Netflix’s Gilmore Girls revival is providing closure in a lot of ways. But for obsessive fans of the show, the most important one is that it’s finally telling us what the final four words are.
During Gilmore Girls’ broadcast run, showrunner Amy Sherman-Palladino would tell reporters that she knew exactly how she planned to end the show, down to the final four words. But Sherman-Palladino was ousted before the show’s last season, and she didn’t get to use her planned final four words. Until now.
In the months leading up to the revival, speculation ran rampant. Vulture ran a list of possibilities (best one: "We're ALL Gilmore girls"). The Gilmore Guys podcast created a recurring segment with its own jingle called “What are the final four words?” (best one: “See you Friday?” “Friday.”).
Now the speculation is over. Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life has been live on Netflix for more than 24 hours. We know what the final four words are.
And they’re … a little disconcerting.
Spoilers follow for all of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.
Here are the final four words. Do not keep reading if you don’t want to know what they are.
In the last scene of “Fall,” the last episode of A Year in the Life, Lorelai and Rory are sitting in the iconic Stars Hollow gazebo after Lorelai’s impromptu midnight wedding to Luke. Lorelai is blissfully sipping champagne; Rory, next to her, looks nervous, and her champagne bottle is untouched. Finally, she turns to Lorelai:
Lorelai turns to Rory, mouth open in astonishment, and the episode cuts to black. And that’s the end.
Fans have been speculating about some version of this scene for years. The Gilmore Guys got so many variations on “I’m pregnant!” / “Me too!” in their final four words segment that they stopped accepting them. So it’s not a choice that comes completely out of left field. But it is a choice that comes with some baggage.
The ending of “Fall” stands in contrast to the ending of the show’s broadcast run
Part of that baggage comes with the fact that “Fall” is not Gilmore Girls’ first series finale. Its first series finale was 2007’s “Bon Voyage,” and that episode gave Rory a very different ending to her arc.
In “Bon Voyage,” Rory gets her first real job as a reporter, after devoting herself to that goal for the past seven seasons. Sure, she had some ups and downs — there was the time Mitchum Huntzberger told her she didn’t have what it took to be a journalist, so she stole a yacht and dropped out of school — but becoming a reporter was her dream. So Rory got past the Mitchum thing. She went back to school and got a part-time newspaper job.
Rory has always wanted to be Christiane Amanpour — she told her high school headmaster so on the second episode of the show. That was her ideal life: to “travel, see the world up close, report on what's really going on, be a part of something big.”
So “Bon Voyage” opens with Rory finally meeting her hero, Christiane Amanpour, and it ends with her finally landing a real job as a journalist. It’s not the prestigious New York Times job she was pulling for earlier in the show, but it’s still a plum gig: She’ll be covering Barack Obama’s presidential campaign for an up-and-coming online magazine.
It’s a lovely, straightforward, and mildly sentimental culmination of years of hard work and planning from Rory, and years of sacrifice and encouragement from Lorelai. At last, Rory is going to achieve her dreams. She’ll go out, see the world, and write about what she sees. She’ll be a part of something big.
But that’s not the ending Amy Sherman-Palladino had planned for Rory.
Gilmore Girls has a pattern of getting its ambitious girls pregnant
In “Fall,” Rory’s pregnancy announcement comes shortly after she decides to redirect her career. She’s been freelancing, but she’s struggling to land a steady job as a journalist, so instead, she decides, she’ll write a book about her life with her mother. She even gives the book a title: Gilmore Girls.
So there’s no possibility that Rory will have her baby but continue on as the high-flying foreign correspondent she always dreamed of being, the one “Bon Voyage” suggested she could easily grow up to be. She’s restructuring her life entirely, leaving behind her cosmopolitan fantasies of seeing the world and embracing instead a more settled, domestic existence. She’ll be a mother; she’ll write about her own mother.
It’s an ending that feels at once fitting and unsettling. Rory has always had a quiet, homebody-ish personality, and the show has suggested more than once that as smart as she is, she might not really be suited to a career as an international correspondent. It’s never been entirely clear that Mitchum was wrong when he told her that she didn’t have it, so maybe she doesn’t, and maybe it’s a good thing for her to turn her talents to another kind of writing.
But it’s also never been part of Rory’s plan to be a mother. She’s never talked about wanting to have children, and she was actively squeamish around Sookie and Sherry when they were pregnant. And she spent seven seasons talking about how much she wanted to be a reporter. Isn’t this ending, on some level, a betrayal of all her hopes and dreams? Is Rory being punished for having ambitions that stretched beyond the safe and cozy streets of Stars Hollow?
It’s especially off-putting considering the ending granted to Rory’s best friend, Lane. Lane spent her time on the show dreaming of escaping her mother’s strict rules. She wanted to be a drummer in a rock band and go on a world tour, and she worked hard to achieve that goal. But in the show’s seventh season, Lane got pregnant and had to cancel her tour plans.
In A Year in the Life, Lane’s still playing in her band, but not full-time. She’s paying her bills working at her mother’s antique store. Like Rory, Lane’s putting aside her cosmopolitan ambitions to live in the small town where she grew up, raise her children, and work with her mother.
It’s an odd, grim pattern. Why aren’t these girls ever allowed to fulfill their professional ambitions? Why must they be forced to stay home and have babies when that was never part of their plans?
But as off-putting as this ending might be as the culmination of Lane and Rory’s arcs, it makes perfect sense as the ending of Gilmore Girls.
Rory’s ending fits into the cyclical family story that is the heart of the show
Gilmore Girls is a generational show. It’s about how the entire family was traumatized when Lorelai got pregnant at 16 and ran away, and about how they have been terrified of repeating the same mistakes with Rory.
Over the course of Sherman-Palladino’s time at the show, Rory obsessively recreates that primordial family trauma, trying to create a better outcome, first for her mother and then for her grandparents. She starts small. In the pilot, she toys with the idea of sacrificing her education for a boy, a move that Lorelai instantly compares to her own teen pregnancy. “You’re me,” Lorelai says with disgust as she tries to talk Rory out of her plans.
And then in later seasons, Rory takes up with Logan, who is in both personality and looks nearly identical to her father, Christopher. Rory deliberately models her first kiss with Logan on Lorelai’s first kiss with Christopher. And when she subsequently drops out of Yale and moves in with her grandparents, Lorelai tells Richard and Emily that at last, they have a chance at a do-over. In Rory, they have “a new and improved Lorelai,” a biddable, people-pleasing Lorelai who they can shape into a debutante and marry off to her nice, feckless, rich blond boyfriend, the way they wanted to with the first one.
Rory doesn’t, in the end, marry Logan. But she does get pregnant with his baby, just like Lorelai did with Christopher.
As a character, Rory may have been devoted to journalism. But as an archetypal figure, Rory’s drama was all about navigating the enormous familial rift caused by her own birth. In the end, the only culmination of her arc would have to come from truly and at last continuing her mother’s story. She had to get pregnant to complete the circle.
“Bon Voyage” served Rory’s personal journey. “Fall” serves the journey of the Gilmore family.
This is not the ideal ending, but it might be the best available
In a perfect world, Gilmore Girls would not have to choose between a satisfying ending to an individual character and a satisfying ending to the whole show. They would both be seamlessly intertwined, and what was good for Rory would be good for the show as a whole. The fact that the final four words feel on any level like a betrayal of the rest of Rory’s arc, however structurally inevitable they may be, is a significant weakness on the part of the show.
But in the world we live in, it’s more important to continue the cyclical generational story of the Gilmore family than it is to let Rory fulfill her personal dreams. If Sherman-Palladino had to choose one or the other, she chose correctly.