Why Emily Gilmore Is The Highlight Of 'Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life'
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Why Emily Gilmore Is The Highlight Of 'Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life'

Warning: spoilers ahead.

Why Emily Gilmore Is The Highlight Of 'Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life'

"Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life," the much-anticipated Netflix reboot of the hit WB drama "Gilmore Girls," is now out on Netflix, and was the subject of much Internet buzz upon its release. Some individuals in my family are huge fans of the show, and we had a marathon at our house on the day of its release.

Since it's a frequently watched show in my house, I'm quite familiar with the show, to the point where I practically have a working knowledge of all characters and story arcs. I must say, it's a watchable show. I'm not without my criticisms, but the story and characters are well-developed and endearing, marked by rapid-fire, Aaron Sorkin-style dialogue full of witty banter and cultural references, commandeered by the show's brilliant creator Amy Sherman-Palladino.

For those unfamiliar with "Gilmore Girls," here's some brief background: the series portrays Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Rory Gilmore (Alexis Bledel), an inseparable single mother and her daughter living in the close-knit, eccentric town of Stars Hallow, Connecticut, who are best friends as well as daughters. Among the focuses of the show are their romantic relationships, Lorelai's business endeavors as manager of an inn, Rory's prestigious high school education and subsequent pursuit of journalism at Yale, and Lorelai's fractured history and relationship with her previously estranged parents. The original series ran for seven seasons, from 2000 to 2007, and the four episode reboot debuted on Netflix in November 2016, and flashes forward to a glimpse of the characters in the present day.

Reception to the show has been somewhat mixed. Much criticism has been levied at the direction taken with the character of Rory. Once studious, ambitious, hardworking, unspoiled, and humble on the series, at the end of which she graduated from Yale, in the reboot she is unemployed, writing mostly freelance articles and shifting back and forth between the United States and London, and dating a guy she neglects while shacking up with Logan, one of her prominent boyfriends from the original series, every time she visits London. Naturally, some fans of the show were blindsided by how vain she had become, contrary to her "goody-goody" image on the original series.

As for my own assessment of the reboot, in comparison to the original series, I wasn't overtly pleased with Rory's evolution myself, for reasons stated above. Of the four episodes, I liked the first and fourth episodes most out of all of them, and there was a lot to like and much that was well-executed on the part of the filmmakers. I felt that the show tended to be overtly reliant on corny humor, particularly with an insufferable play put on by the eccentric townspeople of Stars Hollow, which seems to function solely as time-filler, droning on for a good five to ten minutes and leaving the viewer begging for it to end. My biggest disappointment is the absence of the character of Sookie St. James (Melissa McCarthy), the chef at Lorelai's inn, whose kitchen chats with Lorelai are a stable of the original series, but who appears in only one scene in the entire reboot.

If the writers dropped the ball with Rory's character, they almost made up for it with their handling of another major character: Lorelai's mother, Emily Gilmore (Kelly Bishop). A major theme in the original series is the antagonistic relationship between Lorelai and Emily, as a result of their turbulent history. Lorelai became pregnant with Rory as a teenager, and when her parents planned to have her marry the father, Lorelai ran away from home with Rory. After keeping Emily and her husband Richard (the late Edward Herrmann) at an arm's length for many years, Lorelai was forced to forge a relationship with them in exchange for them paying Rory's tuition for the prestigious private school Chilton Academy, having dinner at their house every Friday night. The tension between Emily and Lorelai over the past and other issues remains, and is a staple of the series and of Friday night dinners.

Emily could very easily have been another stereotypical overbearing mother, and indeed, she is insufferable at times in the original series, bluntly and ruthlessly critical of Lorelai's life choices, and constantly meddling in her life and relationships. We empathize strongly with Lorelai's frequent inability to get through to her mother and make her understand her, and it is frustrating to watch Emily constantly berate Lorelai for hiding details of her life, while making no effort to examine her own actions and how they alienate Lorelai.

But throughout the original series, the story arcs instill in the audience a certain empathy for Emily. Both she and Richard come from wealthy, upper-class backgrounds and navigate through a culture of affluence, and Emily is a picky woman who needs everything a certain way. While the things that matter to her may often seem frivolous and even snobbish, it is well-established that she is merely a product of the culture in which she was raised. We know that deep down, she does what she does because she genuinely cares about Lorelai and wants the best for her, even if she doesn't understand what that might entail. We also empathize with her in watching the norms she's used to become viewed as outdated; as a housewife, her primary role was to prepare parties for her husband Richard's business colleagues and clients. When Richard and his much younger business partner establish their own firm, and his partner persuades Richard to take their clients to Atlantic City instead of throwing a party, we see her disappointment and feeling of uselessness at having her primary role discarded.

Another recurring theme throughout the series is Emily's fear of losing Richard, which comes to light when Richard has two heart attacks over the course of the series. This is dealt with head-on in the reboot, as Edward Herrmann, the actor who played Richard, died before production. Richard dies shortly before the time when the reboot begins, and one of the better scenes is a flashback to Richard's funeral: a solemn montage showing Emily, in a black veil, standing in front of her casket with tears in her eyes, a scene so perfectly handled by the writers, and one likely to provoke an emotional response from viewers.

Emily's growth as a character is evident in the reboot. Following her husband's funeral, she and Lorelai get into an argument over a drunken diatribe made by Lorelai about her father. It's tense and ends with Emily throwing Lorelai out of the house, but it feels different from their fights in the series. In some of the more humorous and light-hearted scenes, Lorelai inadvertently agrees to attend therapy sessions with her mother, a premise brimming with opportunities at humor, and the two spend every therapy session squabbling about frivolous things. Within these arguments, you sense a greater understanding between Emily and Lorelai which has occurred since the series ended. Most notably, Emily seems more accepting of Lorelai's love interest, Luke (Scott Patterson), whereas at one point in the series, Emily deliberately sabotages Lorelai's relationship with Luke, and consistently tries to push her toward Rory's absentee father Christopher (David Sutcliffe) throughout the series.

The reboot dedicates much time to Emily's coping with her husband's passing, and efforts at adjusting to life without him. She gradually becomes disillusioned with her affluent life, such as her involvement with the Daughters of the American Revolution, a recurring staple throughout the original series. In another one of the better scenes, she speaks her mind at a D.A.R. meeting and calls out the superficiality of it, using a word that wouldn't have been allowed on network television, and is promptly asked to leave the D.A.R. At the end of the series, she sells her mansion-like house, which she and Richard lived in the entire original series, and purchases a house in Nantucket, allowing her to finally move on from her husband's death.

Kelly Bishop consistently embodies Emily with stunning perfection throughout the series, and her performance is a standout in the reboot. Yet, despite the stellar performances by the cast and top-notch writing, the show has won not a single Emmy Award for acting or writing.

During the course of the series, we have something of a love/hate relationship with Emily. We empathize with Lorelai's irritation at her mother's overbearing nature, while still being able to empathize with Emily and her problems. By the end of the miniseries, we are endeared to Emily. So if any right was done in the reboot, it was Emily Gilmore.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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