On October 5, 2000, I settled down to watch what seemed to be a very intriguing show on the WB: Gilmore Girls. During the teaser we got this exchange:
Lorelai: You certainly are chatty with my table, huh?
Man #1: I was just getting to know…
Lorelai: My daughter?
Man #1 (surprised): You don’t look like a mother… And you don’t look like a daughter…
Lorelai: Wow, that could possibly be very sweet.
Man #1: [to Rory] So you’re…
Lorelai: She’s sixteen.
Rory: Are you my new daddy?
Brilliant. I was in love. I knew I had to keep watching this show, and it only took a couple of minutes (actually less…I mean, hello…Lauren Graham…gorgeous).
So, for seven seasons I was a very faithful viewer. I’d tape all the episodes and at the mid-season break, as well at the end of the season, I’d have a Gilmore Girls marathon for my parents…well, except for the last season and a half, but I’m going to get my mom caught up real soon now.
A few weeks ago, I came down with a stomach bug. Being largely confined to my bed, my main comfort, other than sleep, was returning to the places where I’d spent 153 happy hours (or 107 if you cut out the commercials). What a pleasant journey.
I realize that some might be wondering what my favorite episodes were. Honestly, there was a lot I liked about so many that picking a favorite would be like making Lorelai decide if she liked coffee better than coffee.
Even so, I do have some thoughts about this series. So much happened over the course of seven years that made me happy, sad, angry, frustrated, and just plain confumled (yes, that’s a word……now).
The Heartbreak of Season 6+
The elephant in the room for me is always season 6: the year of pain. Lorelai and Rory’s estrangement. Luke hiding April from Lorelai. Rory’s aimlessness. Logan’s unfaithfulness. Add those together with even more angsty memories and we end up with a season that, on the whole, is perhaps even more painful to watch now given the knowledge that even more pain is coming.
For most of the season it did seem like there was a plan, but toward the end, when the Palladinos probably suspected that the show was either going to be canceled or they’d be fired, it was very apparent to the fans that they were sabotaging their own show. I’d be curious to know how they planned to resolve the mess they’d made (they were indeed not present when season 7 premiered), because it was a big one.
I’ve got to give credit to the creative team for the seventh season. Though they stumbled a bit out of the gate, honestly, they didn’t get to start on a smooth track. When did things finally turn around? At just about the time when star Lauren Graham was listed as a producer on the show (episode 12). Coincidence? I think not.
I still want to know what the original plan was for the series’ end. It had been so touted for so long, I feel a little cheated not knowing it. C’est la vie.
Parents and Other Circuses
The core of GG has always been that of parents and children. Chief among these have been the titular characters of the series, the Gilmore girls: Lorelai, Rory, and Emily.
Except for few bumps in the road and the first nine episodes of season 6, Lorelai and Rory were just about the perfect mother/daughter team. They balanced each other. Lorelai was bold where Rory was shy. Rory was sensible where Lorelai was fantastical. But regardless, they realized the importance of their love for one another.
[Lorelai wakes Rory at 4:03am on October 8]
Lorelai: Happy birthday, little girl.
[Lorelai crawls in bed beside Rory]
Lorelai: I can’t believe how fast you’re growing up.
Rory: Really? Feels slow.
Lorelai: Trust me, it’s fast. What do you think of your life so far?
Rory: I think it’s pretty good.
Lorelai: Any complaints?
Rory: I’d like that whole humidity thing to go away.
Lorelai: Alright, I’ll work on that.
Rory: So, do I look older?
Lorelai: Oh, yeah! You walk into Denny’s before 5:00 and you’ve got yourself a discount.
Rory: Good deal.
Lorelai: So you know what I think?
Lorelai: I think you’re a great, cool kid, and the best friend a girl could have.
Rory: Back at ya.
Lorelai: And it’s so hard to believe that at exactly this time, many moons ago, I was lying in exactly this same position.
Rory: Oh boy, here we go.
Lorelai: Only I had a huge fat stomach, and big fat ankles, and I was swearing like a sailor…
Rory: On leave.
Lorelai: On leave, right. And there I was…
Rory: In labor.
Lorelai: And while some have called it the most meaningful experience of your life, to me it was something more akin to doing the splits on a crate of dynamite.
Rory: I wonder if the Waltons ever did this?
Lorelai: And I was screaming and swearing, and being surrounded as I was by a hundred prominent doctors, I just assumed there was an actual use for the cup of ice chips they gave me.
Rory: There wasn’t.
Lorelai: But pelting the nurses sure was fun.
Rory: I love you, mom.
Lorelai: Shhh, I’m getting to the part where he sees your head… So there I was…
That scene, all the way back in season 1, has remained one of my favorite scenes in the series, just as I knew it would be when it aired. It was sweet, and funny, and unexpected, and so chock full of love without being treacly that I think it established a lot of what Lor’s and Rory’s relationship was.
In contrast, we have the paired relationships of Emily and Lorelai Gilmore as well as Lane and Mrs. Kim. With these relationships we have mothers who are very controlling and certain that they know the one right path for their daughter’s happiness. The superficial difference between Emily and Mrs. Kim is one of class. But I think the difference runs even deeper. Mrs. Kim’s control is due to a genuine concern for her daughter while Emily’s is driven at least as much (if not more so) by the upper-crust concern of caring about appearances.
While Mrs. Kim could be infuriating and smothering to Lane (though Lane was relived of some pressure by being almost co-mothered by the more flexible Lorelai), Lane always knew that her mother loved her. In fact, when Lane was about to become a mother herself, she even said that she’d do everything for her kids just like her mother did for her.
As for Emily…argh, she makes me just about as angry as she makes Lorelai. Let’s just say that, at times, it feels like it hits close to home.
But those aren’t the only relationships that color this tale. Richard and Lorelai, Christopher and Rory, and the out-of-the-blue combo of Luke and April. This series, though seemingly focused on the “Girls” aspect of the title doesn’t simply gloss over fathers.
The relationship that I found the most appealing was the one that got sprung on us almost midway through the sixth season when this Rory-like 12-year-old pops into Luke’s diner and it unfolds that Luke’s relationship with one Anna Nardini resulted in an unexpected little package some 12 years ago. Perhaps this story resonated with me because of some personal events (which I’m still treasuring), but I was glad that the Palladinos, in the midst of the tumultuous sixth season, gave us a story of a father and daughter coming together and learning to love each other.
It was hardly surprising that Luke went ga-ga over April. She was essentially a Rory Mini-me. Much as Anna was like Lorelai…just a little less so. More importantly, he fought for his daughter…eventually. Though he ruined his relationship with Lorelai at first, at least he refused to abandon his daughter. I’m not sure Richard Gilmore would go that extra mile for Lorelai (for Rory, maybe).
To be fair, Luke’s long-time love of Rory (even when at his gruffest, he was always there for her) certainly paved the way for his bonding with April.
Relationships and Other Strangers
One thing the series had in abundance were relationships. While some were ill-timed affairs meant to keep Luke and Lorelai at cross-purposes, the various character pairings made for interesting dynamics.
For me, the most infuriating relationship was between Logan and Rory. It’s not so much that they didn’t seem to more-or-less fit, but I didn’t like the way Rory was much of the time when they were together. Too often, Logan would screw up (bridesmaids, anyone?), and would glibly spin his way out of it so skillfully that Rory thought she was the one doing the wronging for not being more forgiving. Time after time Rory would just wimp out. It just made me want to knock some sense into both of them: Logan to take responsibility, and Rory to stand her ground when she was in the right.
Still, of all her relationships, Logan was probably the best match that she had. This is hardly surprising in that he was very much a Mini-me of her father Christopher. Very cliche, but still—his life resonated with what she liked about hers. While cynical about it by upbringing, Rory did enjoy some of the silver-spoon lifestyle that her mother eschewed all of her life.
At least Logan was good to Rory (more-or-less). In contrast, I did not like Jess at all. Though well-read, he was little more than a punk who would encourage misunderstandings about him so as to give him a reason to pick a fight. But at least he was honest about it. Dean…well, I quickly came to loathe Dean and his temper. I’ve seen it too much in the real world. Dean was likely going to become an abusive (and as we discovered, a cheating) spouse. Rory deserved better—and as crappy as Jess was, at least he didn’t seem like he’d ever harm her.
As for Lorelai. It was pretty obvious early in the first season that Luke loved Lorelai, and that Lorelai wasn’t above thinking what-if thoughts about Luke. They had to be together, and I’m very happy the series ended allowing us to think that they’d finally come to a place where they’d have their fitted-glass-slipper endin– no…beginning.
That said, I’d have to say that Max came in a very close second. Had there not be a Luke in the picture, or if Luke wasn’t essentially Rory’s surrogate father, I’d have been very happy to see Max and Lor together. They fit well.
Of course the thorn in all of it was Christopher. Except for the misguided and mercifully short-lived marriage, Chris was little more that a lingering teen fantasy fueled by the circumstance of his being little more than an accidental sperm donor.
With Chris and Logan we see a lot of the same behavior of wheedling to get their way. A blunt-object approach to living a life very reminiscent of Richard and Emily Gilmore (or Eva and Adolf, as Lorelai referred to them). As a result of their class upbringing, and bolstered by a lot of cash, they had no qualms about running rough-shod over other people’s desires so as to get their own way. Neither one was a good long-term fit for our two Lorelai Gilmores.
A Friend Is Forever
The next biggest piece of the relationship puzzle: friends. Surprisingly, during the run of the series, there were only three pure friendships of any significance: Lorelai and Sookie, Rory and Lane, and Rory and Paris.
Lorelai and Sookie seem to be an odd match. The fact is that Sookie is barely more relevant than any of the town’s “characters”. But that “barely more” is what makes all the difference. Though quirky, Sookie is Lorelai’s sounding board. She’s the one person that doesn’t happen to be her daughter who will be honest with Lorelai when necessary. Though she is high-maintenance, Sookie knows how to be a good friend and is the one person she’s always been able to rely on.
The same can be said for Rory and Lane. Best friends since kindergarten, they are actually more like sisters than friends. Perhaps the best expression of this came during Lane’s baby shower:
Lane: Seriously, Zach’s right. This party is amazing. Everything you guys did — truthfully, I didn’t think it was actually gonna happen.
Rory: Yes well, that whole bed-rest thing really threw a wrench in.
Lane: Plus the fight.
Rory: What fight?
Lane: You didn’t hear about the fight? Me and my mum, classic Kim family grudgefest? If not for your mom, we might have gone the way of Pretty Girls Make Graves. They were so young and had so many killer albums left in them.
Rory: So my mom brokered peace?
Lane: Hard-core. Listen… here’s the thing. Um…my kids are gonna need that, too — you know, when they’re hiding bibles and they can’t stand me. So what I wanted to know is… would you be their Lorelai Gilmore? I guess that’s the proper term.
Lane: I can’t think of anyone who would be better. Plus, you already have the name.
Rory: I’d love to. Yeah. Thanks.
See what I mean? More like family than just friends. Such is not the case with Paris, however. Paris is paranoid, caustic, self-centered, needy, smart, and has low self-esteem combined with a megalomaniacal streak. But…despite how extremely high-maintenance she is, when the chips start falling, she’s there at Rory’s side just as Rory is for her (even when Paris doesn’t deserve it). Paris is very hard to take, but Rory takes her and does something that few have dared to do: she’s even loved her. In exchange, Paris loves Rory to a greater degree than perhaps even Paris suspects. I imagine that our Miss Gellar will always be a part of Rory’s life.
What can be said about Star’s Hollow that the word “eccentric” doesn’t cover? In general, who’s not to like? Shoot, I even like Kirk about as often as not. I think it helps that Kirk and Luke probably went to school together. That explains a lot about their dynamic. They have a LOT of history behind them that bonds them in spite of themselves.
The only character that consistently got under my skin was Taylor Doose. I mean…did he have any friends at all? Seriously, the man was just a major tool.
WAIT! Someone I hated even more than Taylor. While I’ll still watch Taylor, no one will get me to hit the fast forward button faster than Liz’s husband, Luke brother-in-law, T.J. Don’t get me started.
There were many moments during the 153 episodes I watched that really brought home why I loved this series. Of course, there were those scenes already quoted, but there were so many more.
Luke to Lorelai (7:22): “I just like to see you happy.”
Luke and Lorelai apologizing in the hay bail maze (7:18).
Lorelai to Emily as Emily is feeling sorry for herself and threatening to buy a plane (6:09): “You didn’t lose her like you lost me. She was never supposed to be there in the first place. She was always supposed to be at school. She just went back where she belonged. [She sighs and turns to the door.] And you didn’t lose me.”
Lorelai’s character reference of Luke (7:12):
To whom it may concern,
In the nearly 10 years that I have known Luke Danes, I have come to know him as an honest and decent man. He’s also one of the most kind and caring persons I have ever met.
I’m a single mother, and I raised my daughter by myself, but once Luke Danes became my friend in this town, I never really felt alone. Luke and I have had our ups and downs over the years, but through it all, his relationship with my daughter, Rory, has never changed. He’s always been there for her no matter what. He was there to celebrate her birthdays. He was there cheering her on at her high school graduation.
Luke has been a sort of father figure in my daughter’s life. With his own daughter, Luke wasn’t given the opportunity to be there for her first 12 years, but he should be given that opportunity now. Once Luke Danes is in your life, he is in your life forever. I know from personal experience what an amazing gift that is, and not to allow him access to his daughter would be to seriously deprive her of all this man has to offer, and he offers so much. Thank you for your time.
And so many more. Those come immediately to mind because I’ve just finished watching them. I’d have to write thousands of more words to even come close to expressing how wonderful this show was.
It was also a happy coincidence that my circle of family grew by seven women from young-to-experienced during the run of this series. So often I could see elements of them in the people I was watching on screen. It was sort of freaky at times, but also really good. I was not only getting to visit a special fanatsy place every week on TV, but I was also living it.
Gilmore Girls will always hold a special place for me. So many great memories in addition to great entertainment. I always live in stunned awe over the abilities of Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel to spew forth the torrent of lines they were asked to for so long. As someone who has penned a script or several, I can appreciate the effort it took on their part to make those speeches seem so natural.
I also have to thank the Palladinos for 5 1/2 really good seasons. I also thank the creative team that swooped in to deliver that last season to a satisfying denouement.
To those who know what I’m talking about when I gush about GG, I say that you should pop in a disc (or tape) of the show whenever you can and bask in the wonder of it all. For those you are Gilmore Girl virgins…well, you simply have to buy the sets. If you like women. If you like screwball comedy. If you like absurdity as well as reminders of life’s realities, then you need to set yourself down and watch.