Thursday, May 4, 2017

Gilmore Girls: The Final Four

Endings are tricky.

As a writer who has written The End on a number of scripts and novels, I recognize this.

As a viewer, I’ve come to realize that sometimes perfect endings sometimes don’t have a whole lot to do with the middle.

Vampire Diaries ended this year, and while the final season had its up and downs, the last two thirds of the final episode came together perfectly.  If you’d been watching the show since day one, it was essentially 40 minutes of ugly crying, minus the commercials.

Which brings me around to Gilmore Girls.

Which… let’s just say things got complicated.

If you’re a fan of Gilmore Girls, you know the story already, but if not, in brief.  The show had a very particular creator, who finessed every word of every script, even if she didn’t take a writing credit.  Amy Sherman-Palladino was Gilmore Girls and Gilmore Girls was her.

The show ran for six seasons, and then Amy got into an argument about the show with Warner Brothers, and then she was off the show.  I’m not going to go into he-said/she-said on this one, because it wasn’t really all that important.

Ultimately, the show carried on for another season, starring all the same people but written NOT by Amy Sherman-Palladino, and while some fans hated it, I still don’t feel it was that much off-brand from the original flavor.  The show had an odd problem where the first time an established character showed up they would feel a little off – not written quite right – but by the next episode the kinks were worked out and the show was cruising along just fine.

And it all came together nicely in the last episode – even people who didn’t care for season seven will often cop to the act that the show ended more or less perfectly. 

But!  Here’s where it gets weird.

Amy Sherman-Palladino had said she always knew the last four words of the show, and she was not shy about reminding people about this over the years.

In a world without Netflix and streaming and shows long thought concluded suddenly coming back, I was kind of hoping that Amy would include that final exchange in her memoirs, or maybe in some interview or another 20 years after the show concluded.

Instead, she got four movie-long episodes to end the show the way she wanted to end the show.

And as it turns out…

Well, okay, I’ll talk about the four words in a second, and I’ll be honest.  I was happy the show was coming back, but only to a certain extent.  I seem to be the only one that noticed, but a LOT of cult TV has been returning in various forms and formats these last ten or fifteen years, and so far?

No one has been happy.

The return of Arrested Development?  Fans just thought it was okay.

Firefly, Buffy, and Angel back in comic book form?  Somewhere between “good” and “awful,” with almost no one thinking it was great.

The Veronica Mars movie?  Well, okay, that one I really liked, along with the first book.  The second one, however, went way off the rails in the last thirty pages or so.

If I’m being truthful, I can’t think of a single reboot or return that’s really been embraced, even by the most ardent fans.  The new MST3K episodes seem to be coming closest to hitting the mark.  Doctor Who went from being a well-loved cult show to being an actual hit.

In both those cases, come to think of it, the return of the show brought almost an entirely new cast and let them do their own thing.  That may be the difference.

So I sat down to watch 4 90 minute episodes of Gilmore.  I was already a little behind, as I was off visiting family over Thanksgiving weekend and binge-watching was out of the question.

Shortly thereafter, I sat down to watch the new Amy Sherman-Palladino created season, and…  my wife hated it.  Hated.  It.

I didn’t agree, but I saw her point.  Rory had started off as smart and funny and loveable on the show, and then gone down a bit of a rabbit hole, mostly due to the character of Logan.

Every TV show, if it’s on long enough, will have one terrible character, and Logan was it on Gilmore.  He could sometimes be funny, and the actor was fine, but his character arc was mostly that he was reach and that he found Rory attractive.  He made problems vanish with a money hose, and honestly, when he and Rory broke up, I was happy that he was gone.

Except now he’s back, and he somehow manages to be worse, because he still makes problems vanish with a money hose, but he’s also having a thing with Rory despite the fact that he’s engage for literally the entire series.

And that never stops.  He just cheats relentlessly on his fiancé and there’s never a moment where he realizes that’s wrong.  Instead, he sprays his money hose, and then sprays it more, and instead of growing or changing or realizing he’s giving up what he actually wants, his story just kind of ends because Rory steps out of it.

And Rory breaking up with him, or at least pretending to, is pretty much her only character growth, and honestly, it’s a super, super, super low bar.  She spends the entire new series looking for a job, eventually getting a non-paying job as the editor of the town paper.  She keeps claiming that she’s broke and couch-surfing, but she spends most of the series hopping on planes and flying across the ocean on a whim.

I suppose we can assume that’s Logan’s money hose?  Maybe?  But it’s never addressed.

As for Lorelai, she spends the entire time trying to do… something?  Actually, she doesn’t really do anything.  She’s living with Luke, and her inn is too small, and she doesn’t really want to change any of that, until she does, and then they get married and she plans on buying a larger inn.

And I suppose it’s worth talking about Emily, who spends three episodes walking around in a daze trying to figure out what to do now that her husband has passed away.  She comes off the best, I think, simply because she exhibits actual growth, and I shudder to think what her storyline would have been had the actor who plays her husband not passed away.

But like I said, this is about endings.

Talking about The Vampire Diaries, I had to cop to the last 40 minutes of the final episode being great, but the season before it being weak.

And this “season” of the Gilmore Girls suffers in nearly the exact same way.

I don’t know that I agree totally with my wife, as I thought there was some funny stuff in the first episode.  It works, mostly, because it signals the return of the town that you know and love, and you can kind of tolerate Rory being awful.

But then it just keeps going in that vein for two more episodes.  Rory is lost, and doesn’t know what to do until her ex-boyfriend tells her to write a book.

Lorelai somehow manages to fill her life with drama even though she actually has everything she ever wanted.  As a parent, I could see where she might be worried about her kid being adrift so late in life, but her drama feels manufactured in order to get to a happy ending.

But again: The show can be funny.  There’s a segment about Stars Hollow: The Musical, that is totally worth the twenty minute detour.  The rhythms of the show   don’t crackle as perfectly as they once did, but they get close a few times.

And so ultimately, it all hinges on the final episode.

The truth is: It isn’t a perfect ninety minutes.  Because first they have to play out all the silliness from the last three episodes.

But once the throat is cleared, the show finally, finally, finally offers up all the feels it should have been offering from the word go.

Lorelai and her mom finally reconcile, in a monologue that’s perfectly written and perfectly executed.  Emily finally figures out how to move on from the death of her husband.  There’s a big wedding, the one that should have happened years ago, and Amy Sherman-Palladino proves that she really does know how to bring all the feels.

And then those final four words.

And the big reveal?

Well, I joked before the revival ever hit Netflix that the final four words would be, “Let’s call her Lorelai,” my implication being that Rory was pregnant, it was a girl, and yeah, they would name it after her mother and herself.

And I nailed it.  Go, me.

Actually, she just said “I’m pregnant,” and I guess to some extent I understand was Amy Sherman-Palladino was going for.  It takes the series more or less full-circle, as it has always been about moms and daughters.

What does it really mean, though?

It means that Rory’s storyline comes and goes in the same way: She went from being a little wunderkind with love and goodness in her heart to being terrible, and then she stays terrible.

Lorelai at least has an arch, where she starts off unsure and confused and then makes some decisions that I guess are good.  And we got some nice speeches and a good cry out of it, so there’s that.

And man, but Emily was perfect.  Everything about it was perfect. 

There’s been some yammering about bringing the Girls back for another go-around, since the end of the show actually sounds like a bit of a cliffhanger, and I’ll admit if it happens I’ll watch it.  A lot of the pointless angst of the show has been cleared out now, and they could actually move forward and make the show more like it was in the beginning – fun people bouncing off each other.

In the end, I remain torn about the return of the show.  Of the six hours, I probably only really loved 90-100 minutes, and not all of that was from the same episodes.  With a little work, the whole thing could have been a lovely 2 hour movie that wrapped up what needed to be wrapped up, gave us the final four words, and sent the series out on a high note.

As it is, I expect that in the future, people will mostly debate about whether the seventh season of the show was the worst, or the eighth.

Am I glad I saw it?  Sure.  I got the closure I wanted, though the mystery of the ending was ruined by the internet before I could find the time to see it for myself.

And yeah, I did get emotional in the final hour, so there’s that.

So, thanks everyone for coming back and saying goodbye.

But one return was plenty.

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