Nora Dominick ‘17/ Emertainment Monthly Executive Stage Editor
Warning: Spoilers for Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. Read at your own risk!
After almost ten years since the lights went out in Luke’s Diner, the Gilmore Girls are back with Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. Thanks to the magic of Netflix, Lorelai (Lauren Graham), Rory (Alexis Bledel) and the entire gang are back to drinking coffee and talking at record speeds. Broken down into four 90-minute episodes– Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall– Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life has everything devoted fans have been searching for. While the revival series offers a chance to return to Stars Hollow, it gives us something more. It gives us an award worthy performance by the reigning Lorelai herself, Lauren Graham.
During Gilmore Girls’ original run, Graham was praised for her work as the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore. During the shows first two seasons, Graham snagged two Screen Actors Guild Award nominations as well as a Golden Globe Nomination. It’s the role that defines her careers. There’s no way to talk about Graham without mentioning her work as Lorelai. The two go hand in hand. So, when the show came to an end in 2007, it was hard to envision Graham playing any other role.
In 2010 Graham joined the ensemble of the NBC hit drama Parenthood. A role not radically different from Lorelai, Sarah Braverman is also a single-mother searching for a better life for her children. Similar to Lorelai, Sarah doesn’t have everything figured out. That’s what makes both characters so honest, genuine, and brave. Graham’s work once again defied expectations as she brought fans joy and heartache week after week. She delighted audiences for six years on Parenthood and after its end, we prayed she would find another TV role. We just never thought returning to Lorelai Gilmore would be the answer we’ve been searching for.
When Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life begins in “Winter,” it takes a little while for some of the actors to hit their stride. No surprise since it’s been nearly 10 years since playing these roles. Alexis Bledel takes a little while to assume the sweet, sometimes naive, Rory and Scott Patterson hits his curmudgeon stride as Luke Danes eventually. The actress that doesn’t skip a beat in the revival is Lauren Graham. From the moment she begins talking in “Winter,” she is Lorelai Gilmore. There’s no separating the two. If we didn’t know any better, we would suspect Amy Sherman-Palladino kept her locked up in Miss Patty’s Dance Studio all these years. Lorelai’s witt is stronger than ever and that’s thanks to equal parts Sherman-Palladino being back in the saddle and Graham, who never stopped living the role.
From the moment the camera pans down to Lorelai sitting on the steps of the gazebo, you can tell how emotional Graham is to be back. The slight crack in her voice when she turns to Bledel and utters “I’ve missed you kid,” is enough to reduce any fan to a puddle. And this is just the beginning. Throughout Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, Graham shines in the moments of pure heartache. The show may thrive on the hilarious, pop culture infused moments, but Graham out does herself in the dramatic ones. During each episode, she proves why she’s the steady pillar for the Gilmore Girls franchise.
In each episode there’s a moment that will make you reach for a box of tissues. We knew this would happen. After all, the revival focuses on Rory, Lorelai and Emily (Kelly Bishop) following the sudden death of Richard (Edward Herrmann). While Rory struggles in her career and Emily deals with being a widow, it’s Lorelai’s arc during Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life that strikes the biggest emotional chord. The moments where Lorelai is completely powerless are where Graham shines the absolute brightest. The dramatic moments between Rory and Lorelai, Emily and Lorelai, Luke and Lorelai and even Lorelai and herself prove why Graham deserves an Emmy Award for her work.
In “Winter,” Graham begins to confirm why Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life could finally get her an Emmy Award. After an altercation with Emily, Lorelai recants to Rory why she is at odds with her mother yet again. She tells Rory that following Richard’s funeral, she was unable to come up with a nice story about her father. This causes Emily and Lorelai to launch into a classic screaming match in the kitchen. Bishop brings her A-game as she transforms effortlessly into the larger than life Emily Gilmore once more. Bishop gives a stellar performance here, but it’s Graham that has us reaching for a box of tissues.
After Emily berates Lorelai about being selfish and says she just lost her husband, a heartbroken Lorelai returns with “I just lost my father.” It’s the simplest line, but it speaks the loudest in this scene. Graham’s tear filled eyes and cracking voice speak volumes. This scene alone should earn Graham an Emmy Award. She has the natural ability to bring Lorelai back to being the young, pregnant girl who devastated her parents all those years ago. Graham is a force of nature in this singular moment. It’s as if no time has passed between Bishop and Graham as they bring their characters back to life just like that.
Moving forward in Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, “Summer” gives Graham another moment to showcase her dramatic acting. When Emily, Rory and Lorelai go visit Richard’s grave, Rory takes the opportunity to tell Lorelai about the book she is writing about their lives. Lorelai doesn’t give Rory permission to publish their life story, Rory thinks she has the right to. Some of the hardest episodes of Gilmore Girls were watching Rory and Lorelai fight. This moment in “Summer” reminds us why. We hate seeing Rory and Lorelai at odds with each other. By this episode, Bledel has slipped back into her Rory ways flawlessly and goes at it with Graham. This moment acts as a climax for the entire revival and allows Graham to showcase her strengths yet again.
Right after this moment, Lorelai heads to Luke’s Diner where she goes at it with Luke. They fight about Lorelai still going to therapy, Luke trying to franchise the diner, and basically everything that ever affected their relationship. Like the moment with Rory, Lorelai’s fight with Luke in “Summer” acts as another climactic moment for Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. In this scene, it’s not so much the dialogue that gives Graham’s performance a gold star, but rather her reactions to Patterson. Since the beginning, the duo have formed a great relationship and it showcases here. In the brief moments where Graham isn’t rattling off a hundred words per minute, she is able to asses the scene and react.
The moments in “Winter,” “Spring” and “Summer” solidify Graham’s Emmy worthy status, but it’s her grand tour de force performance in “Fall” that sets her apart. In this singular episode, Graham pulls out all the stops as she gives a performance that will forever define both her career and the character of Lorelai Gilmore. As she goes through a midlife crisis, Lorelai decides to go commune with nature (we know, we never thought we would see that either). Although she never makes it onto an actual hiking trail, she eventually finds her little slice of blissful nature. With this moment, Lorelai calls Emily and unloads a beautiful story about Richard and a breathtaking performance by Graham.
In this singular monologue, Graham cements herself as one of the greatest TV actresses. It’s healthy combo of Graham crying for Herrmann and Lorelai crying for Richard. This moment is organic and poignant and one of the best in the revival. There’s no denying it after this scene, Graham’s hard work bringing Lorelai and Gilmore Girls back to life needs to be recognized with an Emmy. Only a truly special actress (and character) can bring an entire fanbase to tears with a monologue about a girl, her father, an annoying ex-boyfriend, and a pretzel.
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life gives fans a raw and marvelous performance by Lauren Graham. From her gut wrenching moments with Kelly Bishop to her hilariously timed references with Alexis Bledel and Scott Patterson, Graham makes us feel at home once again. From the moment she walks into Luke’s Diner asking for coffee to her coping with Richard’s death, Graham has taken generations of fans on a journey. It’s as if no time has passed for her and that’s what makes it all the more special. Her performance reaches far beyond what we would’ve expected from Lorelai. She’s emotional, flawed and confused about where to go from here.
Lauren Graham is Lorelai Gilmore and Lorelai Gilmore is Lauren Graham. There’s no separating the two. While awards aren’t always pertinent for an actress’s career, we think it’s time Graham’s work on Gilmore Girls is solidified with one. Sherman-Palladino’s writing may provide the framework, but it’s Graham’s acting that makes this a role for the ages. Right here, right now Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life should finally get Lauren Graham an Emmy Award. It’s about time her career defining work as the fast-talking, coffee loving Lorelai Gilmore recieved some recognition.