The last few months I have been spending every waking minute of my life catching up and rewatching Gilmore Girls in preparation for the revival. I have drunk copious amounts of coffee, I now talk faster and every sentence is littered with pop culture references, at this point I would like to call myself an honorary Gilmore Girl.
I was extremely excited when the revival was announced, as Gilmore Girls was one of my favorite television shows growing up, and when the four “movies” were released on Netflix I counted down the seconds until I could devour it along with everyone else. We knew that most of the old characters were coming back in all sorts of capacities (including all of Rory’s exes), we knew that there were spoilery four words that closed the final episode, and we knew that the series will touch on the death of Richard Gilmore.
While the Gilmore Girls in the original series were Lorelai and Rory, A Year in the Life goes a little bit further and explores the life of Emily post-Richard as well. I would argue that the show became more of a closure for Emily and Lorelai than Rory. Rory’s storyline had her peppered in throughout the series, popping up in Lorelai’s and Emily’s stories, while cementing the fact that hey, Rory’s life is a mess.
Mourning Richard Gilmore
Emily has always been my favorite Gilmore Girl, perhaps it’s because of her great one-liners, or Kelly Bishop’s performance or because she reminds me of my own mother in numerous ways, but she was always the one I warmed up to faster and the revival was no exception. It is very difficult to imagine Emily without Richard, and you see it was painful for the cast as well. Even though Edward Herrmann died in 2014, these actors who had worked with him for seven years were still mourning him, and A Year in the Life gave them a chance to commemorate him properly.
There were poignant moments throughout the episodes where he loomed large, one, in particular, where Emily gave the wrong specifications to the painter, and there is a humongous painting of Richard in her living room. This is fodder for Lorelai in the series, but it is obvious as it’s an allegory for the influence that Richard still has over the Gilmore girls and it is evident in the end after Emily has healed a bit and she scales back and commissions a smaller painting of Richard.
The first episode, “Winter” provided us with a flashback to Richard’s funeral four months previously where Lorelai told a very inappropriate story about how Richard caught her having sex when asked to share a story about her father, and Emily took offense to this. It resembled exactly the type of interactions that we are used to between Emily and Lorelai, whereby Lorelai panics and says something inappropriate and Emily reacts, it’s just painful to see this happen in a situation where you can see they are both hurting and attempting to mourn in their own way. The payoff for the scene takes place in the final episode of the series “Fall” when after attempting a Wild-inspired (book, not movie) hike, Lorelai phones Emily and tells her a tearful story about how her father took care of her after a break up when she was a teenager. It was so beautiful and well acted by Lauren Graham, that I can’t even think about it now without shedding a tear. Lorelai needed to go on a journey, throughout the series in order to get to a point where she could properly mourn her father and have some closure with regards to the animosity that she felt towards him (and her mother).
And by the end of the series it looks like Emily and Lorelai have truly grown in their relationship. Emily has scaled back on her life, firstly trying to give away her possessions, then by leaving the D.A.R. (it’s about time), taking on a permanent maid (and her entire family), dating a new man (Ray Wise making an appearance), and then at the end selling their ancestral home and moving to Nantucket and volunteering at a whale museum. I must say this is not the end that I expected from Emily, I thought she would retire to Paris or London (like Trix), but this ending feels much more peaceful and simple and maybe a future that will mean a more relaxed life for Emily without the pressure of being a Hartford wife or widow. There is still so much hope for the future, as she invested in the Dragonfly Inn and made Lorelai and Luke promise to visit a few weeks every year.
Rory’s mourning of Richard was a lot more subtle than the other two, maybe it was her specific way of mourning or perhaps it was put on the backburner with all the other drama that was happening in her life. Rory felt almost tacked along with her grandmother and mother’s grief at the funeral and graveyard and her most poignant moment was when she was wandering around the Gilmore mansion while Emily was in Nantucket on vacation and you hear echoes of conversations that the family had in different areas of the house – them sitting for dinner in the dining room, Richard and Emily in the kitchen with Rory when she made pizza, Richard in his study – before she sits down in Richard’s study to begin writing her book. It’s a beautiful scene, but I wish the revival would have given us more of Rory dealing with her grandfather’s death especially since a lot of the original series dealt with the two of them bonding over literature and academics.
Click next for our thoughts on the saga of Lorelai and Luke.