Greetings, Gilmore Girls fans! I am thrilled to be recapping the new miniseries, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, for Legion of Leia. I watched Gilmore Girls growing up as a teen in suburban Pennsylvania, and I happened to attend a private prep school on scholarship, very much identifying with Rory and her bookworm aesthetic. I was with the show from the very first season, so my love of Stars Hollow and Lorelai and Rory’s journey runs deep. I was beyond thrilled when I heard one of my favorite shows of all time would be returning to Netflix, and I marathoned then entire six hours yesterday (not a bad way to spend the day after Thanksgiving!).
We kick things off with Winter! This recap contains full spoilers for the first episode of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.
The show opens with Stars Hollow as a winter wonderland. Just as in the Pilot, the camera meanders over town and the “Welcome to Stars Hollow” sign. This time, the gazebo is the center of things as people clear away to reveal Lorelai sitting on the steps with a coffee and tacos, waiting for Rory to join her. Rory, fresh off a flight from London, looks fresher than any of us would after her transatlantic flight, and the two banter in the way we’ve missed since the show went off the air in 2007. It feels great to be back.
Rory is only home for a quick visit, so the two embark on a quick tour of town and then go home to a very proud Luke, who is cooking them dinner in their newly-spiffed up kitchen. Clearly Lorelai was due for a kitchen upgrade for her partner and I love it! It is nice that Luke has a space in the house that was Rory and Lorelai’s for so long. Apparently, her boyfriend of a year, Paul, is joining them. Poor Paul, he is abused and neglected, and Lorelai and Luke declare that he is not memorable for some reason. It feels like the Palladinos were trying to go for an Ann-is-dull reference to Arrested Development and George Michael’s girlfriend (perhaps since Mae Whitman makes a brief cameo?) but it truly did not succeed.
At any rate, Luke is thrilled with Rory’s successful article in the New Yorker, a piece she did on Naomi Shropshire, a crazy British feminist personality played to perfection by none other than Alex Kingston of ER and Doctor Who fame. The two are working on a book about Naomi’s life – more on that later. Luke has even put Rory’s piece on the back of the Luke’s Diner menus. He is so cute. Luke is also giving out fake Wifi passwords at the diner, which cracked me up and is totally something he’d do.
Other townspeople updates: Michel is married to Frederic, which is awesome and Michel gets to ‘come out’ as a gay man at last! Frederic also wants to adopt a child, which Michel is not super thrilled about. Sookie is working at the real-life Blue Hill Farm restaurant with a world-class culinary team, and Lorelai can’t find a chef she likes to work at the Dragonfly. A string of famous chefs pop in (including Rachel Ray!) but they are not Sookie, alas. Taylor is lobbying to put in a sewer system and there are propaganda signs for sewers everywhere. Lane, Zach and their twins are living in Sookie’s old house with Brian in the spare room, and Hep Alien still practices regularly (Gil too! I love Gil for real, so glad he made an appearance). Kirk has a pet mini pig named Petal, and he and Lulu are still together.
No visit home would be complete without a visit to Hartford to see Emily, so Rory and Lorelai head up there for dinner, with Lorelai having to catch a ride from Kirk (and his new service, Ooober) because her old Jeep is perpetually in the shop. There they discover a giant painting of Richard as big as the wall in the living room, and Lorelai says that her mom should just say that she made a mistake with the dimensions instead of pretending she wanted it that way. Emily gets upset and storms off, and Rory wants to know what is going on between them. We get a flashback to Richard’s death four months early.
Here is where I cried for the first time, not gonna lie! It was a sad funeral scene. We see the three women riding to the cemetery, snippets of the service, and the gathering at the Gilmore home after. Jason Stiles makes a brief appearance and gives Lorelai his condolences. He asks if she is happy aside from just losing her dad, and she assures him that she is. Rory leaves the gathering ahead of Lorelai to catch a flight (Luke took her to the airport). Lorelai stays until the bitter end and was thus around to disappoint her mother by not having a ‘favorite memory of Richard’ ready. Instead she recalls two times that he wasn’t there for her. Emily and Lorelai have a huge blowout in the kitchen and both are extremely rude and harsh with the other.
In the present, Kirk joins the for dinner as his car has broken down in the driveway, and Luke has to come pick them all up. So now we know how Kirk ended up at the dinner table! I was most curious about that one from the trailer, I must say. Luke makes to sit in Richard’s vacant chair and Lorelai warns him away from this giant faux pas. He takes Kirk’s seat when Kirk goes to play soccer with Emily’s maid’s children – apparently the maid’s family has moved in. Emily makes light of it, but she undoubtedly needs the company.
Back in London, Rory is trying to make a plan for an interview with Conde Nast. She seems to have mailed all her possessions to various friends and family (Emily has some, Lane has some, Lorelai has some) and we see that she is staying with Logan whenever she visits London. And lying to her mother about it – she makes up a friend named DeeDee. The two are also hooking up despite Rory dating that dude Paul. Logan has some of her boxes too, which make zero sense. Why ship them overseas? Lorelai has an entire garage and could fit all the stuff in Rory’s room or Luke could probably even store them above the diner. I get that the boxes were a plot device so she would see all her friends, but still. Did not make much sense. Rory was looking for her ‘lucky outfit’ – a red dress she feels most confident in.
In what feels like the biggest plot point from this first episode, Lorelai takes to heart a comment Emily makes about Luke not having raised children of his own. He has April, but he didn’t raise her from an infant. She asks Luke about them having children, and he says he thought they discussed it once at a baseball game when he pointed out an awkward kid. I loved that and thought it was very true to who Luke was. Just because he read one book on communication and asked Lorelai out at last (in one of my all-time favorite episodes, “Luke Can See Her Face”) doesn’t mean he fixed all his non-communicative ways. They decide to look into it.
This means going to a swank fertility office called Dynasty Makers, with photos of babies and expensive furniture, and none other than Paris Gellar’s name on the CEO door. Paris looks every bit the CEO, and I can honestly see her taking her medical degree (she wanted to be a doctor, or a lawyer, or both, if you recall) and putting them to use to help high-powered couples protect their legacies; this also means helping women who are career-focused wait longer to have families and rock the boardroom before hiring a surrogate through Paris’ company. I found that to be very feminist and excellent of her. She pulls out a portfolio of only her best surrogates for Lorelai and Luke, stating that she considers Lorelai to have been a second mother to her. It is Paris showing affection the best way Paris can – through her ladyboss ways. And name-dropping the fact that she has helped Neil Patrick Harris and his partner with their adorable twins.
The meeting overwhelms Luke, however, who somehow does not get the concept of surrogacy and thinks he has to sleep with the women in the portfolio. He rather dramatically leaves and says NO to Lorelai in the waiting room. Paris is a lot to take, and I do not see Luke responding well to her. Back in town, Paris brings her “top breeders” to meet Luke at the diner, which does not help matters. Finally, Luke and Lorelai agree to not pursue surrogacy any more.
We end with a call from Emily, who Lorelai had encouraged to see a grief counselor after showing up at the Gilmore homestead to find Emily purging nearly everything she owned. In a truly great scene, Emily comes downstairs in Lorelai’s old ratty jeans and a Candies tee-shirt (remember them, ladies of the 90s?!), a sight to behold. Lorelai yelps “holy shit!” in the first curse we’ve ever heard on Gilmore Girls. Anyway, Emily mentions having read Marie Kondo’s book about purging things from your life unless they bring you joy. Lorelai points out that nothing will bring her joy, since she has just lost Richard. Lorelai encourages a therapist, which Emily actually takes her up on. Her call is to tell Lorelai how much she loves the therapist, how nice she is, and how she’d love for Lorelai to meet. So thrilled that her mother took her advice and is now thanking her profusely, Lorelai agree to meet the therapist as Luke hilarious panics and makes ‘no no no’ gestures.
Lorelai brushes off Luke’s panic at first by pointing out how rare and glorious it is that Emily has taken her suggestion and been thankful, when she realizes that she has just agreed to attend therapy with her mother. Luke hugs her as we all realize, in the words of Star Wars – IT’S A TRAP!
I really enjoyed this first episode, written and directed by Amy Sherman-Palladino, and our return to the town we know and love after such a long absence. Aside from Rory’s dismissive treatment of boyfriend Paul, who was nice enough to bring Lorelai and Luke gifts they had discussed in his previous meeting of them that they didn’t recall whatsoever, I liked to see that Rory was working on a book with badass Alex Kingston. We didn’t get much clue of her other activities in the ten years since we saw her last, and there was no mention of her working on the Obama campaign, which was weird since “Rory” did a Snapchat takeover of Michelle Obama’s Snapchat earlier this year in character. Yes, Alexis Bledel and Michelle Obama filmed scenes together with her in character as Rory, in the White House. Was that supposed to be set a few years ago? I thought we were going to get more of that, and many more Obama and politics mentions! The New Yorker articles makes sense, but not the delayed Conde Nast interview. They should be chomping at the bit to please a friend of the Obamas. Plus Rory has always been interested in humanitarian issues. I thought not mentioning all that was very odd.
Lorelai’s scenes all were completely on point, as were Emily’s. I miss Richard. He does indeed loom large over this miniseries, and not just because of the giant painting. I did not miss Logan and was dismayed to see him. Adore Hep Alien and wish we had seen more of them. In general I so loved seeing the residents of Stars Hollow again and the town itself, being back in Luke’s diner and walking past Miss Patty’s and Gypsy’s Garage. Who did you enjoy seeing the most? Tweet and tell me, or post here in the comments!
I’ll be back for the next three days with recaps of the rest of this miniseries event. Next up: Spring!