Reaching the end of the third season of Gilmore Girls has left me with mixed emotions.
Oh, I still love the show. I can’t recommend it nearly enough for people interested in watching, or creating, character-driven narratives. This show is my best evidence that my attention can be kept without over-the-top violence, explosions, shootouts, or superheroic CGI effects. Give me story with interesting characters who talk to each other while living through organically created dramatic situations, small or large, and I’m one satisfied customer. And, like a Snickers candy bar during a low-sugar moment, this show really satisfies.
Which is not to suggest that this show is overly saccharine. At its core, the series is about the loving mother-and-daughter relationship between Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, which does have a heartwarming sweetness, I’ll admit. But, there’s enough sadness, anxiety, tension and turmoil to keep all the relationships in the series interesting. Story characters that don’t experience complications in their fictional lives are never interesting or compelling. One of the beauties of this series is that it maintains its lightness of heart even during storylines featuring necessary dramatic conflict, all without sinking fully into hand-wringing soap-opera drama.
Life will never be completely easy for the residents of Stars Hollow, Connecticut. But, that’s not the reason for my mixed emotions.
Season 3 encompasses Rory Gilmore’s senior year at Chilton, ending with her graduation as class valedictorian. This means that, in the next season, Rory will begin her college years. These will be at Yale, even though the first two seasons set up the premise that Rory has wanted to attend Harvard since she was a little girl. It was the main reason she began attending the Chilton School during her sophomore year of high school. And, she does get accepted into Harvard during the season, but a pro-con list results in her attending Richard Gilmore’s alma mater Yale instead. For the purposes of the series, it keeps her closer to Stars Hollow, so that’s a good change. However, it does present a story focus shift, at least in part. And, I will miss Chilton and Headmaster Charleston. Probably Max Medina, and Madeline and Louise, Paris Gellar’s crew. I know we’ll get more of Paris, since she didn’t get into Harvard. Paris and Rory play off each other too well to keep her from attending Yale with her.
Another major change that happens during the year is that the Independence Inn experiences a catastrophic fire. And then Fran Weston, owner of both Weston Bakery and the old Dragonfly Inn, passes away. Lorelai and Sookie decide to go forward with their old plan to purchase the Dragonfly Inn until Lorelai discovers that Rory didn’t get financial aid for Yale. Rory ends up brokering a deal with her grandparents to give her a loan for school that she plans to repay. After Lorelai paid her parents back for the Chilton money, they were no longer obligated to attend Friday night dinners at the elder Gilmores house. Rory made the Friday nights a part of the Yale deal for herself, but of course Lorelai will go as well. I was happy about this because the few episodes not including a Friday night dinner in Hartford didn’t feel right to me. But, going into season 4 at a new inn does trouble me a little. Will Michel be there? Will the work dynamic be the same?
Rory’s relationship with Jess Mariano is also in a state of flux. He didn’t graduate from high school, and, after meeting his real dad for the first time, he travels across country to visit him in California. As far as I know, that’s where he remains. We’ll see what happens. In the meanwhile, Dean Forester—Rory’s old boyfriend—is now engaged to get married to another girl.
I hope we still get a significant amount of action in Stars Hollow going forward. I need more of the quirky residents of the Connecticut town. I’m sure we will get that. But, it will be interesting to see how Rory’s Yale experience pans out.
The show continues to string us along with the Lorelai-Luke will-they-or-won’t-they tension. Part of me wants to see that resolved. Another part worries that putting the two together will negatively impact the show as it has so many other series.
Lorelai and Rory are about to backpack across Europe before Rory begins college. And before the fourth season begins. I’m still on board and am eager to see what happens when they return.