Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Gilmore Girls Robbed Of Its Status By A Moment On DVD With "The Complete Season Six!"

The Good: Excellent acting, good character development, Engaging plots
The Bad: Light on DVD extras, Pacing issues near the end.
The Basics: In its sixth season, Gilmore Girls adds more conflict to the mix, making for a more realistic presentation of two women in transition

For those who might not follow my reviews, I have a fairly wide array of tastes when it comes to television shows on DVD that I watch and enjoy. So, for example, I am a fairly devout Trekker, love The West Wing, discovered Veronica Mars on DVD and have been known to make time for NYPD Blue. Knowing my diverse tastes, it might not be a surprise that I have a love for Gilmore Girls and have been reviewing each of the seasons on DVD. Having finally reached the penultimate season of Gilmore Girls, it's quite possible that my standards have been raised to the point that it might seem like I am being petty in knocking Gilmore Girls - Season Six down because of a moment. The truth is, though, "Season Six" has a lot going for it, but it is not a perfect season.

For those unfamiliar with Gilmore Girls, the show has been building for years to get where it begins at the start of "Season Six." It is very difficult to jump into the series at this point and as a result, it is very difficult to start with this boxed set. Understanding the complexities of the relationships coming in this late in the series is almost impossible, especially given that the first episode begins the moment the last season ended, with a question from Lorelai. It is worth noting that there is no way to discuss season six intelligently without revealing moments from the climax of season five. As a result, anyone who wants to watch the series and be surprised ought to read my reviews for seasons one through five, purchase Gilmore Girls - The Complete Series (reviewed here!) and take on faith that seasons six and seven are as good. That said . . .

Starting where Season Five left off, Lorelai and Rory Gilmore are estranged based on Rory leaving Yale and moving in with her grandparents and Lorelai finding her only real ally in Luke. Her abrupt proposal is met by only momentary surprise before Luke regroups and says "yes." Luke and Lorelai move in together, Lorelai gets a dog - Paul Anka - and Luke and Lorelai renovate her house as opposed to moving into the old Twickam house (as Luke had planned). Meanwhile, Rory drifts for months on her own, joining the D.A.R. with her grandmother and losing her interest in pursuing her dream jobs in journalism.

After months of estrangement, including awkward times when Rory and Lorelai are forced together as a result of Sookie's children's baptism (the Gilmores end up as godparents), Richard and Emily come to realize that Rory's drifting might not be short-term and they begin to push the young lady toward returning to Yale. Rory and Logan continue their relationship, though Rory finds herself living with Paris for a spell. And as Lane and Zach get married, Lorelai's long-delayed wedding plans come to a head.

Gilmore Girls The Complete Sixth Season might well be a season that worked better in its initial airing than it does on DVD. On DVD, fans and viewers will want to watch episodes back to back as the season is highly serialized and the choices characters make early in the season resonate throughout. No choice is probably more surprising than the appearance of April, a teenager who walks into Luke's Diner for some DNA for a school science project, a project that reveals that Luke is the girl's biological father. That Luke's knowledge of this leads him to keep it from Lorelai changes much of the way the two interact and alters the direction of the season.

Far less problematic is the completely plot-convenient character twist that comes in the form of Chris, who reappears near the end of the sixth season penitent over his behavior in the fifth, to reveal that his rich grandfather has died. This comes at a completely plot-appropriate time in the season when Rory is looking to emancipate herself from the grandparents (who sit her down with a minister to talk about sex and move her into the house in order to keep her from having sex with Logan) and changes everything in so much as it allows for certain very predictable plot elements to unfold. Lorelai suddenly has options and the reappearance of Chris seems much more plot-motivated than character motivated.

What saps serious points from this boxed set, though, is how watching the episodes back-to-back guts the emotional resonance of some of the season's biggest emotional moments. The prime example of this comes near the end of the season, when Rory learns that Logan has had sex with an entire wedding party - while they were broken up - she freaks out, moves out of his apartment and in with Paris. The episode ends with the wonderful emotional resonance of Rory calling Lorelai to tell her. Sadly, the next episode picks up minutes later with Logan arriving at Paris's and by the end of the conversation, Rory is headed back to Logan's apartment. The problem here is that the strength of the finale of the prior episode is gutted in moments when the next episode begins. How Rory so quickly comes to that while she was so angry before makes little sense. It seems uncharacteristic and on DVD the problem is accented when one presumes the episodes originally aired a week apart and viewers at least had a chance to reconcile the emotions of the character changes.

On DVD, eager viewers get no such catharsis and the result is that the season is taken down a peg because realism is sacrificed for expediency.

None of this, of course, makes any difference to those who do not know who the essential characters are on Gilmore Girls and who they are in the sixth season. In this season, the principles include:

Lorelai Gilmore - Engaged to Luke, she begins to feel estranged from Rory and all that is familiar to her while Luke goes to help his injured sister. When she refuses to nail down a wedding date and then Luke wants to delay, she begins to get more and more anxious about the relationship. When she and Rory manage to reconcile, she finds dealing with Rory as an adult a bit more complicated than she remembered,

Rory Gilmore - She begins to take life a day at a time and in the process, she soon finds satisfaction in arranging events for the Daughters Of The American Revolution. Still hurt by the elder Huntzberger's rejection of her career path, she begins to emulate her grandmother and she spends months without purpose,

Luke Danes - Eager to marry Lorelai, he is temporarily stymied by the latest problems of Liz and T.J. He becomes eager to marry Lorelai and soon realizes that moving in and renovating her house is the only way the relationship will work, so he goes with it. Soon, though, he discovers he fathered a girl who is now interested in having him in his life and he makes the rather serious error of keeping that information from Lorelai as opposed to disclosing it,

Sookie - Gladly no longer pregnant, she and Jackson raise the kids and keep an eye on Lorelai while Rory is AWOL. Her cooking creations continue to help the Dragonfly Inn be successful,

Logan - As his graduation nears, Logan begins to stress his future as he attempts to rebel against his father and the plans his father has for him. He bears with Rory as she struggles with finding her own identity and his time in the Life Or Death Brigade comes to a rather abrupt end,

Paris - She and Doyle move in together off campus and she begins to treat Lorelai as a surrogate mother. When her trust fund gets axed, she finds herself working for Rory at the D.A.R. briefly,

Kirk - Continues dating Lulu, continues working virtually everywhere in Stars Hollow and becomes a punchline whenever needed,

Lane - As Hep Alien falls apart because of Zach, she and Zach get closer as a couple. Soon, they are engaged and as the wedding approaches, she and Rory work to keep their friendship, despite the different directions their lives are headed,

Richard - Having reunited with Emily, he takes in Rory. His business takes off again and he begins to travel more. He becomes outraged with Mitchum when he realizes that Lorelai was telling the truth about why Rory left Yale,

Emily - Enthusiastic about having Rory around - especially once Richard begins to travel around more again, she feels like those she love are beginning to abandon her when they try to liberate Rory from her depression,

and Michel - Shows up and is sarcastic.

By this time, the performances in Gilmore Girls are honed to the point that one expects greatness and consistency from the performers and the characters. This is exactly what the viewers get in this season. This is not to say that the acting is in any way unmemorable or disappointing, but rather that this is a season where consistency is the rule and the performances are at a caliber that most shows only strive for.

That said, there are two standout performances in the sixth season. One of those performers is Scott Patterson as Luke Danes. Luke's character growth has been a very long arc and in the sixth season, Patterson manages to hone his comic timing so he is his character is actually able to be believably happy and less stuffy. Patterson is able to carry scenes on his own and for the first time, he is given longer stories that involve neither of the Gilmore women. Moreover, he makes them work by presenting Luke as a straightforward guy who is soft-spoken, yet clearly has ideas of his own.

But the star of season six might well be Alexis Bledel, as Rory Gilmore. Bledel becomes her own woman in this season and any hints of mimicry in her performance is gone. She distinguishes herself from star Lauren Graham this season by slouching through the early episodes and then infusing her later performances with a deep sense of professionalism and dignity. Bledel makes her every moment on screen an event, a reminder of classic actresses like Hepburn who seem to come to every scene with strength. Bledel does a great deal more than just showing up and as a result, the structural problems near the end of the season are accented more. Indeed, it is Bledel's performance that sells the viewer on how deeply hurt Rory is by Logan's treatment of her that makes her character's forgiveness of him problematic.

On DVD, Gilmore Girls - The Complete Sixth Season is rather light on the extras. There are a few deleted scenes and a featurettes focusing on the season and the relationships in the sixth season. There are no commentary tracks and the featurettes are brief and somewhat lackluster. As someone who loves both this series and commentary tracks, the DVD presentation is disappointing, though the programming is not.

In all, it's a great ride filled with memorable characters who are easy to empathize with, which continues the tradition of the earlier seasons of Gilmore Girls while growing the characters well past where they have been before. A must for anyone who loves great family dramas!

Very few television shows get a sixth season. For reviews of other sixth seasons, please check out my takes on:
Frasier - Season 6
The West Wing - Season 6
Lost - Season 6


For other television reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

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

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