Gilmore Girls A Year in the Life Recap Episode 1 Winter

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life Recap: 'Winter' Is a Fan's Wonderland

Warning: This recap will tell you what happens in the Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life‘s first episode, “Winter.” If you don’t want to know, click elsewhere.

It seems sacrilegious to say so, but the finest exchange in Gilmore Girls‘ triumphant revival isn’t a bit of supersonic, pop culture-reference-laden, upbeat banter between Lorelai and Rory — at least, not in the first episode, “Winter.”

Yeah, yeah — I know: That thought is as surprising as the existence of a kale salad on the menu at Luke’s. Don’t worry. There are plenty of smart, touching, funny, eminently quotable moments between Rory and her mom in A Year in the Life‘s first 90 minutes. But after the credits roll, the scene that’ll stay with you is a nasty fight between Lorelai and her mother, Emily.

The argument, as usual, stems from Emily refusing to cut her kid any slack for doing something kinda dumb. But it takes place after Richard’s funeral. And both women are at an emotional nadir at the end of a very long day. So when they rip into each other, Emily in particular, goes for blood. The so-harsh-it’s-good dialogue is a reminder that underneath all of the series’ quippy repartee and zany townies, one of Gilmore‘s guiding themes is all the ways we disappoint those we love.

That may seem like an odd compliment to pay the revival; let me be the first to assure you that the miniseries is an altogether sunny, funny, heartwarming return to the show we cherish. But it’s also aware that time — and age — can make you start thinking about the big questions, and Gilmore is unafraid to toss Lorelai, Emily and Rory into that tumult and see how they come out the other side.

So let’s recap the highlights, shall we?

WELCOME BACK! | Confession up front: I was a big Gilmore fan back in the day. So from the moment that “Winter” opens with audio callbacks to the original series, I’m like Luke when it comes to Lorelai: All in. We open on Lorelai sitting in the Stars Hollow gazebo, wearing a baby pink peacoat that is going on my Christmas list right… now and sipping on — what else? — a coffee. Rory meets her mother there; she’s just flown in from London and can only stay a day, because her new career path as a freelance journalist allows — nay, demands! — her to flit about the globe with abandon. She’s had a Talk of the Town piece published in The New Yorker, she’s got a meeting with Condé Nast. As she later tells Lorelai, “This is my time to be rootless and see where life takes me.” Lorelai seems OK with that agenda. (Rory’s zero-to-Susan Orlean career trajectory seems a little suspect to me, but we can discuss that later. Or in another recap, because we’ve got three more to go!)

The pair’s opening dialogue, in which Lorelai accuses her kid of looking far too glam for having just disembarked a transatlantic flight (“You’ve been Goop’d!”) is pure Gilmore: It comes flying out of their mouths at two miles a minute and includes references to Les Misérables, Zoolander 2, and New York’s Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery. At the end, Rory laughs at how winded she is. “Haven’t done that in a while,” she says. “Felt good,” her mom responds, smiling. AW, GUYS!

AROUND THE TOWN | As Rory tries to find a place where she has service on one of her multiple cells phones, we get a brief walk through/update on the town. The highlights: Taylor wants everyone to switch from septic systems to sewers. Lane somehow looks younger than she did in the original run. Kirk has a pig named Petal and a taxi service called Öööber. And Luke has added “No man buns” to his list of Don’ts at the diner.

Speaking of Luke, he’s at home at the house, making dinner. He’s very proud of Rory’s New Yorker gig, but not so proud that he’ll sanction pre-meal junk-food bingeing. (#TheMoreThingsChange) A guy named Paul shows up at the front door, and if you don’t remember him, don’t worry: No one in the house does, either… which is a pity, because he’s Rory’s current boyfriend. Luke and Lorelai have met him before, but they can’t recall a thing about him. The forgetting-Paul gag, which runs throughout the episode, is a funny one. But for real, though: Why is the amazing, gorgeous, smart, funny, savvy Rory with this human equivalent of a beige paint swatch?

I’D TAP THAT | Later, upstairs, we get the Lorelai-and-Luke-getting-ready-for-bed-together scene for which my heart has longed for for many years. When she realizes that he’s folded her balled-up pajamas and put them back in the drawer, she calls him “Felix.” He immediately shoots back, “Oscar,” and something about how easily he responds with a pop culture reference makes me more verklempt than half of the Richard stuff in this episode. It just speaks to how much Luke has allowed himself to soak up Lorelai’s life and ways; I find it oddly touching. They get into bed, kiss and prepare for sleep; it is so decidedly unsexy, yet somehow REALLY sexy.

Lorelai wakes up from a nightmare about dirty bathrooms to find Rory “stress tap-dancing” in the kitchen. Here’s where stuff starts getting real. Rory’s a little anxious about her future; “I have a lot of irons in the fire,” she reassures her mom, but a planned Atlantic Monthly article fell through. (Do magazines still do kill fees?) Lorelai in turn offers that she’s been “feeling my mortality lately,” and if there’s a better line reading in the world than the one Lauren Graham gives on “and then I broke a hip!,” I haven’t heard it.

And then, 20 minutes into the episode, Rory quietly asks, “Do you think it’s because of Grandpa?” NOT YET, PALLADINOS. I AM NOT PREPARED TO LOSE IT YET. Thankfully, the conversation turns toward caffeine, which is a totally appropriate drug to consume in the wee hours of the morning.

SOOKIE UPDATE | Edward’s absence isn’t the only one that is sorely felt: Sookie took off for a six-month sabbatical but hasn’t been back for a year. “She abandoned us,” Michel sniffs, causing Lorelai to defend her pal’s decision to run off and spend time at Blue Hill Farm. (I have so many questions. Is Jackson with her? The kids? Also, isn’t she a partner in the Dragonfly? Can she just do that?)

GRIEF MAKES PEOPLE DO STRANGE THINGS | Our first Friday Night Dinner of the revival doesn’t go great. It starts with Lorelai mocking Emily for the wall-size portrait of Richard she commissioned, then riding her for refusing to admit that she got the dimensions wrong. “Fine, I made a mistake!” Emily finally relents, and the hurt in her voice makes me feel bad that I laughed hard at Rory’s near-snarfing of her martini when Lorelai goes all Gandalf and shouts, “WIZARD, YOU SHALL NOT PASS!” at the giant work of art.

Emily storms out. Lorelai lets on that Grandma is still really mad about something that happened after Richard’s funeral. In a flashback, we see the terrible day unfold. First, the graveside service, set to Tom Waits’ “Time.” Nearly unbearable. Then much later, after Luke has chauffeured Rory to the airport, Lorelai falls asleep while her mom and some of Richard’s friends are reminiscing about him. Emily asks for everyone’s favorite story of the man; when it’s Lorelai’s turn, she twists herself into a pretzel — literally — trying to get out of saying anything, then word-vomits up some unflattering memories about his absence during her childhood and his catching her having sex when she was 15.

BRACE YOURSELF | In the kitchen afterwards, Lorelai apologizes, but Emily’s WASP phaser is set on “icy contempt.” “You have nothing but contempt for this family,” she says, tossing off Lorelai’s assertion that she’s unbearably upset. There are a few laughs in there, but mostly the whole scene is just Kelly Bishop and Graham going for the jugular, and It. Is. So. Painfully. Good.
Emily lands the coup d’grace by saying that her daughter could not care less that Richard is gone. “That’s horrible. You’re horrible,” a shocked Lorelai responds. Back in the present, “You couldn’t just have said he was well-read?” Rory asks. (Heh.)

Dinner proceeds, with Kirk (who Öööber’d Lorelai to Hartford) coming inside to eat and Luke showing up to awkwardly stand at the table rather than sitting in Richard’s old chair. Emily seems oddly unfazed by all of this and is more focused on Rory’s leap-and-the-net-will-appear approach to life. “So, you’re homeless,” she says, succinctly summing up her granddaughter’s living situation. I write in my notes: ” WHY DO I IDENTIFY WITH EMILY MORE THAN ANYONE ELSE NOW AM I OLD THIS IS TERRIBLE.”

BABY BRAIN | Update on April: She’s at MIT. (Note to A Year in the Life: It’s cool if that is the only update on April we get this whole time.) Talking about Luke’s daughter makes Lorelai ask her man if he ever wanted “a fresh kid.” He replies he’s all set; he has April, and “I’ve always considered Rory to be a little bit mine.” Props to Scott Patterson for the pride he infuses into every word of that line. When Lorelai presses, bringing up their talk at the Twickham House back in the day, he replies with the most Luke-ian thing ever: “Well, nobody gets everything they want in life. All in all, I think I did pretty good.”

Still, pretty soon they’re at a fertility office called… wait, Dynasty Makers? What the heck is this insanity? Oh wait, Paris runs it? Yeah, that tracks. Rory’s old friend is now someone who arranges surrogates for couples wanting children; don’t worry, she’s still horrifyingly inappropriate. She visually assesses Luke’s junk through his pants. She brags about handling Neil Patrick Harris’ surrogacy. And the moment Lorelai and Luke leave her office, he’s got a firm answer: “No.”

ACROSS THE POND | In London, Rory meets with a kooky woman named Naomi Shropshire whose autobiography she’s going to co-author. (Hi, Alex Kingston!) Naomi is crazy-in-a-fun-way, but the way she too-easily dismisses Rory’s questions about payment makes me worry she’ll turn out to be crazy-in-a-truly-crazy way.

Rory stays with Logan while she’s in town. They have some kind of arrangement that allows them to be together when she’s around but with other people when she’s not. Rory, I know you’re all continental and sophisticated now, with your Condé Nast meeting and your frequent flier miles, but I also know that at heart, you’re still the girl who cried her eyes out at the Dance Marathon after Dean dumped her. Don’t fall for Logan’s cocky, pretty, indescribably rich schtick.

THE HEPPEST OF ALIENS | Seemingly 10 minutes later, Rory is back in Stars Hollow, a visit that coincides with Paris’ apology tour of Luke’s… which turns into hanging out with Rory while she does a few errands before taking off again. (Side note: Who is bankrolling all these flights?) How are Rory’s longtime pals doing? Quick update! Paris and Doyle have kids and are divorcing (noooo!) because he’s changed so much since becoming a Hollywood screenwriter. (Nice Danny Strong meta burn there.) Lane and Zack are doing great, Hep Alien sounds awesome and Steve and Kwan are so big!

One more thing: Rory is lying to her mom about where she stays while she’s in London, aka Lorelai doesn’t know about Logan. Interesting

SPARK JOY | Over at Emily’s, Lorelai is astounded to see her mother wearing a T-shirt and ripped jeans. If ever there were a time for the revival to make good use of Netflix’s relaxed language standards, it’s now: “Holy s—t,” Lorelai says. Turns out, Emily has read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and is Marie Kondo-ing most of her possessions right out the door. (The clothes she’s wearing are Lorelai’s, and they were basically the only things left.)

“Mom, nothing is going to bring you joy right now,” Lorelai sadly informs her. “I was married for 50 years. Half of me is gone,” Emily responds. And just when I think these two might be reaching a new understanding of each other, Emily poo-poohs Luke as not much more than Lorelai’s “roommate” who could take off at any point.

Is it any wonder when we meet up with the couple again, as they attend a fair in the town square, that Lorelai looks a little sad? And that she says she’s fine with letting go of the surrogacy idea, but her eyes say that she’s not? Then Emily calls and says she took Lorelai’s advice and went to see a therapist and that it’s really helping — and Lorelai is too high on the notion that her mom listened to her to notice that she also ropes her into coming to the next session. But when Luke points it out… “Oh crap, I’m going to therapy with my mother,” she realizes. Sigh. Let’s end on a happier beat, shall we? It is my divine pleasure to inform you that throughout this entire scene, Paul Anka is dressed as a doggie Luke, right down to the plaid shirt and mini order pad and pen.

Now it’s your turn! Grade “Winter” via the poll below, then fill the comments with your thoughts, feelings, questions, joy, despair and coffee orders.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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41 Comments
  1. Laure says:

    Rory’s storyline is horrible!

  2. Jennifer says:

    I am so not impressed. Really? I woke up at 3 am for this? Rory? Booty calls in London with Logan? Ugh.

  3. NC says:

    I have to admit. It wasn’t the fast paced witty show I remembered. I’ve only watched the first episode but I was kind of disappointed. I felt like it was forced and not genuine.

  4. sntindall says:

    Sort of echoing what others are saying…but I felt like it found its stride after a bit. The first few minutes were awkward for sure. I’m excited to see where it goes, but I’m not going to binge. Just one episode a day for the next few days.

  5. Sandra says:

    Anybody else thinks Berta looks like Gypsy with a wig?

  6. jill says:

    i want to enjoy it, i just can’t. the pacing is weird, the musical montages, rory playing homewrecker again, etc. i feel amost

  7. ToyCannon says:

    The re-cap forgot to mention the episode’s biggest news. We finally find out for sue that Michel is gay — and he is married!

  8. Eddie Ginsburg says:

    Ooo-ber, ooo-ber, ooo-ber. I am very bad. I watched the last 4 words first then I watched an episode and a bit of #2. Going to enjoy this and hope this happens every few years or so, if the creators have good ideas for follow up.

  9. Eliane says:

    I just finished and I am really disappointed. Rory storyline is awful and don’t come up with the full circle thing. The girl went on the Obama campaing. That was one of the greatest plots from GG, but since it was not from team Palladino, they just ignored. So now she is showing up for meetings completely unprepared, sleeping with a guy that has a fiancee, and even worse, relying on logan to get comfort and support?!?

    • Jennifer says:

      Who has a fiancee ? Didn’t catch that information. She’s with that strange Paul and cheating on him with Logan.

      • Elibu says:

        Where are people getting the idea that Logan is engaged? I just went back and watched that scene again and there is no mention of a fiancée. If anything, I got the vibe that Logan was very much interested in something more serious with Rory. That said, the whole boyfriend Paul storyline did not work at all for me. I can’t believe Rory would be dating a guy like that, even casually, for two years, and the way she, Lorelai, and Luke kept forgetting he existed wasn’t funny. It just made them look like jerks.

    • Jennifer says:

      Ok I’ve just heard it in the second episode. Hmm i hope they both clear up the situation in this episode or the other remaining

      • Elibu says:

        Thanks, Jennifer, for explaining that. But maybe the other commenters should be careful of not revealing spoilers from the later episodes. Please keep your comments to the recap in question. Not everybody has watched the other the yet.

  10. Disillusioned says:

    I cried so much over this episode because it was so pathetically bad. I’ve watched GG seasons 1-7 multiple times and love the show. Winter was horrible. The show avoided swearing for 7 seasons and now we have Luke swearing in his first scene. Rory has a boyfriend and still sleeps with Logan when she’s in London even though he’s engaged. Michel was not gay in the original series, yet now he has a husband??? The town switched from septic system in season 1. The maid and her family were irrelevant and not funny. Added nothing to the show. It really feels like the Paladinos have lost their touch. The show felt cheap and that makes me sad.

    I guess it’s true: You can never go back.

  11. A says:

    I was pleased with it. Yes, it felt a little off, but things were bound to be a bit different after being away for almost a decade. The show still charmed me. The tribute to Richard was very moving.

  12. Sheila says:

    Was anyone else bothered by Lorelai’s story that she was having sex with some other boy at 15? I somehow thought she & Christopher had been together for a while before she got pregnant.

  13. Heather says:

    For a follow up show, I thought it wasn’t bad. It’s never exactly the same as the original. Sad they couldn’t get Melissa McCarthy for all 4 episodes. Loralei seemed kind of lonely to me–I think Emily’s roommate comment was foreshadowing. I was actually surprised she and Luke were just living together. 10 years have passed I thought they would been married maybe with a kid by now. I’m wondering if Rory and Logan aren’t really in London? I too was surprised Loralei didn’t mention Christopher when she was talking about the high school stuff. I don’t like that twist.

  14. cadfile says:

    When it gets to Paris’ scenes it cinches it for me. Her aggressive selling of “breeders” had me on the floor laughing so hard

  15. Very bad episode… After you passed on the fact that you were seeing again the main cast, it was absolutely bad!!

  16. Pat says:

    TERRIBLE!!! Very silly show. Just awful. Watched a little bit and then stopped.

  17. ChrisGa says:

    Hated, I mean HATED, Rory being the “other woman” yet again(and Logan, who was always my favorite of Rory’s bfs, quickly moved down the list to least favorite with this turn of events). Otherwise, I thought this and Spring were the two strongest episodes of the four. And Liza Weil, well, her scene stealing here reiterated to me what an awful, one note character she’s saddled with these days on that other show. Paris Gellar FTW!

  18. Wooster182 says:

    ” WHY DO I IDENTIFY WITH EMILY MORE THAN ANYONE ELSE NOW AM I OLD THIS IS TERRIBLE.”

    Had the exact same reaction. Lol.

    I actually felt like Rory wasn’t good enough for Paul. He was sweet, thoughtful and appeared intelligent and well spoken. And she cheated on him–a guy she dated for almost 3 years– and treated him like crap. I’m kind of done with Rory Gilmore.

    My favorite arc of the entire season was Emily’s. Really beautiful story of fighting through immeasurable grief and growing into her own person. Really lovely.

  19. Trogdor777 says:

    That scene by Kelly and Lauren after the funeral was amazing! Just all of the tension, history, and pain. Both of those ladies just brought it! That scene, and Paris’ stuff were highlights for me. Wasn’t a huge fan of bits of Rorys arc, but it didn’t really dampen my viewing experience at all. Loved the opening and Alexis’ ‘winded’ comment. Heh heh. Looking forward to Spring.

  20. Jessica Estep says:

    Hope there’s more episodes to come .

  21. Jess says:

    I reading all these negative comments and thinking people ‘re watch . I didn’t watch this win it aired . But I watched it recently and I thought it was true to today ! Lots of kids Rory’s age move in with parents ,sleep around and she had only just had her first one night stand lol . Michele we all new he was gay it is social ex. Now . I did miss Sukie but that made the store line fit . I could have did with out the GD . But I hope they have a follow up. I ❤Netflix!

  22. Estella says:

    I’m so bummed to hear about Paris and Doyle. But I’m glad she is successful. Not crazy about Rory & Logan since she has a boyfriend. And speaking of boyfriend, I don’t think the Paul storyline adds anything to the show and they totally could have done without it.

  23. Sarahj says:

    I laughed out loud when Paris said that Doyle is a screenwriter. I also like that Paris mentioned she would destroy him in court. A nod to How to Get Away with Murder.
    I am rewatching the series so it bothers me that Lorelei’s house changed a bit, mainly her bedroom but I like that it isn mentioned they remodelled.
    Michele is gay..glad that is out there finally.
    Miss Patty looks like she has lost weight.
    Zach hasn’t aged well and neither has Lorelei. Emily is way to slim. Everyone else looks the same or better which is interesting since the show ended 9 years ago.
    Emily was very harsh to Lorelei.
    One thing that I noticed, when Rory got her food for Luke’s her mom said have a safe flight but then Rory shows up to dinner.
    All that flying back and forth is expensive and exhausting, I am sure.
    I don’t mind that she is with Logan, we all know she will not end up with him but I don’t mind him, he just isn’t the guy she should marry.

  24. I like that Lane and Zach were living in Sookie and Jackson’s old house. Surprised that they didn’t have a throwaway line about it.

  25. Luli says:

    Im pissed they took out the opening sequence, otherwise it was great, and Paris had me in stitches.

  26. Saiph says:

    I loved the revival and look forward to watching it again and don’t want to be unnecessarily peevish, but: Was anyone else annoyed that Taylor was going on and on about getting off the septic system, given that *all the way back in Season One* Rory had informed Dean that they’d already done that the year before they started dating? I thought the creative team had a bunch of 20-something Gilmore fanatics who were fact-checking? Oh well.

  27. Sissy says:

    Ok, in the very first scene was it me or did Lorelai sound like she was from Long Island? It was distracting to me. I did laugh at Rory’s out of breath remark. After I recovered from the accent shock, it began to fall into place for me.

  28. Gailer says:

    I have no problem with Rory and Logan