While in grad school, Judge Jim Thomas drank enough caffeine to match Lorelai's daily intake. He didn't get much sleep that month.
Our reviews of Gilmore Girls: The Complete First Season (published May 17th, 2004), Gilmore Girls: The Complete Second Season (published February 2nd, 2005), Gilmore Girls: The Complete Fourth Season (published November 9th, 2005), Gilmore Girls: The Complete Fifth Season (published December 13th, 2005), Gilmore Girls: The Complete Sixth Season (published September 25th, 2006), and Gilmore Girls: The Complete Series (published November 28th, 2007) are also available.
Rory: Well, you know, I guess we don't have to talk about…stuff.
I lost several close friends in recent years. Angel. The West Wing. Everwood. ER. (What, ER's still on? Damn.) Some of those shows possibly stayed on a bit too long, someone them probably should have been on a few more years. But when all good things finally come to an end, you need not a season finale, but a series finale. If you're lucky, a show gets to go out on its own terms, so that the bulk of the season can be devoted to setting up the finale. If you're not, the castaways remain stranded on that friggin' desert island. Tying up a show's loose ends is critical, because if you don't, in twenty years you'll be subjected to a gawdawful reunion movie that hamfistedly attempts to address the wrongs have been moldering for lo these many years. Last season, Gilmore Girls bravely walked into that good night of syndication and DVD complete series box sets.
Just how good was Gilmore Girls? Let's put it this way: In one of the most competitive timeslots on television, Thursdays at 8 p.m. Eastern/7 p.m. Central, the show established a strong, loyal following. It was a family-friendly show that was neither cloying nor preachy, and featured dialogue that sparkled with intelligence, wit, and enough pop culture references to make Joss Whedon green with envy.
But all was not sweetness and light in Stars Hollow at the opening of the seventh season. Creator/producer Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband, writer and co-producer Daniel Palladino, were unable to reach an agreement with the nascent CW network, and left the show at the conclusion of the sixth season, to be replaced by David S. Rosenthal. Rosenthal found himself saddled with a double whammy. Not only did Rosenthal have to take over for someone who had set, and more importantly, kept the bar pretty high (the sixth season notwithstanding), but halfway through the season, he found out that his first season would also be the show's final season.
For six seasons, we had watched the travails of Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham, Bad Santa) and her daughter Rory (Alexis Bledel, Tuck Everlasting). As the final season commences, it's time to ring down the curtain and tie up those loose ends, but above all, establish once and for all just how much caffeine the human body can take.
Facts of the Case
For those of you arriving late to the party, Lorelai Gilmore is the single mom of college senior Rory. Lorelai has a somewhat strained relationship with her wealthy parents, Richard (Edward Herrmann, The Lost Boys) and Emily (Kelly Bishop, Wonder Boys), because when she became pregnant with Rory at sixteen, she left home and insisted on raising Rory by herself. It was only recently (in the series opener) that diplomatic relations were restored. Lorelai now owns an inn in Stars Hollow, Connecticut, along with her best friend and chef, Sookie St. James (Melissa McCarthy). Lorelai recently broke up with her fiancé, Luke Danes (Scott Patterson), who runs a diner in Stars Hollow. Rory, about to graduate with a degree in journalism from Yale, is involved with Logan Huntzberger, who comes from a very wealthy family.
Season Six left a somewhat rank taste in viewers' mouths. The focus of the show had drifted a bit from Lorelai-Rory to the wacky shenanigans of the Stars Hollow locals. We got more Taylor, more Lane and Zack, more Paris, more Kirk (Sean Gunn). Now, more Paris (Liza Weil) is a good thing. But Kirk? A little Kirk goes a looong way. And then Luke (Scott Patterson) discovered that he had a teenage daughter when said daughter, for a science fair project titled "Are You My Daddy?," ran DNA tests on the different men who could have been her father. Conflicts were manufactured, and characters did stupid things for no good reason (only Kirk can legitimately get away with that). Reports of shark jumping began to swirl.
But all else paled in comparison to the shrieks of "NOOOOOO!!!!!" that echoed in the audience's collective consciousness at the sixth season finale. Not only did Lorelai break up with Luke, but she compounded that error by several orders of magnitude when she promptly sought solace in the bed of ex-boyfriend, absentee father of Rory, ne'er-do well, and toe-jam extraordinaire Christopher (David Sutcliffe). Whom I don't particularly care for, in case you didn't notice.
So Season 7 has a number of wonky dynamics right out of the gate:
• The Luke-Lorelai-Christopher triangle
OK, I made one of those up, but it would have been a rewarding storyline. There are additional storylines featuring other characters, including three pregnancies (though one was a carryover from the previous season), but I'm trying to at least maintain the appearance of focus.
The set spreads 22 episodes across six discs.
(There are some spoilers in here, just so you know.) From a narrative perspective, the final season has many of the same problems as the previous (sixth) season. Because Rory's off at college, Lorelai and Rory don't spend nearly as much time together as they did when both lived under one roof. The writers are left with little choice but to strike out in different directions. I get that. But it's never a good sign that on any given episode, at least two or three characters featured in the opening credits are MIA. Too. Many. Characters.
Consequently the first half of the season is really a collection of disparate storylines, with everyone going every which way. Kirk driving Taylor's car into Luke's diner in the season opener was an ironic, even postmodern moment, because not only could we see the accident coming a mile away, but the image of the car slamming into the diner was an instant metaphor for a show spinning out of control. Other storylines were all over the place: Lorelai and Christopher's trip to Paris, and their spur of the moment marriage; Rory's new friends at Yale, and the history Rory has with one of their boyfriends; Luke's fight for joint custody of his daughter; Lane and Zack's miserable yet productive honeymoon; Paris being, well, Paris; Rory's attempts to sort out both her career plans as well as her relationship with Logan; Sookie's discovery that she's pregnant for the third time because her husband lied about getting a vasectomy; Lorelai's always tempestuous relationship with her parents (the wondrous team of Kelly Bishop and Edward Hermann). The one constant was that I always had to fight a gag reflex whenever Lorelai and Christopher shared a scene.
So the first part of the season is really more about moments rather than stories—people finding out this or people reacting to that. There are some good moments in there, but everything's disjointed, like pictures fallen from a photo album.
And then, halfway through the season, by which time I was pretty much resolved to the season turning into a train wreck, two utterly unrelated events set off a chain reaction that transformed the season. Lorelai writes a glowing character reference for Luke to help in his custody case. Christopher stumbles across the draft of the letter, and Lorelai's words of praise for Luke cut Christopher to the quick, for she basically explains how Luke served as Rory's surrogate father. Christopher, more insecure than my four-year-old, starts to question whether Lorelai truly loves him, or if she just settled for him, and leaves in a huff. Or is it a snit? Let's go with snit—it sounds more petulant. At the same time, Richard Gilmore, teaching an economics class at Yale, has a heart attack in front of the class—which includes Rory. These are two completely unconnected events, but over the next few episodes, they bring all the primary plot threads together and weave them into a rich tapestry of emotion and understanding. All of the issues aren't resolved, mind you—that would be cheap writing indeed—but the various characters have that moment of clarity in which realizations and decisions are made, setting the stage for episode fourteen, "Farewell, My Pet," in which Lorelai must plan a memorial service for one of Michel's dogs while her marriage is falling apart. The parallel is perhaps a little too blatant, but the acting sells it, and the season is pulled back from the brink.
The remainder of the season still has more than its share of filler, but because the main plots are more focused—primarily focused towards bringing the series to a graceful conclusion—the filler is somewhat more palatable. I won't go into details on how things wind up, save to say that Rosenthal and the writing team get major brownie points by focusing the conclusion on Lorelai and Rory. That's the relationship that pulled the viewers in from day one, and that's the one that will change the most as Rory strikes out on her own. Furthermore, it's good to see a finale that doesn't so much end as shepherd the characters into the next chapter of their lives. It's a finale full of hope and promise.
Strong acting has always been a cornerstone of the series, and that continues with this set. Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel have always shined in these roles, but I've never thought that Kelly Bishop and Edward Herrmann ever got their due. Emily and Richard could have so easily turned into upper-class manqués; instead, their characters are more fully realized than most lead characters ever are. (If you have the first season, compare Bishop's performance in the first episode with that from later episodes; in the pilot, Emily has a hard, brittle quality that quickly fades in the first season as she gets a better handle on the nuances of the character). Their scenes in the episodes following Richard's heart attack are sweet and funny, but above all, real. The opening scene of "Farewell, My Pet," is particularly touching. Richard is taking his doctor-mandated walkabout in CICU, flanked by Emily, Lorelai, and Rory. Bizarrely, it's one of the more relaxed scenes featuring all four characters, mainly because for once all three women are united in a common cause—caring for Richard—instead of being defensive or passive-aggressive.
Video is solid. Colors are a touch oversaturated, but details are solid and there's very little grain to be seen. In short, it looks pretty much like you would expect a TV show shot two years ago to look.
Audio, for the most part, is also good. The 5.1 surround mix is there mainly for the music, and is quite effective there. But on occasion, things get a little off, such as when characters go off screen and keep talking. Instead of sounding like they're in another room talking, they sometimes sound like they're talking at the other end of the Holland Tunnel. That only happens once or twice, though.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
While the show gets major points for a strong ending, the sad fact is that there is a lot of deadweight in the season. Kirk, Lane, and Zach, Luke's daughter April—all too often these scenes come across as filler. And when I get filler instead of scenes with Richard and Emily, I just get cranky.
The extras are pretty lame. Keiko Agena (Lane) takes us on a tour of her average day. The fashion retrospective, "Gilmore Fashionistas," is actually more interesting that you might think; we see how Lorelai's and Rory's wardrobes have evolved as their characters have evolved. A tour of Stars Hollow by Kirk (Sean Gunn) was a good idea, but execution leaves something to be desired. The blurb to "Own All Seven Seasons of Gilmore Girls on DVD" at the end of each tour segment got real old real fast.
Despite the fragmented nature of the storylines and the overabundance of colorful characters, Gilmore Girls manages to get itself more or less sorted out, and leaves us all remembering why we fell in love with the Gilmores in the first place.
Not guilty. The defendant is free to go, but the court would like one last cheeseburger plate and coffee from Luke's.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Additional scene on Episode 5, "The Great Stink"
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