In the decade since Gilmore Girls went off the air, the show has achieved something like cult status. With its lightning-fast wit and obscure allusions, the dramedy has spawned books, fan get-togethers, podcasts and the adoration of more than one generation of viewers. Gilmore Girls, about Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and her precocious daughter, Rory (Alexis Bledel), has become one of the most beloved shows in recent TV history.
But the seventh and final season was without creator and show runner Amy Sherman-Palladino, who departed the series after a contract dispute. After the series finale aired, fans almost immediately hoped for the return of Lorelai and Rory Gilmore. What originally seemed like a pipe dream has now become a reality. With Netflix’s four-part Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life (pictured above), the world of Stars Hollow returns to our screens November 25.
The original run of Gilmore Girls included 153 episodes, ranging from the absolutely brilliant to the depressingly terrible. Before Gilmore Girls returns, let’s grab some coffee and a Pop Tart, fire a maid, do a Kirk dance and take a look at all of them, from worst to best.
153. "Go Bulldogs!" (Episode 7.06)
"Go Bulldogs!" could be mistaken for a spec script written by a person with only tangential knowledge of the characters. Everything, from Lorelai’s childish behavior towards her parents to Luke’s (Scott Patterson) ridiculous bad date, comes off as throwaway filler. It even includes a plot done in a previous season: Sookie’s (Melissa McCarthy) guilt over using someone else’s vegetables. Gilmore Girls is rarely as recycled and lazy as it is in "Go Bulldogs!"
152. "S’wonderful, S’marvelous" (Episode 7.04)
"S’wonderful, S’marvelous" is the first episode of the much-derided seventh season that’s completely devoid of the charm that made Gilmore Girls great. Though every story in this episode sounds worthwhile on paper, each is handled in cheesy, frustrating or irritating ways. Lorelai and Christopher’s (David Sutcliffe) movie date is brought down by Christopher’s insecurities and Lorelai’s inability to be quiet for one damn minute. And just for the hell of it, Emily (Kelly Bishop) gets arrested, because why not? Without a doubt, the episode’s most annoying story is Luke’s bonding time with his daughter, April (Vanessa Marano). The precocious child is best in small doses, but almost every scene between April and Luke ends with him proudly grinning at his daughter, like he’s in a ‘90s sitcom and he just taught her a lesson. S’terrible.
151. "Eight O’Clock at the Oasis" (Episode 3.05)
The key thread that connects the stories of "Eight O’Clock at the Oasis" is boredom. Lorelai goes on a date with a wealthy, boring guy played by Jon Hamm. Sure, this is a few years before Mad Men, but it’s still a shame not to see more of Hamm and this terrible date. In Lorelai’s other (pointless) story, she must water the lawn of a new neighbor, whom we’ll never see again. The episode’s only saving grace is a rare kind moment from Jess (Milo Ventimiglia). When you dedicate a huge chunk of your episode to watering lawns, maybe it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
150. "The Great Stink" (Episode 7.05)
"The Great Stink" centers on two arguments that shouldn’t matter as much as they do. Rory is mad that Logan (Matt Czuchry) didn’t tell her his coworker is a woman, while Lorelai and Christopher argue over whether or not Gigi should go stay with her mom in Paris. Rory’s story is a lame way to drum up some drama upon Logan’s return to America, and Lorelai’s is nothing more than the setup for her surprise Paris marriage to Christopher. "The Great Stink" ends up playing out like the main characters are desperate to make something out of nothing.
149. "Lorelai’s First Cotillion" (Episode 7.03)
Lorelai fears her parents’ influence made her who she is. This isn’t a revelation; it’s a reiteration of the facts, strung out for an entire episode. "Lorelai’s First Cotillion" turns subtext into text, explaining things that any viewer should’ve known by now.
148. "French Twist" (Episode 7.07)
After a run of some of the series’ worst episodes, "French Twist" has its problems, but at least it moves the story along. Olivia (Michelle Ongkingco) and Lucy (Krysten Ritter) come to Stars Hollow, and Rory’s new friends act as if they’d be better suited to attend April’s birthday party. While it’s not particularly great, Lorelai and Christopher secretly getting married does kick the narrative up a notch after several episodes of nothing happening.
147. "An Affair to Remember" (Episode 4.06)
You know "An Affair to Remember" is a mediocre episode when the best thing it has going for it is a C-story about Kirk (Sean Gunn) going on a date. Rory’s story is one of the most stupid in the show’s history: Rory can’t study anywhere, she finds a good tree to study at, a guy takes her studying tree, and then she complains about it until she pays the guy off. That’s it. All Rory does in this episode is worry about whether or not she can sit at a tree. It’s not funny. It’s not entertaining. It’s just frustrating and, at times, annoying. When Lorelai calls Rory childish, it’s hard not to agree after this dumb time-waster of a plot.
146. "I’m OK, You’re OK" (Episode 6.17)
As the title implies, "I’m OK, You’re OK" is just, well, OK. Rory returns home for a Stars Hollow vacation, and while the show hasn’t delved that much into life of the town to this point in Season Six, it’s a shame how little Gilmore Girls does with Rory’s change of locale. Even the stories that do have potential— Rory visiting Anna’s shop, or Emily and Richard (Edward Herrmann) visiting Stars Hollow—pop up and disappear without leaving any lasting impression.
145. "Secrets and Loans" (Episode 2.11)
"Secrets and Loans" is the rare episode of Gilmore Girls that has no impact on anything that comes after. Lorelai and Rory’s house has termites, Emily co-signs a loan with Lorelai, and Lane (Keiko Agena) is now a cheerleader, but none of these threads ever make an appearance again. Plus, all the clashes in "Secrets and Loans" are ones we’ve seen before. The episode shows Lorelai’s determination and has a great moment in which Lane finally calls out Rory for being judgmental, but if “Secrets and Loans” didn’t exist at all, nothing on the show would change.
144. "The Hobbit, the Sofa and Digger Stiles" (Episode 4.03)
With Rory settled in at Yale, "The Hobbit, the Sofa and Digger Stiles" sets up everyone else for the season. Richard partners with Jason “Digger” Stiles (Chris Eigeman), the son of his former boss, Floyd. Lorelai and Sookie start a shaky catering business, and since Rory’s borrowed money from her grandparents, Emily’s interference in her life is poised to become more commonplace. Even Rory’s first non-Lorelai party is bland, though it at least showcases the new, more outgoing Paris (Liza Weil).
143. "Welcome to the Dollhouse" (Episode 6.06)
Rory doesn’t have any direction in her life at this point in Season Six, and Gilmore Girls is equally aimless. Lorelai is worried the inn will be on Sores and Boils Alley, and Rory tells Logan she loves him after unintentional pressure to get married. Neither of these is quite substantial enough to sustain an entire episode, and when Richard comes to Lorelai with concerns about Rory, it’s as if “Welcome to the Dollhouse” is finally starting up, right as it comes to an end.
142. "Here Comes the Son" (Episode 3.21)
"Here Comes the Son" is a glimpse at what a Jess-focused spinoff would’ve looked like. Thankfully, that show was never picked up. As the network must have realized, Jess (Milo Ventimiglia) isn’t the type of character on which to base an entire series. He has three modes: grumpy, loudly reacting to someone giving him crap, or reading. That’s about it. Throwing him into Venice—which is as quirky as Stars Hollow—with another makeshift family doesn’t do anything that we haven’t seen. Surprisingly, everyone in Stars Hollow is completely fine with Jess being gone. Rory isn’t even upset about her boyfriend leaving. There are more important things to worry about on the horizon, and getting Jess out of the way (for now) can only help.
141. "I Solemnly Swear…" (Episode 3.11)
Every season of Gilmore Girls has a few episodes that are essentially charming and enjoyable but nothing of substance happens—just a perfectly fine hour of television with no purpose. "I Solemnly Swear…" is one such episode. It introduces Alex (Billy Burke), who’ll be an incredibly brief love interest for Lorelai, and once again shows distrust between Rory and Paris. But neither thread manages to suggest any meaningful stakes: We know Lorelai won’t end up with Alex, and the Rory/Paris dynamic is far more interesting when they’re in an uneasy friendship. There are some fun little segments scattered through the episode—Lorelai’s deposition when one of Emily’s maids sues her; Sookie accidentally flirting with (and then apologizing to) Jackson—but these are simply distractions to pad out the running time.
140. "That’s What You Get, Folks, for Makin’ Whoopee" (Episode 7.02)
"That’s What You Get, Folks, for Makin’ Whoopee" makes a lot of unusual choices in showcasing the first big problems of Season Seven. Lorelai throwing an Asian-themed night for Rory is generic and iffy. Lane’s first experience with sex being terrible and ending in pregnancy is almost mean-spirited after the series finally gives her the freedom she grasped at for so long. But kudos to Season Seven for handling Luke and Lorelai’s breakup in a refreshing way: The duo finding some peace could’ve easily gone on for some time, and knocking it out here is a breath of fresh air for a show with a habit of dragging out relationship problems far too long.
139. "The UnGraduate" (Episode 6.03)
As "The UnGraduate" proves, it’s vital for the show to have Lorelai and Rory interact. Because of their lack of involvement with each other in this episode, their stories are simple: Lorelai meanders through a bunch of B-plots, while Rory joins the Daughters of the American Revolution. Their separation does let Season Six catch up with the supporting characters, however, as Gilmore Girls fights to keep Paris relevant (since Rory isn’t at Yale anymore), and shows how Hep Alien did on tour.
138. "Norman Mailer, I’m Pregnant!" (Episode 5.06)
Pretty much the two things you need to know about "Norman Mailer, I’m Pregnant" are right there in the title: Norman Mailer starts hanging out at the Dragonfly Inn and Sookie is pregnant again. "Norman Mailer, I’m Pregnant" exists to set up future developments in multiple stories: Christopher is back in the mix and Rory grows closer to Logan so she can write an article about the Life and Death Brigade secret society.
137. "The Real Paul Anka" (Episode 6.18)
The return of Rory’s past loves is usually eventful, but the formula falls flat in "The Real Paul Anka." Rory showing up in Philadelphia while Luke is on a field trip with April doesn’t really make sense, and the reappearance of Jess doesn’t serve any identifiable purpose. The Philadelphia trip has a lot of threads with promise—like Luke bonding with his daughter and Rory visiting Jess—that never quite take off the way they should.
136. "Introducing Lorelai Planetarium" (Episode 7.08)
"Introducing Lorelai Planetarium" ends with Luke watching Bringing Up Baby, almost as if he’s longing for his days with Lorelai. To the audience, however, it’s as if Gilmore Girls is longing for its own quick-witted past. In fact, "Introducing Lorelai Planetarium" is more like the past than most of the season. There are actual relationship developments; the story progresses. Rory and Logan fight over their class differences and similarities. Rory is frustrated over her mother’s decision to get married without her. And Luke and Lorelai have their first moment together since the beginning of the season. Finally, the series is finding its footing again.
135. "Gilmore Girls Only" (Episode 7.17)
Like Lane’s bridal shower in the episode prior, "Gilmore Girls Only" is a fine idea that doesn’t work as well as it should. In many ways, "Gilmore Girls Only" is a follow-up to "The Ins & Outs of Inns," as Emily deals with Mia (Kathy Baker), who was like a surrogate mother to Lorelai. Emily’s scenes with Mia don’t have the electricity that they originally did, and by catching up with Mia five years later, the episode covers much of the same ground. In theory, Mia should be far more integral to the mythology of the show, but instead she comes off like she’s been shoehorned into Lorelai and Rory’s past.
134. "Just Like Gwen and Gavin" (Episode 6.12)
Luke and Lorelai’s relationship has been mostly blissful since their engagement, so it
makes sense to throw a wrench into the works with "Just Like Gwen and Gavin." In many ways, April is Gilmore Girls’ chance to show what a young Rory would’ve been like, and how she would’ve interacted with Luke, but after six seasons, April’s more of an obstacle than a character—an easy way to make things difficult again. From the moment Lorelai and Luke postpone their wedding, it’s obvious this is just the beginning of the uncertainty, long after our characters should be feeling that way.
133. "Tick, Tick, Tick, Boom!" (Episode 4.18)
Season Four frames Richard’s business brilliance as the guiding principle in his life, and "Tick, Tick, Tick, Boom" shows just how shrewd he can be, as he makes a backdoor deal and throws Jason under the bus. But the episode doesn’t quite take off because it’s almost strictly about business. At the very least, the dissolution of the company finally gives Gilmore Girls a way out of the boring and problematic Jason/Lorelai relationship.
132. "Santa’s Secret Stuff" (Episode 7.11)
It’s unusual that it takes until Season Seven for us to see how Lorelai and Rory celebrate the holidays, and their traditions are the most charming part of “Santa’s Secret Stuff.” But only a few episodes after Christopher and Lorelai’s marriage, his attempts to fit in somewhere he doesn’t—despite having the family he could have had decades ago—are already becoming tiresome. "Santa’s Secret Stuff" also makes Gigi a much bigger part of the family than usual, which makes sense for the holiday-themed story, but is also just the show trying to blast a little extra cuteness into its final season.