan are terrible for each other, bringing out their most immoral and entitled tendencies, but sometimes those are the hardest partnerships to quit.

Jess’ contribution to these episodes wasn’t as successful for me, but he fulfilled his role within the series as the Palladinos intended. He’s the guy who encourages Rory when she’s in a Logan-induced rut, and he’s also the perpetual ‘one who got away’. It’s a comparison that’s been made a lot since we learned about Rory’s situation, but I really do feel like the Logan/Christopher, Jess/Luke comparison is apt.

Speaking of Christopher, both he and Dean were used exactly the right amount. Obviously Dean’s availability was dictated by Jared Padalecki’s role on Supernatural, but his scene with Rory in Doose’s market was one of ‘Fall’s most gracious cameos. Likewise, Christopher’s chat with Rory finally confirms whether we were supposed to view his character as a villain or not all of these years.

Luke and Lorelai’s wedding was gorgeous. It was the big inevitability of this revival, with many fans feeling that this was the biggest loose end of the original run and, even if it went heavy on the sentimentality, if you didn’t tear up at Kirk’s relief that he’d done something beautiful for those he loves, then I fear for your soul.

Others got the ending they deserved – Emily finally at peace with the new phase of her life; Lorelai shedding the baggage with her parents she’s been carrying around for 48 years; Rory finding purpose in her new career endeavor – while there are plenty of character who remain, forever, unchanging.

And that is what’s ultimately wonderful about these episodes, other than the fact they happened at all. This was still the world we left behind back in 2007, and there’s still the sense that it’ll be more or less the same if and when we check back into Stars Hollow. For patient fans living in the television revival age, that’s sometimes all you need.