As Gilmore Girls continued on its quirky merry way into its later seasons, Amy Sherman-Palladino’s show gradually got darker and darker.
Not The Wire or Sopranos darker obviously because frankly where would be the fun in that, but darker nonetheless, with a willingness to leave characters hanging in the wind, twisting and turning as the result of poor decisions by themselves or others.
That’s not to say that there weren’t happy quirky moments, or some dizzyingly good, amusing back-and-forth dialogues that made your head snap in sheer enjoyment – the opening scene of this episode “Wedding Bell Blues” gifts us with a delightful piece of repartee between Luke (Scott Patterson) and Lorelai (Lauren Graham) that somehow culminates in the purchase of boat builder’s boots for shopping-crazy Lorelai – but things were a bit grimmer, a little more on edge and less inclined to be happily resolved by episode’s end.
In fact, the 100th episode of the show, which features Emily (Kelly Bishop) and Richard (Edward Herrmann) renewing their vows at no-expense or existential angst-spared wedding, ends with an infuriated Lorelai, fresh from extracting herself from the beginnings of a love triangle she had no part in creating (hint: her meddling mother did), telling Emily they were over, kaput, finit, done.
Uh-oh, not the kind of thing a gal of any age wants to hear on her (second) wedding day but not undeserved, the result of Emily egging on Christopher (David Sutcliffe), father of Rory, to pursue Lorelai at all costs.
The problem here is that Emily is thinking only of her social standing and how it will look to have the mother and father of Rory (Alexis Bledel) together again as they should have been all along (in Emily’s mind at least).
There’s no quarter given for what Lorelai, who’s been dating Luke for four months – goodbye U.R.S.T and thank you! – might want, nor for what Christopher might actually want; all that matters is that Emily gets what she wants.
Her unwanted and unknown (by Lorelai anyway) interference in her daughter’s romantic life is symptomatic of the world Lorelai fled all those years ago,one in which you get what you want no matter the cost to anyone else.
It’s on full display when Emily pulls all manner of strings to get the venue she wants for her wedding, kicking another family out with little to no afterthought and again when it emerges that Emily, whose only just reconciled with Richard after a brief separation and should know better about how affairs of the heart play heart – empathy is not her strong suit – has been playing games with Lorelai’s heart behind her back.
It all comes to a head at the wedding reception when a drunk Christopher has words with a startled Luke – don’t forget this is not his first encounter with a former boyfriend of Lorelai who’s claiming they should still be together; see “Raincoats and Recipes” as exhibit A – and Lorelai is left caught in the middle.
What was a fun quirky reception with Richard’s libidinous cousin Marilyn (Marion Ross) doing her best to get into everyone’s pants including Luke’s suddenly grows way less festive with the faultlines between the Gilmore Girls generations growing to what looks like irreparable chasm-like proportions.
Of course, it will all get resolved eventually; that it doesn’t immediately happen is testament to Sherman-Palladino’s willingness to play with the Gilmore Girls template more than a little, to sacrifice some quirk if it means the full spectrum of family life is put on highly uncomfortable display.
After all, for all the tender moments and growing closeness between Lorelai and Emily, there remains a fundamental disconnect between the two women with one seeking social standing at any cost while the other seeks authenticity of expression and life experience, social approval be damned.
So highlighting this divide in such a landmark episode not only makes a great deal of sense, it makes for one helluva dramatic episode, one in which Rory also goes a little too far in affairs of the heart, getting inappropriately down-and-dirty with Logan Huntzberger (Matt Czuchry), her would be boyfriend from Yale who doesn’t want a relationship but will happily go with wedding nooky if it’s on offer.
There is some quirky leavening in all this dramatic brouhaha however.
On the night before the wedding when Lorelai and Rory are setting up a multi-course meal of tater tots, waffles and pizza, arranged in a tower no less, Emily announces she’s coming over on the pretext of needing Lorelai to fix her damaged wedding outfit.
It’s a pretext it turns out for Emily to have a hen’s party, something Lorelai was unaware her mother wanted and something she has most certainly not planned for.
So out goes the Cop Rock marathon and in comes a hastily-catered – poor Sookie (Melissa McCarthy) is about to crash out from new baby exhaustion but rallies and turns up anyway – hen’s party with Miss Patty (Liz Torres), Babette (Sally Struthers), Lane (Keiko Agena) and Gypsy (Rose Abdoo) among others turning up to watch Emily get drunk, very drunk again.
It’s a fun little party with Emily chilling and relaxing and all seeming to bode well for the next day; of course we know that everything goes south rather dramatically but for one night, it looks like all will be well in the world of the Gilmore Girls.
That it isn’t is hardly a surprise and illustrates how on the pulse Sherman-Palladino was with her characters and the show which rarely put a foot wrong even when the reality of family life reared its ugly head in the storied fairytale world of the Gilmore Girls.