TV REVIEW: Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life – Summer
I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but I think we might have found the weakest episode of the new Gilmore Girls. A more sitcom-esque vibe through parts of Summer made for some occasionally weak moments, especially in its first hour. Parts of it were great, of course, and Summer did a solid job of setting up conflicts to be resolved in our climactic episode. First though, a few things weren’t quite on point.
Nobody Likes You When You’re Thirty Two
Let’s start with the whole thirtysomething club, which just didn’t work for me. Maybe it veered too far into wacky sitcom territory for my liking. Or perhaps it felt like too much of a white middle class cop out. In fact, this might be my problem with a lot of this episode, now that I think about it. Certainly I’m all for finding a reason for Rory to hang out in Star’s Hollow for a whole episode. But a graduate of Yale spending an entire summer unemployed at her mom’s house is so self indulgent my sympathy for Rory as a character began to wilt.
We’ve had this kind of detour before, when Rory temporarily dropped out of Yale after the yacht incident I mentioned in the last review. This one, though, felt stretched. The first hour had that strange overwritten quality of a story where very little was happening but everything was taking a long time. Not that it was all bad of course.
The goofball nature of Summer probably landed best with a cameo scene from April (Vanessa Marano), Luke’s once estranged daughter now a confused but brilliant MIT student prone to anxiety attacks about the real world. Oh, and while the Stars Hollow musical sequence was too long and zany for my liking, it was also surprisingly transfixing.
Jess is More
The saviour of this episode, arriving roughly on the hour mark, was Jess Mariano. I’ve heard talk from Gilmore Girl fandom of late that Logan is the best of Rory’s boyfriends. This might be true, what with him turning out to be a pretty decent guy and all. But from the eyes of a writer, there’s just a lot more to work with in Jess.
Not the scowling, sulky, misunderstood Jess of early seasons – the Jess we ended up with after six seasons of character development. I have to confess, Milo Ventimiglia did more in three minutes of screentime this episode than Matt Czuchry’s Logan has managed in three episodes. Part of that is the material they’re given. And Jess, through his history with Rory and Luke, is just easier to write interesting scenes for.
Anyway, Jess turns up like Rory’s long lost wise mentor (he’s part of some hip independent printing press cooperative, so obviously) and gives his ex-girlfriend a friendly pep talk. She should write about herself and Lorelai, he says. There’s passion there. Now, having been singing Jess’s praise just a moment ago, I’m not sure how I feel about this. Can Gilmore Girls get away with something so self referential and self indulgent? Heading into the final episode, it’s going to try, what with the upshot of the Lorelai and Luke story being Lorelai deciding to go off on a long hike to find herself.
Speaking of Lorelai, her building tension with Luke pretty much exploded in the way I thought, although it took a while. First, the pressure was heaped on Lorelai with the threatened departure of Michelle from the Dragonfly Inn. Lorelai’s other major work buddy Sookie is off doing something in the woods, because Melissa McCarthy is probably busier and more expensive than she used to be. Either way it means Lorelai is feeling a little melancholy at work. Not that this is any excuse for acting in a totally Lorelai sort of way when she thinks her mother has a new boyfriend.
Which brings us to the last half hour of the episode and Lorelai’s mini-meltdown. First she’s at odds with a manipulative Emily over both Luke and the maybe boyfriend. Next, she doesn’t take kindly to Rory’s plan of write about their lives in book form. And finally, yes, she has a shouting match with Luke in his diner as the pair lay their thoughts, secrets and motivations out on the table. This, while slightly ham fisted, is vintage Gilmore Girls. Lorelai has always had a tendency to explode when pushed and prodded into a corner – especially when her mother is involved. What with unresolved Luke-Lorelai questions left over from the original series any proper revival was always going to have to give the pair a reckoning. For what it’s worth this did a good job of raking over our emotional coals.
So the episode’s denouement sees Lorelai listening to a really sad song from the Star’s Hollow musical, which apparently is enough for her to decide to go on a long trek to find herself. Again, this feels a little self indulgent and didn’t quite resonate with me, but if it leads to some interesting scenes I’m all aboard.
Not quite a misfire, there was still a lot to like about Summer. I’m not sure if writers Amy Sherman-Palladino and Danial Palladino were wedded to the idea of all four episodes running 90 minutes each, but this one would have worked better at just an hour. Cameos from Jess and April elevated slow sections and Summer did a good job of highlighting the flaws of its two central characters. All that’s left now is to sail the ship into the harbor and give us a compelling climax.