Spoiler alert: This piece contains, well, all of them.
The four-episode “Gilmore Girls” revival, which debuted Friday on Netflix, offers fans plenty of material to critique. Abandoned plotlines (Lorelai and Luke’s 20-minute foray into pregnancy surrogacy), missing key characters (Sookie), not enough Dean (important to some people), occasionally flat dialogue (the first excruciating few minutes), unlikely plot devices (Lorelai really can’t think of something nice to say about her father at his funeral?) and absurdity without charm (the Stars Hollow musical, the Life and Death Brigade sequence) abound. But its worst sin, for which no one associated with this production can be forgiven, is for revealing that Rory Gilmore is actually a monster.
The old Rory had flaws, but she remained a revelation — a shy, smart teen girl who gets the guys is still a rarity on TV. But in the same way that the jump from small screen to big killed the wit and heart of “Sex and the City,” the new “Gilmore Girls” episodes only highlight the worst of Rory’s qualities: her impulsiveness, her selfishness, her inflated sense of her own worth, her tendency to quit at the first sign of trouble — and now she’s a grown woman, one who doesn’t seem to have learned from any of her mistakes. The revival also introduces us to a terrible new quality in her: amorality. Turns out there’s nothing revelatory about an adult who moves through the world so thoughtlessly.
Ten years have lapsed from when we last saw Rory victorious, graduating from Yale with a journalism job and a newly single status. But Rory at 32 feels more like what Rory at 24 might have been. She is freelancing here and there but apparently not making a living — as she puts it, she is “broke.” Somehow, though, she maintains a residence in Brooklyn and regularly flits back and forth from London, where we find her carrying on a pointless affair with her college boyfriend, Logan. The affair is an intriguing twist, until we learn that Logan is engaged and that Rory has no qualms whatsoever about this, except to the extent that this future wife inconveniences her trysts with Logan. Rory doesn’t seem particularly interested in pursuing a relationship with her ex, beyond using him for sex and for answering her fretting phone calls.
Meanwhile, Rory has a boyfriend of her own, Paul, to whom she is so indifferent she can’t even be bothered to break up with, despite cheating on him repeatedly with Logan and once with a guy in a Chewbacca costume. A running joke in the new episodes, that everyone repeatedly forgets about Paul, feels like a rip-off of the Ann/Egg story line from “Arrested Development.” Worse than being derivative, though, it makes Rory seem unbelievably callous. No wonder she has even fewer female friends in the revival than she had in the original season. Only Lane has stuck around, though she, too, in her limited screen time, struggles to show much interest in Rory’s problems.
Rory’s professional missteps don’t do much to endear her to viewers. She throws away a perfectly good opportunity to write for GQ and squanders an interview for a gig that she deems beneath her. Informing her mother that she will be revealing the painful details of her past in a book and then throwing a tantrum when Lorelai, understandably, objects, isn’t exactly a pro move or a decent thing to do, either.
She does not, to my recollection, ever appear to be reading, when her voracious book habit was what separated her from the typical TV teenage girl. Instead, she has taken up tap dancing, a head-scratching move perhaps meant to steal a little “New Girl” quirk that turns out to be a forgettable diversion. And maybe most irritatingly, she refuses to accept the circumstances that have placed her back at Stars Hollow (her lack of job, her lack of direction), angrily snapping at all the kind town folk who welcome her back: “I’m not ‘back’!” And why is she always haranguing people about this missing red outfit of hers? Girl, keeping track of one’s clothes is a fairly typical adult activity.
As for Rory’s surprise pregnancy, no judgment there — perhaps being a parent will help her channel some of her mother’s fortitude.
It’s not like we never saw Rory make a mistake in the original series. She made huge, life-altering ones, like sleeping with her married ex-boyfriend, stealing a yacht and dropping out of Yale. But they were the sins of a very young woman who was both sensitive and a little bit selfish. She was flawed in the way plenty of interesting leading characters are and still kept our attention as one of the few female teenagers on television who was allowed to be incredibly studious and incredibly desirable to every male in her vicinity. We forgave and empathized with her mistakes, partly because we saw how much they pained her and partly because she wasn’t like any TV character we’d seen.
But regret or remorse, or even self-reflection, do not seem like qualities that the new Rory is familiar with. Calling the Rory of today “flawed” creates a too-generous comparison to more-interesting leading ladies such as Alicia Florrick, Nancy Botwin, Cersei Lannister or, frankly, Lorelai Gilmore. Rory isn’t “flawed.” She’s simply unkind and ungrateful, in the most common way possible. Her fans deserved better.