Thursday, September 15, 2005

Gilmore Girls: 'The New and Improved Lorelai (6x01)

Last spring and summer, I watched the first five seasons of Gilmore Girls, and I enjoyed the whole run of the show. If a show has respect for its characters and allows them to grow and change, it pretty much doesn't matter what genre it's in, I'm going to enjoy it. Change is the key element of stories, and I pretty much demand strict continuity from the shows I watch. So, for its first four years Gilmore Girls was consistently entertaining and I enjoyed watching it, but it never reached the heights of my absolute favorite shows.

During the fourth season, the show started to get into a bit of a rut. There were still interesting elements, but the Lorelai/Jason storyline was pretty weak, and everything just felt like more of the same. However, in the last couple of episodes of that year, everything changed. We finally got resolution on the Luke/Lorelai romantic tension, with the really funny self help tapes bit, and Rory finally did something morally wrong when she slept with Dean. So, this set up a lot of issues going into the fifth season.

And coming out of this, we saw the first real messing with the show's basic premise, a mother and daughter who are more like best friends. Class war had always been critical to the series, Lorelai's feeling that her success is more legitimate because she did it without her parents, and that the life she lives in Stars Hollow is more satisfying than the one her parents have with their society friends in Hartford. And throughout the series, Rory had accepted this, even as she occasionally annoyed Lorelai with her nice behavior towards her grandparents, and indulging them in things they wanted her to do that Lorelai had rejected at her age, like going to the debutante ball back in year one.

But when Rory starts dating Logan, she becomes more immersed in their world than ever, and there's a great episode where Dean is standing outside of a party at her house, while she's inside with Logan and his whole crew, Dean serving as a stand in for the whole Stars Hollow life that her mother so cherishes.

And this culminates at the end of the season when Rory steals a yacht and decides she's quitting Yale, runing the plans her mother had for her her entire life. And this new season premiere is notable in that it contains no scenes between Lorelai and Rory, a bold move considering it's their relationship that has been the traditional focus of the show. But I like the fact that they did that, because it builds up the tension between them. By not speaking, and communicating through intermediaries, it increases the awkwardness that will be there when they eventually do meet up again.

And what this also does is make Lorelai unable to fully embrace the happiness she should have from being engaged. Despite their engagement, her and Lukke seemed on edge here, certainly not behaving like people who have just made a huge commitment to each other. But, there's an understandable tension between them, to Luke it's inexplicable how Lorelai could just let Rory go. The reason Lorelai has to let Rory do her own thing is because she doesn't want to become her parents and try to shackle Rory to a life she doesn't want. The thing that's great is the way they invert things, rather than slumping it like Lorelai did, Rory has chosen to run away to the upper class life that Lorelai herself had rejected, and what that does is throw Lorelai's life into turmoil. The one thing she could always hold over her parents was how successful Rory turned out, not because of her parents' involvement, but because Lorelai raised Rory her way. And it's the fact that Rory would turn away from her at such a critical moment that makes Lorelai willing to just let her go here, to live with the consequence of her choice.

Which isn't to say that Lorelai doesn't care about Rory, she still loves her as much as before, it's just that she realizes something no one else does, Rory is a grown up and has to make her own choices.

At the same time, Rory finds herself struggling to convince people that she really has changed, and has no desire to return to college life. Logan doesn't believe her, even as Rory seems to have fully embraced the ne'er-do-well lifestyle of his friends. Seeing her dreams and entire lifeplan called into question last season, Rory has decided to live a life completely removed from who she was, living day to day with no higher purpose or goal.

So, this material works great, creating conflict between all the characters, and placing Lorelai in a very uncomfortable position, and I'm seeing a lot of parallels between the overall structure of Buffy. At the end of season five, Buffy got darker than ever before culminating in the death of its main character. Gilmore Girls did the same, and ended with the 'death' of the show's main focus, the Lorelai-Rory relationship. And it looks like this year of Gilmore Girls may be the darkest yet, following the fallout of last year, much like Buffy did. Buffy season six is my favorite season of television ever made, so if this season can capture that same feeliing, I'll be thrilled.

However, the show still has flaws that prevent it from being completely successful. The strength of the show is the relationships, but we've still got sequences dealing with the cartoonish townsfolk, who are always the low point of an episode. These people don't change or grow at all, and they really couldn't, they're not designed to, but they seem out of tone with the other goings on.

Similarly, having watched a lot of Six Feet Under over the summer, the way the show is shot seems uninspired. This really is invisible filmmaking, but Six Feet Under's style of shooting serves to heighten the emotions and be beautiful in and of itself, while there's not much interesting going on here filmmaking wise.

That said, the last shot was fabulous, capturing everything we need to know about Lorelai in this episode. And I'm not watching the show for great filmmaking. It would be nice to have, but to bring it in now would seem out of place.

So, top notch episode here, really interesting character dynamics, and I hope they play out this tension for a long time rather than resolving it easily. This has the potential to take the show to a level of quality beyond everything it's done in the past.

1 comment: said...

It will not succeed in reality, that's exactly what I think.