Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Friday, November 25, 2016

TV Review: Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

 As a whole I love Gilmore Girls, but I went into watching the revival of Gilmore Girls the wrong way and I think that negatively impacted my view of it.  A Year in the Life has been advertised as Gilmore Girls Season 8 when it's actually closer to a series of related yet episodic short stories involving the characters.

The title says it all. "A Year In The Life". The original series had themes and character development and all that stuff while A Year In The Life seeks to be a much smaller scale anthology of moments in the characters lives. Which is fine if you go in knowing what to expect.

To be fair a lot of that isn't A Year In the Life's fault. It spends the first 2 episodes of four writing around the decisions made in seasons after creator Amy Sherman-Palladino left the show. During the first half, it almost seems a mean-spirited parody of those seasons. With most of the characters, Rory in particular, acting insufferably entitled in a universe that agrees with them.

That after high school Rory became a Mary Sue who could do anything she wanted and get anything she wanted without a whole mess of effort which is kind of annoying because earlier the show went to great lengths to show, not tell but show how much the eponymous Gilmore Girls worked to make lives they could be happy with.

The first two episodes are all about showing why that status quo didn't work and it seems purposefully hard to sit through.

Most of the characters in their late 20's and early 30s a lot of the characters are emotionally and professionally exactly where they want to be. Rory starts the revival off a well-off print writer regularly appearing in multiple nationally read publications. Paris who even with her Ivy League education shouldn't be out of residency yet is running an artificial insemination clinic. I find it infuriating almost none of my peers can come close to that sort of job satisfaction and security. And that leads to the another problem.

Over the course of the show's run it criticized class dynamics but with everybody more or less where they want to be the show doesn't really do that anymore and it was one of the strongest reasons to watch.

There are no more speeches about how Rory while benefiting from an education with the bluebloods still doesn't completely fit in with them. No more arguments about how the world is the limit for the Gilmores while Lane, Jess and Dean live vastly different lives. The conflicts between Luke and Lorelai as new monied entrepreneurs vs her parents as old money aristocrats are gone.

The third episode is about returning the show to feeling and vibe of the Chilton seasons. And the third episode stands out as the best to the point that it is the only episode I can unqualifiedly recommend. It exists primarily to rewrite the series' post-script into something more in line Palladino's version of the show rather than how it actually ended.

And that's really the point of the whole enterprise. It's not so much an eighth season of Gilmore Girls as much as an episodic bridge between the 7th and whatever Palladino decides to do with it next.

The closest we get to that is the 4th episode but by then so much has passed that there really isn't much of a plot left.  What is left acts as a memorial to Edward Herrmann straight plots that exist are all about the emotional hole Richard Gilmore played by Hermann left after his death and every emotional thing the characters say about Richard might as well be spoken about Herrmann.

I want to be very careful how I phrase this because I liked the man as an actor and everything I've heard about him as a man has earned my respect.

How you feel about the show's writing will depend on how you appreciate that. Prior to the fourth episode, A Year In The Life seldomly manages to transfer that thematic hole into actual plot and the loss always acts as subtext rather than text. I'm on the fence about that. Part of me likes the fact that the show took a chance on making itself about the lose of a loved one without making its story about the lose of a loved one. Life has to go on yet those who have gone before are not and should not be forgotten.

As an artistic decision, I can respect it but it does make the show less engaging. The revival is a lot less focused on narrative than the original and sometimes it feels like there isn't really anything happening. And directly dealing with that would have been, well  something happening.

Apart from that the show also makes subtle criticisms at the forces that retooled it. Yet again it chooses to be subtle about it.

Diverging into an Eat, Prey, Love style aside the show criticizes itself and the Mary Sueness of the later seasons.

Almost all of the ships come back and we are shown exactly why they wouldn't have worked. Dean's content being a regular guy while Rory isn't. While it's clear Jess actually does care about her he can never completely turn off his snark and show sincere affection. Christopher being unable to man the hell up when Rory was born is a sin that can never be washed away in the eyes of the Gilmores.

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