Thursday, April 27, 2006

Gilmore Girls: 'Super Cool Party People' (6x20)

Been this week's episode and last week's, a major change hit the Gilmore Girls universe, and that's the news that show auteurs Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino are leaving at the end of this season. Being someone who views TV and film from an auteur-centric perspective, it's difficult for me to separate Gilmore Girls from its creators, it's their universe, and they're as integral to the show as Lauren Graham. So, it's difficult to consider it the same show without them. It might still be good, but it's not the story they set out to tell.

However, the Palladinos themselves had a perspective that's not quite in tune with most of the TV world. It's now generally accepted that shows don't just run until their cancelled, particularly in serial dramas, the show eventually reaches an end point, when the story is over and there's no more to tell. Frequently this can make a series much stronger, witness the emotionally potent final year of Six Feet Under versus the good, but meandering fourth season. It's always good to build your show towards something, and even that ultimate destination is a ways off, the fact that it's there at all changes the storytelling.

So, the fact that the Palladinos wanted the show to run indefinitely is a bit odd. I'm always torn when I hear that a show I love is ending, on the one hand I would love to be getting new Six Feet Under episodes this summer, but I also recognize that if the show was to go on, we would never have had its greatest moments. So, the prospect of Gilmore Girls running indefinitely gets a mixed response from me. It's true that peoples' live go on forever, so in theory these characters could, but characters are also designed with arcs in mind. The TV series should capture the most interesting period of their lives, and without an ending, the story doesn't really have meaning.

But, clearly they perceive the series differently, and there's always been a conflict between the idea of the show as a wacky comedy about a small town and the idea of it as a character based family drama. This is all moot at this point, because the Palladinos are leaving the show. I'd rather have seen them do one more great year than try to press for two and then abandon it, but it's their choice, and I'm sure it was much more painful for them to let go than it will be for me as a viewer.

As for the episode itself, this week we finally got Luke's reasoning for not introducing April to Lorelai, and I think it makes a lot of sense. Basically, Luke is self conscious about his lack of likability, and as he's making his first breakthroughs with April, he does not want Lorelai to come in and forge a stronger relationship with her. So, Luke clearly fears Lorelai developing a Rory-like relationship with April.

Does this imply that Luke is jealous of Lorelai's relationship with Rory? I would say yes, it wasn't until Rory was off at college that he could finally make a move on Lorelai, and throughout their relationship, there's the clear feeling that he's second to Rory. I think he can respect that, but it also means that Lorelai has something with Rory that he could never have. So, when his daughter appears, he imagines he's got the chance to forge his own private relationship with her. I think that's logical, and it reinforces the fact that the major issue between him and Lorelai wasn't the actual issue, it was the lack of communication about the issue.

When the April storyline first started up, I thought it was contrived and ridiculous, but as it's progressed, it's done a great job of mixing up the character dynamics. Both in terms of personality and physical appearance, Anna is very similar to Lorelai, and in the final scene of the episode, Lorelai confronts a more extreme version of herself, a single mother who's deeply protective of her daughter and unwilling to put her at any emotional risk. Now, I think it's a bit contrived that Anna would put such an emphasis on the distinction between being engaged and being married, which is clearly designed to play on the insecurities that Lorelai expressed last week.

Still, Anna's basic reasoning makes sense, and is the kind of thing that Lorelai had talked about back in the early days. She tried to keep Lorelai from becoming attached to anyone she was dating, fearing the inevitable break of that emotional bond. Luke is now caught in the middle, and it seems like we're building to a choice between Lorelai and his daughter.

Backtracking a bit, I did really like Lorelai running the party. This gives us a sense of what she was like back when Rory was younger, and also shows us Lorelai and Luke as a family for the first time. The fact that Lorelai could so easily form a bond with April makes it tougher when Anna refuses her the chance to do so.

Over with Rory, we've got more issues with Logan. I think Rory's storyline is rather uninteresting now because Rory is always better when she's being tempted to be bad. The most interesting moment for the character was when she decided to sleep with Dean back in season four, and then later on when she rejects him for Logan. The end of that season was all about her pushing the limits and doing the wrong thing. Now that she's got things together, she's basically lecturing Logan on his problems and that's not too interesting.

Rory always has a moral superiority, a belief that on some level she's better than everyone else. This isn't particularly interesting for a viewer, the scene where she got the job at the newspaper and went back to school in about five minutes was boring because she succeeded through being annoying. However, when she's doing bad things, Rory finds her basic belief that she's a "good girl" challenged. If she's having an affair with a married man, it's not a bad thing because she actually loves Dean. It's like she's exempt from the consequences of her actions, and this has led to a lot of casual cruelty, to Dean in season two and season five, as well as to Jess in season six.

So, until Rory is doing bad stuff again, her stories aren't going to be that interesting. Her relationship with Logan is about Logan pushing Rory out of her personal limits, not Rory lecturing Logan for doing bad stuff.

I'm sort of ambivalent on things moving forward, because in some respects we've got two episodes of the series left, and there's clearly not going to be any sort of resolution. The show will go on, but is it really the same show? I'll hope for the best, but in a lot of ways, these two episodes are the series finale.


Virginia said...

I'm not sure if the show will go on with its original intent without the Palladinos. This worries me. The whole April storyline still bugs me--but I guess they hae to throw a wrench in the works at some point!

Patrick said...

The Palladinos said that they won't be on as consultants or anything like that, which means that their original plans will not be used.

And the April thing was such a contrived attempt to mess things up with Luke and Lorelai, particularly wiht the way they introduced it following the episode where Luke lectures Lorelai about keeping secrets. I posted before about the ways they could have had problems for Luke and Lor without this obvious plot device, but it has led to some good storylines, so it's tough to criticize them too heavily.

Will said...

I agree with you on the fact that they should not expect the show to run on indefinetley. There is, however, so much depth in the Star's Hollow universe, that having the Palladinos is a major asset. While I think Lorelai and Rory have pretty much run their course, I would love a spinoff about Lane and the band. More Sebastian Bach, please. As for "Super Cool Party People," I feel like the show is back from its mid-season funk. I really enjoyed the seeing Lorelai bond with April and the drama it caused; plus seeing Grant Lee Phillips again is always a plus.

Patrick said...

I would love a Lane spinoff. As it is, she barely interacts with Lorelai and Rory, so it wouldn't be a huge loss for the main show.

And I'd definitely agree that the show is back strong. They always structure the season in such a way that the seasons end strong, and that momentum carries over into the beginning of the next season. So, there's inevitably a sort of gap in the middle where plots are just being set up.

Plus, I think having a new epiode every week helps build momentum. I'm really excited to see tonight's episode.

And side note, nice blog, I've added you to the RSS feed, so I'll be reading from here on out.