Your Ultimate Guide To Re-Watching ‘Gilmore Girls’ Before The New Revival
Season seven isn't the worst. *runs and hides*
Last month, Netflix unveiled the new title and poster for their long-awaited Gilmore Girls revival. The new season, Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life, will revisit our friends in Stars Hollow for four seasonal episodes: ‘Winter’, ‘Spring’, ‘Summer’ and ‘Fall’.
Um this looks like some awful wall decal put up by a clinically depressed family. pic.twitter.com/hUulH8Irkq
— Peter Taggart (@petertaggart) May 20, 2016
There is much to be resolved in the Gilmore clan. How has the family dealt with the death of patriarch Richard Gilmore (played by the late Edward Hermann)? Are Luke (Scott Paterson) and Lorelai (Lauren Graham) finally happy? Which one of Rory’s (Alexis Bledel) skeezy boyfriends is the least skeezy? Can we finally admit that Lorelai is the worst friend ever to Sookie (Melissa McCarthy)? And what were those final four words that creator Amy Sherman-Palladino hinted would end the show?
The best way to prepare for all this is to re-immerse yourself in the series. And, as you gear up for your epic re-watch, we’ve ranked all seven seasons of the seminal fast-talking show from worst-best (yes, even season seven) to aid your binge.
Season Six – Just The Worst
I know, I know — season seven of Gilmore Girls is widely considered “the worst” because it’s the only season not run by creator Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband Dan Palladino. But hear me out: season six is ACTUALLY the worst of the lot. This is the season that begat April Nardini, Gilmore Girls’ most dastardly accidental villain (played by the otherwise charming Vanessa Marano, who you might know from undervalued teen drama Switched at Birth).
Luke (Lorelai’s curmudgeonly fiancé) is shocked to discover he has a 12-year-old daughter, and proceeds to handle this in the worst way possible. First, he lies to Lorelai about April’s existence, then he postpones his wedding. Lorelei then ends the season with an ultimatum: marry me now or lose me forever. Yes, April is a painful character with bad taste in Target homewares. But she really represents the Palladinos’ poor choice to send Luke and Lorelai to splitsville so soon after audiences waited over four seasons for them to get together.
This is also the season with The Fight between Lorelai and Rory after Rory drops out of Yale (which Lorelai is not on board with at all). Rory cuts off communication with her mother and moves in with her grandparents, living in the lap of luxury until the return of ex-boyfriend Jess (Milo Ventimiglia) jolts her back to reality. Gilmore Girls obviously works best when Lorelai and Rory are on the same side, so when our girls are fighting it’s an unqualified disaster. But The Fight also brought out one of Rory’s worst traits: her unchecked and sheltered entitlement, which is so different from her mother’s resolute independence.
No season of Gilmore Girls is without its fair share of levity, and there are some great moments in season six (Lorelai’s purchase of Paul Anka the dog, the Vineyard Valentine trip, the brief return of Jess). But there’s no doubt about it: season six is the toughest stretch to slog through.
Boy rating: 4/10. Logan is at his most obnoxious (culminating in his ridiculous parachuting accident and subsequent reformation), and Luke is plagued by the blight that is April.
Most ridiculous town event: Miss Patty’s Showcase (episode five). Any Miss Patty-themed story is automatically my favourite, and who could forget children dancing up and down the aisles in her season six student showcase, singing ‘We’ve Got Magic To Do’ complete with jazz hands?
- ‘We’ve Got Magic To Do’: Miss Patty’s showcase and Rory’s WWII-themed DAR party.
- ‘Friday Night’s Alright For Fighting’: Rory stages a coup at the Yale Daily News and the Gilmores fight at Friday Night Dinner.
Season Seven – Bad Marriages And Worse Writing
In many ways, season seven was not the Gilmore Girls we know and love: without the Palladinos, the banter just wasn’t as sharp, the coffee just wasn’t as hot. However, it does have some great moments (including the choice to move April Nardini to New Mexico gratefully diminishing her time on the show).
It also included the quickie-marriage of Lorelai and Christopher (David Sutcliffe); a move which I will defend to the death. Christopher, Rory’s father and Lorelai’s first love, was a near-constant presence in Lorelai’s romantic relationships on the show. In season one, a phone call to Christopher prompted Lorelai to break her engagement with Max; in season five, Lorelai and Luke’s first break up happens when Christopher interferes. Chris, who is by far the sexiest of Lorelai’s beaus, and the only one to match her wit, was the one that got away. We had to see if it could work.
Of course, it didn’t, and the marriage rankled many fans who were aching for a Luke and Lorelai reunion. Still, the show needed to go there to prove that Luke and Lorelai were truly meant for each other (and to resolve the Lorelai/Christopher romance once and for all).
Season seven also takes Rory down a path the show rarely treads: rejection. Rory is used to succeeding at everything. Before season seven, brief moments of failure would send Rory completely over the edge. So in season seven, when Rory struggles to find a job with a broadsheet newspaper, it’s heartening to watch her push through the disappointment and find a spot as an online journalist on the Obama campaign trail. (The show also somewhat classily decides to have Rory end the series choosing her career over one of her crummy boyfriends, after Logan proposes to her in front of an entire party — such a Logan thing to do.)
Apart from a general dullness that came with the departure of the Palladinos, season seven had some larger clunky moments too. Chief among them was the decision to have Lane Kim (Rory’s best friend and long-time vector for Rory’s endless boy drama) get pregnant — with twins! — after her very first sexual encounter. What a way to send off Gilmore Girls most subjugated character.
Boy ranking: 7/10. I liked Christopher and Lorelai’s brief reunion, Logan is perhaps the least grating he ever is on the show, and Luke sews a damn marquee together for Rory’s going away party!
Most ridiculous town event: The Hay Bale Maze (episode 18). When Taylor co-opts the annual Spring Fling Festival and spends all the money on a Hay Bale Maze, the town is incensed — until they realise how amazing a Hay Bale Maze really is.
- ‘The Long Morrow’: Featuring Logan’s confounding rocket gift to Rory, which ends up being one of the most romantic gestures he’s ever made.
- ‘Lorelai? Lorelai?’: Lorelai gets sloshed and sings Dolly Parton/Whitney Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love You’ to Luke at a town karaoke night. Sloshed Lorelai is always great fun — and the song is better than their subsequent reunion two episodes later.
Season Four – THE RETURN OF DEAN
Season four is by far the dullest of the better seasons: Rory overextends herself in her first year at Yale and, back in Stars Hollow, Lorelai ~secretly~ dates her father’s blowhard business partner Jason ‘Digger’ Stiles (Christopher Eigeman). Digger was around the time we realised the show was going to make Lorelai date almost anyone before she finally got it together with Luke.
The biggest blight of fourth season, however, is the return of Jared Padelecki’s dreadful Dean — Rory’s first boyfriend. Dull as rocks, Neanderthal-esque and boorishly over-protective, Dean returns (now married) to reconnect with Rory and eventually woo her into bed.
On the plus side: season four is also where Lorelai and Sookie finally realise their dream of opening their own inn. The show’s foundation is Lorelai’s fierce independence and the achievement of opening The Dragonfly Inn is one of the best emotional moments in the show’s run.
Boy ranking: minus 1 million. DEAN RETURNS. I rest my case.
Most ridiculous town event: Liz and TJ’s Medieval Wedding (episode 21). In one of the show’s best episodes, Luke takes Lorelai as his date to his sister Liz’s medieval-themed wedding. Bonus: Jess returns, brooding as ever, to walk his mother down the aisle, and he and Luke make peace.
- ‘The Festival of Living Art’: In a close second for craziest town event, Stars Hollow hosts a festival of living pictures, where members of the town feature as models in live renderings of famous paintings. Fun fact: this episode won the only Emmy the show has ever received — for Outsanding Makeup for a Series (non-prosthetic).
- ‘The Incredible Sinking Lorelais’: A brilliantly plotted episode where Lorelai and Rory keep missing each other’s phone calls as each of them faces big obstacles (Rory is failing a class; Lorelai is out of money for the inn’s renovation). Lorelai seeks out Luke’s help for her money problems, and in an elegant speech about the challenges of singledom, admits: “There are very few times in my life when I find myself sitting around thinking, I wish I was married… But every now and then, just for a moment, I wish I had a partner, someone to pick up the slack, someone to wait for the cable guy, make me coffee in the morning.” It’s a poignant moment for the show.
Season One – UGHHHHHHHH DEAN
Season one is fabulous in many ways: it is, after all, a wonderful beginning to the series. But it’s also the season where Rory meets her floppy-haired first love, Dean. Dean is the worst.
Still, this season features some great fun: Lorelai dates Max (Rory’s sweet English teacher, who is much too good for her), there’s the infamous ‘hit by a deer’ car accident and Rory is her spunkiest and most interesting at the start of the series.
However, fair warning: season one is Peak Bad Fashion. Be prepared to re-live some shocking fashion trends from the early 2000s: cargo pants, rhinestone-studded jeans, fuzzy bucket hats and so on. As a bonus, Chad Michael Murray’s turn as Terrible Tristan (a rich boy from Rory’s school who has a crush on her) will grudgingly remind you that at one point you found Chad Michael Murray attractive.
Boy rating: 5/10. Dean = bad. Max = good.
Most ridiculous town event: Cinnamon’s Wake (episode 5). When a supporting character’s cat dies, what does Gilmore Girls do? Hold an episode-long wake for it, of course!
- ‘Pilot’: This was the beginning of everything. No further explanation necessary.
- ‘That Damn Donna Reed’: In what is absolutely the weirdest-ever episode of the show, Rory and Dean fight over feminism, then Rory dresses up like TV’s ultimate housewife Donna Reed and cooks him a disgusting dinner. Further proof that Dean is the worst.
- ‘Christopher Returns’: I’ve already stated my fondness for Rory’s handsome father, whom we meet in this episode. He visits Stars Hollow and can’t afford a dictionary.
- ‘Love, Daisies and Troubadours’: I am totally happy for someone to propose to me with 1,000 yellow daisies.
Season Three – The Best Episode
Season three is secretly my favourite season because it features the best episode in the show’s run, ‘They Shoot Gilmores, Don’t They?’ — the episode with Stars Hollow’s 24-hour dance marathon. This is Gilmore Girls at its best: Rory supports her mother by agreeing to be her dance partner in the marathon, Stars Hollow reaches Peak Ridiculous Town Event, Lane gets a genuine solo storyline (a romance with her new bandmate, Adam Brody’s Dave Rygalski), and Rory and Dean finally break up, leaving the path clear for her to date Jess.
Unfortunately, Jess proves to be a bad boyfriend (a great disappointment for those of us who found Milo Ventimiglia to be a vast improvement on dull Dean), and the Palladino’s unceremoniously sent him off to his own spin-off series (the ill-fated Windward Circle, for which the show wasted an episode, ‘Here Comes The Son’ on a terrible backdoor pilot).
Despite the Jess hiccup, season three is sharp, funny and features a slew of truly excellent episodes.
Boy ranking: 7/10. Bad Boyfriend Jess is still preferable to Dull Dean.
Most ridiculous town event: 24-Hour Dance Marathon (episode seven). See above: Peak Gilmore, really. I dream of the day I am allowed to attend a 24-hour dance marathon dressed like a 1930s swing dancer.
- ‘Haunted Leg’: Lorelai’s opening bit alone, about having a “haunted leg”, is worth naming this episode one of the season’s best.
- ‘Eight O’Clock At The Oasis’: Rory house-sits for the new creepy neighbour, and Jess looks attractively drenched when he helps her with a sprinkler disaster. Plus: bonus early Jon Hamm playing the boorish Peyton Sanders.
- ‘They Shoot Gilmores, Don’t They?’: As above, Peak Gilmore.
- ‘A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving’: A key Sookie and Jackson episode. Melissa McCarthy is at her best here.
- ‘A Tale of Poes and Fire’: The Independence Inn catches fire, and we see what Lorelai is truly capable of in a moment of gung-ho control.
- ‘Those Are Strings, Pinocchio’: Rory graduates; you weep at her heartfelt valedictory speech.
Season Five – The Best Boys
Season five features some of the show’s best boy moments, which is important for a series that hinges on romance as much as Gilmore Girls does. Rory meets Logan (probably the least terrible of all her boyfriends) and Lorelai and Luke finally date.
As a teenager I was very attached to Jess — the brooding bad boy was very sexy and shared Rory’s interest in books and music (could Dean even read? Jury’s out). But as an adult (and after watching Matt Czuchry’s run as Cary Agos on The Good Wife) I have come to appreciate the entitled swagger of Logan. Sure, he’s a petulant rich kid, but he is funny and charming, and he gets Rory out of her own head and encourages her to experience life to the fullest.
Lorelai’s success with the Dragonfly Inn and her (mostly) solid relationship with Luke means that, while season five is one that uproots Rory from her dull routine of studying and polishing her halo, it’s a relatively stable season for Lorelai. It’s nice to see her succeed and share her success with a partner who is truly able to support her. (Bonus points for the wonderful scene where Lorelai proposes to Luke, truly fitting for a woman so in control of her own destiny.)
Too bad the season begins and ends with a bust-up between Rory and Lorelai: first, when Rory takes up with her married ex, and later when she decides to drop out of Yale without consulting Lorelai.
Boy rating: 9/10. One Gilmore Girl finds stability (Lorelai with Luke), while the other learns to let go (Rory with Logan).
Most ridiculous town event: The Diorama Museum in the Old Twickum House (episode 18). The world’s creepiest social history museum, complete with disembodied voices and terrifying mannequins, and the return (with a vengeance) of Miss Patty’s Founders’ Day Punch.
- ‘Written In The Stars’: The show makes a compelling case for Lorelai and Luke as soulmates as Luke romantically tells Lorelai, “I’m in. I’m all in.”
- ‘We Got Us A Pippi Virgin’: Because this show loves an awkward double date, Rory and Lorelai discover just how poorly Luke and Dean get on, and try to rescue the night with an emergency game of Bop-It.
- ‘Wedding Bell Blues’: A classic Gilmore extravaganza: Richard and Emily renew their vows, and Rory and Logan get together as Christopher busts up Luke and Lorelai.
- ‘To Live and Let Diorama’: A brilliant Paris episode, and Rory has a rare vulnerable moment.
Season Two – The Best Run
By far the best run of episodes comes in season two, the strongest season in the whole series. Almost every episode in this stretch is a winner: Rory’s cotillion, the Bracebridge dinner, the basket auction! Gilmore Girls really found its groove after its first season aired; each episode is sharp, weird and incredibly fun and the whole season ties together in the strongest season-long arc of the series: Rory’s growing attraction to Jess, alongside Chris and Lorelai’s ill-fated reunion.
If you’re looking for just one season to revisit, season two is it — the smartest, silliest, most “Gilmore” run of the series.
Boy rating: 8/10. There’s a certain poignancy to the parallel of Rory’s flirtation with Jess and Lorelai’s fling with Christopher. Both relationships ultimately end in disaster, for much the same reason (a romance stalwart): terrible timing.
Most ridiculous town event: The Basket Auction (episode 13). What self-respecting woman makes a picnic basket lunch so a man can bid on her? Every woman in Stars Hollow, apparently!
Best (of the best) episodes:
- ‘Nick & Nora/Sid & Nancy’: Jess, and all his broody drama, arrives in town.
- ‘Presenting Lorelai Gilmore’: Rory attends a cotillion to please Emily. As perversely archaic as it is, any cotillion episode of a teen TV show is a guaranteed great episode.
- ‘Run Away, Little Boy’: Chad Michael Murray’s Tristan exits the show not with a bang but with a whimper.
- ‘A Tisket, A Tasket’: At the annual basket auction, Jess outbids Dean on Rory’s basket and causes some classic Love Triangle Trouble.
- ‘Teach Me Tonight’: Jess and Rory bond, and are then promptly torn apart when they’re in a bad car accident, resulting in a broken arm for Rory and a trip back to New York for Jess.
- ‘Lorelai’s Graduation Day’: Rory accidentally misses her mother’s graduation from business school when she travels to New York to visit Jess.
- ‘Can’t Get Started’: Sookie and Jackson finally get married, and the extent of Lorelai and Christopher’s/Rory and Jess’s bad timing is revealed at the ceremony.
The Gilmore Girls revival series will premiere on Netflix some time this year.
Matilda Dixon-Smith is a freelance writer, editor and theatre-maker, and a card-carrying feminist. She also tweets intermittently and with very little skill from @mdixonsmith.