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The Final Four Words

Spoilers for Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

Apparently, I was a rare breed of Gilmore Girls fan going into this revival, because I didn’t know about the mythical “last four words” that Amy Sherman-Palladino had intended for the original series and finally invoked in the revival. So when Rory announced that she was pregnant, I was more “oh my god, what happens next??” than “wait, that’s how the series ends?”

But the more I think about it, the more these final four words depress me.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Amy Sherman-Palladino said:

We got the ending that weirdly was supposed to be the end of the series. They could’ve done something in season seven that would’ve changed our ending and that would’ve been OK, but they didn’t . . . I knew it from the very beginning, I really did. And it was only because I knew where I wanted the show as a series to go.

It really, really bugs me that this is the ending she always intended for Rory, from the very beginning. From getting into Chilton onwards. Throughout the entire show, Rory has been insanely ambitious. She’s going to go to Harvard, she’s going to be Christiane Amanpour, she’s going to see the world and have adventures and write world-changing things. Lorelai had to struggle and fight from nothing, but Rory was going to take on the world.

I’d really, really like to think they wouldn’t have invoked this ending if the series ended with Season Three (although, already, I can imagine the tiniest of tweaks to the story that would have made it work. And wouldn’t that have been awful?). But even if Season Seven ended this way, or even an imaginary Season Eight, this would be a really depressing way to finish off Rory’s story, unless of course we assume Rory has an abortion. All her dreams and ambitions and desire for adventure put on hold, just as she’s about to step out and begin them. She’s conquered Chilton, she’s conquered Yale, she’s ready for the world, until single motherhood knocks her back into her place. In the actual Season Seven, which Sherman-Palladino seems to consider an AU fic of the show, she rejects Logan’s proposal because she isn’t ready to be tied down like that yet, but in Sherman-Palladino’s version, she’s tied down even more. It’s full circle for the story of the Gilmore Girls, but it comes at the cost of everything Rory has wanted to be.

Of course, the context of the revival changes things a bit. Rory’s now 32, not 22, and she’s been out working in the world for a decade. But Rory’s floundering. Her career is falling apart, she doesn’t know what she wants to do, and she seems to have lost her sense of self. She moves back to Stars Hollow, but insists it’s not permanent. She’s struggling to step away from an unhealthy relationship with Logan, who is engaged. And for all the things she’s confused about, she never expresses any desire to have kids or any concern about that part of her life.

But then, here we are. The final glimpse we’re supposed to get of Rory. One where none of her problems are solved. She has three chapters of a book and a hope to maybe move out to Queens. And now, a baby. And this is the best case scenario for the ending the show always intended to give her.

It feels like a betrayal of Rory’s character. It feels as though, through the whole show, through all her plans and dreams, the creators were sitting back and saying, “Don’t get too ambitious, kid.” She might have dreams, but they’re all going to fall apart, or at least become extremely difficult to pursue. And the show intended to do that to her just after she graduated college, or even before. Not only that, but it intended to end her story that way. No exploration of how she deals with it. No sign that she figures things out. No promise that Rory pursues her dreams anyway. Just “Mom, I’m pregnant.” It is, quite literally, an ending. And its apparent inevitability adds a depressing new perspective to everything that came before.


Rhiannon Thomas is the author of A WICKED THING and KINGDOM OF ASHES. She lives in York, England.

8 thoughts on “The Final Four Words

  1. I will say, the degree to which Rory’s future is up in the air suggests, to me, that Sherman-Palladino is very much banking on doing another batch of Netflix episodes with this subject. A concluding series might have approached the same basic premise somewhat differently.

    But all the same, it’s a very odd place to leave Rory. Particularly in that, while the series often constituted a somewhat cartoonish critique of people with money, Rory ends the series still totally dependent on her mother and (potentially) grandmother for financial support. She doesn’t have a job or even a career path, other than writing a memoir, something that (even though one can assume that in-universe this will be very successful when it’s published, bringing the meta-commentary to completion) will take a long time to yield any revenue, and pregnancy has rather significant upfront expenses. Indeed, the only thing the series sets up for Rory is a volunteer gig editing a tiny town newspaper. And for that matter, being a memoirist is not an ongoing gig that yields income sufficient to raise a child for 18 years on (unless Rory’s memoir is immediately picked up for adaptation to a TV series…).

    A Year in the Life also highlights the degree to which Sherman-Palladino views Rory’s whole life as basically replicating her mother’s life, right down to fit Logan into the mould of Christopher, and, possibly, suggesting that Jess = Luke.

    1. I hope you’re right! That’s definitely what I first assumed, but then all this talk about the mythical concluding words of the series made it seem unlikely. I do think Sherman-Palladino was so wrapped up in this idea of symmetry and history repeating itself as an ending that she didn’t consider how unsatisfying a goodbye it would be to Rory as an individual that the viewers care for, and not just a character connected to her mother.

  2. This whole mini series was a major disappointment. I didn’t even recognize most of the characters. They all seemed so lost. Where is the Rory I used to know?

    1. I didn’t realise just how off Rory was until yesterday, when I rewatched some of season two, and I started thinking about how *that* Rory would have reacted to things in the revival. I know she’s grown and changed a lot since she was seventeen, but fundamental elements of her character seemed to be missing.

  3. Grrr in this and the other post your attitude to her pregnancy has me hacked off! As a writer who got unexpectedly pregnant at 28, not far off Rory’s age, I can say she may find it marvellously focussing. I thought this was supposed to be a feminist blog? So what’s with characterising pregnancy and motherhood as the enemy of creativity, ambition, and pursuing one’s dreams? I haven’t found it so, and I don’t think it’s a narrative we should rehearse. Sure, for some people it would be a disaster, but I’m not convinced Rory’s one of them. I don’t, personally think it adds a depressing perspective at all – I think we’re supposed to believe that she will face a struggle and period of readjustment, like Lorelai, and then, like Lorelai, succeed and achieve her dreams. Maybe not, but ASSUMING not rings really false to me. Pregnancy is not a negation of ambition. Again, grrr.

    1. I don’t think pregnancy is the negation of ambition at all, but I really dislike the specific context here. We’ve had no indication that Rory wanted a baby, in the revival or (unless I’m forgetting something) in the series as a whole. And she’s pregnant after having an extended affair with a guy who is engaged, while cheating on her supposed actual boyfriend. Even if having a baby ends up being the perfect thing for Rory, I really don’t think we can argue that this *moment* is happy, especially the way it was played. If it was a step into another chapter of the story, that would be one thing, but it’s apparently the conclusion of her story, and it doesn’t really conclude anything. I just don’t think it’s particularly inspiring storytelling to go “this character was incredibly ambitious and had huge dreams, but then they all fell apart and she ended up pregnant after having an affair with an engaged guy, the end.” If it has an “and then”, showing what happens next, that’s one thing, but if it just ends there, I can’t see how the tone is anything other than depressing.

      1. Makes me as a man wonder how the two possible fathers would take it. It would be horrible to spend nine months before knowing if I will be a father or someone else. Preparing both for fatherhood and the possibility that the baby is someone elses would be very emotionally difficult and an interesting storyarc. The anger I would feel against my girlfriend for cheating on me would of course make it worse.

    2. Thing is, the series doesn’t give us much of any indication that Rory will achieve her dreams, or even what her dreams are, since she basically acknowledged she’s no good at journalism.

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