Warning: spoilers for Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life ahead. (Although if you haven’t watched them all by now, be honest: are you really going to?)
It’s been just over a week since Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life came out on Netflix, and naturally, the internet has had some feelings. Initial reactions to the revival have ranged from the good to the bad to the humorous, as well as everything in between.
Most discussed of all has been the famous final four words that creator Amy Sherman-Palladino hinted she had in mind for the show before she left in 2007. Since she and husband and collaborator Daniel Palladino unexpectedly quit the series before its final season, those four words were never spoken, and her revelation left fans with the knowledge that whatever ending Rory and Lorelai received, it was not the “right” ending. There was a better one, the right one, the one that their creator had in mind for years.
Well, now we know what that ending is, and the question remains: is it really the better one?
Let’s begin with the obvious: the “final four words” are not so important because of the words themselves, but because of what they reveal. Rather than a philosophical musing or one final bittersweet pop-culture reference, A Year in the Life drops a bombshell right before it cuts to black: that Rory is pregnant, presumably with playboy ex-boyfriend Logan’s baby. In many ways, this ending makes perfect sense. Lorelai became pregnant with Rory at sixteen and ran away from home to raise her daughter on her own. She got a job as a maid at the town inn and eventually worked her way up to manager. Halfway through Gilmore Girls, she leaves the Independence Inn to own The Dragonfly Inn with her partner and best friend, Sookie. The backbone of the show chronicled Lorelai’s complicated relationship with her parents as she attempts to give Rory a better life than the one she had.
The revelation that Rory is now pregnant, therefore, puts daughter on the same path as mother. Which is not necessarily a bad thing; Rory and Lorelai are “freakishly linked,” and one can only hope that a child of Rory Gilmore would be as witty and charming as the generations that preceded him or her. Many writers have since pointed out that the finale of A Year in the Life sets up Logan as Rory’s Christopher and Jess as her Luke. In other words, as Lorelai’s would say, everything comes “full freaking circle.” The last shot even ends where the miniseries began, on the steps of the Stars Hollow gazebo.
It really could have been the perfect ending…if it had happened ten years ago.
But it didn’t. Like it or not, ten years ago, Rory and Lorelai had another ending, in the seventh and final season of the television series. The season was widely reviled, and rightly so, for many reasons. The dialogue isn’t quite as snappy, the pop culture references seem less imaginative. Almost every leading character goes through some major life event, and Luke and Lorelai receive a lackluster resolution to their long-standing on-again, off-again relationship. Without the Palladinos at the helm, it just didn’t feel the same as the other six.
Except for one thing. The final episode of Gilmore Girls gets a lot of things right, especially when it comes to Rory. Several days before her graduation from Yale, Logan proposes to her, and it’s standing in her cap and gown on the Yale quad that Rory finally gives him her answer: she’s not ready. Her whole life, Rory has been a driven young woman focused on becoming a journalist, and she wants to have time to try settle into post-collegiate life before getting married. Logan, however, isn’t ready to wait: for him, it’s all or nothing. So Rory breaks up with him. Several days later, she receives a job offer from a small online magazine to cover the presidential campaign of then-Senator Barack Obama. The people of Stars Hollow throw her an epic going away party, and the final shot is of Lorelai and Rory in Luke’s diner, sharing one last cup of coffee before Rory goes off into the world.
In a lot of ways, this brings things full circle too. Lorelai refused to marry Christopher when she got pregnant because she felt they were too young, and now Rory, following in her mother’s footsteps, turns down a marriage proposal in order to try her hand at journalism first. Whether their creator intended it or not, in many ways, this ending is the one that seems more correct, a better fit for both Gilmore girls. All of the labor and work that Lorelai has put into parenting pays off as Rory faces a bright and hopeful future of her own making.
A Year in the Life, by contrast, seems to imply instead that now Rory is doomed to repeat her mother’s mistakes. After ten years, her career has stalled; she’s back living at home, facing single motherhood just like her mom once did. Perhaps the point that Sherman-Palladino is making is that parenting is the best job a person can have, and all of the academic and career accolades you can muster are nothing compared to having a child who’s also your best friend. If so, it’s possible the Rory-is-pregnant ending would have made more sense ten years ago, before Rory had a chance to pursue her career. As it stands now, it all feels a bit...depressing. It’s almost as if Daniel and Amy Sherman-Palladino couldn’t bear to let go of the ending they always wanted for their characters, even though it doesn’t make as much sense this many years later.
Even though, 10 years ago, they may have already gotten a better one.
What do you think? Which ending of Gilmore Girls was better? Which does more justice to Lorelai and Rory?