Where You Lead, I Will Follow—“You May Go First”

With the highly anticipated Gilmore Girls revival premiering on Netflix this November 25th (aka the only time I ever have, and likely ever will, actually look forward to Black Friday), it seems like the perfect time to be a fan of Stars Hollow’s fast-talking mother-daughter duo, Lorelai and Rory Gilmore.

I’ve only been a part of the show’s fandom for about a year—I watched the entire series straight through last fall and I am currently doing a rewatch—but if there is something to be said about longtime Gilmore Girls fans it is their strong loyalty to series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino’s vision, along with their strong desire to see that vision fully realized. Palladino was famously not a part of the original series run’s final season (generally considered the weakest of the seven seasons) due to contract disputes, thus fans have eagerly longed for a chance to see Gilmore Girls end in a way reflective of Palladino’s original plan—including those infamous final four words.

As November continues to draw closer and my own excitement continues to grow, I can’t resist dedicating a post to one of my favorite aspects of the series. Sure, there are aspects of the show I dislike (*cough* DEAN FORRESTER * cough*) and certain things I personally hope do not resurface in the revival, but the very fact that there is even a revival at all is reason enough to celebrate. This post is dedicated to embracing this very positivity—this post is for the masterpiece that is Emily Gilmore.

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Sitcom Study: Gilmore Girls’ “Forgiveness and Stuff” (1×10)*

Relevant Episode Information: Richard’s unexpected heart attack impacts the entire Gilmore family, culminating in a particularly heartfelt moment.

As loyal as Gilmore Girls fan are, there are many things that seem eternally up for debate. For instance, while Rory’s intellectual and professional development from a Chilton student to a Yale graduate is fascinating to watch, there is nonetheless the lingering interest in Rory’s love life, particularly considering whether Jess or Logan was ultimately the better match (Someone Somewhere: But what about De–? Me: Yep, the only two options to debate). There are also debates considering Lane’s story arc, who was really “right” or “wrong” during Luke and Lorelai’s breakup, Rory’s decisions later in the series and more.

But one thing that has never been up for debate—and really never should be—is how captivating Emily is as a character. Considering the fact that the show’s protagonist/Emily’s own daughter Lorelai nearly constantly paints Emily as a meddling nuisance at best and a diabolical Shakespearean villain at worst, it can often be difficult for the audience to not take Lorelai’s words at face value and instead attempt to see things from Emily’s perspective. Of course, Lorelai’s comments do not come out of nowhere. Emily can be meddling, judgmental and uncompromising; then again, so can Lorelai—a fact which goes a long way in making sense of their seemingly unending battle of wits.

When all is said and done, however, most of Emily’s actions, even—if not especially—the ones which anger Lorelai most stem from one simple motivating factor: she lost Lorelai once, shortly after the latter gave birth to Rory, and she cannot bear the thought of losing her again. Besides, despite her tough and perfectly composed exterior, Emily is passionate, loving and beautifully vulnerable. There are few episodes of the series that better showcase this than season one’s “Forgiveness and Stuff.”

The episode shakes the entire Gilmore clan to its core, as beloved family patriarch Richard—Emily’s husband, and thus Lorelai’s father and Rory’s grandfather—suffers an unexpected heart attack. Feeling completely out of her element by the lack of control she is able to have over her husband’s condition, Emily has a meltdown that, in a rare moment of sincere civility between the two, Lorelai helps alleviate. In an equally rare moment of vulnerability, Emily shares the following tender moment with her husband when she is finally allowed to see him:

Richard: “Emily, listen to me: if I die—”

Emily: “No!”

Richard: “Emily…”

Emily: “Richard Gilmore, there may be many things happening in this hospital tonight,      but your dying is not one of them.”

Richard: “But…”

Emily: “No! I did not sign on to your dying. And it is not going to happen. Not tonight,    not for a very long time. In fact, I demand to go first. Do I make myself clear?”

Richard: “Yes, Emily. You may go first.”

 

As much as I love television (hence this blog), I’m not one to easily cry during emotional TV moments, so there’s something to be said about the fact that this scene gets me each time. Maybe it’s Kelly Bishop’s acting, maybe it’s the way the scene is written, maybe it’s the fact that such a vulnerable moment so early on in the series adds yet another level of intrigue to an already fascinating character, setting the stage for Emily’s continued complexity as the show progresses (but, of course, it’s probably all three).

What makes this scene even more poignant in these last few months before the revival premieres is how it will inevitably circle back to haunt Emily. Edward Hermann, the actor who masterfully portrayed Richard, has tragically passed away since the original series finale; thus, Emily has been denied her wish to go first and will appear in the revival as a woman adjusting to life without her beloved husband and best friend. Maybe we will see the bond between Emily and Lorelai deepen as never before. Maybe Emily will discover a new passion or hidden talent. Maybe we will see another heartfelt moment, perhaps one where Emily bemoans how it “was supposed to be her” (though no Gilmore Girls fan would, ideally, have wished to see either gone). In any case, I’m sure she has a few surprises up her sleeve; I cannot wait to watch her journey continue to unfold.