Some 16 years ago, in October of 2000, a little family show called Gilmore Girls premiered on the WB. It stayed there for six seasons, then was moved to the CW for its seventh and final season in 2006. It was a very safe-feeling show, mostly about the lives of Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, mother and daughter, in a small town in Connecticut, and followed their careers and personal lives for seven years throughout its runtime.
This very show is now, one decade after its finale, up for a renewal in the form of 4 direct to Netflix movies.
How could that happen? Our current media landscape is dominated by tits, dragons, shock deaths, and narrative sadism. How can a show about the positive familial relationship between two women, that went its entire runtime without killing anyone off for shock value or to cut down on paychecks, and never has stakes any higher than the personal or professional achievements of its characters, seem like a solid investment in today’s market?
In a series for individual season reviews, I intent to find this out, along with critically examining how the show holds up 10 years later, and getting everyone caught up and ready to go for when the revival movies hit Netflix on November 25th.
The premise is as simple as the show itself. Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham) ran away from her rich parents after she had Rory(Alexis Bledel) at age 16. She raised her daughter alone, while working her way up from being a maid in an inn to eventually being its manager. This, along with their closeness in age, caused Lorelai and Rory to be best friends first, and mother and daughter second.
We’re introduced to them just as Rory is about to start at a prestigious private school to help her chances of getting the Ivy League education she aspires to, plaid skirts and all.
Lorelai meanwhile dreams of one day running her very own inn with her friend Sookie. (Melissa McCarthy in one of her very first comedic roles. And look at where she is now!)
To get Rory into this school, Lorelai has to ask her parents for a loan. She usually doesn’t, in her words, “ask for favors,” but she does it for Rory. Her parents agree to pay for Rory’s school, under the condition that the girls come to visit them every week for Friday Night Dinners™.
And that is basically it. That’s the show. Add a lot of side plots about the grandparents, people Rory goes to school with, things happening at the inn Lorelai runs, and the various eccentric characters living in their small town of Stars Hollow, spice it with some romance, and you’ve got the plot. Or lack thereof, if you will.
Now, the thing that made this show so special, or at least the first thing anyone mentions, is the writing, and the fast-paced and witty dialogue especially. In fact, the dialogue was so fast-paced that a usual script was about fifteen pages longer than your regular hour-long series.
This is also one of the rare instances in which the phrase “witty dialogue” is not used ironically. It’s smart, and peppered with references to pop culture, history, and events that were current back in 2000. On one hand, this naturally dates the show quite a bit (almost as much as the horrible cargo pants and haircuts do in the earlier seasons), but on the other hand gives it an aura of authenticity, and makes the characters feel smart, instead of just telling us that they are. Or, in the words of head writer Amy Sherman-Palladino:
“And a lot of the references were there because these were two women who read, who watched movies, who were very engaged in what was going around, they were engaged in politics […]. I wanted them to be bright women who knew what the hell was going on outside their doors.”
Quotes like this show a certain kind of how to write people in general, and people that are supposed to be intelligent and well-educated in particular. Unlike, say, making everyone else act like complete morons just to make your character look smart in comparison.
This statement also betrays just how much work and thinking went into creating these characters, which I think is the strongest aspect of the series as a whole. It takes very little time to get invested in these people’s journeys. You really want Rory to make it to Harvard, you cheer for her when she graduates Chilton, that prestigious high school she starts attending in the beginning of the series, and Lorelai actually opening her own inn feels like a hard-earned victory.
And it all comes down to consistent characterization and good writing, really. And now stay tune to watch me eat those words once we get to the later seasons, especially from season 5 onward. But alas, to get there, we should just finally dig into the first season.
A shaky start
The series begins, as so many do, with a pilot. One that is simply titled “Pilot,” too! How convenient.
If you’re actually trying to give the series a chance right now, I have a favor to ask: Do not judge this show by its pilot. It gets the ball rolling, yes, and is not actually a bad hour of television, no, it is just… Not representative of what the series would eventually be.
The writing is stilted in places, with awkward exposition thrown in to establish everyone’s motivations. We are told rather than shown how Lorelai and Rory’s relationship usually works, how Rory is the responsible one, and Lorelai is the cool mom who lets the house run like a democracy, but in favor of cramming in some drama, they have a very convoluted argument after Rory changes her entire attitude towards changing schools the minute what passes for a cute boy in 2000 pays attention to her.
Oh, baby Jared Padalecki in his very first role, Dean Forrester, long before he started throwing salt and watching his brother, who is ironically called Dean as well, do some high quality queer baiting with who I understand is a literal angel. And this is all I know about Supernatural please don’t kill me.
In any case, Rory gets very snippy about it. Out of the blue, she refuses to go to a school that she’s been wanting to go to allegedly quite some time, and that she has to assume her mother has already paid for, without offering any solid reasons. Lorelai is immediately suspicious, and when until Miss Patty (Liz Torres), one of the nosy neighbor who runs a dance school, lets it drop that Rory was seen running around town with a boy that day, things take a turn for the ugly.
Lorelai has a habit of projecting herself onto Rory. This means that when she hears something like this, her first reaction is to assume that Rory wants to throw her life away to be with a boy. Which, granted, isn’t exactly unwarranted in this situation. Rory however disagrees and goes to her room to sulk. They both turn on the same music for this, which somehow reflects their relationship better than the fight we just saw.
Speaking of fights, one thing the pilot does present very well is the dynamic between Lorelai and her parents. See, after Lorelai had Rory, she ran away, leaving only a note behind, and only ever showed up on holidays (one of Emily’s (Kelly Bishop, Lorelai’s mother) first lines at the very first Friday Night Dinner™ is “Well, it is a rare occurrence that I get to see my girls on a day the banks are open!”), but completely cut them off otherwise. At age 16. To live on her own with a baby in a shed at the hotel where she found a job as a maid.
And absolutely NOBODY is over this. Richard (Edward Herrmann), Lorelai’s father, spends most of the early episode being completely unable to connect to the girls, and preferring to read his newspaper instead. Emily expresses how hurt she was by Lorelai’s decision to keep her out of her life by constantly sniping at anything Lorelai says. Lorelai has no idea how to talk to her parents and makes lots of awkward jokes. Rory pulls off a great deer-in-the-headlights-look. All of them have just great communication skills, y’all.
Things escalate when Richard mentions they’ve been in contact with Christopher, Rory’s dad, who is such a smart man and doing so well with his internet startup in California, and Rory must be getting her brains from him. Lorelai snaps, and runs off to the kitchen to have a fight with her mother.
The framing of Emily in the earlier episodes is very odd. In this scene, as well as during the third episode later on, she’s only missing a cat to stroke and a mustache to twirl to be a downright cartoonish villain, gloating over Lorelai how the Friday Night Dinners™ are some sort of great victory for her, as if we’re supposed to think wanting to spend time with her family in exchange for lending them money is some nefarious purpose.
I mean, it’s an annoyance for Lorelai and Rory, and in her worst moments, Emily uses this loan against them. However, later episodes do a great job at capitalizing on just how hurt she was by Lorelai’s behavior, and how much it means to her to be a part of her daughter’s and granddaughter’s lives again. This makes the early framing of her detrimental the point the series is later going to make, but I’m getting ahead of myself here.
During the argument, Lorelai mentions the loan she has taken from her parents, which Rory overhears. She touched her mother would do this for her, they make up and all is well. You can tell because the episode ends with awkward close-ups of Lorelai and Rory in a diner smiling at each other.
Like I said, the pilot is not representative of the show. However, this thing was also packed with exposition and information necessary to keep up, and with the elements that will make up all of the episodes to come. So I have prepared everything I didn’t cover so far in neat list form:
- The inn Lorelai runs is full of crabby people who should never have gotten a job in the service industry. She makes it work somehow.
- Sookie is an excellent chef, but also puts every Mary Sue fanfiction character written by a twelve year old to shame with her levels of clumsiness
- Rory’s Korean friend Lane (Keiko Agena) is very put-upon by her strict mother (Emily Kuroda), who is trying to set her up with future Korean doctors. Yes, the Korean characters are played by Japanese-American actors.
- Rory loses all sense around guys with bad haircuts wearing leather jackets
- Rory is reluctant to talk about her love life with Lorelai because of Lorelai’s projection issues
- Stars Hollow is full of eccentric people who get involved with everyone’s business
- Stars Hollow also usually has some wacky town thing going on every other episode. In this one, it’s a hay ride Lane has to attend with the future Korean doctors mentioned earlier. We will cover the depiction of Koreans at another time, I promise.
- Rory and Lorelai have crazy eating habits that should realistically make them twice the size they are
- They are also strongly addicted to caffeine. You can make a drinking game out of them drinking coffee in any given episode
- To be supplied with coffee and food, they visit Luke’s diner, which is in walking distance like everything in Stars Hollow
- Luke (Scott Patterson) is grumpy and very concerned about Lorelai and Rory’s eating habits and caffeine addiction
- Luke and Lorelai have crazy chemistry
I told you this pilot was packed.
Episode 2, “The Lorelai’s First Day At Chilton,” is one of my favorites. Oh, yeah, “Rory” is short for Lorelai. Lorelai named her daughter after herself, because if men get to do it with their sons all the time, why couldn’d she? A lot or Demerol also factored into this decision.
This episode introduces Chilton, Rory’s new school, as a setting. We meet Paris (Liza Weil), Rory’s new arch nemesis, an incredibly driven and competitive girl. She is already not thrilled about new people coming in, period, and then Rory destroys her history diorama while trying to get her locker unstuck. Paris then vows to make her life a living hell. She may or may not be my favorite character.
Also introduced here is Tristan (Chad Michael Murray), a creepy rich kid who hits on Rory and calls her Mary because she looks like a goody-goody. He’s creepy, but cute enough to leave for One Tree Hill in a season.
Point 1: He may look like the type, but we don’t see him out of uniform enough to determine whether he has a leather jacket, his ultimate failing.
Point 2: Yes, he looks a lot like Mr. Blond Frosted Flakes Sr. in the leather jacket collage above. So much so that when that guy was introduced in season 5, a lot of people were like “Whaat, is Tristan back? How?” before figuring out this was supposed to be a new character.
In any case, if you’re interested in checking the series out for the first time, I’d start with this episode. It is a much better representation of what the characters will be like and how they interact with each other.
Yes, Lorelai actually takes Rory to school for her first day dressed like Daisy Duke. She tries to keep her coat on when meeting the headmaster, but Emily is there and tells her to take her coat off.
Emily in this episode is also the closest to her later iterations on the series; trying to butt into Lorelai’s and Rory’s lives (buying Rory more pieces of the school uniform and other school merchandise, a parking space at school, arguing with Lorelai about getting Rory a car for her upcoming birthday, and trying to get a DSL line installed in their house. This was the 2000s, guys. Internet was slow, all you had was dial up, it cost a fortune and you couldn’t use the phone while it was on), but with obvious good intentions behind the insufferable execution. Lorelai and her shout at each other in public over it, and the DSL is never mentioned again. I totally would have taken that line.
This is also one of the few times where Emily’s involvement screws up things for everyone involved, but the show doesn’t address it. Emily and Richard are friends with the headmaster of Chilton. After Emily and Lorelai leave, he tells Rory that she’s not going to get any favors because of his connection to her grandparents, and that she is very likely going to fail at Chilton. Rory can absolutely not deal with people not taking an immediate liking to her and pulls off her best deer-in-the-headlights look yet. This is going to become a trend.
And honestly? If a personal friend of mine showed up to tell me that her granddaughter is starting school today and that I better treat her right, I’d be pissed, too. And I’d be giving that granddaughter no illusions about how much that means in this scenario. So. Good job there, Emily.
In her part of the plot, Lorelai is hit on by a Chilton dad. She turns him down, though he’s very bad at hearing ‘no’ and then tries to impress her with his business trip to China next week. Lorelai thankfully is resistant to all kinds of bragging by these kinds of men, and insists on not going out with him because it might make things awkward at school for Rory. This sets up both Lorelai’s status as perpetually single, the strict rules she has for dating to keep Rory safe, and the arc her personal life is going to take.
At this point, all pieces are on the board, so from here on out, I’ll be covering different aspects of the show instead of going through it chronologically.
School and Work
Nothing much changes about Lorelai’s work at the inn in this season. It is established from the get-go that she wants to open her very own inn with Sookie someday, and is taking a business class in Hartford to prepare for it.
The inn hosts a few functions, most notably a wedding between two sets of identical twins in episode 3, and mostly serves as a backdrop for Lorelai to have conversations with Sookie about her personal life.
The biggest shake-up to this happens in episode 19, in which Luke’s returned former and current girlfriend Rachel discover an old property that Lorelai and Sookie decide is going to be their inn one day.
Rory’s school life on the other hand is very prominent throughout this season – it is what kicks off the plot, after all.
In episode 4, Rory is starting to crumble under the pressure of the new school, the mean classmates, and all the reading material she has to catch up on.
This is not helped by the fact that she receives her first D on a paper in English Lit class, the class of a Mr. Medina we will talk about in detail later on.
Rory and Lorelai spend all week studying together for a Shakespeare test that will make up 20% of her final grade in Max’s class. There is also a scene in which Paris bends over veery closely to Rory to whisper poetry in her ear to intimidate her, assuring her she’s going down… And for a show this aggressively straight, things get very, very gay for a second there. I have no gifs for this or a youtube clip, and believe me, I’ve looked, so you just have to take my word for it. Or go watch it yourself, it is on Netflix, after all.
Things being oddly sexually charged between Rory and Paris is a bit of a trend, by the way (link includes spoilers for all seasons, and opinions about Rory’s boyfriends that I don’t necessarily agree with).
As is the way for all storylines about pulling all-nighters and cramming before an important test, Rory and Lorelai oversleep, so Rory frantically has to drive to school by herself to be on time for her test. And she would have made it, too, but…
Yes, you read that right. Rory is actually not to blame. A deer runs into her car while she’s standing at a stop sign.
She is late for the test and not allowed to take it, and has a breakdown in class that includes yelling at Paris and Tristan, and is severe enough for Lorelai to be called to the school. Lorelai herself has a meltdown in front of the headmaster about the inhumane standards and horrible children at Chilton, and how unfair it is that Rory isn’t allowed to take this test. She also calls him Il Duce.
In a nice break from Rory’s and Lorelai’s occasional entitlement that can get pretty grating, the headmaster is unimpressed. He tells them to suck it up, and that maybe Rory is just not cut out for Chilton or Harvard. This leads the two to have a touching conversation about whose dream Harvard really was, and whether Rory would be better off at her old school, and that she has Lorelai’s support no matter what she chooses. Rory assures her mom that Harvard is truly her dream, too, and that she isn’t ready to give up on Chilton yet, but reserves the right to change her mind.
This, in a nutshell, is basically what the series is all about. Rory and Lorelai supporting each other. This is also one of my favorite episodes and an absolute must-watch if you’re just getting started with the series and want to catch up as quickly as possible, or are looking for the right episodes to rewatch. It is also the episode next to episode 2 that I’d recommend to watch if you’re just trying out the series. Give these two a shot, and if you can’t stomach them, the show is probably not for you.
We return to Rory’s school problems in episode 6. Emily is throwing her a birthday party, and has invited everyone in Rory’s class at Chilton, assuming they’d all be friends.
This is the point where I assume that either high school was fundamentally different at the time Emily went there, or that she is actually homeschooled.
Rory is completely freaked out by this, as it makes her look like even more of a freak to her classmates, but doesn’t tell Lorelai about this or try to stop it in any way for reasons I’ll cover later.
People do make fun of her for this party, but the episode ends on the very first positive interaction between Paris and Rory: After running into Paris at a college fair and assuring her that she is absolutely not interested in Tristan, Paris actually warms up to Rory! And tells her her birthday party was nice! Aw!
Though I gotta judge Paris for her taste in men. You can totally do better, girl! (Spoiler alert: She never does. Shame.)
The next school-centric plot happens in episode 13, Concert Interruptus. Rory, Paris, and Paris’ sidekicks Madeline and Louise (think Fashion Club from Daria. Madeline is Tiffany, Louise is Sadie with shades of Quinn) are paired together for a debate, and meet to prepare at Rory’s house, where Madeline and Louise (portrayed by Shelly Cole and Teal Redmann respectively) immediately take to Lorelai, the Cool Mom.
Happy that Rory might actually make friends at school, Lorelai suggests they all go to a Bangles concert together that day. During the concert, Madeline and Louise ditch Rory and Paris and leave with two college guys to go to a party. In New York City.
Since this is a safe show where nothing too bad happens, ever, Lorelai somehow tracks them down in one specific apartment complex, and gets them out of there before anything more dramatically satisfying than underage drinking occurs. Is this realistic? Nope! The fact that they could track down the right apartment complex without any additional information just obliterates any suspended disbelief, really. But I commend the show for not trying to use this opportunity to be edgy. The worst that comes from this is Lorelai yelling a lot, and probably talking to Madeline’s and Louise’s parents.
Lorelai tearing into the two girls for being stupid, and turning from Cool Mom to Pissed Mom leads Paris to give Rory a sheepish smile and declare that this is probably the best night she’s ever had. And then she even agrees to share debate time with Rory! Aw!
But key rule for this season: We can’t have nice things. At least not for long. After an ill-advised kiss, Rory convinces Tristan to ask Paris out in episode 18. Paris has a freak-out and comes to Rory to help her get ready for her very first date, in a fun little parallel to Rory freaking out about the same thing and getting help from Lorelai in episode 7 (baby Jared Padalecki is involved. We will get to that eventually.) However, things take a turn for the worse, when Tristan tells Paris the next day that they’re better off as friends and that Rory told him to ask her out.
Paris takes this badly, but not even remotely as bad as when Tristan lies about going to a concert with Rory in the last episode. Rory of course tries to convince her otherwise, but Paris… Isn’t very good at changing her mind. She succinctly informs Rory that she’ll be editor of the school newspaper next season, uh, school year, and that Rory is welcome to join the paper as well, and going to get all the best pieces – like the paving of a new parking lot.
She even gets in one last mean girl pose!
In addition to the personal relationships, we see, and will continue to see, Rory studying quite a bit, working to stay at Chilton and working towards her Ivy League ambitions. She is a neat-freak and organizes everything obsessively, so even when she is a poor judge of character at times, you can see how someone like her could make it this far. When it is mentioned in episode 15 that Rory is in the top 10% of her class, it feels earned. You want Rory to succeed and root for her – most of the time, at least. And what’s more, Rory seems to be enjoying studying in general (when she didn’t just get a D and is in the middle of a personal crisis), which tells you a lot about a person.
I point this out because boy, will there be some bullshit in this department in future seasons.
Friends and Townspeople
The assortment of nosy neighbors that make up the population of Stars Hollow is commonly described as “colorful”, which…
I will talk about race on Gilmore Girls in another piece one day, but for now rest assured that the show has only three regular characters of color, and even in crowd scenes like that town meeting, is very, very white. So white that any non-white character getting a speaking role is truly remarkable (Lane and her mother are regulars. Lane meets a cute Korean boy in episode 17 that she sort of dates for a while, Michel at the inn is most likely French-African but we never really learn his origins beyond him being from France, and Lorelai gets sassed by a black woman while in New York looking for Madeline and Louise. That’s it. That’s all the POC with lines for the first season).
That might be a good representation of Smalltown, Connecticut, but it gets a bit ridiculous at Chilton or Hartford State or Rory’s Ivy League college later on.
Well, admittedly, the “colorful” descriptor is mostly about the character’s personalities. It holds a bit more water there.
We meet Miss Patty in episode 1. She used to be a Broadway performer, now she teaches dance, spreads news, babbles out secrets at inopportune moments, and hits on men of all ages. Even those underage.
Babette and Morey (Sally Struthers and Ted Rooney) are Lorelai’s direct neighbors. They are proud parents of cats, extremely cute and happily married, and Babette especially likes to be involved with everyone’s lives. They lose their cat in episode 5, Cinnamon’s Wake, and the neighborhood unironically throws a wake for it.
There’s also Taylor Doose (Michael Winters).
He’s not the mayor. He just seems to have annoyed the mayor into putting him in charge of every town event and every town meeting, and he takes his duties there very seriously. He also owns the only grocery store in town and gets special enjoyment out of annoying Luke. Think every annoying conservative neighbor you have ever had stick his nose in your business.
And who can forget Michel?
How this man ended up in the service industry, I will never know. He is the concierge at the Independence Inn, and your stereotypical effeminate rude Frenchman. He eats no carbs or dairy, and his favorite band is Destiny’s Child. Charmingly dated show, remember?
And yet, in a show as aggressively heterosexual as this one, he is very, very straight despite these queer-coded attributes. We learn this in the pilot.
There is also Kirk (Sean Gunn). Kirk does jobs around the town. Any job, really. All the jobs. He is also most likely some shade of neurodivergent, but this is never addressed. In a town full of comedic characters, he’s the one who gets the most appearances simply for comedic relief. He’s an oddball, and while no one really makes fun of him… to his face. I’m not exactly comfortable talking about him.
His work ethic is amazing though.
All these people are merely background characters, though, and will largely remain just that for the entirety of the series. Larger parts are played by Sookie and Lane, Lorelai’s and Rory’s best friend respectively.
As mentioned above, this is one of Melissa McCarthy’s very first comedic roles, and the comedy is based on a kind of slapstick, Sookie’s controlling tendencies regarding food and food preparation, and freakouts. Everyone on this show has freakouts. Never, ever, ever is a joke cracked about her weight or appearance, something that was very refreshing in the early 2000s.
Over the course of the season, she is a supportive presence in Lorelai’s life, offering advice and being the voice of reason when Lorelai is being ridiculous. They can also turn this dynamic around at the drop of a dime.
After a crack about how Sookie is full of relationship advice but hasn’t been in a relationship in ages in episode 11 (which Lorelai immediately apologizes for), Sookie gathers up the courage to ask out Jackson, the produce guy, who she constantly argues with about the wares he delivers. As seen above, he is also very upset when she gets her produce elsewhere.
After asking him out, nothing happens for a while, causing her to freak out and Lorelai to tell her to just set the date already. There is another “getting ready for a date” montage, during which Sookie has a freakout after realizing that she is technically Jackson’s employer and she asked him out during his work hours.
It all goes over fine, however, and Sookie and Jackson start possibly the show’s most constant and happy relationship (with the exception of Babette and Morey).
Rory’s best friend Lane is leading a secret life as a rock music enthusiast, having to hide this from her very, very strict 7th Day Adventist mother, who basically forbids her from doing… Anything that doesn’t involve God in some way.
Lane has found refuge with Rory and Lorelai, though Lorelai will not explicitly lie to her mother for her. She is also constantly being set up with future Korean doctors, and thus has to live vicariously through Rory.
This takes a turn for the teen drama in episodes 8 and 12. In episode 8, Lane is convinced to have found the love of her life in a fellow member of the marching band. However, Rory is a bit too occupied with school and her new boyfriend to pay attention to her. Pent up and frustrated with everything, Lane runs her hand through the boy’s hair, despite never having spoken a word to him, and then runs off to hide at Rory’s place, only to find that Rory is snowed in in Hartford and spending the night at her grandparents’ house.
She crashes Lorelai’s date though, so that’s a plus.
In episode 12, she makes Rory make Dean ask his friend to hang out with them in a double date. They do, and Lane discovers that friend probably doesn’t even have two brain cells to rub together. It all blows up anyhow because Mrs. Kim finds out that Lane lied. She’s pretty good at lying to her mom, actually. Because strict parents don’t automatically raise well-behaved children, but almost always really, really good liars.
Lane somehow manages to accompany Rory to a Chilton party in episode 17, where she meets Henry, a prospective Korean doctor, who unlike all her previous Korean doctor dates, is actually funny and interesting. She ends the season on a… Let’s call it a hopeful note, as Henry is calling her.
Lane’s development won’t really take off until season 3. She gets her own multiple episode long sub plots starting season 4!
But the probably best part about this series in general, and this season in particular, is the family drama. The relationship not only between Rory and Lorelai, though that always takes front and center, but also their relationships with Emily and Richard.
I mentioned before that Emily is somehow cast as the villain for the first part of the season, for the horrible crime of wanting to be involved in the lives of her daughter and granddaughter. She goes about it the wrong way, don’t get me wrong, but on occasion, this is downright uncomfortable.
In episode 3, Emily pushes for Rory and Richard to go golfing together, because that qualifies as a team sport Rory can take at school. Lorelai is opposed, and Emily gets to have a monologue about how she wins if Rory has fun without Lorelai. It’s weird.
Rory indeed does have fun with Richard, and Emily’s words get to Lorelai, and she and Rory have another very uncharacteristic fight that is way too catty and involves breast sizes. Though credit where credit is due, Lorelai realizes how ridiculous this all is in the next scene, and they make up during a hilarious wedding at the inn between two sets of identical twins.
When Emily throws Rory that birthday party in episode 6, Rory doesn’t say anything about it to Lorelai because Lorelai is completely amazed by Emily attempting to understand them better. See, she asked Lorelai to shop for a present for Rory with her, and they actually managed to do that without yelling at each other!
Emily also served pudding at dinner. The pudding is very important.
After Rory bolts when Emily tries to make her give a speech to her classmates, Lorelai runs interference between them and convinces Emily and Richard to attend the birthday party at Lorelai’s house, with all the people Rory actually likes.
This is the first time Emily and Richard see Lorelai’s house, and there is an actually quite pleasant scene between Lorelai and Emily where we learn just how much Emily is hurting from being kept out of her daughter and granddaughter’s lives.
Long video (4 minutes), but Lauren Graham and Kelly Bishop together are always a treat, and the Emily and Lorelai scenes are usually my personal highlight. Also, this is one of the scenes that officially gets the Luke/Lorelai ball rolling. More on that later.
Another instance of Emily and Lorelai being nice to each other happens in episode 9. When Rory attends her first Chilton dance, Emily comes over to take pictures and witness her getting ready. She then stays to take care of Lorelai, who has back issues and can hardly move from the couch.
It’s a very touching scene, and the first time we see something akin to a normal mother-daughter relationship between the two of them. But as mentioned above, we cannot have nice things for long this season.
Rory is out with Dean, and they fall asleep at Miss Patty’s dance studio. When she isn’t home in the morning, Emily freaks out and yells at Lorelai how Rory is going to throw her life away just like Lorelai did, and what kind of a mother is Lorelai for letting that happen? Lorelai defends Rory, at least to Emily’s face, and kicks her out. Rory overhears this, and tells her mother how thankful she is for that.
Lorelai then turns on her, now in full projection mode herself. She orders Rory to go on the pill, and how dare she stay out for so long. Rory accuses Lorelai of only reacting this way because Emily was around to see her screw up. She is also offended by the whole pill thing, which I don’t get. The pill does a lot of great things, and what exactly is so offensive about the implication that you might have sex with your boyfriend eventually when you’re 16? I mean, sure, the situation here is a very heated, and this is not the right moment at all, but in general… Ah, well. It’s not like Rory would need it for skin problems or anything.
The episode ends with all three of the eponymous Gilmore Girls upset and not talking to each other.
This big fallout causes Emily to uninvite Lorelai from the Christmas party in episode 10, the only family function Lorelai actually enjoys attending, which only upsets Lorelai even more.
Rory goes without her, and Lorelai goes to Luke’s for comfort. Luke does manage to comfort her by talking things through, and then makes her a Santa Burger.
However, Richard suffers from angina during the Christmas party. Rory frantically calls Lorelai, and Luke closes up the diner to drive Lorelai to the hospital. They have a moment in which Lorelai laments that she has no good memories of her father she could think of at this moment, and what a horrible daughter she must have been. Luke is, again, the one to successfully comfort her here.
Emily is completely beside herself and yelling at hospital staff, and Rory has no way to deal with emotions other than getting coffee or soup or newspapers for everyone and throw herself into a flurry of activity – both now and in general. All three women reconcile while waiting for news on what happened to Richard, and it is not exactly a feel-good episode, but definitely one of the best.
We even get a heartbreaking exchange between Richard and Emily after he wakes up:
This… Hurts now more than ever, and on a metatextual level at that. Not just because I’ve seen my own grandparents like this, but also because the actor portraying Richard passed away in December of 2014.
You can listen to the cast lamenting this great loss here. Especially Kelly Bishop describing him as a “hale fellow well-met” because he would have liked that… I think I need a minute.
It has since been confirmed that Edward Herrmann’s character will be dead in the show’s revival as well, and that it will greatly impact the remaining family members.
I’m sorry to end this on such a downer, but we are running kind of long at this point. Join me back here next time, when we will cover more family drama, people who are even less over the whole teen pregnancy thing than Emily is, and I will finally tackle the subject I have been carefully avoiding so far: The boyfriends of the season.
Hope to see you all then!
All images courtesy of Warner Bros. Television