Hello there! Last time, we talked about men without defining characteristics, bad fashion even by early 2000s standards, over the top romantic gestures and the effect bad parenting can have on your kid’s ability to say “I love you” when pressured. Fun times, I know.
Well, saddle up everyone, today we’re tackling Season 2 of Gilmore Girls—the good, the bad, the ridiculous schools and deplorable love triangles of it all. Sound good? Then it’s time to dig in.
A disjointed start
We start the season right where the last one ended: Lorelai giving away the “1000” yellow daisies that are somehow enough to decorate the entire town, and pondering whether or not to accept Max’s marriage proposal. Why am I calling this “disjointed” then?
Well, this season has very tight writing, and very defined arcs for almost everyone. And yet, compared to the rest of the season, the first 4 episodes feel like an extended prologue, or shall I say epilogue to last season. You can literally pinpoint how the season proper starts with episode 5—school starts for Rory, a minor and unimportant character called Jess comes to town to jump-start Rory’s personal life arc (and also Luke’s very own story arc), Max is kicked to the curb, and Lorelai and Sookie start focusing on their plans for their own inn. Richard, Emily and Christopher all show up in episode 6 to start their respective arcs, too.
Hell, even Lane was unceremoniously shipped off to Korea for these first 4 episodes. It’s seriously weird.
Not as weird as that suitcase, admittedly.
That’s not to say nothing happens. Again, we have a normal, nice love interest without defining characteristics to discard here. And if nothing else, the very first episode starts off Sookie’s personal arc. (Everyone gets one. Except for Lane.) Sookie gets excited by Lorelai’s and Max’s engagement, causing Jackson to panic and declare that he’s not ready for marriage yet—something Sookie wasn’t even really thinking about either.
Guess what the season finale is?
So, a quick rundown of the extended prologue:
Emily and Lorelai have a big blow out after Emily finds out about the engagement from Sookie when she’s planning an engagement party. Lorelai never even really introduces Max to her family, a good sign if I ever saw any. After yelling at each other over mutual disappointments in the middle of the night, they make up when Lorelai asks for advice on what veil to wear. Emily tells her to go with a tiara instead, because Lorelai’s head is much too big for a veil. And also because Emily wore one.
Rory and Richard have a fight over Dean, who Rory brings to a celebratory dinner. They’re celebrating that she’s in the top 3% of her class. Richard thinks Dean, with his horrible hair, incredibly outdated necklace, average grades, and no future plans is not good enough for Rory. So they have a fight while Dean sits there uncomfortably being grilled about his life choices.
The other significant thing Dean does in this stretch of episodes is whining when Rory has to do extracurriculars over the summer and won’t let him look at her browsing books for six hours. Verbatim quote. Rory offers to let him watch her browsing amazon in the evening instead, but he’s still pissed.
Speaking of, Luke is not a happy camper during this period, and probably at his worst and most Nice Guy™-est for these episodes, being not subtle about how much he disapproves of Lorelai and Max getting married. Until he comes around and builds her a chuppah, of course.
This is even more subtle than when they played “1, 2, 3, he’s yours” last season and Luke happened to be Lorelai’s number 3.
Max, up to this, is much like his season 1 self—completely forgettable, mostly. Conflict starts arising in episode 3 though, when he sort of moves in. Side note: How can you marry someone you haven’t lived with yet? What the hell? Then again, how can you propose after a grand total of maybe 4 or 5 months of not even uninterrupted dating, and during an argument, for that matter. I don’t get these people.
Well, in a nice way to prove my point, Lorelai is weirded out by Max sleeping in her bed and spends the night in Rory’s bed instead. They also fight about what Max’s role in Rory’s life will be (which Lorelai hadn’t thought about at all) and Max doesn’t even have keys yet.
Another nail in the coffin is Lorelai’s bachelorette party. Which takes place in a drag club. Emily is present. And that is actually significant, since Emily shares a very sweet story about how excited she was before her wedding, and how she’d put on her wedding dress every night and felt so very, very safe when thinking about marrying Richard. This causes everyone to go off and call (or… page) their significant other. Except for Lorelai. Who is she calling?
Chris didn’t even know she was getting married at this point, which is also not the best behavior from co-parents, and also confusing. Allegedly, he calls Rory once a week or so. Wouldn’t she have told him?
This and the chuppah, which she gets on the next day, are enough to make Lorelai realize that nope. This filler boyfriend has been around too long; she can’t get married in the second season out of 6 that were greenlit at the time. So in a very touching scene, she tells Rory to pack her bags and ditch town with her. Like, less than a week before the wedding.
We don’t even get to see her break up with Max, and apparently all preparations are called off via phone. And probably by Sookie.
The road trip episode is a very good one, and the last of this extended prologue. Even though it features two of my biggest fears about life in the US: small talk and roommates.
But one thing at the time. After driving around randomly for a while, Lorelai takes them first to the bed and breakfastiest of the bed and breakfast places, where they are forced to starve in their room with the moving roses wallpaper because the alternative would be to talk to middle-aged people about their lives.
I don’t get that. Why not just say you have plans or are meeting a friend or something and leave? What is keeping them there? Is this a small talk thing? Is having plans that don’t involve letting random people pry into your personal life offensive? And if so, why do Rory and Lorelai seem physically scared of offending people they will never see again in their lives?
Anyways, that B&B happens to be somewhere in the general vicinity of Harvard University! So they go there! And trespass in a dorm room! And Rory sits in on a class!
This girl does not look old enough to go to college. Even though Alexis Bledel was in her twenties at this point . If someone looking like this walked into my class, I’d ask them if they were lost. Then again, no one ever looked this happy to be in law school anyway.
During this, Lorelai gets sentimental. Both from watching Rory participate in the class (they’re discussing philosophers) and from staring at pictures of the class of 1990—the year she would have graduated from college herself had she gone to one. Or finished high school, for that matter.
It’s the second most touching scene of the episode. The most touching scene is when they return home, and Lorelai tells Luke about Rory fitting right in, and Luke just…gets that that must have been tough for Lorelai. He just gets her. And it is touching.
Speaking of Luke, during the trip, he’s the last to hear from Sookie about the engagement being off. He immediately cheers up, which is about as subtle as the shot under the chuppah.
The scene also sets into motion what should have been Lorelai’s arc for this season: She finally wants to move forward with her plans for her own inn with Sookie.
This prologue ends out on Lorelai showing Emily slides of their road trip. Uhm. For our younger readers: Slides are photos printed on translucent cards that you put into a projector and threw on the wall for people to watch. Basically powerpoint without computers or Star Wars transitions. And yes, this was ridiculously outdated even in 2001.
It also gives us the ultimate mystery of the wedding gift. Emily had one for Lorelai, that she says she’s putting away until Lorelai actually gets married. In in 7 seasons of the show, with Lorelai actually getting married at one point, we never find out what it was. No, really. Lorelai does get a gift for her later wedding, but the dialogue makes it clear that it was spontaneously acquired. Much like the marriage in question. But that’s still a long, long way off.
You get and arc! And you get an arc! EVERYBODY GETS AN ARC!
So why even talk about these four episodes separately? Well, it’s because everything after these episodes is written tight as a drum and everyone follows specific arcs:
- Rory’s school arc is about becoming friends with Paris again. They bond through overachieving.
- Rory’s personal arc is about coming to terms with the fact that she just might want a boyfriend with a slightly less horrible haircut. Slightly less, depending on the episode.
- Luke’s arc is about the joys of guardianship of a troubled teen that your kinda-sorta-maybe-not-quite-yet-(girl)friend disapproves of
- Richard’s and Emily’s arc is about dealing with Richard’s troubles at work and subsequent retirement
- Christopher’s (I know, right?!) arc is about becoming a more responsible family man and all that entails
- Lane’s very sporadic sort of arc is about figuring out who she really is and finding her calling, sort of.
- Sookie and Jackson figure out their relationship and eventually get married
Notice who is missing from this list of arcs? Lorelai.
Lorelai this season is all over the place. It doesn’t take her much time to get over Max, but there’s no boyfriend of the season to follow. There’s only one date of the week. There’s… Stuff™ with Luke and Christopher, as there always will be, but it’s not even necessarily romantic stuff, and it’s so interspersed that it’s hard to call it an arc.
Lorelai says she wants to move forward with the inn, but all she really gets done in this season is to talk to the owner of the Dragonfly and be shot down, and then have a panic attack when the owner of the inn she currently works at turns up and tells her she’s thinking of selling the place once Lorelai and Sookie move on. Lorelai is also mean to Sookie on this occasion, though with some justification. All in all, nothing really changes.
The closest thing to consistent development on her part is maybe figuring out that Rory might not be a perfect angel daughter, or at least might have a taste in men Lorelai can’t quite stomach, but that’s just her being an accessory to Rory’s arc. And, uh, Lorelai’s part in this is also kind of regressive.
The only other aspect with consistent development for her would be fitting into her parents’ lives some more, and actually being able to please Emily… For like five minutes in the finale. But hey, one thing at a time!
Chilton is a cult, and also has cults
There’s a lot more going on at school for Rory this season. And it’s not all exclusively related to Paris, but Paris is usually the reason Rory gets involved with things.
They’re both on the newspaper, with Paris as the editor. And since Paris is still mad at Rory about Tristan lying (don’t question the logic behind any of this), she tries to sabotage Rory in any way she can, like telling her the wrong time for a meeting or assigning her to cover the paving of a new parking lot.
The one teacher at Chilton this season puts a stop to this when Rory, who is determined to rise above the elementary school level bullying, submits her pavement piece, which she turned into some sort of think piece on existentialism, which is apparently the greatest thing to ever happen to high school journalism. Personally, this sounds more like intellectual bragging instead of doing your job of reporting on an event, but hey, what do I know. Rory is the greatest reporter to ever walk the earth, and everyone who disagrees is a villain and justifies the commitment of felonies. Sorry, wrong season.
Another notable event is episode 7, in which the guidance counselor is worried about Rory being a loner, saying this might keep her from getting into Harvard, because the school has to write about her social skills as well as her academics when giving recommendations. You know, we had grades for social behavior and work ethics once. They led to mass protests and were abolished after a year. But apparently, in a highly competitive school that has been established not to care too much about bullying, eating your lunch alone is the one greatest faux-pas you can make. So Rory tries to sit with the cool kids for lunch one day.
This is actually one of Chilton’s secret societies. A sorority. A prestigious one. And it is not the only one, according to Paris, whose entire family has been part of the… Puffs. That’s what they call themselves. And from what I can tell, not as a homage to the Power Puff Girls.
In an act that sort of makes them friends again, Rory gets herself and Paris abducted out of bed in the middle of the night, to ring a bell in the headmaster’s office for initiation. They all promptly get busted, and Rory yells at the headmaster for making her do this even though she has a perfectly fine social life at home. He is somehow impressed and none of this has consequences. Outside of Rory and Paris getting along again.
Oh, also, apparently, even working single parents are required to participate in school activities, or it can negatively affect the child’s Ivy League chances. I kid you not. This is how Lorelai gets roped into organizing a fashion show.
The degree of parent involvement is seriously strange, kind of elitist, and definitely discriminates against kids with working parents. And on occasion, Chilton seems to make it outright possible to buy grades. Such is the case with episode 9, the Tristan Spins-Off To One Tree Hill episode, in which two Shakespeare classes are putting on different interpretations of Romeo and Juliet, worth 50% of their final grade, in groups of 5. And I mean, it’s been a while since I read Romeo and Juliet, but something tells me that even after the death scene, culmination of a week of slaughter, there are still slightly more than 5 characters in the final scene.
What’s worse, the children have to organize everything themselves, it seems. The staging, the set pieces, the costumes. So what if a group didn’t have parents who are Sansa Speed Seamstresses , or don’t have the money to buy all these things?
I also would talk about how the entire point of the exercise was to change up the setting, like one group we see setting the balcony scene in the stone ages, and another one changing the fencing scene between Mercutio and Tybalt into businessmen fighting with flip phones, but Paris insists on doing it traditionally Elizabethan, and they don’t seem to fail. Or let’s talk about how annoying both Dean and Tristan are in this episode, how Dean is making death or at least serious harm threats again, and how little sense it makes to pull Tristan out of school before he can finish his project, thus dooming the rest of his group but honestly?
They don’t actually kiss (though Dean thinks they do for a reason) (yet), but COME ON. I’d say this is as subtle as the chuppah, but nothing actually come of this… Explicitly. Still. A truly great moment for all of us.
Another big moment for Paris is during a debate tournament, that is judged by the one teacher in charge of everything Paris related this season, and during which she makes her opponents cry.
She prepares for this by trying to get Rory to speak faster, which goes against everything I ever learned about formal debating. Our audiences used to have “please speak slowly” cards they could raise. Though from listening to the debate, I understand what Paris means when she tells Rory to be more snappy—Rory is not a very good public speaker. At all. She reads all of her speeches in a very wooden way that makes it too obvious that she’s reading, doesn’t establish enough eye contact with the audience, stands very glued to the podium, and is just very, very stiff and boring throughout. That applies to all speeches she ever gives throughout the series except for one that’s coming up next season.
Paris, on the other hand, is a very entertaining, if very fast public speaker. I am a bit confused though—the debate topic is doctor assisted suicide. The debate takes place in the year 2002. I was around in 2002, and I know that Google existed, and besides that, these kids go to private schools that should at least have the decency to have adequate resources. Yet when we see Paris debate, she isn’t arguing ethical points or anything like that, she is fact-checking the opponents, to a degree that makes it seem like these kids came completely unprepared. And while I am aware that formal debate can indeed turn into more of a research pissing contest than actually arguing about morals and values, portraying this as the only thing going on is… Odd.
Oh well. It is still Paris at her Paris-est, so I’ll stop complaining.
Next on the list of Chilton events that require an insane amount of funds and parental involvement is the business fair, where an economics class is divided in groups of slightly more than five, recruit a parental advisor, and design and market a new idea to and for students. In a surprising bout of realism, no one in the group actually has parents that are suitable or can get away from work for this project, but Rory saves the day with a recently retired Richard.
Speaking of this business fair, Richard gets in an argument with the headmaster over not winning. Boy is that guy going to be happy when Rory finally graduates—Emily won’t have a reason to frequently interrogate his wife anymore, and hysterical people will stop yelling at him. Though in this case, Richard does have a point. The headmaster more or less agrees with Richard that the winning project wouldn’t have any success in the real world, and yet he declares them the winner anyway, because “This is not the real world.”
I’m sorry, aren’t you supposed to be preparing students for the real world, though? Or is Chilton only there to be judgmental about people’s choice of peer group and write condemning letters about them to Ivy League schools? WHY are people paying a fortune to send their kids to this school again? Anyone?
Ugh. I need to change gears.
Pleasing your parents and other painful endeavors
I mentioned before that the only really consistent development for Lorelai comes in form of fitting her parents into her life. Both of them, this time. Yes, she actually has two episodes about dealing with Richard pretty much exclusively. And only one of them is a disaster.
But one thing at a time. The actual arc of Emily and Richard is introduced in episode 6, featuring dinner and a show. Richard has apparently blown off quite a few fundraising events from Emily’s exhaustive charity work, and she is fed up with it. The episode establishes, at a very inopportune moment during Rory’s coming out party (the white dresses and feathery fans kind, not the riding off into the sunset with Paris kind unfortunately), that Richard is being eased into retirement by his firm, and doesn’t want that one bit.
He beats them to the punch, actually, as we learn in episode 10. Without telling Emily until an event at Lorelai’s inn, he resigned before he could be pushed into retirement, vastly improving his mood. Emily freaks out over this, but they make up. The episode is one of the best, also featuring a big function at the inn with the most anachronistic dinner in history.
The show claims that this is supposed to be a 19th century style dinner. And everyone is very insistent on that number. Jackson there in the picture is playing “Squire Bracebridge” and I mean, I am by no means an expert on anything, and a quick google search tells me that from the 17th century onward, the term “Squire” was also used for a village leader living in a fancy house, rather than a knight’s apprentice. So okay. That doesn’t explain why a 19th century squire would dress like 16th century Henry VIII. Or at least a very bad cosplayer of the same. The servers are instructed to speak Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe too, which is about as period accurate as… Well… Anything about this.
It’s a good thing the history society this event was originally planned for was snowed in, because boy would that have been a shitstorm. If anyone actually cared about historical accuracy regarding anything, they should have demanded their money back. Paris is even at the dinner, and all she criticizes are the modern fabrics used in the costumes, and the fact that one of the servers is wearing a wristwatch.
The episode is very cute regardless, featuring happy!Richard, Richard and Emily making up, Lorelai and Rory calming down a freaked out Emily, Rory inviting Paris to stay for dinner, and also endgame couple sleigh rides.
Richard’s good mood isn’t for long, though, and very soon retirement bores him and makes him miserable. In an attempt to get him out of the house, Emily sends him to spend a day with Lorelai, which ends… Badly.
Richard, like most people on the show, can be a very obnoxious and exceedingly rude person. During this episode, he criticizes Lorelai’s life choices, breakfast choices, and the way she dresses for and conducts herself at work in the most patronizing way possible. While at Lorelai’s work place. In front of her employees. Quick reminder: Lorelai is running the inn. There is only one person higher than her, and that is the absentee owner.
And yet, for some reason, Lorelai only gets fed up after Richard makes the one reasonable objection of the entire episode: when he insists to get the car Dean made checked by a mechanic before Rory can accept it.
It’s an ugly confrontation, and an uncomfortable episode. High points are the first encounter of my ultimate OTP, and also the hilariously awkward way in which Richard tries to find out Dean’s height.
Richard: How tall are you?
Dean: Why, you wanna dance?
Richard: No, thank you. [Awkward pause] I appreciate the offer, though.
The complete turn-around to this episode happens in episode 20. Being inspired by the business fair he helped Rory with, Richards decides to go into business for himself. As a consultant on international insurance matters, and much like myself, the show can’t quite tell you what exactly that means.
In this episode, Lorelai and Richard actually get along really, really well. She introduces him to the magic of Staples and is a quite efficient secretary for a day, so much so that Richard can’t quite understand for a bit why she’d rather go back to working at the inn. This is a relatively minor conflict, though, and it doesn’t take away from the fact that they do get along quite well. Even after Lorelai leaves, they have fun banter about bagging Swedes in the end! It makes sense in context. More or less.
And like with Richard, Lorelai also gets closer to Emily this season, who is also not portrayed as a villain as much anymore. In fact, this season is much more about Lorelai and her making amends, in a way.
Not without bumps in the road, of course. There’s one episode where they fight due to Emily co-signing a loan with Lorelai; Lorelai’s house has a severe termite infestation and needs remodeling, and she can’t get a loan on her own. This results in an ugly fight when Lorelai asks what new obligations this loan comes with, and Emily denies that there are any. They do make up at the next Friday Night Dinner™, but then Emily tells Lorelai that all her DAR lunches will now take place at Lorelai’s inn, so… Huh? Lorelai’s reaction (“She’s good”) tells me that these are the new conditions, directly contradicting the entire point of the scene. But this also somewhat benefits Lorelai, as it is more business for her inn. It’s weird.
Then again, this entire episode (2×11, “Secrets and Loans”) was weird and on the weaker side. It featured Rory and Lane fighting about Lane being a cheerleader. Yeah. None of these plot threads are ever followed up on; not even the remodeling of the house is mentioned again, and we see no DAR lunches. The only tiny bit of relevance this episode has is when Emily tries to use the loan and Rory’s tuition against Lorelai to make her spend a day with Richard in the next episode.
And this is the only really bad fight they have the entire season, except for one I’m going to mention later on. Other episode have Lorelai actually having a productive conversation with Emily about her personal life (2×07, “The Ins and Outs of Inns”), after she had a bad fight with Sookie and is stressed about the inn she raised Rory in being shut down after she leaves, or they bond over stealing robes from a spa they attended together in what might just be my favorite episode ever (2×16, “There’s The Rub”). That very episode has Emily trying so, so hard to connect with Lorelai in some way, and while she’s being incredibly obnoxious about it, the conclusion I linked to up there is very, very moving. Did I mention that scenes with Lauren Graham and Kelly Bishop together are always a treat? Powerful work from both of them, and very consistently so.
But the most powerful moment of their relationship has to be in the penultimate episode, that again kind of serves as the season finale for the grandparent’s arcs, together with the one before that when Richard opens his new business. It’s “Lorelai’s Graduation Day”. Lorelai graduates from the business class she has been taking for the last two seasons, and against her wishes, Rory invites Richard and Emily. Lorelai didn’t want to, in fear of the event awakening bad memories of her not graduating high school. And in a way, it does – Emily rolls out a professional film team to capture every moment, and you might think Lorelai just got a Nobel Prize for the lengths they go to to commemorate this.
It is also really, really emotional.
One of the strongest moments of the series, really. Too bad Rory wasn’t there to witness the good work she had done! Why wasn’t she there again?
Oh. Oh yeah, right. Uhm. Okay, hold on. I’m going to have to do something really uncomfortable now.
Hello. My name is Jana, I am 23 years old, and I have a problem. I am perpetually baited by (fictional) bad boys.
Remember Wendy’s piece about favorite tropes? Mine would be Tall, Dark and Snarky—I strongly disagree with their chosen cover picture though. But this descriptor usually fits fictional characters that are my type. I mean, not necessarily tall, but that is a plus. I like them tortured, and angsty, and preferably with daddy issues. I’m a sucker for redemption arcs, I’m a sucker for driven, energetic and kind girls turning these guys into puddles of adorableness that get heart eyes when the girls kick their asses. Literally or metaphorically. This is not something I am proud of.
I also like swords and fire powers thrown into the mix, and spiky hair, but I guess that’s not really an option outside of animation.
More to the point: I like Jess Mariano. He’s my problematic fave, that I am sort of legally bound to own up to. He even might be my personal favorite white boy. But I’ll try to not let that influence me going forward.
The Jess Mess
So the very first thing I’m going to say about Jess (after the fact that I like him) is that a lot about his character is incredibly half-assed. He is sent to live with Luke for getting into some “trouble” back in New York City. We do not know what kind of trouble, and whether the law is involved in any way. I mean, he does leave the scene at one point after the police are called, but we just don’t know. We do know that he likes to steal random stuff like garden gnomes or baseballs, and that he likes to commit petty vandalism on occasion. No one ever calls the cops on him, and he doesn’t even do real harm. Stealing garden gnomes is still a dick move though.
Jess is introduced as your typical troubled teen with issues. We never really learn what his issues are, but his dad ditched them some years ago and his mom is a bit…out there, so okay, that might be it.
He also smokes and at least attempts underage drinking in his introductory episode. Oh yeah, back in the early 2000s when smoking teens were cool and edgy. Is that still a thing? I feel like it isn’t. And the scene where Lorelai takes the beer from him fell horribly flat in the German broadcast, since in Germany, you’re allowed to drink beer, wine, and other beverages with only very low alcohol content at age 16. Smoking is legal at age 18, as is driving a car without an adult supervising you, by the way. Aren’t cultural differences fun?
Something that didn’t fall flat during this scene was Jess’ reaction to Lorelai talking up Luke, though.
More to the point, Jess’ biggest problem, besides the penchant for stealing random stuff that doesn’t benefit him in any way or committing petty vandalism like drawing a chalk outline in front of Taylor’s store (including police tape and everything. He really put effort into this, and as far as pranks and vandalism go, it’s really, really creative), seems to be his attitude.
He doesn’t care about anyone, is snarky, gets very rude when pushed, and prefers to spend all his time reading or pulling pranks. So much so that when we get to see him in New York, where he has nothing but a flighty mother and all the free time in the world, he’s not falling in with a bad crowd or committing more petty crimes. He spends his days reading at Washington Square Park.
What I’m saying is, despite literally everyone’s concerns, he’s not the one who inspires Rory to start her very own criminal record.
I also put forward that as far as love interests go, Jess works best within the narrative. Well, third best actually, as the presences of both Luke and Christopher are even more natural than his existence. My point is that it is easiest to get engaged in love interests that have a purpose outside of being with their respective Gilmore Girl. And Jess has that—he’s also there to challenge Luke. And Lorelai, too! And the relationship between Luke and Lorelai. Those are the good news about him, really. The bad news…
The Love Triangle Bullshit
Jess is not very subtly introduced as Rory’s new love interest with usually at least slightly better hair (the episode pictured above being the exception that proves the rule) with about all the subtlety of putting two people next to each other under a chuppah.
He sort of steals a book from Rory to put notes for her in the margins. So yes, he first steals and then defiles her property, thank you Lorelai. I mean, assuming, and only assuming that he used a pencil and you can get rid of the notes with relative ease, I’d personally prefer this over being followed onto buses, but hey. I did say I am more than a little biased, so you all be the judge of that.
From that moment onward, Jess and Rory bond over books a lot. It’s their thing, really.
Also, Rory seems to be literally the only person in town who genuinely likes him. Admittedly, Rory herself points out that that’s because Jess is only ever nice to her, which isn’t exactly true. He’s nice to two more people within this season. Three, actually, for a bit, when Rory asks him to be nice to her mom, too, and Jess cleans their rain gutters for a bit of cash.
The true tragedy is that I think Lorelai and Jess could actually get along really well—they have the same kind of dry wit, can shoot out pop culture references like there’s no tomorrow, and as long as she isn’t sassed back at, Lorelai seems to be the most equipped to take on a troubled teen. Buuut after the beer-on-the-porch-are-you-really-not-fucking-Luke incident, Lorelai isn’t exactly a fan. And she spends a lot of time this season fighting any kind of relationship between Rory and Jess.
Dean is her partner in that.
See, people like to say that Dean’s character got flanderized once Jess showed up. As I tried to prove last time, nope, he was a problematic character all on his own from the minute he appeared on screen the first time. Hell, his worst moment this season happens before Jess shows up. But there’s no denying that Jess’s presence is really not helping.
The first all-out confrontation, besides a fight at school where Jess, uhm, didn’t stop hitting after Dean pulled him away from the other guy, happens in the bad hair day episode pictured above (“A Tisket, A Tasket”, 2×13). The town is doing its quirky thing and has a basket auction. A female member of the town (that according to Rory can be as young as 8 years old, ew) packs a basket full of food for a picnic, which a male member of the town then gets to buy in an auction, and all proceeds go to charity. Yes, the characters remark on how sexist the premise is, but still think it’s charming.
Now Jess is a man on a mission at this point, and outbids Dean for Rory’s basket. Dean gets mad, Rory tries to calm him down, but insists on going with Jess because of the rules, and Jess is not exactly there to deescalate the situation. Dean storms off in a huff, and Rory and Jess go eat. And shop for books. And have pizza. And then she calls him as soon as she gets home.
This sets Lorelai’s alarm bells off, to the degree that they fight over it in front of Emily. Lorelai is upset about Rory spending time with Jess; Rory is upset that Dean went to Lorelai to complain about this. And then Lorelai completely changes course because Emily agrees with her on forbidding Rory to associate with Jess.
During the picnic with Jess, Rory loses her bracelet, and only notices when Dean points it out two episodes later. Jess happens to be around for her freakout at home as he is cleaning the rain gutters, and puts the bracelet, that he picked up behind Rory, back into her room. Lorelai sees him going out of Rory’s room, puts two and two together, and confronts him about it, just when they were kind of getting along. But when Lorelai yells at him about stealing Rory’s most valued possession, Jess makes a pretty good point; Rory didn’t notice it was gone until Dean pointed it out. It has been around two weeks at this point. What a priced possession that is.
After that, Dean gets super suspicious every time Rory and Jess interact. And I’m not saying he’s not justified, I’m saying that calling 14 times within a 2 hours period might be just a bit obsessive. And Dean knows what’s going on, he knows that Rory likes Jess by episode 18. It’s just that he only ever talks about this with Lorelai, and never confronts Rory about it, or dare I say it, breaks up with her over it (for now). He is just dragged along like a sad puppy.
And I do feel kinda bad for the guy, really. If only he didn’t yell and tower over people so much.
Rory knows what’s up
The discourse around these events, inside and outside of the show, usually likes to paint Rory as an innocent damsel led astray by a sexy bad boy, or something like that. Which is something Rory protests on the show, too, so it’s easy to point out the bullshit.
Rory knows what she’s doing. She knows where things with Jess are headed, what Jess’ interest in her is, and that she is hurting Dean. She’s simply being a shitty 17 year old about it. She denies it when confronted, but her behavior speaks volumes. It’s as easy as that—Rory is no angel. Even this early in the series.
Basically, everyone here is a teenager and everyone’s being a horrible person. With Dean being the wronged party.
Case in point: She frequently avoids mentioning that she has spent time with Jess to both Lorelai and Dean, outright lies to both of them several times, and is aware that certain situations might require a chaperone.
Okay, here we go, this is “There’s The Rub” again, which is my favorite episode of the season, and not only because of the interactions between Emily and Lorelai. Or because of Luke remodeling the house he bought next to the diner, leading to hilarity.
No, this episode has Rory home alone. Until a panicked Paris of all people comes over to study after only getting an A- on her lab report (because of a misplaced decimal point). Having heard that she’s home alone, Jess comes along with a metric fuck-ton of food. He claims it’s from Luke and he’s just the delivery boy, but nope. Jess invites himself to stay for dinner, Rory invites Paris, and then… Awesomeness happens.
I mentioned before that I have an OTP, right? And I mean, if you asked me who I think Rory should end up with, the immediate answer is Paris. Move over, leather jacket faction, you all stand no chance against their chemistry and history, okay? Well, if you twist my arm (like the revival seems to be doing, judging by the cast announcements) and force me to choose one of her in-series boyfriends, I’d go with Jess. Not the way he is behaving at this point in the story, nor in the way they’re dating next season. But some years in the future, after some growing up, with their lives in place? Yeah, I’m down. If I have to choose a leather jacket, I’m down.
But in the realm of fantasy, fanfiction, and wherever else things exist just because they’re awesome, this is my OTP. My OT3, to be exact. In this one scene, that not even the gif set can really do justice, there is more chemistry around that kitchen table than Rory or Paris are ever going to have with anyone else again.
I’m calling it “Literatri”, by the way. Because RoryxJess is called Literati by the fandom because books, and with Paris there’s three, and… I’ll just move on now.
Dean barges in seconds later, and yells when he sees Jess. Rory tries to get Jess out of the house before Dean can see him, and they lie to his face and say Jess only just brought the food over. Of course, half of it being eaten and Paris in the middle of it don’t make for a convincing story, so to avoid a bigger fight, Paris comes up with one, claiming Rory only invited Jess over because she, Paris, has a crush on him.
Dean is convinced. Actually, so am I. That’s a deleted scene taking place during the slumber party Rory invites Paris to afterwards. They even define their relationship as something within the weird realms of friendship. Wheee.
Right. I’m moving on.
And then the plot exploded
Everything comes to a screeching halt in episode 19 (“Teach Me Tonight”). After being called to see the principal, Luke learns that Jess is failing at school largely because he never bothers to show up. He then asks Rory to tutor Jess, and she agrees.
This tutoring is about as productive as you’d think it is.
Eventually, they go get ice cream with Rory’s car, and after flirting a bit, Jess, who is driving, asks whether Rory wants to go back to studying, or wants to keep on driving. She says keep going.
Next we see of her, she’s in the ER with a broken wrist.
The circumstances of the accident are left a bit vague. Rory says there was something furry on the road, Jess swerved, and they hit something. The car is completely wrecked.
Lorelai, understandably, freaks out completely, and, less understandably, goes off to yell at Luke, blaming him for everything, both because of the tutoring thing and just letting Jess stay in town in general. Luke, pf course, is not exactly in the mood to listen to her scream until he has made sure Jess is okay. For some reason, Jess left the scene after calling the ambulance and police.
Luke finds him, and, uhm.
I find this touching, okay? I’m not proud of it, but I do. Also this is moments before Luke sends Jess straight back home to New York.
This does, however, cause a rift between Lorelai and Luke for the rest of the season, and also Lorelai calls Christopher to the scene. A very unfortunate pattern.
The residents of Stars Hollow all come forward to coddle Rory, convinced that it was all Jess’s fault and Rory would never, ever get into trouble all on her own. We unfortunately never see them react way later when Rory actually commits a felony. But that is far off during the dark days.
Rory herself is so fed up with this that she and Lorelai fight over it during Richard’s office warming party. The next episode, “Lorelai’s Graduation Day,” Rory receives a call from Jess. And that is finally the reason she misses Lorelai’s graduation.
Yeah. She actually skips school to take a bus to New York and somehow manages to find Jess in that one park he mentioned, and spend the day with him in a time frame that could have allowed her to be back in Hartford in time for the graduation, but the bus got delayed. There are so many things wrong with this that my suspension of disbelief is officially broken. And then immediately restored because dammit, I like their scenes together.
Missing the graduation causes Rory to guilt trip herself, and Lorelai to, for the first time, calmly approach the subject of Rory maybe being in love with Jess. Rory, as always, denies this, but uh, yeah. Lorelai isn’t buying it, and no one should at this point, really.
Speaking of Lorelai…
Well, at least with Luke, that is. I mentioned before how Lorelai really doesn’t get an arc of her own that’s not related to her parents or making sure her daughter keeps dating the good guy. Yes, the chuppah and the people being confused by them not being together already is a thing. And there are a lot of little things between them, but no real development.
At one point, Lorelai goes to dinner with a guy from her business class, who the next day turns up at Luke’s diner because he wanted to show his mom the amazing coffee Lorelai talked about so much. Problem is, he looks a lot younger than he did before, and people make fun about Lorelai dating a kid. Luke starts it. It’s him at his worst, really.
Lorelai actually gives as good as she gets on that front, trying to talk Luke into not dating a Chilton mom, claiming it would make things awkward on her. Luke calls her out on that, though. This happens after excessive flirting over him fixing the runway for the fashion show.
In a nice turn-around from last season, Lorelai is actually the one helping Luke most of the time. Except for the one time he teaches her business basics for her inn. Other than that, she at least tries to help with Jess and raising a kid 101, helps him out with the diner and with organizing a funeral for his uncle (Jess throws a wake for said uncle, after Rory talked him into at least helping out with the diner. I find this cute, but I am not proud of it), and at one point pretends to be his wife while he goes apartment hunting so Jess and him can have more than a single room to live in.
Apartment hunting is almost as sexy as painting.
They also share a sleigh ride, and Lorelai makes him buy her basket at the basket auction to avoid having to spend time with guys bought by Miss Patty. All of these remain moments though, and after the car accident, Luke and Lorelai end up not talking to each other for the rest of the season. He talks to Rory, though. Keep that in mind—no matter where Luke and Lorelai are with their lives and relationship, Luke will always be there for Rory.
Oh. Oh look. What a nice segway.
Christopher… is actually around
Remember how Lorelai called Christopher during her bachelorette party and I mentioned he’s actually around to save the day this time? Yeah, uh, turns out that after being turned down last season, Christopher really got his act together.
He turns up for Rory’s debutante ball in episode six, finally got her that dictionary, paid for with money from his first steady job. He also has an actual family car now, which Lorelai mocks him for.
Otherwise, she seems to think this new Christopher is actually very sexy, and comes onto him really hard during this episode. It’s actually kinda cringe-worthy when you watch this retroactively and know his newfound reliability was mostly caused by his steady girlfriend. That he somehow fails to mention until the end of the episode, and that Rory didn’t seem to know about either, or at least not tell Lorelai. There is sexy ballroom dancing though.
Next time he shows up is during Rory’s debate—featuring Sherry!
Sherry is his new, perfectly organized girlfriend. I actually sort of like her during this season? She has a scene with Lorelai where she asks if she could get to know Rory better, but assures Lorelai that they don’t have to be friends. And it is awkward and Lorelai is somewhat upset that Sherry wants to get to know Rory without getting to know her, to which Christopher responds that he never actually met Max, either. And, I mean, he has a point there.
Sherry takes Rory shopping, so Lorelai takes Christopher to Friday Night Dinner™ with her. Emily has a complete melt down upon hearing that Christopher has a serious girlfriend though, because “It should have been Lorelai”. She had been holding on to the idea of Lorelai and Christopher getting together after all these years, and Rory having a proper nuclear family at last.
Keep on hoping, Emily. Your time may yet come. Of course, at that point, none of the previous seasons’ writing will matter.
This talk does make Lorelai realize that somewhere, deep inside, she’d kind of been holding on to that belief as well, and she happily tells Christopher that she’s finally able to move on now. Christopher takes this as blaming him for all her failed relationships in the last 16 years and storms off in a huff. Because he will always be Christopher.
Next we see him is after Rory broke her arm and he comes running to help Lorelai deal with it. They make up, and bond over all the horrible things they could do to Jess together. And Christopher actually sticks around for the season finale!
Your wedding’s been Gilmored
We end this season with Sookie’s wedding. A quick rundown: She’s been dating Jackson since episode 12 of season 1, and he proposed after the basket auction in this season. Ever since then, the wedding preparations have been a constant background event to Lorelai’s work at the inn.
At one point, Emily gets in on the preparations and turns it all into something…ridiculous and horrible, until Lorelai steps in and reminds her that some people don’t have money for dancing little people and a full orchestra. I wish I was kidding.
So the finale is finally the big day for Sookie – and we don’t get to see the ceremony, at all, because our protagonists are more important.
So let’s start with Lorelai. She’s hanging out with Christopher, and getting suspicious as to why he has all this time to hang out with her and Rory, and whether Sherry doesn’t mind. Turns out she probably doesn’t, as according to Christopher, the relationship is not working out.
This is enough incentive for them to go upstairs and have their hook-up for the season.
Hey, I can’t even really begrudge them for it, because this is the only reason we actually get to see Sookie in her wedding dress.
Turns out Sookie is having a freak-out in the middle of the night before the big day. She and Lorelai have a really nice talk about the wedding and about the possibility of Lorelai and Christopher actually being a thing! Like, for more than an evening on a balcony!
On the next day, just before the wedding, Lorelai also accomplishes something before thought impossible: Pleasing Emily Gilmore! No, honestly, Emily is like, ridiculously happy about the prospect of Lorelai and Christopher finally, finally getting together…
But of course we can’t have nice things.
Christopher receives a call from Sherry, who has just found out that she’s pregnant. And all the character development he has gone through, as in, be dependable and actually around, doesn’t allow him to miss his second child growing up, so he ditches Lorelai on the spot and returns to Sherry. Whoops.
Rory during this episode gets dragged into the student body president election, when Paris makes her her vice president (d’aaaw!) because “You look like birds help you get dressed in the morning,” aka Paris scares people, and nothing puts them at ease more than Rory’s waifish looks or something.
Being vice president for some reason means that Rory automatically has to go to some sort of debate camp in Washington D.C. for 6 weeks, which seems like the main reason she doesn’t want to run, but Paris talks her into it anyway and lo and behold! They win the race, and Rory is now in politics. And busy all summer.
On the other end of the spectrum, Jess is back in town! He just turned up at Luke’s one day and more or less asked to live with him again. Luke tells him changes have to be made, and you can tell he’s kinda touched— right until Jess is off to see someone and Luke reminds him that Rory is still with Dean. At Sookie’s wedding. So Jess turns up there, Rory sees him, and, uhm.
She is promptly hit by the realization that she just kind of cheated on her boyfriend and runs off, in true Rory fashion. Not without telling Jess “Welcome Home!” though.
She is right on time to walk down the aisle as one of Sookie’s bridesmaids with her mother. We briefly see Jackson standing in front of yet another chuppah wearing a kilt. We do not get to see Sookie though, which is a damn shame. I would have loved to see that dress in the daylight. Oh well.
And between both their personal drama, this season ends in a stark contrast to the last one.
If you look around on the internet, you’ll see that seasons 2 and 3 are basically neck to neck on what’s the best one. Before starting this rewatch, I was personally convinced my favorite would be season 3, which is to this day also the only season I physically own on DVD.
But now I’m not so sure; the oddly disconnected start notwithstanding, this season is excellent. The developments, for the most part, do not feel forced, and the characters have really come into their own at this point. The Bracebridge Dinner and the Basket Auction are some of the most widely remembered quirky town events, and I mean it’s kind of a shallow thing to say, but the sets this season were just so beautiful.
The drama felt natural, and something that the rewatch made me appreciate more was how when Lorelai says she’s “been fighting this for a long time” in regards to Rory and Jess next season, she was not exaggerating at all. Jess remains a constant point of friction between Lorelai and Rory, between Lorelai and Luke, and between Rory and Dean, naturally.
His inclusion shook up the formula of the show more than anything until Rory goes off to college. It also first showed us that Rory is actually a flawed character, outside of her inability to deal with authority figures that don’t love her immediately. And she was still likable despite her flaws in this season, something that will get exceedingly difficult later on.
One character who was wasted this season though was Lane. She has a brief arc about clandestine phone calls with the Korean boy she met in season 1, an elaborate heist planned to spend a day with him, but he breaks up with her because all this planning is just not for him. She is then grounded for a few episodes, and then towards the end finds her true calling as a drummer. Though we never do find out how she bought that drum set.
Everyone else was on point, though. Even Lorelai, flitting from conflict to conflict in everyone else’s arc, but not really getting one of her own. Not that the “boyfriend of the week” formula for the next season is much of an improvement. It is remarkable however how her and Sookie starting their own inn is possibly the slowest burn of the series, and yet so consistently present despite not paying off until sometime in the future still.
Well then. I’ll be back for season 3 in a bit. Until then, I’m leaving you all with the gif we all deserve:
I feel sorry for the book.
- I was planning to write sooo much more on Luke and Jess, but that’ll have to come in a different season
- “You’ve got the waif look down and you’d look good dead.” Paris’s reasoning for casting Rory as Juliet
- I am still pointedly avoiding to talk about Kirk. He makes me uncomfortable.
- This season also introduced Brad; he somehow ends up in Rory’s groups at school a lot. He’s extremely traumatized by Paris.
- Seth McFarlane graduates with Lorelai, and the woman who sings the opening song, Carol King, opens the music shop in which Lane finds her calling
- “But if you’re doing all of this so you can freeze my bra, I’ll kill you.” Paris when Rory invites her for a sleepover. Who hurt you, Paris?!
- When Jess first sets out to discover Stars Hollow, he looks around and a song called “This is Hell” starts playing over idyllic scenes of small town life. It’s awesome.
- This season name-drops both current POTUS candidates. Rory in general is an unabashed fan of Hillary Clinton, and when Lorelai tells Sookie she found out who owns the Dragonfly Inn, Sookie goes “Please tell me it’s not that bastard Trump.”
- Lane is allowed to attend the Romeo and Juliet play because her mother interpreted “the greatest love story of all time” as a cautionary tale about what happens when kids don’t obey their parents. Mrs. Kim is the only one passing Shakespeare in this series.
- What even is a pager. Somebody explain. It looks like a texting device that is not a phone. Sometimes, I am too young for this show.
- Even if someone explains, I’m just going to ask this question again for season 3.
- When Rory visits him in New York, Jess very emotionally constipatedly asks how Luke is doing. Come season 4, I will talk so much about their relationship, seriously.
- Everyone always keeps running into each other at that damn supermarket. I mean, it is the only one in town, but come on. Of all the gin joints.
- Lorelai technically sleeps with a guy who she knows is still living with his serious girlfriend, and who has given her now assurances of breaking up with said girlfriend beyond “it’s not going well”. I’m not judging her for it, I’m just bringing this up to keep in mind for later seasons.
- The episode with Rory’s debutante ball is excellent and made me order Chinese food.
- Regarding the revival, when I first checked out the cast announcements, Jess had three episodes, Logan had two, and Dean had one. Jared Padalecki has stated that there’s only one scene with him. So take Imdb saying both Dean and Logan are back for all four revival episodes with a grain of salt.
- The main point there is that all three of them are back. Despite how little sense it makes for some. Also, it’s been 10 years, can’t Rory please date someone else entirely? Or Paris?
Images courtesy of The CW