‘Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life’ Review: ‘Fall’ and the Final 4 Words

Ken Tucker
Critic-at-Large
Yahoo TV
Photos: Netflix

Netflix has posted all four new episodes of Gilmore Girls, collectively known as Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. I’ve already written a spoiler-free, overall review of the quartet of Stars Hollow specials here, but now I’m writing one review per day of each individual episode. Yesterday’s was a look at “Summer.” Today is a review of the fourth and final episode, “Fall.” You are hereby and loudly warned: WALL-TO-WALL SPOILERS OF GILMORE GIRLS: A YEAR IN THE LIFE FOLLOW. Grab a mug of coffee and some Pop Tarts.

The final new Gilmore Girls begins exactly where I was least interested in being: alone with Lorelai and her backpack in a crummy motel. Her Wild-thing? It does not make my heart sing. It makes everything … not groovy. I am, frankly, disappointed that Lorelai would succumb to the easy uplift of Cheryl Strayed’s bestseller, and then that she would succumb to the snobbish view that the book is better than the movie: Haven’t the Gilmore girls, mother and daughter, granted separate but equal status to literature and the cinema, preferably blended, as in their numerous Godfather quotations?

Yet Amy Sherman-Palladino, back after two episodes to close out the miniseries as writer-director of “Fall,” brings liveliness to Lorelai’s interactions on the Pacific Crest Trail, especially after the backpack slapstick, when Lorelai encounters two Parenthood-spawned park rangers in the form of Jason Ritter and Peter Krause.

Related: Gilmore Girls Fan Favorite Sean Gunn Talks Ooober, Kirk’s Marital Status, and More

I was relieved to leave that rocky trail and return to Rory … or so I thought until we see her back in the arms of the engaged-to-be-married cad, Logan. Logan, with his condescending, “Hey, Ace? Somethin’ goin’ on in that head of yours?” Grrrrrr. … At bottom, I really hate Logan and his Richie Rich faux-goody-goodness. And I loathe Logan’s Life and Death Brigade of insufferable Yalie twits who buy their way out of, and into, trouble. They clog up too many minutes of the final episode merely by appearing onscreen (that scene, scored to a cover of the Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends,” is excruciating), and I remain forever disappointed that Rory finds them even slightly amusing.

But let’s get to the good stuff: SOOKIE! Melissa McCarthy’s one scene is solid-gold treasure. McCarthy totally re-beamed in on her character’s mixture of ditziness and dedication, her culinary gifts and her kooky eccentricities. When Sookie toddles around the kitchen smelling the recipes of the guest chefs who’ve occupied her kitchen, you’re reminded that this character is almost a magical figure. Really, the quick reminiscing that Lorelai and Sookie do about their creation of the Inn is probably as moving to me as anything in the miniseries.

Amy S-P knows how to write Sookie-isms that carry weight, and this scene includes the best literary reference in the entire miniseries: When Sookie tells Lorelai that husband Jackson is reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods to their child, a perfect joke is nestled into this. Sookie talks about the scene in which Ma goes out in the dark and slaps what she thinks is a cow, but it’s actually a bear she’s swatting. The in-joke that’s never made explicit here, but which you can be sure Amy Sherman-Palladino knows is this: The cow’s name is Sookie.

But a lot follows after Sookie. And precedes her. Kelly Bishop has some fine moments rebelling against the DAR snobs, dropping Netflix-sanctioned “bulls***!”s at least three times, with great gusto. Then she finally moves on from the death of Richard by moving to Nantucket.

Related: Ken Tucker Reviews Gilmore Girls Episode 1, “Winter”

Rory’s meeting with her dad, Christopher, was nicely handled. Its purpose was to affirm in Rory’s mind that she was headed in the right direction with this memoir thing, and to decide whether she still needed to make an effort to keep her father in her life. Christopher, a fascinating example of a nice guy who’s also completely selfish, proves — with his empty pleasure in nouveau wealth and air of distraction — that Rory need not think much about him ever again.

Finally, the return of Dean: for my money the best boyfriend Rory has ever had and the guy she really should have stayed with. But now Dean is married with three kids and a fourth on the way, and he’s not the cad Logan is. Jared Padalecki is headed back to Supernatural, where things actually make more sense than they do in Stars Hollow. More’s the loss for Rory, I say.

As for Lorelai and Luke’s marriage preparations and elopement: It was sweet, and I was glad the marriage ceremony was mostly wordless and scored to Sam Phillips’s beautiful song “Reflecting Light.” Can I just put in a plug for Phillips’s superb 1994 album, Martinis and Bikinis, which contains one of my favorite songs of all time, “Baby, I Can’t Please You,” itself a perfect Gilmore Girls theme?

And then there are the Final Four Words, so sacrosanct in the Gilmore firmament that I dare not restate them lest I am instantly transported into the body of Kirk’s pet pig. Rory’s calm bombshell of a pregnancy does bring Gilmore Girls full circle, and she’ll have her own journey of single motherhood (and Lorelai her own journey of Emily-ness?) ahead of her, carrying the possibility of future GG episodes.

The long delay between Season 7 and the Netflix series has enabled a mathematical poetry: Rory is 32, exactly twice the age Lorelai was when she gave birth to Rory. Presumably, based on her talk with Christopher (at which point Rory knew, but we did not, that she was pregnant), she will decide that her child can survive quite well without an ever-present father. Who I assume is Logan, and he brings out the Richard Gilmore in me: This fellow is not worthy of my granddaughter!

Related: Ken Tucker Reviews Gilmore Girls Episode 2, “Spring”

I really like that the series, at the last moment, throws the spotlight more on Rory than Lorelai. It’s a push forward rather than a settling in to the comfy, if all too chatty, domesticity that Lorelai and Luke will inhabit in their new, expanded Dragonfly Inn. (Glad that diner-franchise misstep, leading to an infusion of cash, was corrected, aren’t you?)

My final verdict about A Year in the Life is that I’m glad the episodes exist, especially in the TV world of right now, where Gilmore provides a toasty alternative to obsessing over the cold mechanics of Westworld. And the sensibility of Amy Sherman-Palladino is welcome on Netflix in particular, because Amy S-P’s nostalgia for literacy and mother-daughter closeness is far superior to the merely clever genre troping of the different era evoked in Stranger Things. For all its self-consciousness and magpie-gathering of pop-culture detritus, Gilmore Girls still provides its audience with an earnestness, a sincerity, an openheartedness, that few other TV series since The Andy Griffith Show have ever been able to pull off.

Extra Gilmore Gifts

  • Kiefer Sutherland is an old pal of Luke’s. It’s a good thing the Sutherlands don’t have a longer history with the Gilmores, or Kiefer’s dad, Donald Sutherland, might have made a play for Emily years ago.
  • How will Emily get from Nantucket to Connecticut in time for that noonish wedding?
  • What will happen to the Stars Hollow Gazette when Rory goes on her book tour, the tome becomes a bestseller, and she sells the rights to the Palladinos for the TV adaptation?

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life is streaming now on Netflix.