Welcome to our “Binge Watch” coverage of Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life, where Myles McNutt will be covering the entirety of the Netflix revival over the course of Friday, November 25. Starting on Monday, Gwen Ihnat will be offering some more in-depth reviews of each episode—posting every other day—for those operating at a more moderate pace.
(Mostly) freed from the shackles of exposition, “Spring” gets to dive into exploring the stakes of A Year In The Life in greater detail.
Now that we understand how Luke and Lorelai have lived their lives for the past nine years, we understand that they have become effectively stuck in time. The familiarity of their relationship may seem comforting at first, returning to the show as we are, but here we start to see the tensions that emerge. Does Luke, in fact, want something bigger than his small town diner after Richard’s will follows through on his earlier advice to have Luke franchise his business? Is Lorelai really happy not to be married, or will therapy unlock a set of dreams for herself that she hasn’t embraced out of fear of disrupting the status quo? Much as Michel spends “Spring” on the verge of wanting to break free from the limitations of the quaint Dragonfly, we are now officially observing Lorelai and Luke at a turning point in their relationship, with all the lies—Lorelai’s therapy, Luke’s diner visits—that come with it.
But although “Spring” is anchored by Lorelai and Emily’s therapy sessions, it ultimately belongs to Rory, whose arc offers a meaningful contrast: if Luke and Lorelai are stuck in time, Rory has become unstuck, floating through life without a sense of purpose. She’s a freelance writer with one piece that everyone loves, but nothing to follow up on it: her book project with Naomi completely collapses, her attempt to throw herself into an inane piece on “lines” for GQ literally puts her to sleep, and when she shows up at Sandee Says she has literally no ideas on what to write about, unprepared for the idea that the millennial CEO would actually want to hear pitches. “Spring” is typically a season of rebirth, but for Rory Gilmore it’s quite the opposite, as she’s beaten down, demoralized, and shows up back in Stars Hollow with plans to stick around for a while.
Both Rory and Lorelai can be difficult protagonists to like at times during the series’ run, but this is particularly true of Rory, who never entirely recovered from the self-destruction of the stolen boat and the subsequent embracing of a privileged lifestyle. And I’ve found it difficult to sympathize with her here, jetsetting between New York and London (with whose money?), a “struggling freelancer” who has a friend’s Brownstone, her grandmother’s mansion, and her engaged ex-boyfriend’s flat to live in while she’s “homeless.” She was naïve to think that Conde Nast was just going to offer her a job based on a single New Yorker piece, and arrogant to think that Sandee’s headhunting would come with no interview of any kind. Rory has continued to make some of the same types of bad choices she made when she was a college student, but at a point in her life where she is expected to know better, and do better.
And while I may be frustrated with Rory’s choices, it helps her storyline immeasurably. “Spring” doesn’t let Rory off the hook: everything that happens is something she chooses, rather than something that happens to her. While I suppose Naomi’s increasingly loony behavior was out of Rory’s control, everything that happens with Conde Nast is entirely on Rory. While Lorelai—who is eventually let in on the situation with Logan and Rory’s general state of anxiety during their trip to New York—says that it was just Rory’s turn to face some “curveballs,” I would argue that like any good catcher Rory was the one making the signals and calling pitches in this circumstance, and I appreciate the show’s willingness to hold her accountable for that. Sending her back to Stars Hollow both humbles her and gives the show a chance to embed itself more strongly into the town, as character development merges with narrative efficiency to propel the season into the back half.
“Spring” lacks the emotional weight of the premiere—although Richard’s death echoes in Luke’s story and in Lorelai and Emily’s therapy sessions (which also dredge up their ancient past, perhaps in case there are some Gilmore virgins tuning in), this is a lighter affair, as is to be expected when “written and directed by Daniel Palladino” appears onscreen. Daniel’s embrace of the show’s quirkiness is long known, and it plays out here as you’d expect: the Townie stuff at the beginning of the episode gave me whiplash—“DANIEL WHAT ARE YOU DOING,” my notes read—but I felt like Rory’s life spiraling out of control was a decent match for Daniel’s pacing, and Alexis Bledel felt more comfortable fighting with Julia Goldani Telles—“SASHA,” my notes read—than in a more polished or put-together Rory. The more exaggerated tone here is not my favored one for the show, but it fits an episode that was always going to be more transitional, and mostly maintains momentum as we head into the next “season.”
- Was a bit weirded out by Gypsy’s attempt to force Taylor into outing himself, especially after the show so casually retconned Michel as gay in the premiere—I appreciate the reflection on the series’ lack of LGBTQ representation, but I don’t know if “Taylor’s gay” was a thing I felt deeply. For a second I thought Gypsy was trying to out herself, honestly. It was a weird scene.
- I’m not complaining that we’re getting a lot of Paris, but I’ll be interested in how much of an arc we get: Doyle’s presence here makes it feel like we’re getting something pretty substantial, but Liza Weil is not credited as a series regular, so she may be disappearing for an episode (or maybe more, it’s hard to say).
- While I appreciated Francie’s presence at the Chilton alumni day, the Fake Tristan situation was unfortunate. I spent the entire next scene wondering if they were going to realize it wasn’t actually Tristan, but no—Chad Michael Murray was just too busy, apparently.
- The level of trolling with the casual introduction of the never previously seen or acknowledged Mr. Kim is off the charts—are we just not going to go back to that? Daniel Palladino, you are a monster.
- Speaking of which: was anyone else weirded out by the fact they kept referring to the original Law & Order as the “motherlode” instead of the “mothership?”
- So how are we feeling about the cameos, y’all? There’s a lot of them, and my feelings vary. The revolving set of celebrity chefs setting up in the Dragonfly? Unrealistic, and distracting. Mae Whitman, Lauren Graham’s other TV daughter? Fun, if reinforcing how much the show’s “Paul” jokes are just a ripoff of Arrested Development.
- The episode also features a background cameo by the Gilmore Guys, Kevin and Demi, who are among the “B-List Actors” in the Dragonfly dining room. I mention this because, during the episode of their podcast I had the pleasure of recording with them, we did a lightning round of things that may or may not be referenced in the revival, and I was the only one who thought AirBNB would come up, and Emily totally mentions it in therapy. Y’all owe me a coke, Gilmore Guys.
- Say “Firm Sperm Agreement” ten times fast. I dare you.