"Winter" was written and directed by Amy Sherman-Palladino who, along with Dan, has sole writer/director credits on "A Year in the Life." Aside from the Palladinos, the other producers are Helen Pai, longtime collaborator and inspiration for Lane Kim, and Dylan K. Massin. This is Massin's first time working with them, so I'm guessing Netflix brought him on to produce. He previously worked on "Parenthood" with Lauren Graham and "GG" contemporary, "The West Wing," so I can understand the logic behind his involvement.
I'm surprised Lauren Graham didn't produce. She already has experience from S7 and served as co-executive producer on two seasons of "The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers," so why not "A Year in the Life"? All three leads — Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon, and Kristin Davis — were co-executive producers on the "Sex and the City" revival, "And Just Like That," so it's not crazy to think Graham and Bledel would want credits at this point in their careers.
Along with most of the cast, several of the OG crew members are back, including costume designer Brenda Maben, costumer Valerie Campbell, composer Sam Phillips, casting director Jami Rudofsky, and dialogue coach George Anthony Bell. The episode was dedicated to Edward Herrmann, who was sorely missed even though widow Emily is my favorite part of this dumpster fire.
Most batshit crazy outfit:
While a Netflix production is fancy enough to hire a snow effects technician, I can feel the Southern California warmth in every frame thanks to the open coats and lazily draped scarves. The most tragic winter ensemble is Lorelai's dog walking outfit, ripped straight from Britney Spears circa 2002.
I'm not sure if this colorful puffer vest and coffee cup sweater are an attempt to age down Keiko Agena, who was in her early forties when "AYitL" was shot, but file this disaster as yet another injustice perpetrated against our girl, Lane Kim.
I hate Lorelai's Marc Jacobs sweater with all the bedazzled patches, too. It's appropriate for her because she's absolutely the type of psychopath who delights in glittery, American flag-themed hot dog apparel.
Rory's Self Portrait dress is very Blair Waldorf, I only wish she had styled it without those little chunks of hair in her face. I used to own something similar circa 2014 that I think has since been passed down to my nieces. If I'm being critical, the capped sleeves weren't the best look for me.
I'm also a fan of Rory's wool Burberry trench coat. I know I just bitched about all the coats hanging open in the dead of winter, but it really does look better without the belted closure. I wonder if she used some of the money from Richard's will to upgrade her wardrobe...
Most irritating Rory or Lorelai moment:
JFC, Rory... take five minutes and please break up with Paul (Jack Carpenter). There's no reason to date someone you don't respect for two years. I don't care if the sex is good, no orgasm is worth the humiliation of tying yourself to a dude who is allegedly so boring that no one remembers his name. Buy yourself a vibrator and release him into the wild.
Based on their awkward hug when he arrives at the Gilmore house, their relationship doesn't even appear to be sex-motivated, so I have no idea why they're still together. I guess we're supposed to see his presence as yet another indicator of Rory's disorganization/dysfunction, but it just makes everyone involved look like an asshole.
I feel similarly about Luke and Lorelai's sudden realization that they've gone eleven years without discussing the prospect of having a kid together. After Emily accuses Lorelai of dismissing Luke's wants/needs, she makes an appointment with Dynasty Makers and pushes for a surrogacy exploration. Despite his assurance that he's fine with their current situation, she totally ignores him, thus proving Emily's original point. If two people are this bad at communicating and respecting boundaries at fifty, they absolutely should not have more kids. Not to mention, they'd both be pushing seventy at their hypothetical kid's high school graduation which is... a choice.
Updated character attribute that feels most realistic:
Lorelai Gilmore has never been on the cutting edge of technology, so I buy her DVR full of Lifetime movies, including "Restless Virgins," starring Vanessa Marano. I hope Rory eventually hooks her up with a Lifetime Movie Club membership so she can properly immerse herself in the world of teenage bank heists and cyber seduction gone wrong.
Clunkiest pop culture reference:
Lorelai accuses Luke of body-shaming her in a way that reminds me of Bill Maher whining about woke culture. I wouldn't be surprised if the Palladinos belong to the group of liberals who find "Me Too" exhausting, Black Lives Matter mystifying, and the body positivity/neutrality movement a celebration of obesity. In 2016, they probably felt like this was a cheeky way to acknowledge criticism of the Gilmores' unrealistically shitty diets, although it comes off as mean-spirited. This is the exchange:
Luke: You're eating?
Lorelai: Just tacos.
Rory: Tacos are tiny.
Luke: I'm making a whole dinner here.
Lorelai: Wow. So I'm fat?
Lorelai: Body shaming.
Luke: I am not body shaming.
Lorelai: Trigger warnings!
Luke: Oh, for Christ's sake.
Lorelai: War on Christmas!
I don't blame Luke for being annoyed that the girls are pregaming his dinner of mac and cheese and parmesan cutlets with an entire separate meal. Sidenote: coffee and tacos makes me think of this episode.
(The monkey lamp is apparently in Lauren Graham's garage. I hope the clown pillow is burning in the fiery pits of hell.)
Lorelai and Rory's opening scene Goop banter instantly disturbed me. Even when the writing in the original series was suspect, Graham and Bledel were mostly believable as mother/daughter. Aside from maybe the very beginning of S1, they always seemed comfortable with each other in a way that felt soothing to me as a viewer. From their initial conversation, the show wants us to believe that they're close as ever and still firmly rooted in their love of "witty" pop culture repartee. Unfortunately, the dialogue cadence is stiff and their hug looks forced.
I thought it might improve as the series progressed, but the slightly uncomfortable vibe persists throughout. Scott Patterson told Glamour,
"We were block shooting. We had three-and-a-half months to shoot four one-and-a-half-hour movies. We had 600 pages to do in three-and-a-half months, which is insane, and the only way to do it is block shoot it."
This is a terrible way to shoot a revival, especially when it's been ten years since the cast has been together. Any actor would struggle to reprise a beloved, established role in an organic way. By shooting all four episodes at the same time, there's not even a chance to see improved chemistry over the course of the series. I'd rather have no revival at all than a slapdash one like "A Year in the Life."
Dumbest plot contrivance:
Why the fuck would Rory ship her possessions to five different locations? The Palladinos probably wanted an excuse for her to traipse around in search of her (hideously ugly) lucky dress, interacting with several characters along the way. However, it wouldn't have been difficult to invent more rational motivations. This WTF-ery, written as part of Rory's quarter-life crisis floundering, comes off like brain damage. This bitch has a building at Yale named after her, a rich dad, and an inheritance from her dead grandfather. Why is she living this stupidly?
Favorite song of the episode:
Tom Waits's "Time" is the perfect song to play during Richard's funeral flashback, one of the only sequences I found legitimately impactful. The whole thing was reminiscent of "Bunheads," where "Picture in a Frame" is used to great effect during the dance memorial for Hubbel. I'm calling it now: the final season of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" will serve us yet another killer Tom Waits scene. Genius music supervisor Robin Urdang is involved with both shows, so I wouldn't be surprised.
While "AYitL" shit the bed in many ways, it kept the musical standards high, featuring scenes with Grant Lee Phillips's "Winterglow" and my favorite Tom Tom Club song, "Genius of Love." Hep Alien's cover of Joe Jackson's "I'm the Man" isn't half bad, although their thrashing has gotten less enthusiastic now that they all have c-spine arthritis.
Luke Danes wig watch:
My husband says Luke's hairpiece is a combination of Steven Seagal and John Travolta in "Winter." The hair department should have either let his bald spot(s) shine or commited to the 97% baseball cap coverage policy of seasons one through seven. IIRC, it looks better in "Spring."
I still remember the visceral horror of watching this reboot for the first time. I was in Seattle for Thanksgiving, had just taken an edible, and pressed play with the purest intentions. After I got past the horrible Netflix aesthetic, there were countless other problems. None of the character trajectories felt true to the original series. Many issues fans had complained about over the years were now amplified, like the nonsensical passage of time, clunky white feminism, lack of diversity, and tiresome townie antics. No one gives a shit about Taylor's quest to upgrade Stars Hollow's septic system! Stop making Kirk say Ooo-ber! Give us more Patty and Babette. Incorporate at least some of the character growth from S7 so there's a cohesive through line to the series.
Instead, the Palladinos ignored everything from David S. Rosenthal aside from Lorelai's brief marriage to Christopher and Lane's pregnancy. It feels weird to not have a single update on Rory's stint covering Barack Obama's campaign. Why didn't it lead to additional opportunities? Did she ever use Christiane Amanpour's business card? I want an explanation for her career/life slump because when we last saw her, she was on an upswing. Someone doesn't abruptly go from being an ambitious, organized individual to hinging their entire future on a dubious meeting with Condé Nast and a book proposal with Naomi Shropshire (Alex Kingston), an unpredictable British fuckabout who everyone reputable says to avoid. I wouldn't mind watching Rory struggle if the storytelling made more than a vague attempt at outlining her motivations.
Because there's no way for me to cover everything from these ninety-minute episodes, I'm going to focus on my main gripes with each Gilmore girl, starting with Rory. When she first jets in from London wearing that chic camel coat, it appears her life is in a good place... until she fields a work call with the energy of someone in the midst of a manic episode. Next, we learn she has a boyfriend who she can't remember to break up with for some mysterious reason (brain worms). She abandoned her Brooklyn apartment, haphazardly sent her shit to multiple continents, took up tap dancing to quell her anxieties, and can't get any of her work published. Nothing says, "My career is going poorly," quite like "I have a lot of irons in the fire." Luke's pride over her single page Talk of the Town essay is cute, but suggests it's her biggest accomplishment to date.
I don't mean to suggest that a freelance writer with a small number of pieces in bigger publications is some kind of loser, only that it's shocking for former Yale editor Rory Gilmore, Stars Hollow's angel. The show spent years desperately trying to convince us of her brilliance only to take a hard left turn out of nowhere. This entire miniseries is like "The Incredible Sinking Lorelais," only it lasts eight times as long. It's a too-late course correction for a show that has routinely placed its protagonists on a pedestal, refusing to judge (or even recognize) their faults. I love to complain about the undeserved adulation all characters in the "GG" universe seem to have for Rory and Lorelai, but it's also a big part of the show's charm/comfort. Everyone loves them, the stakes are low, and they always get what they want in the end. Periods of discomfort don't last long... until "AYitL" when they last six fucking hours.
I read the Naomi subplot as Rory clinging to her one shred of recent success, red flags be damned. Someone with a commanding presence or satirical point of view could probably write an interesting biography of that
delicious anarch entitled twat, but only if they were cool with getting sued. Paris should do it! She knows a thing or two about stumbling drunkenly through the street sans shoes and would probably love to add "New York Times bestselling author" (and provocateur) to her insane resume. Logan, who Rory noncommittally fucks while in London, is supportive of the project, although he does warn her that Naomi is "difficult and a little weird." Had we not already met Naomi and seen her food-thieving antics, I might dismiss his comments as standard misogyny. Considering what we witness, they're more than fair.
I wouldn't mind Rory and Logan's Vegas arrangement if his fiancée (who we learn about later) was onboard, only the show doesn't play it that way. Like the Naomi storyline, their affair is used as a marker of Rory's poor judgment without any consideration for character motivation. I hate to defend a trust fund bro, but nothing we've learned about Logan suggests he's the type of guy to blatantly cheat on a partner, presumably for the entirety of a relationship that ends in an engagement. He likewise does not seem like someone who, at thirty-five, marries a person he doesn't love because of family legacy reasons. If the show now wants to embrace the "Logan is a douche" vibes of early S5, additional context is needed.
As formerly purposeful Rory flails around like a slowly deflating balloon, Lorelai shows how little growth she's achieved over the past decade. She still sucks at communicating with Luke, is an asshole to her mother, and somehow runs a thriving business despite her inability to treat the inn's rotating celebrity chefs as anything other than colossal annoyances (sorry, Roy Choi). Michel, who is now married to a man named Frederick, is the first to implant the idea of more children in her head. Later, at Emily's house, Berta's (Rose Abdoo) brood runs around like maniacs, somehow eliciting zero comments about jam hands. What really kickstarts the baby shit is Emily, who comments post-funeral on Lorelai's bulldozing nature:
"Did Luke know what he was getting into? [...] Did you ever ask him what he wanted? Where he wanted to live? If he wanted children? I'm sure that didn't matter to Lorelai Gilmore."
While not entirely inaccurate, this statement is less about reality and more about pushing Lorelai's buttons. Luke is a grown ass man with the ability to voice his own desires. If he wanted to have a kid and chose not to say anything about it, that's on him! Of course, Emily gets in Lorelai's head, kickstarting an equally problematic shift that leads to her and Luke visiting Paris's fertility and surrogacy clinic. I would be pissed if my husband cajoled me into this whole rigmarole after I assured him I was satisfied with life's trajectory. Luke tells Lorelai, "Nobody gets to have everything they want in life. All in all, I think I did pretty good," which is an extraordinarily healthy attitude for someone who only did one round of therapy tapes thirteen years ago.
I think we're supposed to read Lorelai's sudden push for a baby as the waking equivalent to her midlife crisis bathroom nightmare, only there's not enough connective tissue. I like the idea of Richard's death forcing her to confront her own mortality and reconsider what she wants from life, I just want it to feel less haphazard. At times like this, the narrative suffers from Sookie's absence. It would be helpful to see a conversation between Lorelai and a friend the same age who can relate to her struggle. She and Rory briefly discuss her feelings, but someone younger can't fully relate.
The other Lorelai thread that misses the mark is her response when Emily asks everyone to tell a cherished story about Richard post-funeral. I can't imagine being fifty and still making every family gathering about my childhood trauma. The inability to pull one nice memory out of her ass on the saddest day of her mother's life is straight narcissism. Again, this reaction feels more like early Lorelai Gilmore and makes me wonder what occurred to cause this regression considering how the original series wrapped. Richard's S7 heart attack gave everyone newfound perspective and hinted at a positive shift in the father/daughter dynamic. If that was a fluke and shit continued to disintegrate over the years, the writing should hint at how/why that happened.
Thus far, Emily is the main character who feels most like herself in "AyitL." With Richard suddenly gone, I buy her accidentally commissioning a giant portrait of him, softening toward the maid, going on a Marie Kondo-inspired cleaning spree, and eventually tricking Lorelai into therapy (which I'll discuss in "Spring"). She feels like an older version of the character we knew and loved, only now with more underlying sadness and a slightly higher tolerance for bullshit. Of the three Gilmore "girls," she's the most understandably adrift and dealing with it in a way that makes sense for the character.
From what I remember, this is the best episode of the season. When I first watched it six years ago, I didn't immediately feel like the entire reboot was doomed; I had hope the Palladinos would pull it all together in a satisfying way. "Gilmore Girls" was always balanced on a razor's edge. Stars Hollow is a heightened reality where everyone flits around with empty coffee cups talking insanely. It's a difficult environment to recreate and when it works, it's magic. When it doesn't, it quickly becomes rage-inducing. By the next episode, my ire will have reached a fever pitch.
- These are the episodes referenced in the opening credits: "Pilot," "Kiss and Tell," "Nag Hammadi Is Where They Found They Gnostic Gospels," "The Lorelais' First Day at Yale," "Raincoats and Recipes," "Written in the Stars," "Emily in Wonderland," "The Big One," "You Jump, I Jump, Jack," "A House is Not a Home," "I Can't Get Started," "Love, Daisies, and Troubadours," "Love and War and Snow," and "Women of Questionable Morals." There's not a single reference to S7, which feels appropriately petty.
- The Palladinos gave Yonah Schimmel Knishery a nice shoutout but still aren't featured on the Yonah's Celebrity Friends page. Should I call them and ask if this is an intentional snub?
- "Cat's in the Cradle" makes me think of Sookie, who might have walked down the aisle to that song if not for Rory and Lane.
- Every cool girl at my middle school owned either these Saucony Jazz or light pink Adidas Superstars.
- Unpopular opinion: Lorelai should leave Luke for Digger. Their brief scene together had more sizzle than any post-April moment with Luke.
- Twin Peaks and Stars Hollow collide once again when Leland Palmer (Ray Wise) tells a story about Richard involving "lacy women's unmentionables." Instead of laughing, Emily should have kneed him in the balls.
- You know Lorelai's a terrible person because she owns a "Let's brunch" t-shirt. I assume she also has one that says "But first, coffee" in that horrible Pinterest wedding font.
- I don't think Gloria Steinem would take kindly to Paris calling her surrogates "breeders." Between this behavior and her blatant NPH HIPAA violation, girlfriend is begging for a lawsuit. Maybe she's bored of the fertility game and jonesing to put her JD to good use.
- I refuse to believe Doyle cheated on Paris at Brett Ratner's pool house. The sexual assault allegations/Elliot Page abuse weren't out when this was made, but I'm sure everyone in the industry knew he was scum for a long time. This joke hints at that "open Hollywood secret" read.
- In what world would Lane not remember Paris? They were once roommates at Yale and got sloshed together on Founder's Day punch. You don't forget the time your drinking buddy ran into the street and attacked the pretzel cart. That's a story for the grandkids.
- Let's hear it for Kelly Bishop's muscle definition at ~seventy-two years old. There's visible bicep, tricep, and front delt.
- Did anyone else feel personally victimized by Paris's speech to her fired assistant? I'm basically that Smith grad who "studied "Buffy the Vampire Slayer's" effect on the feminist agenda."
- Michel hates his grandmother and is glad she's dead. He's my second favorite character after Emily. Paris has been bumped to the third spot because of her excessive use of the word "breeder."