Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Gilmore Girls: 'Introducing Lorelai Planetarium' (7x08)

Last week's episode saw a major, and rather inexplicable development in the Gilmore Girls universe: the wedding of Lorelai and Christopher. This isn't the first time that Lorelai and Christopher have been close to getting married, at the end of season two they were engaged, only to find out that Sheri was pregnant with Gigi, throwing their plans awry. The moment when Lorelai finds out was the most wrenching emotional moment the series presented until the end of season five. Lorelai is so desperately close to getting what she wants, and then has to just stand by and let Christopher do 'the right thing.' If she is selfish and makes him choose her over Gigi, she puts Sheri in the situation that she was with Rory, and she can't do that.

Throughout the series, we've frequently seen Lorelai teased with the possibility of getting married. It happened with Max in season one, with Chris in season two and then in season five with Luke, she finally takes the initiative and reaches out for what she wants. That was a great moment, and the gradual break apart over the course of season six is painful to watch. This culminates with the most excruciatingly painful moment of the series, when a drunk Lorelai walks up to the mic at Lane's wedding and laments the fact that she wont' get married, that it's not for her. It's so sad to see all her fears pour out there, and it makes something that the plot necessitated, Lorelai not getting married, a critical piece of her character arc. She's created this independent, hyper-chatty persona partially as a defense mechanism. She claims that she's living the life she wants, but part of her longs for a more traditional life. Particularly with Rory leaving her, the loneliness comes to the fore.

That's what I love about season six of the show, the way it shows Lorelai's life in transition. As she loses everyone she cares about, the old ways just don't work anymore, and it's this very personality she's constructed as a defense that winds up driving Luke away from her. He fears that she will eclipse him in April's affections, that is why he pulls away from her. It's critical to note the lack of Rory/Lorelai interaction in late season six. As Luke is getting closer to his daughter, Lorelai is losing hers.

What this sets up for us is the importance of marriage in Lorelai's life. Her persona is largely defined in relation to the idea of marriage, so getting married should be a major deal. However, rather than honoring her character we get a sweeps month gimmick cliffhanger in which she all of a sudden marries Christopher. I don't think the choice to have them get married is necessarily a bad one, it's just the presentation puts the emphasis on shock value, I think it's a huge mistake to not see Lorelai's reaction in the moment.

Now, to some extent we can see it all in this episode. Lorelai is clearly uneasy, but wanted so badly to be married that she put her fears away and created justifications in her head. However, I feel like this just isn't a smart road to go down. Lorelai's unspoken pain was the whole point of season six, and it feels a waste to do a retread of that storyline one season later. It's the same dynamic as Luke last season, with her not speaking up about her issues and suffering in silence. I think it would have been more fruitful to have Lorelai really commited to the marriage and gradually bring in her discontent.

Plus, the way it's presented now, there's basically no chance that the marriage will last. The episode even goes out of the way to draw attention to Luke in a really odd scene. On the one hand, the show is all about building gimmicky tension, yet it passes up the chance to show a potentially interesting scene where Christopher asks why she's going to see April in the hospital, or even why she's the first person Luke calls. The way it is now Christopher is just too perfect. He's got an unlimited bank account and total optimism about their future. The problem with that is that it makes Lorelai's discomfort solely personal, and more difficult for the audience to side with her. Chris has always been something of a bastard, why not bring that side out and push the relationship to an uncomfortable place? That way you'd get more tension than just waiting for whatever event will occur to break up the marriage.

The way it plays now it feels like a betrayal of Lorelai's journey. The whole point of season six was for her to finally speak up for herself, and now we've got her suffering in silence again. That journey is the critical component of the series, and without it, we've got nothing more than a soap opera drifting from plot to plot.

Elsewhere, I'm glad to see the show actually interrogate the wealthiness of its environment. I was just thinking, wow, everyone's got a ton of money. So, it was good to see Rory write the piece. However, I feel like that scene played too much like a caricature, it would have been more cutting for Rory to find fault in less exaggerated characters. I did like the conflict between Rory and Logan, which gets to the core of her arc. Is she like her mom, a small town self made girl, or is she like her grandparents, Gilmores? In one of the series' best moments, we see Dean standing outside a party at her grandparents' house, knowing that she has crossed over. So, it's good to interrogate that again.

It's also good to have Logan back in the US. He's a character who forces tension into scenes, and I'd be curious to see more of Lorelai's reaction to the life that Rory is entering into. Is she proud of Rory for moving back into high society, or resentful? Clearly, Rory is not going to live in a place like Stars Hollow, or hold values like her mom's. And how will her unease mesh with the fact that she married this ridiculously rich guy? Is she too betraying her values?

This episode was more entertaining than a lot of the recent ones, but the construction of the series is still deeply troubling. Lorelai's been crippled, and Lane, my other favorite character, was completely assassinated. If you have a character who's unique because she has a band, and unlike most of the supporting cast, actually has an arc that's moving forward, why saddle her with a lame stock plot in the pregnancy. Note that Lane hasn't played any drums since being pregnant, is that part of her life done? That's a complete betrayal of everything the character was about for the first seven seasons of the show.

So, it's looking more and more like the end of season six was the 'series finale' for the show. It's still entertaining most of the time, but most of what was built has been neglected and we're just spinning wheels, not moving forward.

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