Season 4 of Gilmore Girls is all about transitions. Lorelai has quit her job at the Independence Inn in order to follow her dream of opening the Dragonfly Inn with her friend, the chef Sookie. Throughout much of the season, Lorelai is dealing with the trials and tribulations of getting a new business off the ground.
Sookie, meanwhile, is dealing with being pregnant at the same time as trying to open the inn. She has baby Davey during the season, but otherwise there’s not a huge story arc for Sookie and Jackson.
Rory, Lorelai’s daughter, is transitioning from high school to college as she begins her Freshman year at Yale. It turns out that Paris Gellar is one of her roommates. Her other two roommates are an energetic jock and a precocious 16-year-old named Tanna. Paris arranged to be Rory’s roommate. Lots of this season’s drama centers around Yale. Richard and Emily Gilmore join Rory, and Lorelai, for the Homecoming game. Rory and Paris go to Spring Break together. Rory, like many a college student before her, begins some recreational drinking. Rory begins to write for the school paper, where Danny Strong, of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame, is her editor. Paris breaks it off with her long-distance boyfriend and begins to date a professor, played by Michael York.
Much of what makes this season a more difficult watch for me than the previous seasons is that Lorelai and Rory are separated a lot during the episodes, with Rory away at college, and Lorelai in Stars Hollow. But, even this separation gives some fuel to some of the season’s drama. Both Rory and Lorelai are able to explore some newfound independence.
Lane, Rory’s best friend in Stars Hollow, ends up allowing the older Sebastian Bach into her band, and they begin to get gigs. After Mrs. Kim discovers Lane has been lying to her and sneaking around, Lane leaves home. First, she stays a while with Rory at Yale, until she wears out her welcome there, and then she moves in with two of her bandmates. By the end of the season, Lane and Mrs. Kim seem to be heading towards reconciliation.
Richard Gilmore takes on Jason “Digger” Stiles, the son of his former partner, as a partner in his new business. This leads to a burgeoning romance between Lorelai and Jason that they manage to keep hidden from Lorelai’s parents until later in the season, when, as we know, all secrets come to light. Richard ends up getting sued by Jason’s father, and, in order to keep from getting outright destroyed, Richard returns into business with his former partner, abandoning Jason. Jason, whose own career now faces destruction, feels he has no remaining option but to sue Richard. This causes Lorelai to break up with him, a fact he still hasn’t accepted at the end of the season.
Richard’s mother, Trix, the original Lorelai, passes away during the season, after she and her normally doting son have a fight. Richard takes her death very hard.
Richard and Emily Gilmore begin having marital problems as well, a fact Lorelai deduces but isn’t supposed to know. When she’s conducting a quiet opening of the Dragonfly Inn, Lorelai tries to force her parents to spend time together at the Inn’s one bungalow. Of course, this backfires, and the Gilmore separation becomes common knowledge by season’s end.
Rory remains single throughout the season. Jess is out of the picture, though he returns for some guest-spots to proclaim his love for Rory and to walk his mom down the aisle in a Renaissance-themed wedding (more on that in a moment). After the school year ends for Rory, he asks her to run away with him, and she says, “No.” Meanwhile, Rory’s ex-boyfriend Dean, whom she dumped for Jess, marries someone else. Throughout the season, we see that the marriage is in trouble and that Dean still has feelings for Rory. After her experience with Jess, Rory still has feelings for Dean as well, who she still sees as a reliable friend. Things come to a head by the last episode of the season, when Dean tells Rory that its over between him and his wife, and then Rory loses her virginity to Dean. Which as Lorelai points out to Rory after she accidentally discovers this fact, makes Rory the “other woman,” because Dean is a married man.
I can’t leave out Luke Danes’ arc for this season either. While Lorelai and Rory were backpacking across Europe the summer before Rory began college, Luke was off getting married, on a whim, to his lawyer girlfriend. They immediately realize it was a mistake and decide to divorce. Then, later on in the season, they decide to make it work. Then, it doesn’t work and Luke goes through with the divorce. Around this same time, Luke’s sister Liz returns to Stars Hollow. We’ve only heard about her up to this point. She’s Jess’s mom. She has a new guy in her life, T.J., whom Luke comes around to believing is good for his sister. Liz and T.J. end up getting married in the Stars Hollow square at the aforementioned Renaissance-themed wedding. Lorelai and Luke end up dancing together at the celebration, and Luke asks her to see a movie with him the following Sunday. Up until he asked her out, Lorelai hadn’t realized that attending the wedding together was a date. After reading a stack of self-help books and listening to tapes, Luke has decided that Lorelai is the woman who he needs in his life. As of the last episode of the season, everything is still up in the air, because Jason is still trying to win her back as well.
There was a lot of stuff happening this season that I absolutely loved. I haven’t even mentioned Kirk’s 43 jobs, Taylor’s toupee, or Babette flashing Luke over a game of Yahtzee. This series is almost always fun, funny, moving and interesting, and this season was no exception. But, the way a season ends often sets the tone for any review I write.
In summation, things are mostly in turmoil at the end of Season 4. While this builds anticipation for the next season, it’s also emotionally stressful when you care about fictional characters. Lorelai and Rory have had another fight, which is always upsetting. Richard and Emily Gilmore are separated. Luke has bared his soul to Lorelai and, at the moment it looked like the “Will they or won’t they?” question was finally going to be positively answered, things are still up in the air. Plus, Rory and Dean may or not be an item again, while she is the other woman in a divorce. And, the icing on this urinal cake, Rory and Lorelai are fighting.
This is still a series I recommend to anyone interested in seeing how characters can be made multi-dimensional in fiction. Or anyone who just likes great dramedy. But, the ending of the season with a lot of unresolved dramatic issues had made this my least favorite season so far. Other than Lane’s probable reconciliation with her Mom, there were no happy endings this time out. Fortunately, I don’t have to wait months to begin the next season, which is already on deck.
By the way, Episode 4.12 “A Family Matter” was my halfway mark through the Gilmore Girls show’s 153 episodes and 7 seasons. Three more seasons and the Netflix special to go. I may be through by the end of 2018.