The first installment of Netflix’s Gilmore Girls Revival“A Year In the Life” flashes back to the funeral of family patriarch Richard Gilmore (played by the late Edward Herrmann). In this scene, Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham) is standing at the bar when she is approached by her old flame, Jason (Chris Eigeman), who, after offering a perfunctory apology for her loss, stares at her with intent and asks, “Are you happy?”
It is difficult to tell whether it is Lorelai or Graham who answers. “Uh, right now?” she inquires archly, looking pointedly around a room filled with mourners. Though this could be a nod to Lorelai’s characteristic wit, it felt more like it was Graham, chastising the writers for thrusting her character into such a contrived conversation.
I was one of the viewers who tuned in to the series premiere in 2000; I was 11-years-old and watched it with my mother, who squealed in delight, “That sounds like you and me!” at the end of the episode as Lorelai teasingly asks Rory if she is embarrassing her. That, in essence, was the heart of the show: the manner in which we saw ourselves in Lorelai and Rory, and wished our lives played out in Stars Hollow. Therein was the expected poignancy of the revival’s concept: those of us who were Rory’s contemporaries are now the age that Lorelai was when the series began. There existed a sense of having come full circle.
That sense quickly evaporated the further I delved into “A Year In the Life.” I expected it to err on the schmaltzy side, to be heavy-handed in a manner that the original series managed to transcend. I did not expect to have such a visceral reaction to the progression of the characters of both Lorelai and Rory.
Though I was amused by the concept of the “30-something club,” my first reaction was that Rory would not be at such loose ends if she had, say, student loans, rent, and car insurance to which to tend. In the scene where Luke tells Lorelai he intends to finance his (irritating) daughter April’s postgraduate trip to Europe and Lorelai suggests that April land a job and pay her own way, I caught a glimpse of the everyday struggle that originally rendered the show so relatable. It was quickly overshadowed by Lorelai’s own daughter, who was staggering through the streets demanding that various townspeople locate the boxes of belongings she had stored with them in order to maintain an existence in which she could fly to Europe on a whim and a one-off freelance journalist’s stipend.
I had never expected Rory to remain above reproach, and in earlier seasons, the fact that she floundered for a time during college resonated. An early-twenties rut, however, bears no resemblance to Rory’s character in the revival, who cheats on a longtime boyfriend with college flame Logan, who is engaged to another woman, and at no point exhibits remorse for any of it. In fact, she often appears put out when Logan’s relationship detracts from his availability to field her rambling, one-sided phone calls about her nonexistent career. I could at times identify with neurotic, terrified-to-screw-up teenage Rory and at-loose-ends early-twenties Rory, but the 32-year-old Rory in this revival is a sociopath who bears no resemblance to anyone I know.
The strengths of Lorelai’s character are also diluted in this revival. In the early seasons, Lorelai was a good and reliable friend, helping Luke paint his diner, lending a hand to Sookie during a time of postpartum stress, minding Babette’s cat. She was a well-intentioned daughter, as evidenced in the episode where she moonlights as her father’s secretary when he starts his own business. I understood why people liked Lorelai and wanted to help her, because she reciprocated; the revival reflects none of this. Lorelai is monstrously self-centered, her demands on friends and loved ones are ridiculous, and it begs the question of who in their right minds would want anything to do with either of these Gilmore Girls.
As for the ending, spoiler alert: the 2000 me who began watching the series would not trust the 2016 Rory with my Nano pet, let alone a human baby.
[Featured Image by Eric Charbonneau/AP Images]