"Hey, you look familiar!" (Photo: Netflix)

“Fall” begins with Lorelai Gilmore as we’ve never seen her: Alone, and away from Stars Hollow. And in a battle with a very large pack. It’s unsettling, and even she admits that she doesn’t know what to do with herself after 12 hours away from being surrounded by everyone she knows for years and years.

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It’s an interesting choice, and a helpful transformation: how Lorelai opens up to the other Wild-seeking women, talking about how stuck she feels is revelatory, and a reminder of just what a great actress Lauren Graham is. Her interactions with her Parenthood co-stars as the park rangers are fun. (We can all just imagine that Jason Ritter is Gravity FallsDipper grown up as a park ranger, right? That’s what I’m doing.) But it’s her revelation behind the coffeeshop (naturally) that I’m marking as the high-water mark for this revival, if not the entire Gilmore Girls canon. Hard to to even write about because as it was happening, I was crying so hard I couldn’t talk, but here goes: Lorelai couldn’t come up with anything appropriate to say the night of the funeral because she hadn’t processed her father’s death yet. He was such an overwhelming presence in the lives of all three of these women that his loss is still affecting them more than they even realize; it’s the reason why they all feel like the rug has been pulled out from underneath them.

After getting that perfect nature moment she was searching for, Lorelai is finally able to call her mother with the story that she needs to say and her mother needs to hear. The reveal that this boy called her “loud and weird” is actually the first outside critique we’ve heard of the Lorelai personality we love so much, and it’s interesting to think about how much that may have shaped her experience of feeling like an outsider, when even the kids at school suspected she wasn’t a Gilmore. The coming together of Emily and Lorelai, over the phone yet, after so many years of family conflict is nothing less than extraordinary. I fervently hope that both Lauren Graham and Kelly Bishop get Emmy-nominated for this revival (maybe the mini-series category?) because they’re clearly the best the medium has to offer. Just look at how much Graham brings to that scene before she even picks up her phone, or the way Emily hugs her phone after the conversation. Then once Lorelai tells her story, finding the resolution she was looking for, she’s able to come back and go after what’s lacking in her life, which is a more permanent connection to Luke. Lorelai’s arc fits beautifully.

As does Emily’s. It’s a relief to have her walk away for the DAR (swearing like a sailor, yet!) and finding something perfect for her to do. Emily’s already had her resolution with Lorelai, and now she has created her own post-Richard chapter in a way she never could have predicted, surrounded by Berta’s somehow rapidly growing family and being a whale docent. Lorelai’s path was always pretty clear: Emily’s turn into a “Mamet play,” as her daughter puts it, is a wonderful and unexpected departure for the woman who has been so steadfast in a certain kind of life, only to find that it no longer fits her. It’s not surprising at all that Emily would immediately identify with a magnificent creature like the whale, so she becomes a whale docent, giving that Nantucket Whale Museum its due. Just compare her whale lecture to the first docent’s: like night and day. It may make her turn the most delightful of all.

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While Rory’s remains the most problematic. For a show that’s as much of a fan favorite as Gilmore Girls, there’s always going to be a disconnect between what some fans want and what the creators do. Apparently, the Palladinos love the character of Logan and his beyond-insufferable Life And Death Brigade, so much so that they’re brought back for a pointless Across The Universe montage. What other people hate about the musical (waste of valuable GG revival time), is what I hate about the LADB, especially when they buy clubs because, as petulant children, they don’t like what music’s being played. The cloying Wizard Of Oz farewells, the third actual goodbye to Logan in this revival: Why does he look so pained? He’s getting married, so he couldn’t see that his relationship with Rory had to end at some point? Maybe he couldn’t. That’s what makes the LADB so unfortunate: So spoiled by all that money, they always get what they want, which makes them annoying, not delightful, to regular humans who have to work for a living. Fail. They’re the minus in my grade of this episode.

The other twist in Rory’s road comes, of course, with the reveal of those final four words. The fact that the phone call appointment in her room was not about Christopher, but a doctor’s office, and her visit to her father was not about Lorelai’s wedding, or telling him about the book, but to see how he felt about not being in her life, so that she can leave Logan out as well. In “Winter,” Lorelai cuttingly tells Emily, “full frickin’ circle” after they get in a fight after the funeral, but it’s surprising how many parallels there are, how many of this family’s timelines get recycled. Like Emily demanding three weeks with Luka and Lorelai in exchange for the money for the new inn that will enable Lorelai to keep Michel. It’s not only sweet, it’s a callback to the arrangement of Friday night dinners that started the series. Rory getting pregnant, and having Christopher clone Logan as the father mirrors her mothers’ trajectory almost perfectly, give or take 16 years. Lorelai and Emily toast to the “circle of life,” which is exactly what those four words point to. Also, the dance at the pre-wedding wedding, to the same song that Luke and Lorelai danced to at Liz and TJ’s wedding: Lorelai dances between Luke and Rory, but as Christopher points out, Rory’s grown now, and Lorelai can move on.

Until those four words come. My only issue with the ending is Lorelai’s expression. She looks kind of horrified , instead of just outright surprised. Maybe because she more than anyone knows how hard single motherhood is, but this baby will have all the Gilmore Girls to back it up. Even if this is the very last we ever see of these characters, I have no doubt that everything works out for them in the end.

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Overall, it was a pretty wonderful return to Stars Hollow. With so many beloved characters, it’s hard to fit them into even 360 minutes: More Lane would have been nice. Dean’s and Sookie’s scenes seemed a bit shoehorned in. Some returns were great just because how little they had changed: Taylor, for instance, and especially Michel (“Your name is Molly? Why?”). Some improved with age, particularly Jess: Yes, I don’t know when he took a turn into the sage of wisdom either. Still, his loyalty to the man who once took him in is heartwarming (and his ripping out of the wifi is cheerworthy). There’s also been a lot of speculation about what his last longing looks at Rory mean: C’mon, this is Amy Sherman-Palladino; she’s about as subtle as a hand grenade. Jess is still in love with Rory, and will play the role of Luke in the new child’s life. And the Gilmore Girls circle is complete.

“Fall” grade: A-

Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life grade: B+

Stray observations

  • Lauren Graham + Peter Krause = greatest TV celebrity couple ever, right? And so much chemistry even in that permit scene that I would love to see them together in something where they’re not playing siblings.
  • Some showy but fun camera angles: The closeup of Rory showing her mother the manuscript merging into a closeup of Lorelai, so that we realize how parallel they are, with the book at the center; the camera swinging far away from Rory to Christopher, then further zooming out, showing how far apart they are. At least he had the decency to hang his head.
  • “Knowing when to admit defeat is one of my better qualities”: Oh, we beg to differ, Christopher.
  • Unanswered questions: Who wrote Emily that horrible letter? And Paris and Doyle unfortunately didn’t get much of a resolution.
  • I hate Dean, but the cornstarch reference was cute.
  • So of all the guest stars and cameos, which was your favorite? I was delightfully surprised (I may have squealed) at Peter Krause’s park ranger. Also loved the Foster/Borle musical duo, and any time Carole King showed up.
  • Gilmore Girls is one of those shows that got me into reading TV criticism way back in the day, on sites like Television Without Pity before this one. Sitting in the ballroom at the Netflix Gilmore Girls TCA panel in August, being in the actual same room as these people, I completely teared up, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. The fact that I am able to write about this show again now, after so many years, means the world to me. Thank you so much for reading.

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