Character development in Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

*SPOILER ALERT: don’t read if you haven’t seen all 4 episodes of the revival*

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I think we can all agree that Gilmore Girls, rather than answering a multitude of questions that have been brewing for the last nine years, actually leaves us with even more unanswered questions than before we started watching the revival. But regardless of intricate plot details and discrepancies between this revival and the season that should not be named, the most irregular aspect of this revival for me was character development. Or in the case of some people, the lack thereof.

The one that struck me most was Rory. What has she actually done with her life since we left her nine years ago? Her future seemed promising. She was going to trail the Obama presidential campaign, which we all assumed would lead to the wonderful career as a journalist that she’d always dreamed of. And of course she would have that career, because she’s Rory Gilmore. Right?

But rather than finding Rory in the midst of probably the most exciting time in her life career-wise, we find her pretty much drifting aimlessly, with nothing more than the one New Yorker piece and a few odds and ends to show for her accomplishments over the last decade.

During the original run of the show we were always led to believe that Rory was destined for greatness (including Rory herself), and for the most part things did indeed pan out the way she wanted them to. She attended her prestigious prep school, went to an Ivy League university, and right after graduating she took her first tentative steps out into the real world.

Now of course all of this happened in a pre-credit crunch era, in a world before Facebook and Twitter where the word ‘millennial’ did not exist. Surely there was always a chance that, in this rapidly changing world, Rory’s chosen career path would work out a little differently than she had initially intended. The world of journalism has changed since Rory graduated from Yale, but surely a young woman who grew up in the digital age would have no trouble adapting to this change?

But in reality it feels more as though she has stood still for the last decade while the world moved on. I would even go as far as argue that her character development in season 7 has been disregarded completely, and we’re left with some sort of AU version of Rory who didn’t quite make the cut. It sounds harsh, and I admittedly feel a little cruel saying this about someone who was once one of my favourite characters on television.

There is also a sense of entitlement to Rory’s character that she’s probably not even aware of herself, but oddly enough there is no one to call her out on it either. She splits her time between Stars Hollow and London seemingly without a care in the world (who is paying for all these plane tickets, seriously?) Yet she complains about being broke, about lacking a sense of purpose and not even having a place to call home or a car for that matter. Yet we see her driving a car all the time, there’s still food on the table, and after she dumps all her mobile phones in a bin after her disastrous job interview in the next scene she miraculously has the same or freakishly similar looking phones again. Not bad for someone who doesn’t actually have a job and claims she has no money.

Which brings me to the appalling excuse for a job interview which really brings out Rory’s sense of entitlement. She should be flattered about being pursued by a young start-up, yet it does nothing but annoy her. The only reason she really goes to the interview at all is because she needs money, and even then she can’t be bothered to even prepare anything. Showing up like that at your first proper job interview after graduating university would already seem in bad taste, but with ten years experience under your belt it is simply embarrassing. There’s really no other word for it. And when she doesn’t get the job she has the nerve to be shocked and even offended that they rejected her. Now I know that this plot device was probably needed to move the story forward, because why else would Rory move back to Stars Hollow and get into the right mindset to plan a career change and write a book? Yet it still doesn’t excuse her behaviour and her attitude towards professional life.

Now another subject I don’t want to go into in too much detail is the men in Rory’s life. I can’t for the life of me begin to understand why she would still be bothering with Logan after all these years. Certainly if we look at the way they left things at the end of season 7 with the disastrous proposal. Surely people change over the years, and admittedly I dislike Logan less now than I did during the original run of the show. So for them to still be in touch and be friends would not have seemed all that unlikely to me. But considering how disastrous being the “other woman” turned out for Rory last time with Dean and Lindsay, you would not think that she’d make the same mistake twice. It just doesn’t seem like her to do something like that.

Furthermore, I definitely believe that Rory deserves someone better than Logan, or any of her previous boyfriends for that matter. It would have been nice to see Rory start with a clean slate and be involved with someone else, a new character, someone without ties to the original show. And don’t even get me started on the whole ‘forgetting about Paul’ thing. That was probably only amusing for about 5 minutes, and it gave Rory as a character a kind of slapstick-like quality that was very ill-suited and not even remotely plausible or funny.

Now let’s move on to Lorelai and Luke. I found the situation we find them in to be bizarre, and that is putting it mildly. In a way it feels as though they’ve been in stasis for the last nine years or so. Yes the universe has righted one major wrong, because they’re together as they should be, but that’s about it really. They haven’t progressed one bit and they appear to be drifting. It is as if they’ve let life pass them by for all these years and were just watching from the sidelines. They did none of the things they always talked about. They’re not married, they never had a child together. They’re just maintaining the status quo and never even seem to question why they never did any of these things. It is just wholly out of character for the both of them, and though I am very happy that they’re together and seem to be doing well, that’s really all of the positives I can name where Luke and Lorelai are concerned.

Let’s break this down into bitesize pieces. Of course they don’t need to be married in order to validate their relationship. They’ve both been married before, and we all know how that worked out for them. Perhaps they never felt the need to get that piece of paper in order to submit proof to the rest of the world that their relationship was working out. And that’s fine. I’m not bummed about the unmarried aspect of their relationship. In a way it’s kind of nice that they don’t necessarily need that validation.

However, probably the most out of character bit for these two characters was the visit to Paris’ surrogacy clinic. To get back to my point where they’ve been standing still for nearly a decade, they suddenly seem to go “hey, something’s missing in our lives and we never had that kid we talked about, so let’s get one in order to fix our relationship”. Granted it’s mostly Lorelai who’s acting in this way, and Luke’s just sort of along for the ride because he’s too polite to say anything really. And of course in this way they could re-introduce Paris and show what kind of life she’s made for herself. But really? This is the most out of character Lorelai and Luke could possibly have been.

Having said that, I am really disappointed that the two of them never had a child. Not because I feel that having a child should be the ultimate goal for every couple, fictitious or otherwise, but in this case it could have been symbolic for so much more than just the culmination of their love for each other.

Lorelai was a teen mother who had to go through pregnancy and motherhood all by herself. She didn’t have the support of a loving partner or extended family, and pretty much just had to fend for herself and do it all on her own. Of course it did bring her Rory and that special bond that came along with that, but she never got the “full package” experience.

And as for Luke, he didn’t even know he had a daughter for pretty much the first twelve years of her life. He never got to experience the first steps, first words, first day of school etcetera. He started his journey into parenthood as the father to a teenager and again, never got the full package.

Which is why I’ve always felt so strongly about Luke and Lorelai having a child, because it would mean that they would both be given the full experience that they’d had to miss out on the first time around. It is something these characters deserved after all they’ve been through in their respective lives. And even if most of this had happened off camera in the intervening years between the original show and the revival, it wouldn’t have mattered because it would have meant so much for their character development.

Now with regards to the supporting cast of Gilmore Girls, let me just say that it was heartwarming to see that pretty much every supporting character made an appearance in some capacity. It’s proof of how much everyone loves it, but at the same time it also means that a lot scenes felt rushed because they had to try and cram everyone in. Let’s look at Lane, for instance, who hardly got any screen time at all, yet she was one of the main characters of the original show. We still have no idea what she’s been up to over the last nine years, other than that the band is still together (but never achieved any level of fame for some reason) and that she’s still married to Zach.

We get see a little bit of character development for Michel, who turns out to be married to a guy named Frederick who wants them to start a family. His storyline appears to be going well, and actually the dilemma of him staying on at the Dragonfly or leaving to move his career forward is interesting, but we never get any closure for this sub-plot either.

Of course we know that the reason why Sookie’s only in 1 scene was due to Melissa McCarthy’s busy schedule, but they could have at least expanded a little on what’s been going on in her life. We are to assume that she and Jackson are still happily married, and we don’t even know what happened with their 3rd child that she was expecting during season 7.

I could go on and list every important character and highlight where they went wrong or what they should’ve elaborated on, but frankly that would just take forever.

The only character who made any real progress and who is, in my opinion, the star of the show, is Emily. Throughout the original show she remained pretty much unchanged as the stable matriarch of the Gilmore family. But now with the tragic loss of her husband Richard, she finds herself in freefall and doesn’t know what to do with herself. Regardless of the sadness of the loss of her husband, it was unfortunately the only way I could ever imagine her character undergoing any fundamental changes. Suddenly she is forced to re-evaluate her life, what she stands for, what she desires, and initially it terrifies her. It takes her some time to get back on her feet again, but once she does she is stronger than ever before. She makes some fundamental changes to her life as a woman in her own right, rather than as a wife or a mother.

Emily has always been a wonderful, if complicated, character, but in the revival she definitely steals the show.

Which brings me to the ending and those famous last four words Amy Sherman-Palladino has hinted at for all these years. I’m not exactly surprised, but I am disappointed about these words. And not just because it means that the show ends on a cliffhanger, which is annoying enough in itself. But rather I am disappointed because of the implications these words have, and what it means for the character of Rory whom we have followed from the age of 16 until the age of 32.

While a fundamental theme that runs through the show is the special and precious bond between a mother and a daughter, it is reiterated time and time again how much Lorelai’s had to sacrifice in order to raise her daughter, and how she will do everything within her power to ensure that things will work out differently for Rory. And with this ending it means that Rory ends up in a situation that’s in some ways very similar to that of her mother’s all those years ago. Unmarried, pregnant, jobless, and with no prospect of a steady income in her near future. Surely there are differences too. Rory’s twice the age her mother was when she got pregnant, and she’s got the support of her family.

In a way I understand where Amy Sherman-Palladino is coming from with this ending, because it gives the show an elliptical ending, meaning that it ends the way it started. However, I feel that this does not do Rory’s character justice at all. All her life she’s been so focussed, she had very clear goals and life aims, and although you can’t always get exactly what you want, for her to end up with nothing she’s ever wanted to achieve seems cruel and frankly unnecessary. Because if ASP had always intended for Rory to end up like this, then what was the point of Rory’s journey?

In addition to this, ASP had originally intended for this to be the ending to the show when it originally aired. Following this logic, all of this could’ve happened to Rory when she was 22 rather than 32, which makes the whole “I’m pregnant” plot device even more disturbing to me. If this scenario had been the case, Rory’s professional life would’ve ended (or at least been put on hold for a long time) before it had even begun. At least with the ending of season 7 we see her graduating university and heading out into the world as an aspiring journalist, which is what she’d always wanted to do.

In conclusion, the prospect of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life filled us fans with hope, because it had an opportunity to right some wrongs. The original show ended in a dissatisfying manner and left a lot of things unresolved and questions unanswered. The fact that ASP never got the chance to end her show the way she had intended was unfair, and the cast, crew, and fans always hoped she would one day get the chance to finish the show properly.

Which makes the revival and consequently the ending even harder to swallow. We expected to get more of that fuzzy feeling the original show would give us, the feeling of being wrapped up tightly in a warm and soft blanket. But instead we were given very little to no character development, massive plotholes, awkward and unnecessary subplots, and quite possibly the worst cliffhanger to end our beloved show on.

And without trying to sound too bitter or self-pitying, and in utter disbelief that I would ever say these words, I think the ending to season 7 – in retrospect – was a lot better than what we’re left with now.

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2 thoughts on “Character development in Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

  1. I really liked your post. I only watched the first episode and stopped after that. I felt the show was flat and lacked the original spark it had. And then, of course, I read spoilers for the rest of the episodes and I’m just disappointed in Rory’s journey, her affair with Logan and the last four words. I had high hopes for Rory, and wanted her to be a force but instead I think I’ll go back and watch the original series and forget about these new episodes. .

    1. Thank you so much for your comment! I watched them all because I kept hoping for them to get better. I thought maybe they just need to find their characters’ voices again and then everything will be alright. Unfortunately that didn’t happen. I will definitely go back to the original series as well, but for now that’s been tainted by this ending for me as well 😦

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