The Blog Formerly Known as Rebel Prince

Cult TV, Gen Y rants, and endless opera.

Gilmore Girls: Second Season Review

Posted by therebelprince on July 30, 2009

Welcome back to the second in my Gilmore Girls retrospective season-long reviews. In its second season, Gilmore Girls really refines its style and there is little to fault here. I apologise if I’m sycophantically positive, but I promise that I will fully cover the confusion and occasional lameness that beset the show in its old age, when we reach them!

Season 2 in a nutshell: Lorelai (Lauren Graham) ends her engagement to Max (Scott Cohen) perhaps a little late, and impulsively skips town with Rory (Alexis Bledel) to take a road trip to Harvard. After dealing with her emotional aftermath, Lorelai looks at buying the old Dragonfly Inn property which has been rotting for several years. The owner, Fran Westin (Linda Porter), won’t sell however, so Lorelai and Sookie (Melissa McCarthy) find themselves back at square one. Christopher (David Sutcliffe) comes to town with his girlfriend Sherry (Madchen Amick) and Lorelai is confused by her own jealousy. When Christopher and Sherry break up, however, he begins spending more and more time in the area, and the two get reacquainted.

Rory, meanwhile, begins her junior year enemies with Paris (Liza Weil) again after a mistaken assumption about Tristan DuGray (Chad Michael Murray). After Tristan is suspended and transferred to a military school, the two slowly get back on the path to friendship as they realise how similar their ambitions are. On the relationship front, Rory and Dean (Jared Padalecki) are going strong until she falls for new boy in town Jess Mariano (Milo Ventimiglia, above with Bledel), the strong-willed nephew of Luke (Scott Patterson) He’s everything Dean isn’t: emotionally disconnected, witty and well-read, and as likely to forget as he is remember anything about their dates. But that’s exactly why she likes him. Although Rory continues to deny her attraction, it becomes evident to everyone but her that it exists.

Richard (Edward Herrmann), meanwhile, retires without telling Emily (Kelly Bishop, right), leading to a rift between the two which is only healed when she realises how he felt like he was being phased out of his company and his main reason for existence. But Richard being at home all the time has Emily stressed, and she finally is useful in convincing him to start his own business and go back to work.

It’s a neatly plotted season which has only a few pitfalls.

On the plus side: the show’s wit is probably at its peak. These two women at the centre are incredibly uncaring, but god they’re funny while they do it. Regardless of what you may believe about Amy Sherman-Palladino, she’s one of the fastest wordsmiths on the West Coast, working with a cast who know exactly what she’s trying to say with her myriad of obscure pop culture references. Top performances this season come from Edward Herrmann, Liza Weil and Melissa McCarthy, who is often underrated but can make me laugh chronically when she wants to. Her relationship with Jackson (Jackson Douglas) ends this season with their wedding, where Rory finally kisses Jess despite still being with Dean, and Lorelai – who has just slept with Christopher – learns that Sherry is pregnant, and he is doing the good honourable thing by returning to her.

The finale, “I Can’t Get Started”, is one of the season’s highlight episodes, but most events in the second season are a joy to watch. Lane (Keiko Agena) finally realises the true repressed nature of her life, after her secret boyfriend Henry (Eddie Shin) breaks up over the subterfuge. Subsequently finding a drum set at Sophie (Carole King)’s music store, she sets off on the great path that she will occupy for the next couple of seasons. Emily Kuroda is side-splittingly hilarious as Mrs. Kim, dosing her relatives on tofurkey and continuing to provoke terror in the hearts of Connecticut antiquers. The two of them work together well comedically, and will have some powerful dramatic moments in seasons to come.

There are many more quirky townie moments this season, a particular favourite of series co-executive Daniel Palladino. He introduces us to more lovable townies such as Gypsy (Rose Abdoo) and others who were more forgettable and dropped quickly, like Bootsy (Brian Tarantina).

Sean Gunn is given a lot more to do as Kirk. How this man remains funny even when he does variations on a theme week after week is beyond me. “A Film By Kirk” which caps off “Teach Me Tonight” is hysterical, featuring great cameos from Jon Polito and Mary Lynn Rajskub, and the first shirtless Kirk scene of the series (not by far the last).

If this season has any flaws, they’d probably be found in the series’ timeline, and in the Jess/Rory storyline. First, the timeline is notoriously flawed. Every fan in history has remarked on it, but that’s because it’s true: in the world of Gilmore Girls, Friday comes around every three days. Unfortunately, since Emily requested “Friday night dinners” with her girls, some episodes seem to feature two or three Fridays, while no time seems to pass in between. Sometimes it can seem like a mountain out of a molehill, but it’s surprising just how often these little, glaring inaccuracies jump out at you while watching this show. Continuity will only get worse in subsequent seasons, but to be honest if this is the worst of the problems, then we should just enjoy being in Sherman-Palladino’s storybook world.

I like Jess, and I like his place in Rory’s life. It is incredibly fitting to see this 16-going-on-17 girl fall for something other than her perfect handsome caring first boyfriend, as she is wont to do. And it’s the first of several great explorations of the negative aspects of being as “perfect” as Rory appears to be. But I think the storyline is overplayed. From his first episode, we know that Jess is interested in her and yet by season’s end we’re only at the first kiss. I think Jess could have been introduced later in the season,  still achieved the same effect without pushing us through this pain. In the long run, all that the season-long arc leaves us with is seemingly endless scenes of Dean’s suffering and turmoil.

Diverse observations:

*It is weird to me that Rory still doesn’t know Dean’s parents. After their break-up late last season, she knocks on the door and clearly doesn’t know Clara (Scout Taylor-Compton) or his parents. They must  meet at some point this season, since she’ll feel awkward about seeing them in “Let The Games Begin” next year, but it seems like the show was saving up her first meeting for an event episode and then it never happened.

* Michel (Yanic Truesdale, left) gets some hilarious lines this season, and will do so more next season. It’s a pity to see how sidelined he becomes in later years. I’ve accepted, however, that Truesdale‘s placement in the credits is primarily contractual. On a character level, Michel is truthfully on the same level as Miss Patty (Liz Torres), Babette (Sally Struthers) or Taylor (Michael Winter), and we probably get a bit caught up in the fact that he made it into the main credits.

The other interesting aspect is how – from this season onward – it is rare to see an episode with the entire main cast. It’s actually pretty satisfying to see an ensemble show that doesn’t feel the need to wrangle every character into each episode to the detriment of quality.

* As seems to be the case throughout, Luke’s solo storylines are the least interesting. His dead uncle (in the aptly titled “Dead Uncles and Vegetables”) is a drag of a time. Scott Patterson‘s scenes with Milo Ventimiglia are great though, and I’ll continue to enjoy Luke’s relationships with his family throughout, where we’ll occasionally get to see Patterson’s smile.

* We see the chuppah that Luke built Lorelai for her wedding, and which would live on in the dreams of fans for years to come. Could we ever have known the ups and downs they would experience?

In closing, it’s the second of three great seasons, before the show makes a shift in tone that will be alternately more mature and yet far less watchable.

Next time: Rory and Jess take Stars Hollow; Luke takes a wife; Lane gets a band; and Babette eats oatmeal.


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