After I struggled to connect with the first two episodes of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, the third episode rewarded my toil with one of the greatest gifts the series (both original and reboot) has ever given us: Stars Hollow: The Musical! Many of the best moments of the original series come as a result of weird small town stuff: the Revolutionary War reenactment, the living paintings exhibit, the swing dance competition. Why NOT pad the reboot with a musical that's 10 full minutes long, since you have a 90-minute episode to play around with? (Every other review I've read of the series staunchly disagrees with me about this, and that's fine.)
Starring Sutton Foster and Christian Borle as its out-of-town ringer leads, the musical is written by Taylor and a random mute emo kid, and it has everything. Incest! Basketball! Alcoholism! Tap dancing! Rap! Lorelai sees an early performance as a part of a town advisory committee, and she sits silently horrified throughout most of it, as Babette, Donald, Gypsy, Sophie, and half a dozen town extras eat it up. It's the first time we've ever seen Lorelai behold a group of her fellow Stars Hollow citizens with a look that telegraphs, "Wait a minute. Who the fuck are you people?" It seems almost impossible that we've never really seen Lorelai consider whether she belongs or wants to be in Stars Hollow, a town that essentially took her in as a refugee when she was still a child.
That realization, coupled with a months-long argument with Luke, leads Lorelai to strike out on her own for a while (more about how soon). A Year in the Life, for better or worse, knows viewers want to see Emily, Lorelai, and Rory interacting with one another. It's understandable for the series to be hyper-aware of that need, especially in light of Netflix's Arrested Development reboot, which took a tremendous amount of heat for having each character off on their own much of the time.
But the time afforded each woman to spend on her own is what sets "Fall" above the series' other episodes. Unfortunately, the places the three main characters wind up would've made far more interesting jumping off points for the reboot's first episode. If I squint (hard), I can see that maybe A Year in the Life was trying to tell stories about the messiness of grief, and I certainly wasn't asking for four episodes devoid of conflict. But I'd still much rather have seen the Girls start off where episode four leaves them. We see Rory say good-bye to Logan in the most opulent (and vaguely steampunk-y) way possible and connect with a writing project she's passionate about. We watch Emily sell the mansion, move to Nantucket, and become a docent at a whaling museum, where she terrorizes small children with harpooning anecdotes.
And Lorelai heads to the wilderness, informing Luke that she's going to "do Wild" because, "it's never or now." This is a quote from Stars Hollow: The Musical, but it's also oddly suggestive of a song that Pete and Frank write together on 30 Rock, which is distracting. I don't love the way Wild is used as a shorthand here—come up with your own story!—and the repeated packing bits tend to drag, as do Lorelai's interactions with park rangers, even though they're played by Lauren Graham's past TV boyfriend Jason Ritter and her real-life boyfriend Peter Krause. But they lead us to an incredible monologue in which Lorelai finally delivers the heart-warming story about Richard that Emily asked for at the funeral. And her faux-Wild experience (seriously, she skips the trail in favor of climbing a hill behind a diner) leads her home to Luke, where they get married in an impossibly beautiful, pink, Wonderland of a town square. Emphasis on impossibly, but then again, it's Stars Hollow and no, YOU'RE crying.
But then there's the problem of the last four words. In case you haven't spent the last 16 years of your life steeping in Gilmore Girls lore: Somewhere fairly early in its run, Amy Sherman-Palladino (the show's creator) claimed that all along, she's known the precise four words with which she'd like to end the series. Because she was ousted between the sixth and seventh seasons, she never got to end the series with the words she'd chosen. Those words are:
Rory: I'm pregnant.
Lorelai: [shocked face]
The Show: [over-emotional use of original theme song music for first time in series]
Due respect to the legitimate trauma of seeing someone else take your show and drive it off a bridge, but: Your dream ending for the series was Rory having a baby in her very early 20s? Like, Rory would finish Yale, and then shortly after, every hope and plan we'd seen her make would be upended? That said, it's not a particularly catastrophic ending for 32-year-old Rory, by any stretch, although I have a lot of questions about how she's going to make logistics work. (Note: I'm aware she's imaginary.)
It's not just disappointing because literally anything would be disappointing after 16 years of build-up. It's sad because using pregnancy —and, by extension, a woman's body—as a plot device feels gimmicky, and it's a gimmick the reboot already turned to once, in its first episode, when Luke and Lorelai considered pregnancy via surrogate WITHOUT EVER MENTIONING THAT THEY ARE 50. But it's mostly frustrating because it so heavily relies on the idea of something happening, rather than actually telling us a story. (Also, way to steal your mother's wedding day thunder, kid.)
To put it in four words of my own: I understand. But still.