‘Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life’ Review: ‘Spring’ Eternal

Ken Tucker
Critic-at-Large
Yahoo TV

 

Alexis Bledel, Liza Weil, Dakin Matthews (Credit: Netflix)
From left, Alexis Bledel, Liza Weil, and Dakin Matthews. (Photo: 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, but now I’m writing one review per day of each individual episode. Yesterday’s review was of “Winter.” Today is a review of the second episode, “Spring.” 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 spray cheese.

The episode begins with a therapy session, and since the season has changed, we must infer that Emily and Lorelai have been going to see Claudia the therapist for months now, yet they’re still sitting in awkward silences, with Lorelai offering halfhearted apologies for vague past sins. Emily recaps the origin story of Gilmore Girls for Claudia — and by extension, the Netflix audience: Lorelai pregnant at 16, going to parents for a loan, the agreed-upon weekly dinners that she and Rory will have with Emily and Richard as a condition of the loan… There’s a problem with this episode, frankly.

The second Gilmore entry was written and directed by Daniel Palladino, and I’m afraid it simply doesn’t have the zip, or perhaps I mean the zing, that the Amy Sherman-Palladino episodes possess. As a wife-and-husband production, Gilmore Girls has always been a two-person operation dominated by Amy’s more gregarious public manner, plus hats. There is a subculture of Gilmore fans who’ve debated the Daniel contribution over the years, which I don’t want to get into. All I can say is that in the construction of the kind of name-dropping punchlines that are the series’ hallmark, the ones in this “Spring” edition fall a little flat. (One example: Emily tells the therapist that Lorelai once sent her “a heinous letter”; Lorelai responds, “I’m not Edith Wharton, I don’t write letters.” The Wharton ref seems arbitrary — it could be one of a thousand early-20th-century-or-earlier letter writers.)

Overall, “Spring,” while its season should suggest budding newness, carries heavy themes throughout its 90 minutes: self-doubt, duplicity, and regret. But first: The Spring Food Festival! An excuse to tour Stars Hollow and have Taylor and Kirk, equally officious, berate the various supporting characters’ food stands. This marks the return of Mrs. Kim, as surly as ever, and a microcameo by Mr. Kim. The way he gets a quick, “Oh, hi, Mr. Kim!” made me wonder: Had we never seen him before? One of you will know and tell me.

Then, Taylor presides over a town hall meeting; on the agenda — the first gay pride day, of which there are so few representatives in Stars Hollow, Taylor asks a neighboring town to “lend us their gays.” This scene, I confess, perplexed me. Everyone thinks Taylor is gay, but Taylor implicitly denies it? Gypsy wants more gays to out themselves for the big day, but the earlier implication that she has a crush on Lorelai goes unexamined? Does Lorelai not recall that Michel is gay? I guess he lives in another town entirely? As I said, perplexing…

“Spring” is front-loaded with Stars Hollow eccentricity, including the town movie night, featuring a terrible short film by Kirk that’s not quite terrible enough to be funny. It’s almost a relief when we get back to the more intense Lorelai-Rory-Emily-based material. Such as Emily revealing to Luke that Richard left him a chunk of change in his will to start franchising his diner. The motive, says Emily, was to leave Lorelai something to live on, which seems too roundabout a plan for such a sensible financier as Richard was, and I also think Richard understood Luke well enough to know the last thing Luke wants is to expand beyond his own little diner. In short, I don’t buy this subplot.

Related: ‘Gilmore Girls’ A to Z: From Al’s Pancake World to Zack Van Gerbig

More intensity: Rory finally gets her Condé Nast meeting (courtesy of Logan’s father) with GQ’s Jim Nelson, here portrayed by Scandal’s Dan Bucatinsky. She is dealt with politely, although Jim Nelson invokes David Foster Wallace at least one time too many. Later, Rory has a better scene at the BuzzFeed-ish website Sandee Says, presided over by Julia Goldani Telles — from Bunheads and The Affair, and here superbly haughty as a millennial on the rise who pursues Rory only to become instantly disenchanted with her during their brief interview.

Rory and Paris attend a reunion at Chilton, which allows for a scene in which the headmaster offers Rory a teaching job, if she’ll get a master’s degree. He adds to the running subtext of disappointment that Rory has never quite fulfilled her early promise. (“We all go through bad stretches,” he says, with pity in his tone.) Later, Rory will confide to her mom that “my love life is a disaster,” and her heart really isn’t into executing the idea GQ gave her, to do a story about why people in New York City wait in lines for supposedly cool things. Let’s face it, Rory is a mess in this episode. Why, she even cedes the spotlight at Chilton to Paris, who has a memorable meltdown in the girl’s room when she espies her old beau Tristan flirting with another gal. It’s no wonder Rory moves back home at the end of the episode. This episode sets up whatever drama that will impinge upon the screwball-comedy universe of Gilmore Girls; it feels like one to plow through and move on. Summer cannot come quickly enough for this young woman.

Extra Gilmore Gifts:

  • There are only 10 rooms in the Dragonfly; how has this place stayed in business, let alone attracted a slew of guest “pop-up” chefs, including, this time, Rachael Ray?
  • The real Paul Anka, who appears to Lorelai in a dream, looks great.
  • We may not know the famous final four words that close out Gilmore Girls yet (you haven’t jumped ahead to the last episode yet, have you, cheater?), but we now know Richard’s last words, delivered to hospital nurses: “Get the hell away from me!”
  • Mae Whitman — Lauren Graham’s Parenthood daughter — appears beside Lauren Graham’s Gilmore Girl daughter for a teeny tiny thrill cameo.

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