Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life - Winter
By Felix Quinonez Jr.
December 6, 2016
At this point, the show introduces one of the few new characters, Paul (Jack Carpenter). But in doing so, it also digs out one of its worst habits. The show always seemed to misjudge just how lovable Lorelai and Rory are. Audiences were expected to ignore the many times the girls did cruel things or acted selfishly. And the way Paul, Rory's new boyfriend, is treated is a perfect example of this. He really serves no purpose other than being a punching bag. He is literally a running gag that everyone forgets and treats like garbage, sometimes to his face. And the writers seem to think this makes Rory and company, quirky or funny when in reality, they just come off as horrible. And this seems especially odd considering how much ground the episode needs to cover. If Paul had been completely cut altogether, it wouldn't have been a great loss. But more importantly, it could have freed up some time to get better reacquainted with some of the returning cast members.
Things really kick off once Emily enters the picture and the show finds its emotional core. The quick tongued banter and pop culture references have always been a delight, but the familial drama has always been the real highlight of Gilmore Girls. The relationship between mothers and daughters is one of the main pillars of the show and is represented in two very different ways. The relationship between Lorelai and Rory is very ideal and hopeful. It's optimistic and the two feel a genuine joy to be in each other's lives. On the other hand, Lorelai and Emily's relationship is the flipside of that, encumbered by resentment and regret.
It was a masterful stroke to have the visit to Emily's house in this episode mirror the way it happened in the original pilot all of those years ago. Like in the pilot, here, a visit to Emily's provides a needed sense of direction. But more importantly, it leads to a flashback scene of Richard's (Edward Herrmann) funeral. There, things start out pleasantly enough but, as usual, a conflict slowly rises between Lorelai and Emily.
Afterwards, at the reception, Emily asks the guests to share their favorite memories of Richard. Granted, it's a somewhat awkward request but none of the other guests have trouble coming up with something pleasant to say. Leave it to Lorelai to complicate things.
In an unnecessarily cold move, she shares not one but two embarrassing stories that paint her recently deceased father in a poor light on the day of his funeral. It seemed like the actions of a teenager acting out instead of a woman who is almost 50 years old. It felt contrived, simply to instigate drama. But it can be forgiven because it leads to what is easily the most powerful scene in the episode.
The mother and daughter have an unflinchingly raw and emotional fight that would be hard to watch if it weren't so captivating. Emily unleashes her anger over Lorelai's careless mistake until old grievances come flooding out. Her words aim with marksman like precision at wounds that have never healed. This leaves the two women emotionally exhausted but sets them on a path towards their own respective journeys. Emily has to find new meaning in her life now that her husband of 50 years is gone, and Lorelai is left to wonder how much truth there was in Emily's harsh words.