Why it took two seasons and twelve episodes to catch a glimpse of Lorelei Gilmore’s teen years is a mystery since we’ve heard plenty about how stifled she felt in her parents’ house. The flashbacks in “Dear Emily and Richard” have been a long time coming for Gilmore Girls so even though the ones we get are fractured and not as great as they should be, just seeing them makes for a good episode. They come at a time that works fairly well for where the show in season three, with Christopher and Sherry’s baby on the way, and apparently neither of them with friends or family that givs a crap leaving Rory and Lorelei to be there for the birth.
“Dear Emily and Richard” is a fairly slow episode before Sherry goes into labor, picking up at the Independence Inn in the midst of planning a themed party, Dean and Jess exchanging barbs due to Jess’ new relationship status with Rory, and Luke prepping for a date with his new lawyer girlfriend. But they’re all very secondary, and once the episode hits its stride, diving into the flashbacks, they all begin to feel a little less important because this is a very Gilmore Girls episode, not so much focused on the ensemble. Everything else takes a back seat as we meet young Lorelei.
The young Lorelei (Chelsea Brummet) is exactly the Lorelei we’re used to, making fun of her parents and their stodgy lifestyle. She’s loose where her parents are tightly laced, but she’s aware of what the expectations for her are, and what’s surprising is that she’s not as eager to break free as we would expect. It’s with the pregnancy that her opinions change, and Lorelei takes the reins on her life even if it is in perhaps a truly callous way. Young Christopher (Phillip Van Dyke) isn’t as charming or as fun, and he’s quick to suggest they fall in line when Lorelei gets pregnant. Neither Brummet nor van Dyke is really up to the acting standards of their adult counterparts, making these episodes into the Gilmore Girls answer to Degrassi than anything else, suddenly dumped into a situation neither of them knows how to handle, but Brummet at least captures Lorelei’s righteous indignation at her parents trying to command her life.
Though Richard’s around, the bulk of Young Lorelei’s conflict comes in the form of Emily, which isn’t so different from present day. Kelly Bishop gets saddled with a dated hairstyle for the entirety of the flashbacks, so we know what year we’re in, and she’s in fine form. She’s not thrilled with their circumstances, but it’s notable that the Gilmores are surprisingly reasonable. But that’s probably because they’re juxtaposed with Christopher’s ridiculous parents Straub and Francine (Peter Michael Goetz and Christine Rose) who are breathing fire and suggest Lorelei aborts the baby to save them all the embarrassment.
The Gilmores, despite all their poor parenting choices, have never come off as bad people, and this episode doesn’t really give us more to reflect on in that regard. The Emily and Richard we see aren’t that bad, though they have priorities that differ greatly from those of their daughter. They’re in fact very decent considering the situation their in, which is a failure of the episode, relying on what we’ve seen of them in the present more than what we see of them in the past. By the episode’s end we haven’t really seen any good reason Lorelei slips out of her parents’ house, leaving them with a note to explain where she’s disappeared to and putting this huge gap between them that lasts until the pilot episode. It puts more of the blame on Lorelei’s shoulders, who we’ve always known to possess a near careless amount of independence to the extent that she leaves notes telling her parents that she’s gone into labor and that she’s leaving their home and setting out on her own.
That these flashbacks take place as Lorelei and Emily are spending a lot of time together, with Richard out of town, is specific and important. Their relationship has come a long way, still fragile but at times very poignant and wonderful for both of them. Though Lorelei’s chafed underneath Emily’s meddling, it’s easy to track Emily’s anger on Lorelei’s behalf. She really believes she’s doing what’s right for Lorelei, and that Lorelei just can’t see it herself. She’s been not-so-quietly irritated by the impending baby Georgia since she was announced, insulted by Lorelei missing out on what was meant for her. It’s both sweet and painful, sweet because it’s nice to see someone announcing that Lorelei’s been wronged and painful because Emily doesn’t know where to draw the line.
But “Dear Emily and Richard” makes a case for Emily being right in her anger toward Christopher and Sherry. Rory being involved in the birth of her half-sister isn’t unexpected, and it’s encouraged. Rory actually wants to be there, while Lorelei’s more content hanging out with her mom and arguing about Emily’s pastimes. But when Rory calls, Lorelei’s suddenly obligated to be at Sherry’s side which is incredibly unfair considering what Lorelei’s hopes were for her and Christopher just last season. Lorelei gets dragged into the middle of a relationship that she’d hoped would have been her own, having to see them not only reach a milestone together but also see Christopher like he’s never been for her and Rory.
When we see young Lorelei at the hospital she’s there alone, and even goes into the delivery room by herself. Emily and Richard show up after finding her note, but Christopher’s not there until afterward, and he doesn’t seem to totally share Lorelei’s enthusiasm for their new bundle. And knowing how hard to reach he was during Rory’s younger years, it makes his attentiveness to a laboring Sherry and his excitement once Georgia arrives bittersweet, especially when he pulls Lorelei aside to witness it. There’s a lingering sense of Lorelei having been denied something, that this could have been hers if things had worked out differently. But now it’s too late. And perhaps Lorelei realizes this too, and maybe understands her mother a bit more, as she returns to her mother with a DVD player she plans on installing so Emily can pass the time with Richard away, and the episode ends with them going upstairs to set it up.
- Gilmore Girls has some really great openings, the best of which happen at Friday night dinners. This episode’s involves Richard and Emily being absolutely horrified at Lorelei and Rory’s plans to backpack across Europe.
- Chelsea Brummet looks and sounds a lot like a white Vanessa Hudgens.
- I honestly cannot remember what Rory and Paris are at odds over this time. Their high school career has them in such complicated straits all the time that I can’t even trace what it is that they’re having trouble with now though it leads Paris to select an a staff photo for the yearbook that’s unflattering for Rory
- We receive no explanation for Sherry’s terrible, white-blond hair. I suppose that was a personal decision on Madchen Amick’s part, but it was a bad one.
- This episode made me wonder if Christopher had anything to do with Rory’s name being chosen. I don’t think we’ve ever heard about it aside from that Lorelei simply decided she wanted to name her daughter after her.
- Emily: “Drink this, and be quiet.”
- Next Thursday we’re going back to Fringe‘s “Entrada”.