Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Gilmore Girls - 'Lorelai's First Cotillion' (7x03)

This episode was the best of the season so far. I think Rosenthal's writing team is getting more accustomed to the characters' voices and is less self conscious about trying to squeeze in a setpiece that feels like classic Gilmore. However, it's not got the tightly focused character trials of the past two seasons, instead the characters seem more subject to the needs of the plot. That's the major difference between a soap opera and a drama, a drama takes it plots organically from the characters' issues, while a soap chooses instead to manipulate its characters into sensational plots.

The episode's basic thesis, that Lorelai has lived her whole life based on rebelling against Richard and Emily is one of the critical themes of the series. It's been ridiculous at times that she is so concerned about what they think, but they're critical to the show, and the antagonism is necessary. However, it might be interesting to show her trying to reconcile the two parts of her life and come to terms with her upbringing. A relationship with Christopher would be the fulfillment of her parents' ultimate wish, that she finally build a nuclear family for Rory.

Unlike a lot of people, I think a Lorelai/Christopher relationship is just as valid a direction for her as being with Luke. The show circa season five was presenting her narrative as one that led towards Luke. However, if you look back to season two, she was all set to get together with Christopher, it was only Sherri's pregnancy that disrupted it. That was one of the dramatic high points of the series, and I think it's still a largely unresolved issue.

Christopher has been messed around with a bit due to the needs of the plot. By allying him with Emily in season, he became an antagonist to Lorelai, however, his general arc over the series has been an acceptance of responsibility and commitment. I'm a big fan of Luke, but I do think that last season's events provided Lorelai with sufficient motivation to move on from him. Plus, from a dramatic point of view, this storyline has a lot of potential.

The structure of this season has been designed to put Lorelai in more comedic situations, as opposed to last year where she went through her extended depressed period. So, we get the story of the cotillion along with the dramatic stuff that closes the episode. On the one hand, this lets the show maintain a tone closer to its earlier years, however, I think it undermines Lorelai's arc by denying her a consistency of mood. The cotillion was meant to show Lorelai that doing what her parents want her to do isn't all bad, leading her to call Christopher at the end of the episode.

This episode benefitted from the fact that the best supporting characters, the elder Gilmore and Lane's crew, were featured. Lane's stuff was entertaining, but I still think the arc is really misguided. From a practical standpoint, it makes no sense for them to go through with having this kid if they both really don't want to. That they don't even bring up the alternative is a bit weird, though I suppose that wouldn't fit with the show's tone. That's why the whole storyline was misguided. But, I do like Lane and Rory having scenes together again, they barely saw each other for all of season six.

So, it was a pretty strong episode, however I think the show has a major problem, and that's the lack of a guiding vision. Without the Palladinos, it's difficult to accept these character arcs as the characters' actual direction. I don't know where they would have taken Lorelai, but I feel like it would have been a more organic, subtle development than what's going on here. However, this was the best episode of the season, and hopefully this trend of increasing quality will continue.

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