In Spring, Stars Hollow takes center stage.
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life - Spring
By Felix Quinonez Jr.
December 12, 2016
Spring wisely opens with Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Emily (Kelly Bishop) as they begin the therapy sessions the previous episode set up. Unfortunately, their first visit isn't particularly fruitful since they both “run out the clock.” But the ladies make return visits throughout the episode with varying results.
For a while, it doesn't seem like a lot will come out of these sessions. They do provide some entertaining moments but for the most part, it's not much different than their usual bickering. Yet, as usual, the show manages to sneak up on audiences and pull out the rug from under them. What initially appears like a routine visit takes a sudden turn when it's revealed that Emily wouldn't show up. It seemed that even she got tired of these sessions.
At first this looks like the towel is being thrown in on a joke that simply went on too long. The first episode seemed to hint that the therapy sessions would be a pivotal point for the women and the show. Instead, audiences got to sit through a bout of silence, Lorelai nonsensically singing, and a mysterious letter is brought up. (Hopefully that will be explained at some point.)
So, when it seems appropriate to call the therapy sessions a waste is when the payoff finally shows up. And it turns out to be a classic case of misdirection. The therapy sessions were for Emily. She's the grieving widow who was supposed to have a breakthrough. But instead, her absence is actually what triggers the moment audiences have been waiting for.
When Lorelai realizes her mother isn't showing up she, understandably, gets ready to leave. But almost without thinking she sits back down and opens up. It's a heartbreaking scene that cuts to the core. As she details her father's last moments, it becomes clear that Lorelai had become so focused on her mother's grief that she ignored her own. It also casts a different light on her actions at the funeral reception from the previous episode. And she articulates some doubts about her relationship with Luke (Scott Patterson) that she was, perhaps, not fully aware of.
But Lorelai isn't the only one having a personal crisis. The episode also gives Michel (Yanic Truesdale) time in the spotlight. He has always been an uptight and generally exasperated character, but rarely did he seem truly overwhelmed by his problems. Usually his complaints and sarcasm were just a result of Michel being Michel. But now there's a real sense of urgency to his dilemma. After all these years Michel finds himself at a crossroads.
He's been at the Dragonfly Inn since the beginning and helped make it what is. And like with most people, that longevity has brought with it a sense of comfort and routine for Michel. But beneath the veneer of security lies a feeling of stagnation. The Dragonfly Inn isn't just a job for him anymore; it's part of who he is. But now that he's getting older and his life is changing, Michel finds himself taking stock of his situation. And he is finally realizing that his time at The Dragonfly Inn is coming to an end.
His frustrations illustrate one of the main themes of A Year in the Life, the passage of time. And it also mirrors some of the doubts that Lorelai is having about her relationship with Luke. Michel's words resonate with Lorelai, perhaps even more than she realizes. When she shares this with Luke, she conveys a level of understanding for Michel. But Luke is quick to dismiss it. He explains that “If something is good, keep it the same.” Although not expressed verbally, it seems pretty clear they aren't just talking about the Dragonfly Inn.
Luke has always been resistant to change, whereas Lorelai has been known to get restless. And it seems that Luke's philosophy has been shaping their relationship. They have been essentially stuck in the same place for the past nine years. But like Michel, Lorelai may have reached a point that she wants more out of her life.
Rory (Alexis Bledel), on the other hand, has become untethered and is struggling to find her footing. Back in London, she watches her hopes for the Naomi Shropshire (Alex Kingston) book fall apart. Naomi proves to be as unhinged as Rory was warned she'd be. And Rory's love life isn't faring any better. But perhaps her bad luck is karmic for the way she treats Paul (Jack Carpenter). Yes, they are still together even if she has, again, forgotten about him. The Paul storyline always seemed like a bad idea but it's even more baffling that it's still going, even if it's in the background. Instead of eliciting the laughs the show seems to be aiming for, it just makes it harder to sympathize with Rory and her situation with Logan (Matt Czuchry).
Despite her adamant claims to the contrary, Rory isn't all that happy with her loose arrangement with Logan. In fact, in a not so subtle way, she hints that she wants to stay there longer. Unfortunately, for her, that's not possible because Logan's fiancée is coming back. And as usual, Rory compromises what she wants and settles for what she can get.
This represents one of the most frustrating aspects of Rory's story arc. At times it seems that she has not only failed to grow in the past nine years but also actually regressed. But if her situation with Logan mirrors the past, Rory's next trip actually takes her there.
She has an alumni function at Chilton and gets to visit her old prep school. There she reunites with Paris (Liza Weil), who is a delight as usual. Paris instills fear in both students and the headmaster, but the show has always been great at mixing the lighthearted moments with genuine emotion. And that's a big part of the reason why Paris has always been such a popular character. Had she just been an intimidating tyrant, audiences wouldn't have connected with her in the same way. It was always clear that her single-minded drive and bossiness were motivated by insecurities that she kept beneath the surface.
And the sudden appearance of Tristan, her high school crush, throws Paris for a loop. Suddenly, old emotions come rushing to the surface and Paris has one of her famous meltdowns. Feeling vulnerable, she opens up to Rory about the fact that she can't connect with her children and that she misses Doyle (Danny Strong). It's a heartfelt and moving moment. But it's also a bit of a relief. Up until now the show only focused on the façade that Paris presents to the world. And although that's entertaining, it's also one-dimensional.
On the other hand, Rory's moment comes while she addresses a class full of students. The scene is powerful and conveys a lot without actually saying it. Although she does a great job and it's clear that she connects with the students, there is an undercurrent of sadness to her speech. It's as if being back in her old stomping grounds has reminded Rory how bright her future once seemed. Now 32, she realizes that her life hasn't turned out the way she hoped it would.
But unfortunately, it doesn't take long for Rory to squander any goodwill she earned from that scene. After several postponements, she uses her connections to set up a meeting with Conde Nast that sticks. She had been talking about this for a while, so it was clearly important to her. But she bafflingly shows up completely unprepared. It's hard to decide if she's really naïve or egotistical. But at least part of the blame has to fall on Bledel's performance. She comes off more like a nervous high school freshman interviewing for a spot on the school paper than someone who has been working for almost a decade. In fact, her interviewers do most of the talking, lavishing praise on her. It perpetuates the show's bad habit of telling the viewers what a great journalist Rory is without ever showing any concrete proof.
And it only gets worse for Rory when Naomi Shropshire's lawyer calls to officially dissolve their partnership. This leads Rory to impetuously tackle an assignment that was briefly mentioned at her meeting with Conde Nast.
Luckily for the viewer, this means a trip to New York City with Lorelai. It's always great to see Rory and Lorelai having fun together. Their chemistry and banter are reliably strong. Lorelai especially shines, and her enthusiasm and joy are infectious to those around her. The scene is also a reminder of the fact that the two of them have been apart for a surprisingly large portion of the first two episodes.
Unfortunately, the trip to NYC also serves as reminder that Rory is not a very good reporter. She falls asleep while interviewing someone and then later has sex with a guy she was supposed to interview. But at least she realizes she's messing things up, and it leads to a great mother/daughter moment back at their hotel.
As usual with Gilmore Girls, the pleasure is mixed with pain. The earlier scene shows the girls having a lighthearted fun time, but the hotel room scene is the dramatic, melancholy companion piece. Rory confides with her mother about feeling lost but more important, she finally comes clean about Logan.
The revelation genuinely shocks Lorelai and it takes her a few moments to fully grasp the situation. It's also especially moving as it calls back to a moment from Season 4 when Rory lost her virginity to Dean (Jared Padelecki), who was married. And the difference in how Lorelai handled the two situations is great. In dealing with the Dean incident, Lorelai acted like a mother scolding a child. But here, she is much more understanding and comforting. She realizes that Rory is an adult but more important, only human. She's even able to make a joke about it while also reminding Rory that everyone is allowed to make mistakes.
Lorelai then suggests that perhaps Rory needs some stability in her life and that joining Sandee Says, a website that's been after Rory, could be a good idea. Rory agrees and…immediately blows the interview. Granted, the CEO, Sandee Martin (Julia Goldani Telles) had all but promised Rory the job, but she should have been at least somewhat prepared for an interview.
Seriously, anyone who's been freelancing for nine years would know how important interviews are. And at the very least she should have an idea or two on hand to pitch. Needless to say, Rory doesn't get the job. She does at least get to make a Get Shorty reference, so it's not a total loss.
But if it seems that Rory has been having an extra hard time in this episode, the reason reveals itself in the end. Unfortunately, this makes her story line now feel contrived as well as frustrating, but her numerous road bumps have led her to take a detour to Stars Hollow. She's been away for most of the first half of A Year in the Life, so an extended visit to her hometown is something to look forward to in the next episode.
Stars Hollow itself has always been a big part of the show's charm. It's common for TV shows to only develop one or two settings. This usually means that characters mainly hang out at a specific coffee shop, apartment, bar, etc. And while that certainly is enough to serve the story, it also adds a layer of artifice. It constantly reminds the viewers that they are watching a show.
On the other hand, with Stars Hollow, Gilmore Girls invited audiences to a fully fleshed out town. The stories took place in various locations like Luke's, Miss Patty's dance studio, and Doose's Market, among others and it made the town become integral to the story. It added an extra level of detail that made it seem as if Stars Hollow was a character in the story. It also made it seem like it was a real place that the viewer could visit.
Because of this, it was such a delight that Stars Hollow was integral to the episode. The world fair scene was classic Gilmore Girls and it provided some great cameos. Miss Kim (Emily Kuroda) was, as always, a real treat. It's great to see that she's still tough as nails. But it's even better to see how the relationship between Lane (Keiko Agena) and Miss Kim has developed over the years. They seem much more at ease with each other. It was also fun to see the interactions between Taylor (Michael Winters) and Kirk (Sean Gunn). After all these years, poor Kirk is still trying to impress Taylor.
The town meeting is also entertaining. It was especially nice to see some side characters speak for a change, but the whole bit about the gay pride parade probably lasted longer than it should have. Also, was Gypsy (Rose Abdoo) trying to out Taylor or herself? Either way, it was weird and unnecessary. The only problem was that because Stars Hollow was so developed and fun, it made the other locales seem bland by comparison. In fact, aside from a couple of establishing shots, the London and NYC scenes appeared completely nondescript.
Lastly, there was a side story with Luke and Emily. It turns out Richard (Edward Herrmann) had left Luke some money to franchise his diner. Because of this, they were looking for possible properties to buy. Having Luke and Emily interact without Lorelai was a nice touch. And while it was funny to see Luke nervous around Emily, the story didn't really add up to much. At no point did it actually feel like Luke's would become a franchise. And like with Rory, this storyline felt a bit contrived. Its main purpose was to set up a conflict between Luke and Lorelai.
And that marks the halfway mark of A Year in the Life. Overall, Spring proved to be a better-balanced episode than Winter. Part of that is because the previous episode had a lot of exposition to cover. But since Spring didn't have that responsibility, it was able to hit the ground running (more or less). It also did a great job of developing story ideas introduced in the previous episode while adding more to the mix.
Lorelai was clearly the episode's MVP. She did most of the emotional heavy lifting while also adding some levity. And fortunately, Rory was mostly able to cancel out her very annoying moments with a couple of moving scenes (at Chilton and the NYC hotel). But Emily was mostly sidelined with a storyline that has zero chance of going anywhere.
It was also a nice surprise that Paris played such a prominent role. In the previous episode she was basically relegated to the role of comic relief. This time around, her story line was more developed. And it will be interesting to see what happens between her and Doyle.
But as great as Spring was, it felt like a transitional episode. This was especially true with Luke and Rory. Their story lines didn't really go anywhere, but they were clearly setting things up for the next episode. With trouble brewing between Luke and Lorelai and Rory moving back home, it's going to be an interesting Summer in Stars Hollow.