Warner Bros. // 2001 // 976 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Bromley // February 2nd, 2005
Lorelai: "I am a grown woman."
Rory: "Says the woman with the 'Hello, Kitty' waffle iron."
When I originally reviewed Gilmore Girls: The Complete First Season, I made the comment that I had been reluctant to involve myself in what I perceived to be a typical WB feel-good family drama, but was surprised at just how much I enjoyed myself -- I really came to know and, yes, love these characters. With that first experience in mind, I found myself genuinely excited when the time came around to watch and review The Complete Second Season, barely able to wait and see what was in store for the residents of Stars Hollow. Funny, then, that even that level of excitement turned out to be an underestimation -- I had forgotten just how much I liked Gilmore Girls.
Here's a rundown of the episodes making up the sophomore season of Gilmore Girls:
* "Sadie, Sadie."
Picking up right where Season One left off, the first episode of Season Two finds Lorelai (Lauren Graham, Bad Santa, Seeing Other People) engaged to marry Max Medina; Rory (Alexis Bledel, Sin City) finds her grandfather less than hospitable when she brings her boyfriend, Dean (Jared Padalecki, New York Minute), over for dinner.
* "Hammers and Veils"
Rory panics about getting in to Harvard and decides she needs to pick up an extracurricular activity; Sookie (Melissa McCarthy, The Third Wheel) plans a surprise engagement party for Lorelai, but the surprise is on Emily Gilmore (Kelly Bishop, Private Parts), who doesn't know her daughter is engaged.
* "Red Light on the Wedding Night"
On the night of her bachelorette party, Lorelai begins to see her upcoming wedding in a new light.
* "The Road Trip to Harvard"
Looking to escape the drama of Stars Hollow for a while, Lorelai and Rory take to the road and wind up at the tackiest bed and breakfast on the East Coast before finding themselves at Harvard, where Rory finds herself fitting in better than she had expected.
* "Nick & Nora/Sid & Nancy"
Rory begins her stint on the staff of the high school newspaper, much to the dismay of her main competition, Paris (Liza Weil, Whatever, Stir of Echoes); Luke's nephew, Jess (Milo Ventimiglia, She's All That), arrives in Stars Hollow.
* "Presenting Lorelai Gilmore"
Following pressure from Emily, Rory agrees to participate in the coming out party for Stars Hollow debutantes.
* "Like Mother, Like Daughter"
Rory finds herself making some bad choices when the school guidance counselor suggests she try harder to fit in; Lorelai and Emily participate in a mother/daughter fashion show, being hosted by the Independence Inn.
* "The Ins & Outs of Inns"
A visit from the owner of the Independence Inn makes Lorelai realize it's time to follow her dream of opening her own inn, but the reality of that dream causes a rift between her and Sookie.
* "Run Away, Little Boy"
Lorelai goes out with a younger classmate, while Rory gears up to play Juliet to Tristan's (Chad Michael Murray, One Tree Hill, A Cinderella Story) Romeo for a class project, leaving Dean more than a little jealous.
* "The Bracebridge Dinner"
When a snowstorm in Chicago keeps the guests of an upcoming event away from the Independence Inn, the residents of Stars Hollow come together to take their place at the banquet.
* "Secrets and Loans"
A termite problem at the house finds Lorelai and Rory scrambling for money to make the necessary repairs.
* "Richard in Stars Hollow"
A newly retired Richard Gilmore (Edward Herrmann, The Lost Boys) spends a day in Stars Hollow after making Emily crazy; Paris seeks to find the seedy underbelly of Stars Hollow for the school paper.
* "A-Tisket, A-Tasket"
The annual Stars Hollow picnic basket auction finds Dean once again fuming after he finds himself with some stiff competition for Rory -- from Jess.
* "It Should've Been Lorelai"
Lorelai finds her role being threatened when Rory's dad, Christopher, comes to town with his new girlfriend (Madchen Amick, Twin Peaks), who's looking to do some bonding with Rory.
* "Lost and Found"
Luke (Scott Patterson, Little Big League) goes looking for a new place to live; Lorelai tries her hardest to like Jess; Rory's bracelet from Dean goes missing.
* "There's the Rub"
Lorelai and Emily have a weekend getaway at a spa; Rory's quiet evening alone is interrupted by Paris, Jess, and a once-again-jealous Dean.
* "Dead Uncles and Vegetables"
Luke plans a memorial service for his recently deceased uncle, but is surprised to learn that no one wants to attend; Emily begins to meddle in Sookie's wedding arrangements.
* "Back in the Saddle Again"
Richard stirs up his business urges again when helping Rory with a class project.
* "Teach Me Tonight"
A tutoring session for Jess lands Rory in the hospital.
* "Help Wanted"
Lorelai gets more than she bargained for after offering to help jumpstart Richard's new business venture; Lane (Keiko Agena, Hair Show) finds her calling behind a drum kit.
* "Lorelai's Graduation Day"
Lorelai is graduating from Community College, but makes the mistake of inviting Emily and Richard; Rory skips school and takes the train into New York to see Jess.
* "I Can't Get Started"
Paris volunteers Rory to run for office in the upcoming student elections; Sookie's wedding day finally arrives -- and with it, a surprise from Lorelai's ex, Christopher.
I can't say that Gilmore Girls's second season is a marked improvement over the series's first season, but that's not necessarily a bad thing -- few shows are able to find their footing in their freshman seasons as well as Gilmore Girls did. All that the second season had to do, then, was maintain the standard that had already been set by its previous outing, which -- I'm happy to report -- it is able to do quite nicely. With the basic groundwork already laid for the cast of characters and their backgrounds, Season Two is free to move forward and explore the individuals and their relationships further. We know, for example, that Lorelai and Emily have a difficult past and that their current dynamic is uncomfortable and strained at best (a large part of the first season was devoted to this), so Where Do They Go From Here? The Complete Second Season finds them attempting to move on and re-establish a relationship that isn't quite mother/daughter (which should be nothing new for Lorelai, whose relationship with her own daughter doesn't exactly resemble the traditional mother/daughter dynamic), but is clearly something deeper than previously existed.
The character work is what makes Gilmore Girls gel as well as it does, which is never more evident than when the writers are attempting to deal with their more concrete plot elements -- more than once, they throw up their hands and leave the narrative up to characterization established by the cast. The way that the "Max story" is ultimately dealt with, for example, is probably too rushed to work as well as it might have; while it's absolutely in keeping with Lorelai's character, the writers could have considered addressing it over a longer time span than just a single episode. It's obvious that that particular plot development was all wrong for the series, but it's brushed off almost as an afterthought; if we didn't already know Lorelai as well as we do, the story line would make almost no sense. Granted, that's one of the few missteps in an otherwise stellar season, but that singularity only makes it stand out more -- we tend to notice those rare goofs when they occur this infrequently.
My biggest problem with Gilmore Girls: The Complete Second Season is the inclusion of Luke's nephew, Jess. I don't object to the character's existence -- the series needed to shake up a mix that could've easily become predictable (and in many ways had by the end of the first season), and his presence gives both Scott Patterson and Alexis the chance to show some unseen colors by working off of someone new. But did they have to make him this obnoxious? As Rory finds herself caught in a love triangle between Jess and Dean, I couldn't help but want her to stay the hell away from the former -- not because "he's trouble," but because he's such an insufferable jackass. Her attraction to Jess goes against what's most appealing about Rory -- not that she's beautiful (she is), or that she's funny or intelligent (she is, she is), but that the man/boy who manages to capture her heart is especially lucky, as she must have deemed him worthy enough to fall in love with. Jess doesn't seem to fit that bill; recognizing that he's probably not much more than a bad-boy phase for Rory helps, but much of the budding romance between the two feels more like a writer's construct than an organic relationship.
Nothing terribly significant happens in The Complete Second Season, but then this isn't a show of significant events. There are no (or few) dramatic revelations or breathless plot twists to be found in Gilmore Girls -- it's too good for those kinds of soap opera theatrics. Story elements are quietly introduced and just as quickly fade away (or else are simply put in place to set the stage for future seasons): Lorelai's father, Richard Gilmore, retires, but then almost as quickly begins his own business. Lorelai and Sookie finally decide to open their own inn, but little progress is made towards achieving that goal. The show progresses in small steps, yet somehow always manages to add up to some kind of significance -- these characters are constantly developing in ways not often seen in series television (when you think of it, did any of the Friends ever really change?). Even the day-to-day events of these characters are captivating, thanks to the almost ridiculously likeable performances by Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel, who somehow manage to make the implausible central relationship of Gilmore Girls work.
Warner Bros. delivers Gilmore Girls: The Complete Second Season in a six-disc set, containing all 22 episodes and a modest handful of bonus material. The episodes run around 43 minutes apiece, and are presented in their original full-frame television aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The video quality is on par with that of Season One, meaning that the shows look only slightly better than they do on their television broadcasts -- the picture is bright and clean, but a little bit on the soft side at times. The 2.0 sound mix is comparable, too, delivering the dialogue in a satisfying manner but keeping most of the action in only the front channels. Like most season-length TV sets, the extras leave something to be desired (there are, obviously, some exceptions); fans will have to do without commentary tracks by the shows cast or creators, and instead accept a couple of excised scenes and pointless featurettes. The best bonus feature in the set is a booklet that comes included -- a kind of dictionary for the show's seemingly limitless references and invented phrases.
Gilmore Girls isn't for everyone (that is, everyone who doesn't like dialogue and character-driven comedy/drama that's cleverly written and charmingly acted). It doesn't have the relentless narrative thrust of a show like 24 or The Sopranos; each episode feels more like dropping in and hanging out with friends. Seeing as how I downright loathe most of the characters found on series television, why shouldn't I choose to spend my time with people I actually like?
Once again, the Gilmore Girls have fast-talked their way out of sentencing; the Court has no choice but to find them not guilty, and looks forward to what the next season of one of the best-written shows on television has in store.
Review content copyright © 2005 Patrick Bromley; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 976 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes
* On-Screen Trivia Track
* A Film by Kirk Featurette
* "Who Wants to Argue?" Season Two Shouting Retrospective
* "International Success" Featurette
* "Gilmore-isms" Booklet
* Official Site
* TV Tome