Amy Sherman-Palladino and the other great minds behind Gilmore Girls know how to write characters that you grow to care about. That’s what keeps me watching this series, which is a veritable Masters class on characterization.
Towns such as Stars Hollow, Connecticut, do not exist. They’ve probably never existed except on shows like this one, or in movies such as It’s a Wonderful Life. Which means that all of its quirky inhabitants could never exist either.
Except that they do. Here, on this show.
And the creative forces behind this series understand that deftly drawn characters placed in dramatic situations is the recipe for success. The danger is that a show such as this one can become emotionally manipulative. I generally lose interest in television shows that are blatantly emotionally manipulative (re: This is Us).
I’m about to begin the sixth of Gilmore Girls‘s seven seasons (plus the Netflix special) after writing this review. I don’t intend to stop until I run out of episodes to watch. However, this show is emotionally manipulative. I know that if two characters I like become a romantic couple, somewhere down the line something will break them up—however temporarily—to create drama. I realize that at the first hint of “happily ever after,” something is coming around the next bend to turn that thought on its head. All of these episodes are part of a long second act, when we continue to present obstacles and setbacks to our main characters.
Because all of these episodes are finite, I realize that I will get to the ending at some point, happy or not. So, I will let the show play with my head a little bit in the mean time. For reasons I can’t begin to explain, I don’t mind being manipulated by the Gilmores.
Season 5 opens in a state a turmoil. Lorelai and Rory are on the outs again, after Rory lost her virginity to Dean, who is still married to Lindsay. I never like it when our Gilmore Girls are fighting. On the upside, Lorelai and Luke are now a couple for real, though Luke has to go to Maine for a while to help out his sister Liz and her husband T.J. Abruptly, Rory decides to join Emily, her grandmother, on a tour of Europe, getting away from both Lorelai and Dean for a while. This feels, in many ways, like it should have been the last episode of Season 4, before the hiatus.
Luke ends up being away for about seven weeks. Rory and Lorelai reconcile (of course) and Rory asks Lorelai to deliver a letter to Dean for her. Big mistake. Lindsay finds the letter and kicks Dean out. Rory and Dean’s new relationship is getting off to a rocky start, even after she comes back from Europe.
Lane, meanwhile, is falling in love with her bandmate, and roommate, Zack. They eventually become a couple.
After Luke returns from Maine, he and Lorelai begin dating for real. Their relationship becomes an issue at the next town meeting, because Taylor believes that an acrimonious breakup between the two would be disastrous for Stars Hollow.
Paris Gellar grieves for her dead professor lover, Asher, and throws a wake that turns into a keg party at Yale. Later in the season, she becomes romantically involved with the newspaper editor, Doyle, played by Danny Strong of Buffy fame.
Rory meets a rich Yale student named Logan Huntzberger, whose father is Mitchum Huntzberger, the great newspaper magnate. Their first meeting is adversarial, at least on Rory’s part, because she is upset at how Logan has been treating her friend Marty. Over the course of the season, this turns into friendship and, eventually, Logan replaces Dean as Rory’s new love interest. This match also earns Richard and Emily Gilmore’s approval, where Rory’s relationship with Dean never did.
Speaking of Richard and Emily: The Gilmores admit that they are separated, and Richard moves to the pool house for a while. They reconcile before the end of the season, because that’s what you do. I didn’t like it when this pair was split up, either.
Christopher, Rory’s dad, calls Lorelai in a panic after Sherry moves to Paris, leaving baby Gigi with him. Lorelai helps out, naturally. Rory is concerned because she doesn’t want Christopher to ruin what’s building between Lorelai and Luke, and she tells her father not to call Lorelai. Later, after Cristopher’s father dies, Lorelai goes to Christopher’s side and, along with a bottle of tequila, comforts him, as an old friend. She neglects to tell Luke about it at the time, and this later causes a brief but sad breakup between the two. They reconcile, because that’s what you do.
Sookie gets pregnant again. Jackson runs for office against Taylor, winning in a landslide, though he really doesn’t want the job. Sookie has the baby, a girl, and arranges for Jackson to have his vasectomy done the same day.
The Huntzbergers don’t think Rory is a good match for Logan, and treat her badly. It is very much like Richard and Emily treat Luke, come to think of it. Mitchum Hertzberger , Logan’s dad, offers her an internship at one of the newspapers he owns. She takes the position and does what she believes is a good job, only to have the elder Hertzberger finally tell her that he doesn’t believe she has what it takes to make it in the newspaper business. This crushes Rory, which leads to her decision to impulsively steal a yacht with Logan and to drop out of Yale, at least temporarily.
At the end of the season, here is our status quo:
Lane and her band, who have been in a slump, are about to embark on a tour of Christian venues arranged by her mother, who will not allow Lane to quit following her dream and move back home.
After Lorelai bared her soul to her parents to get their help in preventing Rory from quitting Yale, they stab her in the back (from her perspective) and offer to allow Rory to live in the pool house until she decides she wants to go back to Yale.
After Luke goes on one of his patented rants after finding out about Rory quitting Yale, Lorelai asks him to marry her. And this is our cliffhanger leading into Season 6.
Emotionally manipulative or not, this is good television. I’m looking forward to the next season, but am saddened because I’m roughly two-thirds of the way finished with all of the episodes. I think I’ve manipulated my own emotions here.