Monday, May 16, 2011

All Good Things Come To An End: Gilmore Girls - The Complete Seventh Season Ends The Series Well.

The Good: Decent character development, Convoluted but interesting plots
The Bad: Acting is a bit more mediocre than in other seasons, Light on DVD bonus features
The Basics: Still filled with fast-paced, decent dialogue and quirky characters, Gilmore Girls is put to rest in a season with mediocre plots.

The final season of Gilmore Girls takes a lot of flack and I'll be the first to say that some of that it completely unjustified. Television shows work best when they have someplace to go and truth be told, family dramas like Gilmore Girls have the most difficult time as they progress because they are not so much about things that happen as they are about the long process of characters developing. Of course, characters develop through incidents and events, but the best shows are driven by the characters, their decisions help determine what happens next.

In this regard, Gilmore Girls is a winner, right up through its final season, now available on DVD. Lorelai's decisions at the climax of the sixth season set up the events of the seventh quite well and they do move the show forward. Gilmore Girls is known primarily for its witty, fast-paced dialogue and the cultural references that are spewed from the mouths of the quirky characters and the guff that Season Seven takes is somewhat unjustified in that the series keeps this trait up remarkably well in the final season.

It is, however, impossible to discuss the seventh season without alluding to events from late in the sixth season, so those who want the minor dramatic surprises Gilmore Girls has to offer to be fresh, go watch the sixth season before reading more in this review. Seriously.

Following Lorelai realizing she would never marry Luke while at Lane and Zach's wedding in the sixth season, Lorelai runs off with Christopher (Rory's father) and trashes her relationship with Luke. Christopher, finally getting over the timing problem he has had for most of his life in relation to Lorelai, leaps upon the opportunity and whisks her off to France where they marry. Upon returning, Lorelai is faced with the problems of explaining her new marriage to Rory and integrating Christopher into Stars Hollow, a town that liked Luke and Lorelai together.

While Lorelai works on her marriage with Christopher, struggling when issues with Luke pop up and her father has a severe heart attack, Rory dives into her final year of college at Yale while trying to figure out her relationship with Logan and determine her life after school. With Logan in London, Rory tries to make new friends, while maintaining her friendships with Paris and Lane. She is present when Richard collapses at Yale and she finds herself confused and hurt by her father and mother marrying.

In addition to the two main characters on Gilmore Girls, the seventh season gives good plotlines to the main supplemental characters. Luke continues to get closer to his daughter, April, to the point that he finds himself in a custody battle for her when her mother moves across country. Lane returns from her disastrous honeymoon in Mexico to discover that her first sexual experience has left her pregnant and she and Zach prepare for the appearance of . . . twins while developing their rock and roll dreams.

The Complete Seventh Season of Gilmore Girls makes for an important bookend to the series and it is understandable why so many people abandoned the show at this point. We want to see Lorelai growing out of her noncommittal ways. Most of us wanted to see Lorelai and Luke get together. Some shows can pull off a marriage between two main characters, as Once And Again proved with the climax of their second season and the subsequent third season. Apparently the producers of Gilmore Girls feared the loss of conflict in Lorelai's character if she and Luke actually ended up together and happy.

The problematic aspect of this is that in the Seventh Season - especially on DVD when one can just burn through watching the episodes one after another - this begins to feel like a delaying tactic. The viewer is left feeling like the writers and producers are stalling, keeping Lorelai and Luke apart for the year to set up their inevitable togetherness in an unproduced Season Eight.

This obsession with continuing conflict over developing truly complex romantic relationships is further illustrated in Rory's relationship with Logan. Logan is kept in London, far away from Rory, which strains their romance and gives Rory surprisingly little to do outside of school, save in the every five episode "surprise visit" from Logan. Indeed, the argument could be made that Logan develops more in this season as he rebels against his father and his father's plans for him and strikes out on his own business venture.

Fortunately, most of the season is rich in character development and struggles of each of the main characters. Here is how the final season finds the principle characters:

Lorelai - Having abandoned Luke, she runs off with her childhood sweetheart whom she marries. Soon, though, the cracks in their marriage begin to show and she is left wondering - yet again - what is truly important to her in a romance,

Rory - Overwhelmed with schoolwork from the crunch of squeezing in the workload from the extra semester she missed, she makes new friends in the art community while working on one of her last assignments for the Yale Daily News. She relinquishes her position as editor of the school's newspaper and struggles to find her place in the world afterward,

Luke - Happily embracing his role as father to April, he fights for the girl while dealing with losing Lorelai. Given the opportunity, though, he once again steps up to provide her with coffee and caring in her moments of need,

Lane - Married now and pregnant, she is forced to put her dreams of touring on the back burner while she prepares for twins. She and Zach find an unlikely ally when they stand up to Mrs. Kim and discover that her mother can be surprisingly flexible,

Sookie - As Lorelai's best friend, she works with Lorelai to get Christopher accepted by the townsfolk, primarily by having her husband, Jackson, be seen publicly with him,

Logan - Forced to London by his overbearing father, Logan forsakes his trust fund and sinks all of his money into a company of his very own, which brings him back to Rory . . . for a time,

Kirk - He shows up and acts as a straightman for humor. Still with Lulu (though know one really knows what she sees in him),

Paris - She and Doyle plan for life after graduation and Paris begins to get a plethora of postgraduate opportunities. In a weird display of friendship, she tries to organize Rory around applying for everything possible,

Richard - Toning down his business some, he becomes a visiting professor at Yale, where he collapses with a severe heart attack while teaching one of Rory's classes,

Emily - Facing the possibility of losing Richard, her delight over Lorelai and Christopher finally marrying dematerializes. She illustrates her efficiency and love to Richard, Lorelai and Rory throughout, though,

and Michel - Holds down the fort at the Dragonfly Inn, doing nothing much more.

The characters develop, even though Lorelai seems to have the slowest learning curve of the bunch. The thing about the seventh season, though, is that none of the performers do anything extraordinary on the acting front. My perennial favorite, Liza Weil, who plays Paris, is almost completely neglected and so she never has the chance to shine.

Alexis Bledel is only given the chance to truly do something extraordinary as far as acting in the penultimate episode of the series. She plays off costar Matt Czuchry perfectly in the scene that resolves the relationship between Rory and Logan. The thing is, it's a long time to wait for a knockout performance by one of the series' two main stars.

Surprisingly, it is only Keiko Agena who is given the opportunity to do something new, different and extraordinary on the acting front. Agena paid her dues by sticking out several seasons of neglect for her character in the earlier years of Gilmore Girls, but with her marriage and pregnancy, she is given the chance to explore her ability to do comedy. Agena rises with apparent effortlessness to the task and as Lane becomes more and more pregnant, she explores her ability to do physical comedy. She is funny and has an excellent sense of timing.

The main problem with the seventh season of Gilmore Girls is one that comes from the show's producers and rules of the Industry. David Sutcliffe, who plays Christopher, is only credited as a "Special Guest Star" in the episodes, starting at the beginning of the season. I know there are issues with the Guild and pay scale and such, but seriously, folks: Gilmore Girls viewers are a pretty savvy bunch. If you want to keep us guessing even for a little bit, it helps to put Lorelai's love interests in the opening credits. Otherwise, it doesn't matter what direction the relationship between Lorelai and her man is going, we all know where it will end up.

On DVD, Gilmore Girls The Complete Seventh Season is filled with very few unremarkable bonus features. Kirk gives a tour of the town full of clips of the various locations in Stars Hollow over the years and there are a few commentary tracks. There is a retrospective on the whole series. Perhaps the best featurette, though is Keiko Agena giving the viewer a tour of the last day of shooting on the Seventh Season. She makes continual references to the episode being the season finale, not mentioning at all that the series was wrapping forever. As a result, the viewer gets the impression that the series was canceled abruptly, without the stars knowing it would not get renewed. The footage, then, takes on an especially melancholy tenor for those who know what did happen. For my money, I would have preferred more deleted scenes and commentary tracks than we received in this set.

As a fan of the series, I would not recommend this season boxed set, solely because there is the vastly superior Gilmore Girls - The Complete Series (reviewed here!) which takes up almost the same amount of space! Anyone who is a fan of Gilmore Girls will want to stick around to the melancholy, bittersweet end, but for those who are renting, borrowing or considering stealing (don't steal! - Or there will never be a Gilmore Girls Movie!) the set, it is certainly worth watching.

For other final seasons of shows, please check out my reviews of:
The West Wing - Season Seven
Frasier - Season Eleven
Veronica Mars - Season Three


For other television show or series' reviews, please visit my index page here for a complete list of reviews!

© 2011, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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  1. I think you give a bit too much credit to Bledel in your reviews. She's was a at best but never raised to the level of her female cast-mates.

    Season one is still the best, with seasons five and two slightly behind. Season four and six had some great episodes here and there. Season seven was a mess, but still retained some of the show's magic.

    I will forever be pissed that Lauren Graham and Kelly Bishop never won Emmys for this series.

  2. :) We're able to disagree! :) I still think Bledel is excellent and that Edward Hermann deserved awards! Thanks so much for reading and thanks for the comment!