I smell snow, Lorelai Gilmore says in “Winter,” the first installment of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. And just as the words leave her lips, flurries begin to fall, whitening the grounds of Stars Hollow; the small town in Connecticut that is as quaint and picturesque as we left it nine years ago.
The fact that the entire town was actually constructed in a giant snow globe probably has an effect on your bar count, Lorelai explains as Rory tries to find some semblance of cell phone service outside.
And that’s just it. This idyllic New England town can be likened to a snow globe — and not just in the winter glow of twinkling lights and holiday decorum; not just in the snow-covered gazebo in the midst of the square. Stars Hollow is safe. Stars Hollow is home.
While there’s been plenty of heartache during the seven season run of Gilmore Girls, the revival is coated with a particular brand of struggle. Beneath the winter, spring, and summer charm, and in between the international food festival, and the municipal pool shenanigans, and Taylor’s idea for an eccentric summer musical (so awful — hilarity ensues), all three Gilmore girls are floundering.
Rory, at 32, finds herself stuck. Drifting. As someone who’s generally known to ‘have it together,’ we actually see her fail. We see her doubt her career path. We see her have difficulty letting go of Logan even though he’s engaged to someone else and it’s not meant to be. We see her feel self-conscious about being ‘behind’ her peers (a feeling I’m familiar with well.) We see her have a meaningless relationship with someone she keeps forgetting to break up with. In this revival, Rory Gilmore is the most human she’s ever been.
Lorelai has been with Luke steadily for nine years. They live together. They share everything. Or do they? As the scorching summer sun presses on, she begins to feel a void. She questions what lies ahead. She feels self conscious she’s not married. They snipe at one another, returning to an old argument that unsettles the stomach. She needs clarity. It’s never, or now, she realizes.
The parallels between mother and daughter have always run deep; the close connection and genuine friendship between Lorelai and Rory is one of the pertinent themes of the series and the revival is no exception; except, here, Emily Gilmore, runs parallel with her daughter and granddaughter, too.
Emily is certainly not renowned for a warm disposition, but every now and then we see a softer, more vulnerable side. And with Richard’s passing, she grieves with her family. The words to Tom Waits’s “Time” linger in the backdrop of the funeral scene, where we see a broken Emily stand by the casket and peer at a photograph, recalling her late husband of 50 years. We see Lorelai and Rory, teary-eyed, looking on in the distance.
And they all pretend they’re orphans and their memory’s like a train
You can see it getting smaller as it pulls away
And the things you can’t remember tell the things you can’t forget
That history puts a saint in every dream
And it’s time, time, time…
As autumn leaves cover Stars Hollow in reds and oranges with the promise of transformation, we watch the Gilmores begin to find their own way again.
Rory starts writing a book about her life, about her relationship with her mother, about their life together, and the life her mother had with her parents. Before Lorelai found out she was pregnant at sixteen years-old; before she left home and moved to Stars Hollow; before she was a maid at the Independence Inn, not knowing that in her adult life, she would ultimately run her own inn: The Dragonfly. Lorelai’s journey is a quintessential ‘rags to riches story.’ Jess, who one might deem Rory’s own version of ‘Luke’, encourages her to write something she’s passionate about. You just got to find that thing that makes you feel, so that your readers feel it.
And even though Lorelai initially resists, not wanting Rory to openly write about their life, she comes around. She even has a suggestion for the title. Drop the “the.” Just Gilmore Girls. It’s cleaner.
Amy Sherman-Palladino constructs a full, beautiful circle.
And then, we watch Lorelai and Luke finally get married after their long withstanding history, after everything they’ve been through. Nostalgia seeps through as the Sam Phillips song, “Reflecting Light,” the song Lorelai and Luke first danced to back in season 4, plays over a montage of the two eloping under the Stars Hollow night sky. (The night before their official wedding with the rest of the town in attendance.)
We see Emily sell the home she shared with Richard and move to Nantucket, into a house with a calming view of the atlantic ocean. (Fitting since Nantucket is legitimately referred to as “the island of healing.”) It isn’t home anymore, Emily matter-of- factly tells Lorelai as she packs up the majestic house in Hartford. It hasn’t been home since your father died.
Once again, a full, beautiful circle is poignantly crafted as we find Lorelai and Rory on the steps of the gazebo — right where we find them in the opening scene of “Winter” — talking together in the early hours preceding Lorelai and Luke’s town wedding. They laugh about what a Steely Dan flashmob would look like and then turn contemplative. Reflective. It took a long time getting here, Lorelai says. Sometimes, it’s just the journey, you know? Rory stares out at Stars Hollow. I wanna remember it all, she says quietly. Every detail.
The last four words — four words that Amy had in mind at the show’s conception — are poetic, solidifying the connection between Rory and Lorelai; echoing the sentiment that Rory will follow in her mother’s footsteps; assuring us that one can always go home, wherever or whoever home may be.
Lauren Suval is the author of The Art of Nostalgia
You can buy The Art of Nostalgia here.