Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Gilmore Girls - 'The Long Morrow' (7x01)

Unlike a lot of people, I loved the direction the Palladinos took the show in its sixth season, and I wasn't hoping for any sort of reboot here. Luckily, the major emotional currents continue, however there's also an attempt to capture the wackiness of the early years that yields mixed results. I wasn't thrilled with this year's premiere, but there was enough good here to make me optimistic about the rest of the season.

The first thing that needs to be commented on is the change of leader for the show. The Palladinos provided their characters with extremely distinct voices, but I also think they're very underrated as plotters. The development of Lorelai's arc over the course of the series is very interesting, never more so than towards the end of last season. Without them at the helm, it feels a bit off, they may have gone in this direction, but there's a bit of a fanfiction feeling, good fanfiction, but still, this show was their story, and it feels odd to have someone else writing it. I think Rosenthal did a much better job of keeping the show feeling the same than John Wells did with post Sorkin The West Wing. I think if someone wasn't aware of the behind the scenes changes, they could easily not notice that anything changed. However, I think there's a certain self consciousness to the writing, or perhaps just my viewing, lines that previously would have just been accepted jump out as a bit off.

What really interests me about the show is Lorelai and her various troubles and misadventures. By the end of season six, the character had been put through a lot and was pretty much at a breaking point. Here, we simultaneously get an indulgence in this trauma, and an attempt to quickly return to lighter Lorelai.

The scenes that work best here are the ones that deal with the fallout of last season. The opening scene with Christopher quickly establishes her state of mind, not regretting what she did, but clearly not wanting it to go any further than it was. Her quiet, yet strong reprimand to Chris works really well.

The other great scene is the closer for the episode, where Luke apologizes for all his bad treatment of her at the end of last season, but it's too late. His ramble is a classic example of the verbose Gilmore style of speaking being put to simultaneous dramatic and comedic effect. We're enjoying Luke's flow, but really waiting for Lorelai to crush him. His quiet exit makes clear how things are now between the two of them. This is the kind of melancholy ending that the Palladinos used to great effect throughout season six. This one scene gives Luke clearer motivation than he had for the whole end run of season six. While I loved that arc, it did turn Luke into a villain. That's largely due to the fact that we're seeing the story from Lorelai's point of view, but I still think there could have been a bit more clarification of what was going on with him. Luke's clear statement of his feelings here fits better with how he was in previous seasons.

The other scenes that really worked were the Lorelai/Rory hangout session. The racquetball game was great, and these scenes did a better job of capturing the camaraderie of the early seasons. Lorelai had to be isolated from everyone around her, including Rory, at the end of season six, and it's nice to see the two of them back together.

However, the whole storyline with throwing out Luke's stuff felt very stale. I could have sworn they did the exact same storyline in a previous season, and if it wasn't this show, it was another one. There's definitely a better way to express how Lorelai was feeling.

The other big issue I have with the episode is a carry over from the end of season six. Back in the show's lighthearted early years, the townsfolk fit in well with the generally upbeat tone. However, as increasingly dramatic plots developed, it becomes more difficult to fit the townspeople in. The whole traffic light storyline just wasn't that funny, and took up a lot of screentime. Also, the Sookie/Michel stuff at the inn was just bad. That "We Are the Champions" thing was a particular low point. The supporting characters who do still work are the elder Gilmores and Lane's crew, who can bring drama, as well as more sophisticated comedy. Hopefully they'll turn up next episode. The show's hurting itself by spending so much screentime on the Stars Hollow crew.

So, this was a decent episode, with a few great scenes. But, I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt because Gilmore Girls is usually a slow starter. They structure their seasons to build to the finale so, like Buffy, the opening few episodes can be a bit slow as they struggle to deal with the leftovers from the previous year. I still wish the Palladinos were there, but this version of Gilmore Girls is better than nothing.

Next week's preview looks pretty good, and that also sees the pairing of the show with Veronica Mars, making quite a night of TV.

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