As mentioned last time, the second and third seasons are widely regarded as the most solid and very best Gilmore Girls ever had to offer. After further scrutiny, season 2 definitely held up in that regard – but will season 3 manage to do the same?
At the very least, it follows a similar structure to season 2: An in medias res pilot, picking up right where we left off, albeit with a tiny time skip here. A lull of slow and almost pointless episodes leading up to the true start of the season-long plots. A stretch of good episodes leading up to a few big ones where every plot thread explodes. And finally, a few episodes until the season finale ties everything neatly together to end on a personal note for both Rory and Lorelai.
I’d say out of all the season finales of the show, this one is the best both thematically and in execution, as unlike the previous ones, it isn’t either a total downer or a total happy end completely based on Rory’s and Lorelai’s romantic lives; it is one focused on their professional achievements.
But, hey, I am skipping over 22 episodes of development here. One thing at a time!
6 Weeks Later
The season starts with a very prophetic dream of Lorelai’s: she is married to Luke, he is making her breakfast, and she’s pregnant with his twins. I’m calling this prophetic in a way of wishful thinking, though I really, really don’t wish twins upon anyone.
Confused by this dream about a man she hasn’t talked to in months, Lorelai calls Rory to analyze it for her, effectively reintroducing us to both the conflict with Luke and Christopher. Rory is still in Washington DC, participating in some sort of debate camp with Paris. They’re roommates.
During this phone call, by the way, Paris is heard talking in her sleep: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” U-huh. Sure, Paris. But I bet you would like to, hm? Can we call this the re-introduction to the totally-not-there-and-just-in-our-heads sexual tension between Paris and Rory? A last statement of defiance before Paris is sucker punched back into the aggressively heterosexual fold?
Because, surprise! Everyone gets a boyfriend this season! Paris, Lane, Rory changes hers, even Lorelai has one… Sort of. But Paris is up first. A nice guy in possession of a Zagat and aspiring to a Princeton diploma, but with no other discernible characteristics besides that, is quite enamored with her aggressive attitude, debating skills, and hounding of local politicians and asks her out. Good on you, Jamie. See you around as window dressing.
An important detail about this short sequence of Paris getting ready for her second date ever is that we see Rory talking to Dean on the phone, but having started a letter to Jess. Hello other conflict from last season! Who wouldn’t love to be reminded of a love triangle within the first 10 minutes of a show?
Well, at least it can’t get any worse than last season, right?
Okay. We learn next episode that Jess received no word from Rory throughout the summer, so instead of sitting at home and waiting for her to come around, he got busy. This is Shane. Jess tells us they don’t care about each other. I don’t think that holds up too well, but Shane is less of a character and more of a prop anyway. Or a plot device to not get Rory and Jess together immediately.
Hence, Lorelai pushes Rory to finally make up her mind on the Jess vs. Dean issue, and Rory does. It’s Dean. For now. Hurray.
Lorelai is indeed having a very bad day here; not only is her daughter being kind of an entitled brat about boys, she also has neglected to tell her parents about the break up with Christopher so far. It does not go over well. So not well that Lorelai storms out before even eating dinner. She seeks refuge at Luke’s, where she has a meltdown, and they finally make up. Treat yourself, it’s a very strong and moving scene.
The second episode is a bit more of an extended pilot. School starts and Rory is into politics now, Lane finally gets a subplot, Emily tries to make Lorelai go and steal Christopher back. Christopher himself makes an unwanted appearance during another incredibly strong and moving scene in which he crashes a Friday Night Dinner™, yells a lot, misses the point about why Lorelai and Rory are freezing him out at the moment, and is just so Christopher that you really, really want to punch him. Even Emily agrees, and she and Lorelai are on good terms again.
Agitated from this confrontation, Rory runs into Jess at Doose’s Market Of Fateful Meetings, “DoMoFM” as I will call it from now on. She’s passive aggressive towards Jess, who sees right through her and calls her out on her bullshit so far; she kissed him when he first came back, then ran away, didn’t contact him all summer, is still with Dean, and yet upset about him being with Shane. Rory denies that she’s jealous or upset, and they both insist they’re totally fine being with other people. Hence why they’re yelling about it in a supermarket. Oh, to be 17 again.
Delaying the inevitable
Episodes 3 -6 are basically filler episodes. Some of them are very good filler episodes, mind you, but still. You can watch them in almost any order, and lose nothing. In fact, I’d argue they’re ordered wrongly considering the episode 7 climax they’re leading up to.
What are we leading up to? Rory and Jess finally getting together. What are we doing to delay this? Keeping them hostile towards each other and with other people that get barely any agency of their own during this stretch.
Dean gets a moment in episode 3. See, he doesn’t believe in long distance relationships, and so is very upset that Rory is going off to college soon and he isn’t. Her continued insistence that he could, you know, try to get into a college in Boston or surroundings are shot down. This is additionally odd considering that the 6 weeks of long distance have pretty much fixed their relationship. Rory isn’t suspiciously friendly with Jess anymore, and she’s spending time with Dean again without complaining. If anything, Dean should be happy that they’ll get to keep this going that way. But oh well, I guess long-distance seemed even more daunting when your primary form of communication was via pager.
Shane sort of gets an episode if you squint, in which we learn that she has a job. It’s technically a Lane-centric episode (3×04, “One’s Got Class and the Other One Dyes”) which I will cover later, but we find out Shane works at a cosmetic store where Rory and Lane buy hair dye for Lane. So she has a stereotypically girly job that doesn’t require too many brain cells, is the implication. She’s really only there so Rory can be mad at her for talking to Jess on the phone while working, and going on a rant about customer service that would make your local suburban mom with a minivan proud.
Luckily, this episode isn’t all uncomfortable cattiness. Lorelai’s talk at the Stars Hollow high school goes badly because the kids are more interested in what being a teen mom is like than in how to run an inn. I guess MTV hadn’t picked up on that trend yet. For answering these questions honestly, in a way that doesn’t even promote teen pregnancy, Lorelai is chased down by Stars Hollow’s angry moms, the take down of which is pretty epic.
The other epic take down is Jess calling out Luke on his Nice Guy™ tendencies, pointing out how Luke keeps doing things like giving speeches at schools or bidding on baskets or fixing porches or building chuppahs solely in the hope that one day, Lorelai will turn around and realize what an amazing guy he is, and that all these years, all she ever wanted was to actually be with him.
And while I’d argue that the situation is a bit more complex, and the resolution of their will-they-or-won’t-they arc is actually a lot better and more satisfying, Jess isn’t completely wrong here, and it is gratifying to see Luke’s behavior addressed that way.
Jess is very good at calling out other people’s bullshit. If only he were as good at dealing with his own.
Episodes 5 and 6 are the ones I would switch around, considering how this is leading up to Rory and Jess finally getting together, more or less, in episode 7.
Episode 5 is ultimately very forgettable; Lorelai has a subplot about meeting a guy at an auction I’ll get into later, but also meets a completely random, never mentioned again, new neighbor whose lawn she agrees to water. The neighbor and his house are creepy, but the lawn is basically a plot device in this. When Rory tries to water it one day, the sprinkler goes crazy, and she calls for help, first paging Dean and then running around looking for Luke or someone else who could help. Incomes the only redeemable quality about this episode:
Jess to the rescue! Both of them being kinda overwhelmed by how good they look completely soaked through leads to the first positive interaction they’ve had all season, accompanied by longing looks. This, in my humble opinion, would have been a way better lead up into what is probably the most iconic episode in all of Gilmore-dom.
Instead, we get episode 6, featuring Rory now being seriously mad at Jess because he has a car after he has wrecked hers. I’m sorry, didn’t you insist you were just as much to blame for that last season? Furry thing and accident or something? What happened to that? Was the victim role more comfortable after all? Is anyone else smelling season 5 here?
Anyhow. The episode ends with Rory and Lorelai throwing deviled eggs at the car and then being glib about having been home all night.
So what’s my problem with this order? Well, it’s more a problem I have with the early season in general. See, when I depantsed myself last time and said I was a “Literati” shipper, I was referring to an entirely different dynamic than the one we’re presented with here, leading into their relationship with the wrong foot forward.
I never shipped Rory and Jess because their sexual tension established itself as hostility—the complete opposite actually. I shipped them because Rory was one out of two and a half people Jess was not hostile to (the other being Paris. The third one being kind of Luke occasionally maybe. Mutual emotional constipation and all that). I shipped them because of their bonding over shared interests and exchange of witticisms.
I shipped them because they genuinely liked each other.
Now, I am well aware that the hostility and bitterness is at this point based on hurt feelings, misunderstandings and also teenagers being horrible people. This build up is still not something I enjoy at all. Then again, the entire actual relationship is many things, but enjoyable is only very occasionally one of them.
Dancing the day away
Episode 3×07, “They Shoot Gilmores, Don’t They?” is probably one of the most remembered, quintessential Gilmore Girls episodes. It features a wacky town event, eccentric people having hilarious arguments, charged LukexLorelai moments, Lane with her very own story arc, adorable interactions between Lorelai and Emily, and an apparent end to all the love triangle bullshit.
The town is hosting a 24 hour dance marathon, which is apparently legal. Lorelai wants to win the trophy. There’s an adorable scene featuring Emily and talking vegetables outlining her struggle to find a suitable dance partner, until she settles on Rory. Rory can only do this because Paris lightens the load of extra work for the school paper due to the reappearance of her boyfriend Jamie.
The logistics of a 24 hour event are tricky. We see everyone set up to start at 6 AM. There is apparently only one break a few hours in. And somehow, the Kims are still serving sandwiches, Luke is still serving coffee, and Dean, Jess and Shane are still hanging out in the gymnasium during the very last hour, which would be after 5 AM the next day.
You can make a case for the scene where Mrs. Kim meets Lane’s boyfriend Dave happening about half a day earlier, since he can believably claim his parents are at bible study, but that’s it. Luke is right there for the climax to fix Lorelai’s shoe and talk to her about having kids. If they ever happen to meet the right person, of course.
Shoe fixing is almost as sexy as painting or apartment hunting.
Other notable events of this episode include:
- everyone just looking fabulous.
- Lane and Mrs. Kim serving sandwiches for the dancers, along with pamphlets about why dancing will send you straight to hell
- Lane and Dave kissing for the first time
- Taylor reminiscing about wanting to be a magician
- Kirk being an amazing dancer
- Sookie and Jackson and Lorelai and also Luke having an argument about whether having 4 kids in 4 years is crazy. The consensus is yes.
There’s a reason this episode is as iconic as it is, okay?
Meanwhile, Rory and Jess are confrontational again, even though Dean tries to drag her away, and Shane is completely out of the loop as to why she has to stay until 5 AM at a dance marathon she doesn’t care about. Kind of a big commitment for someone who doesn’t give a crap about Jess, is all I’m saying.
Rory is bad-mouthing both of them under hear breath, especially Shane (one episode after Lorelai reorganized Christopher’s new wife’s medicine cabinet, I wonder where she got it from), until, and everyone pay attention, this is critical, Dean breaks up with her and tells her do be with Jess because he doesn’t care anymore.
Read and repeat. Dean. Breaks. Up. With. Her.
Let it reeeaallly sink in. Dean breaks up with her.
In public. And there’s an entire dance marathon audience there to testify to it. Why do I keep repeating this? You’ll see.
This break up leads to a very brief conversation between Rory and Jess on that bridge they always go back to, where they kind of reluctantly admit having feelings for each other. Then Jess goes off to take care of something , presumably Shane, and this is supposed to be the big moment of them getting together.
My shipper heart is so thrilled, you guys.
So, it has happened. The thing the season and also the last has been building up to has finally come to pass, Rory and Jess are together. So… Why don’t we talk about what else happens this season?
A Lorelai without a purpose
Lorelai has no arc. Again. She has moments with Emily and Sherry, and she dates two guys. Yet it takes until episode 17 for her to have something of a mini-arc.
So. Before actually watching this season, I was under the impression Lorelai’s arc would follow a “boyfriend of the week” narrative, but she does in fact only date 2 men this season. The first is some guy she met at an auction her mother organized, whom she goes on an awful first date with, and then is forced to go on a second date with because Emily wants the first cup of tea. Don’t question this.
The other one is a guy called Alex who is hoping to open a chain store of coffee shops. He… Uhm. I don’t know how to describe him. He drinks coffee, fishes, and buys Lorelai, Sookie and Jackson Broadway tickets once. And apparently, Lorelai dates him for at least 9 episodes! From episode 11 until mentioning still being with him in episode 19. I swear the last time we saw him was in episode 14.
The reason he comes up again is even worse than an absentee boyfriend for the main character, though. Because Max is back in town! And he and Lorelai still have that weird, weird invisible chemistry thing going on that requires several pieces of furniture to keep them from engaging in immediate intercourse! I think. Max downright says “I can’t be held accountable for what I do around you”. Wow.
He’s clearly uncomfortable though, and Lorelai is quite pathetically coming onto him and it’s just painful for a few episodes. Painful, I tell you. Thankfully, nothing will ever come of that. I wonder if she breaks up with Alex after, or if she strings him along right until the Jason era next season.
Two positive things about Max’s reappearance though: Sookie and Rory tell Lorelai constantly how horribly she treated a great guy like him. Which is mean in the context of this season, but kinda satisfying after the next one when everyone and their mothers gaslights Rory about the circumstances of her breakup.
The other one is Max trying to cheer Lorelai up about Rory having a boyfriend she can’t stand, by reminding her Rory is going off to college soon. Her response:
“Frat boys, I cannot wait.”
Oh, Lorelai. Oh, if you only knew. But that is a nice segway.
The quest for Ivy
This season, more than any before it, is defined by Rory’s ambitions to get into Harvard, and Paris suffering along with her. They host a panel about applications, in which we learn that apparently every girl with Ivy League ambitions in 2003 was also a Hilary Clinton-stan, and that having many, many interests makes you look fake. Everyone panics, even Emily, and that is adorable.
To calm down, Lorelai and Rory visit the freaky, freaky family of a Harvard alumnus, where everything looks like it’s right out of Stepford and they play quizzes around the dinner table.
The fact that the application system doesn’t seem to have changed in the 30 years since that guy went to Harvard seems a bit fishy for me, but what do I know. We don’t have an Ivy League equivalent, and all I had to do to get into university was submit my general information and GPA.
Richard, meanwhile, is quite upset with the whole Harvard thing, as he himself went to Yale. The episode immediately after Rory and Jess get together has the Gilmore clan take a road trip to Yale. It’s a cute episode, with anecdotes about Richard’s and Emily’s youth, right until Richard shoves an unprepared Rory straight into the office of the Dean of Admissions. Not cool. Everyone freaks out, Lorelai calls a cab to take them home, and a one episode freeze out begins.
Yet the thing is, while Richard really should not shove an unprepared person into a college interview like that, he has a point about knowing more about the system than Lorelai does. Case in point: Next episode features a fight about Rory also applying to Princeton and Yale in addition to Harvard, something Lorelai didn’t know was common and even necessary.
The same episode, by the way, has Paris enraged about the fact that there are no shelters in need of her help for Thanksgiving, meaning she can’t put more charity work on her applications. How dare people volunteer if they don’t need it to get into college? Preposterous.
She does it all for the good of humanity, of course.
Back alleys and backstabbing
Rory and Paris are also student council president and vice president, and in the first few episodes, there’s quite a bit of attention being paid to the political dealings of the school. Mostly because of the one straight-out villain this show has.
This is Francie. Remember her? She was cult leader last season, in the student-body goverment this year, are for some reason does not like Paris, or Rory, or Paris and Rory together. She is, in fact, so invested in breaking Rory and Paris up, it’s strangely reminiscent of certain interpretations of Regina George.
And honestly, that’s as good a motivation as I can think of given what’s presented on screen. Francie pulls Rory into a bathroom and tells her to push her political agenda (higher hemlines) through with Paris, or Francie will make Paris’s term a living hell.
Francie’s big political coup comes when she schedules a meeting that Paris had cancelled because there wasn’t much on the agenda and because she wanted to spend time with her boyfriend instead. Rory protests this meeting, but the teacher is being a dick, and they have it anyway. It’s about moving prom to a more expensive venue at the detriment of the senior gift to the school that Paris picked out.
What a nefarious purpose. Truly, all the scheming paid off.
Paris manages to save the situation by renegotiating the terms under which they rent the venue, meaning they have enough funds left for the better senior gift, and someone get that girl all of the high paying jobs in business and politics already.
Rory however is not so easily consoled and mirrors Francie’s abduction of her, trying very much to be a hardass, which is hard to do if you, quote Paris, look like birds help you get dressed in the morning. She then blocks Francie’s motion to put the sign up table for a blood drive in the cafeteria. She also accidentally confirms that Paris has a boyfriend.
Francie organizes a “consolation meeting” in an abandoned parking garage, where they shake hands on not sabotaging each other anymore, then tells Paris that Rory is trying to undermine her and mentioned Jamie to people, and also shows her pictures from that clandestine meeting, and lo and behold, Paris and Rory are fighting again.
There’s sexually charged fencing, there’s a move to impeach Rory from her position on the student council, and there’s an embarrassing fight in front of the headmaster. And also Paris calling him sexist for assuming they’re fighting about boy. You go, Paris.
This part is slightly less fun than the two of them being friends, though the most surprising thing is how Rory gets really into it. I mean, she actually actively seeks out competitions with Paris, like a debating tournament I’ll cover later, and even attempts to trash talk her.
It’s both adorable and quite loaded. Ah well.
The ballad of Dave Rygalski
Speaking of adorable, Lane has a subplot! She plays in a band and they’re actually not bad! And she gets a boyfriend! Sort of!
This is Dave Rygalski, and he’s a real trooper. He and Lane hit it off right away, and to eventually be able to date her openly, he plays hymns for Mrs. Kims gatherings, something the entire band eventually gets up to. He schemes around with Lane to keep their relationship a secret without complaint, even puts up with her fake boyfriend, all to the end of being allowed to take her to prom eventually.
The band itself, consisting of Zach and Brian besides these two, is fun as well. And they’re not even half bad, even without a name. Also, without them, one of the key plot exploding set pieces wouldn’t have happened.
Dave’s existence also briefly inspires Lane to dye her hair to make a point to her mom. It doesn’t last, though.
Which is good because that wig is just not working.
The tragic thing about Dave is, that despite how promising his relationship with Lane was, and how epic his prom proposal to Mrs. Kim was, he spins off into The O.C., pardon, goes to college in California next season.
Emily and Richard aren’t in this season much. There’s tensions about Chris in the beginning, but those fade away. There’s the flashback episode about how Lorelai had Rory and ran away, which features especially Emily quite heavily, and boy do they sell the atmosphere in that. Reminiscing about this time leads Lorelai to buy her mom a DVD player so she can watch musicals when Richard is out of town, by the way. It’s a cute moment, though it is downright puzzling how scared Emily is of hooking up the thing. You put the plugs into the right colored holes on the TV and plug in the power chord. It’s not that hard.
Then there are two very memorable episodes featuring Trix, Richard’s mother. One of them has Lorelai and Emily bonding over how to deal with disapproving mother figures, which leads to Emily taking pleasure in annoying her mother in law on purpose. The other one has Emily catch Trix making out with a man in a purple jogging suit and then revealing that in front of the entire family and several of Trix’s friends, after which they sort of make up and bond over being lonely woman with lots of pride.
Honestly, the best thing about this episode is Lorelai and Richard losing it at the thought of Trix having a lover.
Richard: Do you really think he was wearing a track suit? I wonder if he was wearing Nikes, also.
Lorelai: …”Just do it” takes on a whole different meaning, doesn’t it?
Richard: Well, I guess I have a new daddy.
Lorelai: Maybe he’ll take you to ball games!
Richard: We can get matching jogging suits!
Other than these little exchanges… There’s not much there.
A lack of Chris, an abundance of Sherry
Well, okay, technically they both appear in the same number of episodes, but Sherry has a bigger presence somehow.
She invites Rory to her baby shower, and ropes Lorelai into attending as well. It’s a pretty standard affair with embarrassing games, peppered with badly retrained jealousy. At one point, Sherry thanks Lorelai for setting Christopher straight and sending him back to her. Lorelai takes this badly, since in her mind that translates to her sleeping with Christopher drove him back into Sherry’s arms. And pregnant belly. And it also shows that Christopher was less than honest with Sherry about what happened while he was in Stars Hollow. Probably because he is Christopher.
To channel the ensuing misery, Lorelai takes it out on Sherry’s medicine cabinet, which she has in meticulous order, just like everything else in the house (like Christopher’s CD collection). So… Sherry is socially awkward and needs things to be in order? Yes, by all means, let’s mock her relentlessly for it.
No, really, I kind of sympathize with her. I was on her side during the awkward bonding attempts last season, and I think Lorelai is acting horrible towards the wife of a guy she still feels entitled to. I wonder where Rory gets it from.
And even when Sherry is upset about going into labor a week before she had scheduled her C-section, I feel really, really sorry for her. And also Rory. When my dad’s girlfriend was pregnant in her last months and I was alone with her, having to witness my sister’s birth was my worst nightmare. I sort of blame this show for that.
The giving birth episode focuses mostly on the flashbacks with young Christopher and Lorelai, and how Lorelai was all alone in the delivery room and even drove herself to the hospital. Kind of somber, and make it even more meaningful when Lorelai rushes to the hospital so Rory won’t have to go in with Sherry. But Christopher makes it in time.
Green being the new pink is still stupid, though.
Your standard bad boyfriend experience
I’m out of other things to talk about, so let’s return to what the season is actually structured around. Jess and Rory.
I have to be honest, I was bitterly, bitterly disappointed on rewatch. I knew it wouldn’t end well, and I knew the broad strokes of why, but this season just doesn’t deliver.
They start out nicely enough, with the awkwardness of having a second boyfriend after a public break up and when very much in the public eye of the town. And honestly, there is never a lack of Rory and Jess making out of being physically affectionate. There’s a lot more kissing on screen than there ever was with Dean.
What’s missing are the sweet moments. They talk about books exactly once. They don’t talk about anything else, really. It’s… Just so standard. Men and women in relationships can’t communicate. Puberty makes it even worse. 90% of all problems could be resolved if someone just opened their mouth about it. Mostly Jess.
There are two episodes dedicated exclusively to their relationship. One has Jess meeting Emily at a Friday Night Dinner™ that Lorelai isn’t present for. He shows up with a black eye and a bad mood, and Rory won’t stop pestering him about the eye, convinced he got into a fight with Dean. The evening ends with Jess running out without even finishing his salad.
To make sure no fight happened, Rory goes and asks Dean, who confirms this story. Jess meanwhile stalks out the swan who allegedly attacked him and gave him the black eye with Luke, but then, in a conversation about how they need to trust each other more, tells Rory he was hit with a football. We never learn the truth, but at least we can rule out a fight with Dean or anything like that, unless the boys are secretly in cahoots with each other.
In fact, Jess deals a lot better with Rory and Dean being just friends than Dean ever did. And Jess seems to be aware that Dean is actually more prone to violence than he is, at one point suggesting to Rory that he might have gotten the black eye from Dean sucker punching him. Rory’s response? “Dean would never do that.”
In the following episode, Rory is upset because Jess told her he’d call to confirm plans with her, but never does. She also refuses to call him first. I get nightmare flashbacks to 6th grade.
As an explanation, Jess offers that he had to work double shifts and only made it home past midnight, and since he doesn’t have a cell phone, he had no opportunity to call Rory and tell her about that. Of course, he doesn’t tell this to Rory, he tells it to Lorelai. As you do.
Then again, Rory also doesn’t tell him she’s upset over this and just freezes him out. And when he doesn’t call again the next night, she attends a hockey game with Lane and her fake boyfriend that Mrs. Kim hooked her up with who she is only going out with so he can dump her so Mrs. Kim will feel sorry enough for her to let her go the prom with Dave. Yes, it is that convoluted.
The Stars Hollow High Hockey team made it into the regional semifinals for the first time in 40 years. And they’re playing against
Anyway, while Rory is at the hockey game, Jess turns up at her house and is chewed out by Lorelai for assuming Rory would still be there on a Saturday night. After the hockey game, Rory leaves an angry message on his answering machine, demanding fixed dates and schedules in the future, and no more empty promises to call. Of course, when Jess then shows up with concert tickets (is that why he worked extra hours?), she just tells him to delete the message and they presumably never talk about it again. As they do.
Oh, and what did finally tick Rory off like that?
Dean’s got a girlfriend! Her name is Lindsay. Wait a minute…
Disposable, deplorable blond women
With Lindsay finally in the picture, I would like to point out a trend. Or more like, a set of shared features.
These four women star in practically identical roles – the other women of a guy one of the main characters feels entitled to. Rachel, the least blond of them all, admittedly gets the best deal of them all; Lorelai is never actively mean to her. She’s just a fickle woman who won’t settle. For a brief time this season, Sherry is treated like the devil himself. Shane is a stupid blond bimbo only there to keep Rory and Jess apart for seven tedious episodes, and Lindsay will be Dean’s nagging wife next season, driving him into the arms of another woman. She even comes with a catty blond mom of her own.
Season 6, a long ways off, also presents us with this scenario:
This is a room full of women the third candidate of the leather jacket trifecta, Mr. Frosted Flakes Sr., slept with while he and Rory were “on a break”. Except for the one that’s his sister, because this is not that kind of show. I sincerely hope.
Oh, and remember the lynch mob of identical Stars Hollow moms that ran Lorelai down earlier this season?
See what I’m getting at?
No, honestly. The only positive representation of blond women on this show are Paris and Babette. Maybe Sookie, but she’s more of a redhead. And that’s it.
Admittedly, with Nicole this season and his baby momma to come, Luke has two women in his life that avoid the blond but are still deplorable and disposable in the narrative for various reasons. And then he has a wacky, fickle sister who is also blond. You know, Jess’s mom.
Hell, once Mr. Frosted Flakes Sr. rolls around, he will bring an entire deplorable family of blond people with him. His sister is kinda nice at least, or at least I think so now, but his parents are horribly rude people who even give the Gilmores on their worst days a run for their money.
Look, I know that since the beginning of time media has depicted blond women as either innocent little angels, the dumb ones, or the horrible people. Think Regina George or the Lannisters in general and Cersei in particular. Maybe I’m just hyperfocused on this because, uh, look at my author avatar down below. I’m just saying that someone in the casting department chose to cast all these characters in a certain way, that almost exclusively adheres to two negative stereotypes, and that’s maybe something worth thinking about.
No? Okay then. We got bigger fish to fry anyway.
Is it Supernatural yet?
Dean. Dean is still around, even after the break up. He’s arguably around more after the break up, presenting us with far the weakest aspect of the season, lots of unpleasantness, and some gaslighting for good measure.
While his new girlfriend may look promising on the surface, and his friendship with Rory does present us with a few nice moments where Jess just confronts Rory about it, stays calm, accepts what she has to say, and doesn’t start yelling and threatening people about it, Dean is just… A mess.
Episode 9 has him threatening Jess, in a truly disquieting scene largely due to the fact that Jared Padalecki is just about a foot taller than anyone else on this show (save Richard). Episode 10 has him come around and try to be friends with Rory again. You know, after telling her he hates her two episodes prior. They end up going to a winter carnival together.
This leads Jess to kindly inform Dean that it’s kind of pathetic to first dump Rory and then come crawling back like that, to which Dean only has to say:
“Oh no, Rory and I are just friends. Just like Rory and you were just friends.”
Dude, you just confirmed how pathetic you are, and that you do have ulterior motives. Good going.
And then, a few episodes later, we see him with Lindsay. What is this, a backup plan? A ploy to make Rory jealous? Anyone?
It doesn’t quite work, thank god. Rory isn’t exactly jealous at this point, she’s just upset about Jess’ communication issues. Which… Is basically the entire conflict for the season, and also something I really, really hate in general.
Teenage sexuality, the life ruining consequences thereof
You know, this entire show is generally quite sex positive and feminist. It plays into a lot of gender stereotypes, sure, and is far from unproblematic in places, but this season has a few very, very uncomfortable scenes dedicated to teenage sexuality that really, really stick out.
In a way, the funny throwaway scene where Lorelai has to talk about having a kid at 16 and still becoming fairly successful in her career is a good introduction to this. The identical blond mom lynch mob is certainly something I can buy. Same with the flashback to Lorelai’s own pregnancy, where Christopher’s mother more or less suggests sending Lorelai to a home for fallen women to avoid scandal. All of these are attitudes I am okay with portraying, since they are true to life in a small town life and other situations that are completely dependent on what your neighbors think.
It gets uncomfortable in episode 14. Lorelai walks in on Rory and Jess making out, fully clothed and not even too disheveled, but quite horizontally, on Luke’s couch. Not a pleasant thing to witness your teenage daughter doing, okay. This however does lead to a discussion on whether Rory is planning to have sex with Jess any time soon, which Lorelai seems both convinced of and completely opposed to. Rory denies having even thought about it, until the very end of the episode where she admits she might have thought about it and is not entirely opposed to the idea.
For some reason, this conversation doesn’t end with, I dunno, mentioning the going on the pill thing from season 1 again, or anything else sort of appropriate here, but with an awkward silence, and then solemn hugs while eating together, as if they’d just received news of a cancer diagnosis or something similar they need to brace together. Creepy.
I’m not entirely sure what the problem is, though. Then again, I don’t live in an abstinence only country run on puritanical beliefs about sexuality, so that might be it. When I was Rory’s age, the attitude towards me possibly having sex with my boyfriend was more like “use protection and try not to disturb anyone”. And Rory’s age is 17/18 at this point, legal in all states, and unspecified methods of infallible birth control are always readily available on this show. Except for when your spouse lies about getting a vasectomy.
But by far the most baffling and damning episode regarding 18-ish girls’ sexuality would be episode 16. Rory and Paris are on bad terms, but since Headmaster Charleston is trying to get them back together trying to restore order to his student body government, he makes them cooperate for a speech in national television.
They have a fight over how to coordinate their work on the shared speech on the phone, then agree to do all the work over the phone, and the next day, Paris shows up at Rory’s doorstep unannounced. But not exactly to work on the project, but for some… Let’s call it girl talk.
Paris: Rory. I slept with Jaime. Last night, after we talked.
Rory: …Was it something I said?
Of course not, Rory. Paris just would rather have had sexual relations with that woman.
Paris then wants Rory’s opinion on the matter, and to compare notes, not quite believing Rory hasn’t slept with either of her boyfriends. Now the scene is sweet, and hilarious, and has again an amazing amount of tension between two girls who are debating heterosexual intercourse, and probably the best thing is Rory needing a cold drink of water to deal with the conversation.
Things take a turn for the really uncomfortably bad though when Lorelai comes home, overhears Rory ascertaining her virginity, and gets very, very happy about it, muttering “I’ve got the good kid” to herself. She’s even going to take Rory shopping just for that, she’s so happy.
Why not sign her and Christopher up for the next purity ball while you’re at it? Blergh.
It somehow gets even worse. Next scene, Paris is late to the very important speech in front of, you know, national television. And when she shows up, she’s completely disheveled and quite frankly upset, and yet they let her on stage in that state and even start the speech… Until Paris hijacks it by revealing that she wasn’t accepted into Harvard. She blames this, again, on national television, on the fact that she’s had sex. And only then they drag her off the stage.
It’s heartbreaking, don’t get me wrong, but also… Just plain weird. Remember how in my second review, I offered the following hypothesis:
“So how exactly did Lorelai seduce [Christopher] out of [going to Princeton]? Is this what teenage sex causes, does it get you rejected by Ivy League schools and doom you to a life of unsuccessful internet companies?”
The answer is apparently yes. Yes it does.
Paris is no Christopher though, and it seems only Harvard scans applicants for virginity, so her fate is a lot better than his. Also, this entire ordeal leads to two quite moving scenes between Paris and Rory; one immediately after, when Rory comforts her.
She’d definitely rather have had sexual relations with that woman.
The other scene is after Paris has wallowed in bed for a few days and Rory gets her back on her feet again and enroll in one of all the other schools that have accepted her.
Rory got accepted everywhere, naturally. Pack your chastity belt, indeed.
Everything’s on fire
In a structural similarity to last season, things in pretty much every plotline come to a screeching halt in episodes 17, 18 and 19. Though 18 is a very small bridge between the two big ones and feels a tad bit misplaced with its main focus on Lorelai’s incredibly elaborate birthday party, featuring the world’s largest pizza. I guess it’s a breather episode? Oh well.
Plot explosion number one: During a visit from the Poe Society, the Independence Inn catches fire. Nobody is hurt, but most rooms are out of commission, the kitchen is gone, and it’s the final drop that convinces Mia to sell the place later on. It does give us another wacky town event: Entertaining guests with no rooms, and one of the very sparse Luke and Lorelai scenes of this season.
Also in this episode, via the time-honored art of pro/con lists, Rory discovers that Yale is actually the best school for her. Despite not offering a journalism major or even a communications major, but hey.
The reasons as to why Yale wins are vague. Some might argue, as Rory does later on, that maybe, Richard’s manipulations worked. Maybe it was the proximity to home. I might argue that Harvard only lost because a certain someone else wasn’t going there anymore. But that’s just me and my bias.
The fact remains, Rory is going to Yale, which is only 22 miles from Stars Hollow. How do I know that?
Yes, I will share the arguably last happy moment these two have together, bite me, it’s cute, and so few things between them were this season.
See, this is also when Jess comes into more focus in the narrative. After being voted employee of them month at Walmart, Luke discovers that he’s been working more than 40 hours a week there, which means Jess cut out on school. And he cut school so much that he is basically, but strangely informally, expelled. He can’t catch up anymore, won’t graduate, and can’t buy prom tickets. The last fact is a bit weird for me, as it doesn’t sound like much of a business model, but whatever.
We don’t exactly know why Jess is working so much; last time we heard about it, it was to afford his car. Luke offers to pay him enough so he can quit working at Walmart and focus on school more (a bit too late), but Jess… refuses. I guess he likes driving fork lifts? Is occasionally calling Rory and taking her out that expensive? What does he need all the money for?
He won’t say, is the thing. Jess says nothing. Ever. At all. I’m not sure whether this is just bad writing, in that nobody thought his arc through and they’re just rushing to get him to his spin-off pilot, or whether the implication is that he never opens up because nobody ever asks.
I can see his mom never asking the hard questions due to her more relaxed approach to life, but Luke sure does. And I would have assumed Rory to do so, but… It seems like Rory is dead-set against just asking Jess things or mentioning how unhappy she is with his attitude, and instead opts to wait for him to open up by himself. Which of course he won’t do because emotional constipation and stuff.
This state of things leads us to plot explosion number 2: The party.
Lane’s band plays at a party of a sheltered idiot called Kyle, who is under the assumption that sprawling house parties don’t cause messes, guests will pick up after themselves, and red solo cups are meant to be used with coasters. It’s actually quite entertaining, but leads to a very uncomfortable scene I mentioned before.
Jess is pissed that he won’t graduate and wasn’t allowed to buy prom tickets, but doesn’t tell Rory for reasons unbeknownst to anyone. Rory sees that he’s pissed, and he tells her he wants to leave, but she wants to stay because of Lane, so Jess goes off to sulk upstairs in someone’s bedroom.
After a brief talk, they begin making out, and find themselves on the bed. The making out continues, until Jess moves for Rory’s belt. Rory, remembering that she won’t be allowed to come home if she takes her belt off, tells him to wait twice, and then to stop. Which he does.
Don’t get me wrong, he should have stopped when she told him to wait. And the ensuing conversation has him saying Rory came up to the bedroom on her own, and why would she do that if she wasn’t expecting to sleep with him. Uhm, to check in on you, jerk. But the thing is, I have seen people yelling relentlessly about this scene and calling it anything between sexual assault and attempted rape. It does not exactly qualify as an after school special about respecting boundaries and enthusiastic consent, it’s also nowhere near that.
Doesn’t make it any less shitty.
And interesting bit is Rory asking Jess whether he actually imagined their first time happening “like that”. Jess has no answer. And the audience has no answer, since for all we know, the only time Rory talked about sex with Jess with anyone was in episode 14 with her mom, and never with Jess himself. Did this happen off-screen? Or was it that kind of “implied” thing Paris was talking about? We don’t know! Nobody talks! About anything!
There’s, like, an attempt. When Rory runs off crying, saying “I don’t know what I did!” Jess mutters something like “You didn’t do anything,” and runs after her… Right until he sees she ran straight to Dean. Out of circumstance rather than design, but hey. Jess rolls his eyes and attempts to leave.
Prophetic statement time! Remember back in episode 14, when Rory thought Jess and Dean got into a fight, and Jess offers the hypothetical scenario that Dean might have sucker punched him and he had to defend himself? With Rory immediately saying that Dean would never do that?
The ensuing fight causes a lot of damage and also for the cops to end the party.
Oh, uh, and plot explosion 3, the reason episode 18 is included in this rundown: Lorelai received money from an investment Richard made in her name when she was born. She uses this to pay off what she owes he parents for Rory’s tuition. Emily especially takes this badly, but the obligation for Friday Night Dinners™ is gone, so now the grandparents won’t be visited ever again.
Talk about destroying a status quo.
An end in silence
As is their modus operandi at this point, Rory and Jess don’t talk to each other after this. They try, briefly, but neither can bring themselves to go through with it. Hence, Rory doesn’t know that Jess’ father comes into town.
Last season, I was under the impression that him leaving was a more recent development, but episodes 20 and 21 make it clear he basically left to go buy diapers shortly after Jess was born and never came back. So Jess doesn’t recognize him at first, until he formally introduces himself and awkward silence and headbanging ensues.
This brief encounter leads Jess to pack up and leave for California to find his dad again after a fight with Luke over the rules and graduation and his future. He does meet Rory on the bus, and they have a brief conversation in which Jess at least informs her that he couldn’t get prom tickets. He then drives off to LA and his very own pilot for a spin-off show à la Angel that was never picked up.
Don’t worry, though. In three years, Milo Ventimiglia will walk the proper road of a Gilmore Girls love interest and transfer over to Heroes. As is always the way.
In his pilot, Jess walks around on Venice Beach in his leather jacket and full-length black pants without dropping from overheating, while encountering the eccentric people in his dad’s life, but beyond telling us where he ends up until his next appearance on the show, this does nothing.
What also does nothing are his frequent calls to Rory’s cell phone during which he stays completely silent, until Rory is finally fed up with this and chews him out on the phone and basically, officially ends the relationship. And Jess says nothing.
And what about Luke?
Luke has a slow season. Mostly because he has his own tiny subplot in dating one of Taylor’s lawyers, called Nicole. She is, as mentioned before, not blond.
They’re perfectly nice together. And perfectly forgettable if not for next season. Nicole is a little nervous about Lorelai because Luke talks about her a lot. And he also make a horrible impression on her parents when they try to talk about how awesome children are, and Luke rants about Jess’s sneaking around and pretending to go to school when he’s actually working.
To prevent that from happening, Luke actually steals Jess’s car at one point. This will come back to haunt all of us next season, yippeh.
Other than that, Luke teaches Lorelai to fish and isn’t even mean when he figures out it’s for a date with not him, maybe because Jess called him out on his Nice Guy™ bullshit earlier, maybe not.
He also helps Lorelai enforce the rules about Jess and Rory to keep them from doing “things we don’t want them to do,” albeit not that effectively because he simply doesn’t know how hormonal kids work. He gets in great looks when the two have communication issues though.
Oh, also Lorelai stays over at his place after the fire at the inn, and tells him about the dream she had about them. Including the pregnancy, but excluding the kiss for some reason.
And that’s… It. I’m sorry, Luke. You big moments will come next season.
Convenient timing and financial struggles
So. The Independence Inn is burnt down, there are no more Friday Night Dinners™, and Rory is going to Yale instead of Harvard. Time for a funeral!
The owner of the Dragonfly Inn conveniently dies, and Lorelai and Sookie make a very inappropriate move during her funeral to buy the property. The Independence Inn is also being sold now, as it makes more financial sense than restoring it.
The plan goes along smoothly until Lorelai finds out that due to the money she received that she paid off her parents with, Rory doesn’t qualify for financial aid, and so she won’t be able to pay both for the inn and Yale. I didn’t even know you guys got financial aid for college. Isn’t it just take out a loan and suffer?
Oh, Sookie is also pregnant at this point, getting started on the 4 in 4, or more like 3 in 5. This puts her not in the best position to start a new business, but who cares!
Rory also receives some big news. Dean is the biggest dick on the face of the earth! And how does he prove it? By telling her he’s getting married to Lindsay! And yelling at Rory when she’s not immediately over the moon for him! And I quote:
“And when you dumped me, I thought I’d never be happy again”
YOU DUMPED HER. YOU. DUMPED. HER. THERE’S AN ENTIRE DANCE MARATHON AUDIENCE TO TESTIFY TO THAT. SHUT. UP.
He also accuses her of just being jealous since Jess treats her like crap. Because yes, what other reason would anyone have to object to two 18 year olds who have been dating for maybe four months getting married straight out of high school? I can’t think of any
Also what was the process here? “Oh, you’re currently paying off the property damage you caused when you started a fight with the new boyfriend of your ex last weekend. I love a man who gets violent about women he used to date, and how that just screams ‘I’m over it!’ loud and clear. Yes, let’s get married!”
Truly. A relationship built to last.
Rory decides to just ignore all this crap and get to studying for her finals. She is, by the way, talking to her grandparents again, but Lorelai isn’t really. Mostly because Emily shoots down any attempt of contact between them.
Wrap it up and put a bow on it
This leads us to the season finale. Rory’s graduation!
Well, first she finds out that Lorelai backed out of buying the inn with Sookie due to the financial issues. Rory won’t let that stand and makes a deal with her grandparents to pay for her tuition, in exchange for more Friday Night Dinners™ that are only binding for her! Yay! We have a status quo again!
The graduation itself is lovely. It features Rory’s best speech on the show, and even if her delivery isn’t the greatest, it still makes me cry. Unabashedly so.
They still manage to be completely themselves during all of this.
Christopher, by the way, is strangely absent from this. “Out of town” my ass. But you wanna know who is there?
Rory’s one true father figure, that’s who. Luke, by the way, has big plans. While Rory and Lorelai go backpack around Europe for the summer, he’s taking Nicole on a cruise. But not to propose to her, promise. Which is why his last scene this season is a dream he has about Lorelai telling him not to get engaged.
If you hear screeching in the background, that’s me yelling about themes and shit. It started with a dream and ended with a dream. Gaaaah.
Well. Not completely. There is also the reconciliation with the grandparents. They bought Rory a car. And of course make it clear that despite Rory’s deal, they’re expecting both of them to show up for Friday Night Dinner™ 2.0.
Paris gets a great send-off, with her Nanny and kids attending the graduation. She says goodbye to Rory by assuring her that she really hated her most of the time. Rory assures her that she hated her, too. I am sitting here bawling. Leave me alone.
During the graduation, Lorelai and Sookie also manage to acquire the inn, somehow. So Lorelai will finally have an actual arc and something to do next season! Yay!
The break up with Jess happens here, too. And immediately afterwards, Lorelai drags Rory off to originally carve their initials into something. Instead, this just turns into a somber moment of them looking around.
I’m going to miss Chilton, mess of a school that it was.
When I started watching this, I was pretty sure I liked season 3 more than season 2. Now I can safely say no, I really don’t. It’s the second best though, without a doubt.
I think I made my disappointment in the RoryxJess scenario pretty clear. It’s what most of this piece ended up about, after all, and only because it’s what most of the season is about, really. It’s the one plot thread making its way through it all, with most other characters just existing around it.
Still, it is a very good season, awkwardness around Max and Lorelai’s dating situation notwithstanding, with the truly greatest finale of the series, one that manages to be completely satisfying thematically and in execution. And yes, something can be good thematically and horribly executed at the same time. Just you wait.
- When I started this, I thought I had nothing to talk about and this would be my shortest recap yet. Ha. Ha.
- More prophetic line: At one point, Lorelai tells Rory to stay away from “whiskey and the DAR”. If only, Lorelai, if only.
- One of Lane’s cousins gets married this season, and his wife only speaks Korean and has never met him before. The entire thing is squicky.
- Episode 5 has one other redeeming scene. Even though Luke is weirdly against breast feeding. “In the old days, a woman would never consider doing that in public.” No, just at church, the bus stop, on the beach, or on Sesame Street.
- Shane can teleport. She’s in Jess’s closet when Lorelai and Luke walk in, we follow them in basically real time to the school, where Lorelai can see Lane running around the block with bleached hair, and is still working when Rory comes back to buy black hair dye later. Either that, or Jess’s closet has a wormhole.
- When finding out Dean is coming, Jess turns the sprinkler back on after fixing it for Rory. I find this to be very telling, and also considerate of him.
- “And maybe I’m spoiled, but I like that and I’m going to go on being spoiled.”- Rory. Cute now, even justified in context, but give it a season or three.
- Jess is the only teenager in Stars Hollow who knows how to operate a keg.
- When taking notes on the episodes, I give each one a rating between 0 and 5. None have been under 3 just yet, which means nothing special, but still watchable. The average score for season 2 was 4,07. For season 3 it’s 3,84. So there’s my preference in numbers.
- Favorite episode is 7, duh. And as much as I hated on it, 16 is also quite dear to me. Also 22 for being the perfect ending that it was. You could have ended the series on that note, actually.
Images courtesy of the WB and Disney