Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

Gilmore Girls as a show always had issues. In the strongest seasons (2-4, in my opinion), it becomes easy to forget about this and just get caught up in the banter, but eventually some kind of poorly written shouting match or ill-devised soap-opera-style plotline always comes in to keep the show from ever really being consistently brilliant. I say this to explain that I consider myself more a fan of Amy Sherman-Palladino than a diehard Gilmore Girls fan--I love the characters, the dialogue, and the setting, but the show itself in its original 2000-2007 incarnation runs a huge gamut of quality to an extent that I tend to enjoy it at arms' length. I was, however, looking forward to these episodes as a welcome return to said characters, dialogue, and setting, of which I am all very fond.

A Year in the Life honestly, for the most part, is very good. It delivers what I want out of an Amy Sherman-Palladino show moreso than the original run did during its low points, and while it doesn't have the time to build a TV season's worth of story before it's over (thus making the miniseries label appropriate), the drama and tragedy here are honestly more effective and moving than they were during some of the show's better times. The humor and dialogue is no different, which is a blessing and enough to make the show worth watching on its own. And, most importantly, the main characters are all portrayed well--ten years later, the Palladinos still remember how to write all the main characters and their specific voices, and all the actors are up for the challenge (Alexis Bledel has improved tremendously, and does career-best work here). The plotlines are well-modulated, keeping the tone intact and the balance of comedy and drama feeling right almost all the time. The series takes unfortunate things and makes excellent television out of them, most notably turning the death of original-series MVP Edward Herrmann into a truly heartbreaking but never excessive arc involving the leads grieving the loss of his onscreen character.

Everyone else, big roles and small, is back, and everyone is pretty much deployed at the right times and for the right amount of time (with the exception of Paris, who sadly vanishes for the second half). And for fans of the TV show, once again, this is really just all of the good with little of the bad--tons of banter, no forced drama, actually good character work and plotlines for characters who often got short shrift on the show. The last episode is especially good: Sherman-Palladino is often at her best when allowed to go off the rails and do whatever she wants, and she's particularly good at finales, so for her first online television outing it's no surprise that she pulls out an absolute doozy. There's more than one dance number. There are poignant breakups, reunions, and declarations of love. I cried a bunch of times, more than I have in months. (There are also some overlong scenes and a pretty transphobic one-liner. There are issues, they're just milder than those on the show previously.) Most of it comes close to being a masterpiece...

So it's a shame that the last ten seconds devalue things quite a bit. Like the Gilmore Girls of old, this new Gilmore Girls (despite being more maturely written and satisfying in other ways) waits until things are at their best to screw them up with something cheap. It makes sense, given both the nature of Gilmore Girls as a show and the sheer number of TV shows with odd endings, that the famed Last Four Words would be something gimmicky, obvious, or cheap. I just wasn't prepared for how cheap and uncomfortable the moment is. The actual plot point, while soapy, is at least set up somewhat by the rest of the ending--the moment itself is still cheap. There shouldn't be any more episodes after this, since the rest of it is good enough that there's no chance it could attain those heights again, but leaving it on the note they chose to still makes me kind of sad and uncomfortable, if only because I seriously thought the show had left this kind of quality whiplash behind. The miniseries as a whole is still good, and the fact that it provides high-quality closure for most of the characters is something I appreciate. It's worth watching. It just isn't quite the exemplary version of the show I thought it was with ten seconds to go.

Sidenote: Setting aside my complicated feelings about Gilmore Girls as a show in general and its odd approach to drama in particular, I will just say that I think Amy Sherman-Palladino is going to do much better in online television than she did on actual TV, where every single one of her (three) projects got screwed in one way or another. This still makes me strongly hope for a Bunheads revival.
Also I have no idea how to rate this. Torn between a 3.5 for how I feel at the moment, and a 4 for overall quality.

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