I spent the weekend down in Richmond, VA, with Alexis Anne and Mary Chris Escobar on a mini writers' retreat. I used this opportunity to pump Alexis for Gilmore Girls details because -- truth time right now, guys -- the third and fourth episodes of the first season left me kind of going, "Huh." She, along with my Gilmore Girls guru Matt, assure me that the show hits some bumps early on but works itself out. As I mentioned last week, I think shows take some time to develop their characters. With that in mind, let's jump into episodes three and four.
"Kill Me Now"
I have a sneaking suspicion that like much of WB programming in the late 90s, Gilmore Girls will set out to teach me lessons throughout its run. This whole episode is about parents and daughters.
A quick rundown: Rory's grandfather takes her to the country club to play golf. Lorelai and her mother spar at the dinner table. Lorelai isn't happy that Rory seems enjoy her time with her grandfather at the club sparking the most ridiculous, one-sided fight ever on prime time TV. And finally Lorelai has to handle the wedding of a set of twin girls whose mother wants nothing more than to see them married off so she can finally get some peace and quiet.
I don't think anyone would take issue with me saying that this episode is uneven at best. While there are some lovely moments -- in particular Rory's bonding with her grandfather -- there's also strange tension. We jump right into a tense Friday dinner that ends in a fight between Lorelai and her mother over her wasted potential. Later we see Lorelai throw a child-like temper tantrum about Rory borrowing a sweater of hers. The fight isn't about the sweater. The fight is about Lorelai's fear that she is losing some of the bond with her daughter as her parents encroach on their relationship. However, it is written and executed in such a ham-handed manner that I was left rolling my eyes.
I think that what I'm looking at here is a set of writers who don't know yet who Lorelai is. On one hand she is a fiercely independent woman who has made her own way in life, and on the other she is still easily affected by her mother's manipulation. I want to say that this is because Lorelai had to jump over a bunch of steps in her emotional growth in becoming a mother at 16, but right now her characterization makes her feel more like the victim of bad writing.
There are some real strengths in this episode. The quietly sardonic mother of the twin brides is wonderful (and so were Lorelai's interactions with her). Even better, we get more of Luke in "Kill Me Now". I didn't really pay attention to the grouchy, environmentally conscious coffee shop owner at first, but he's really growing on me. It doesn't hurt that he's fairly adorable in his backward cap. I have great hopes for Luke.
Pop Culture References
“You can borrow your mother’s old golf clubs. They’re upstairs gathering dust along with the rest of her potential.” –Emily
“You’re lucky. My granddaughter looks like she just fell off of a potato car.” –Random guy in the sauna
-I want to stomp leaves in New England every single time I see that terrible SD show open.
-This show's dedication to choker necklaces is real. I am ashamed to say I owned several of them when I was in high school (including one with a black velvet ribbon and a plastic cameo that I thought was so Victorian but really was just a tacky bit of junk I picked up at Claire's).
-Michel, I too was attacked by a swan when I was a little girl. I was feeding the ducks next to a pond when swan came up and started pecking at the laces on my sneaker. It chased me, and I have never again been able to think of swans as majestic, beautiful birds again. They're too mean.
-Rory wears the ugliest golfing hat known to man in this episode.
-The grandfather bragging throw down in the sauna was pretty adorable.
"The Deer Hunters"
I want to rename this episode "Rory Just Wants to Take Her Test!" The basic premises is that Rory gets her first D ever at Chilton. Lorelai finds out and in a wonderful display of supportive motherhood stays up to help Rory study for her test. The problem is that the alarm doesn't go off the next morning. Rory has to drive her mother's Jeep to school and at a crossing a deer runs into the door of the car. Rory is late and her teacher (who is possibly named Max but I think of as Mr. Good Hair) tells her that she cannot take the test. Lorelai storms into the headmaster's office to defend her daughter and both are disheartened. Mr. Good Hair and the headmaster let Rory make up her test with extra credit and all is well.
So what that very shallow recap does not do is shine a light on one of the best aspects of this episode. Since "The Lorelais' First Day at Chilton" we've seen Rory be the victim of bullying. There's the super defensive type A girl in her classes who constantly verbally attacks Rory. Type A Girl* is clearly threatened by Rory's intelligence so she goes about trying to make her feel like an outsider who is unable to keep up in a school where intellect is highly valued. She doesn't push Rory into lockers, but already we can tell that these attacks are just as damaging a smart girl like Rory.
And then there's Smarmy Prep School Guy who keeps calling Rory "Mary." As I mentioned last week, this is a commentary on Rory's innocence. While Rory doesn't seem particularly concerned that someone thinks of her as virginal, SPSG is unrelenting in his teasing. He staunchly refuses to use Rory's name, pushing her to the outside much like Type A Girl does. This is the emotional side of bullying.
And guess what? Rory handles both Type A Girl and SPSG like a boss. Stressed and done with their bullshit, she snaps and yells at them in class. She calls both of them on how cruel they've been too her, asking them what she's done to them to make them treat her like this. I was really proud of her. No, it wasn't the best environment in which to blow up, but she stood up for herself and asked a fundamental question: Why me? To an adult, the reasons seem quite clear. Type A Girl is threatened that an intelligent student like Rory is going to supplant her in the classroom and subsequently in the school's social structure. SPSG is so obviously romantically interested in Rory that it isn't even funny. Neither of these are justifications for bullying, and I'm so happy to see the show address it.
-Gilmore Girls is at its best when Rory and Lorelai are working as a team. The long scene when they're studying together is charming and did a lot to make me forget some of my annoyance with Lorelai earlier in this episode and in "Kill Me Now".
-Mr. Good Hair and Lorelai are sort of cute. Naturally, I imagine the show will come up with a way for them to nearly date and then explode the relationship before it can even start. We've got a lot of seasons to get through here, people.
-Michel and Drella throw down!
*I am notoriously awful with names and often operate by using nicknames. I will eventually learn everyone's name on this series, but for now you're stuck with my shortcuts and unwillingness to Wikipedia characters for fear of spoilers.