Let’s Talk About the Ending of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

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We are here to hold your hand.

The following piece will discuss, in specific detail, the ending of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. Tons and tons of spoilers ahead. Proceed with caution. And don’t say we didn’t warn you.

You’ve reached the end of the four-part Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. You’ve heard those practically mythologized last four words, and now you may be feeling a little … confused? Elated? Frustrated? Teary? Maybe all of these things at once? (After initially viewing this episode, I summarized my feelings about the ending by writing this in my notes: “WHAAAATTT?”)

We at Vulture are here to process all of it with you.

Let’s start with those last four words, along with one more reminder that there are big 'ol spoilers ahead.

In the final moments of the “Fall” episode, Rory and Lorelai have a conversation in which they process the fact that Lorelai and Luke just got preemptively married the night before their actual wedding. Lorelai reassures her daughter that she, too, will find an amazing partner someday. That’s when the four words are uttered.

Rory: Mom?

Lorelai: Yeah?

Rory: I’m pregnant.

Then: end credits. Wait: end credits?! But … but … there are still questions that need to be answered! When did Rory get pregnant? Is the father Logan? How could the show just end like that? Will we ever know whether Luke’s wedding flash mobbers actually had to dance to “Karma Chameleon” instead of whichever undanceable Steely Dan song he had in mind? QUESTIONS ABOUND.

Amy Sherman-Palladino reportedly always had those four words in mind for the end of Gilmore Girls, but didn’t get to apply them to the final moments of season seven since she and husband Daniel Palladino had left the show. So clearly that final dialogue exchange was purposeful and well thought-out, not just some tossed-off way to conclude this much anticipated revival with a question mark.

In many ways, Rory’s pregnancy confession is a circle-of-life moment, to use the same words Lorelai uses in her last Year in the Life conversation with Emily. That’s true within the context of these four mini-movies, which are bookended with scenes of Rory and Lorelai sitting on the steps of the Stars Hollow gazebo, and within the broader context of the Gilmore Girls narrative.

Rory is 32 now, twice the age Lorelai was when she got pregnant with Rory. Had this pregnancy put a stamp on the end of the original series, when Rory was in her very early 20s, it would not have felt as fitting as it does now. Like her mother, Rory has, as far as we know, gotten pregnant unexpectedly. It’s also fair to assume that, like her mom, she isn’t married and that, like Christopher, the father of the baby may or may not be up for being a full-time parent to the child, assuming Rory decides to go through with the pregnancy. Gilmore Girls has often shown us that history repeats itself, and this development is the ultimate example of that. The difference, of course, is that Rory is older than Lorelai was when she became a mother. She’s had the opportunity to accomplish some things in her career and she’s more equipped to handle the responsibilities of parenthood. Even though this is a dangling-over-a-precipice ending that suggests that, perhaps, there will be more Gilmore Girls ahead — I wouldn’t be surprised if an actual book, purportedly written by Rory Gilmore, becomes available just in time to satisfy your holiday shopping needs — it also has a sense of closure embedded in it, too. As Lorelai went, so, too, goes Rory.

But, yeah, there are a lot of unanswered questions that will be discussed heatedly, over steaming mugs of coffee, for a long time by Stars Hollow loyalists. The biggest one, which I alluded to earlier, is: who’s the daddy of that baby? I have five theories, three of which are plausible and two of which are just straight-up nonsense.

Plausible Rory’s Baby Theories:

1. Logan is the father. He’s the most obvious candidate. We know he and Rory had been sleeping together until they officially ended their affair in the “Fall” episode. But that also makes him seem too obvious, doesn’t it? That’s why I’m dismissing the notion of Logan as Rory’s baby-daddy and going straight to option No. 2.

2. Jess is the father. I have not officially surveyed Gilmore Girls fans about this. Yet I feel confident that the Rory boyfriend most people would want to see her end up with is Jess, who was a colossal, albeit hot, jackass during much of their high school relationship but has demonstrated since that he has matured. Also, it’s obvious he never stopped loving her.

In the final episode, after Rory excitedly shows Jess the first three chapters of her book, Luke asks Jess if there’s anything between them still. Jess assures Luke he is “long over” her. But the way he gazes meaningfully through the window as he’s about to leave implies he is not at all over her. At no point in A Year in the Life do we see the two of them hook up. But it would not be surprising to learn that, after their conversation at the Stars Hollow Gazette office, Jess and Rory got it on and we just didn’t see it happen.

3. Rory decided to use Paris’s services. It’s also possible that, while writing the story of her life with her mom, Rory decided she wanted to have a baby herself, and went the IVF route with an assist from fertility specialist Paris Geller. If that’s the case, that would mean Rory and Lorelai would be bringing up baby — while making references to Bringing Up Baby, obviously — without a daddy in the picture at all. This would probably be the most fitting scenario.

Updated: 4. The wookiee theory. As mentioned by several readers, Rory's one-night stand also quite plausibly could have led to her pregnancy, so I have added it to this list. I regret omitting this important Chewbacca-related theory from the original version of this piece. My colleague Dee Lockett also discusses this theory in more detail here.  

Two Less Plausible Rory Baby Theories.

5. Dean is the dad. Somehow, during their non-romantic conversation at Doose’s, Dean managed to knock up Rory with the same super-sperm that have apparently impregnated his wife four times. While, unlike Paris, I am not an expert on fertility, this explanation seems pretty difficult to support.

6. Paul is the dad. Given her track record of forgetting every detail regarding her two-year relationship with this guy, it’s possible they had mind-blowing sex that Rory totally doesn’t remember, and she’s now pregnant because of it. I doubt it. But, theoretically: Possible.

Aside from Rory’s baby drama, some other important things that happened in this finale deserve to be processed. Like:

Luke and Lorelai finally get married!
Somehow they manage to secretly elope and have a big wedding at the same time. I am bummed that we didn’t get to actually see that big wedding — one of the things this revival is missing is a big ‘ol ensemble scene where the whole gang is back together, although that probably wasn’t feasible for scheduling reasons. Still: The montage that ended with Luke and Lorelai’s small ceremony was really lovely, and played out almost like a dreamy musical number. It also feels right for Lorelai to wed in this way; she’s always done things on her own terms and started her life with Rory in a more private way. It makes sense that she would do the same thing with Luke.

Emily moves to Nantucket and starts a new life as museum docent.
This all seems fitting to me, too. Emily is just starting to figure out what it means to be a person on her own terms, as opposed to Mrs. Richard Gilmore. In a way, she’s finally starting the journey that both her daughter and granddaughter began at earlier points in their lives, when they truly embraced their independence. Like the Rory pregnancy, this, too, has a circle of life quality to it.

Lorelai is willing to take her father’s money so she can expand the Dragonfly.
I am still not sure how I feel about this because it’s such a break from previous Lorelai patterns. (Not as much of a break as that Wild trip, though, which I contend there is no way in hell Lorelai would have chosen to take. Eat, Pray, Love minus the praying and loving? Okay, that I can see.) I like the idea that Lorelai has become less stubborn as she’s gotten older and less concerned with sticking it to her parents; her father’s death has clearly softened her in that regard. But I always appreciated her insistence on at least trying to come up with funds on her own. Mixed feelings on this one.

And what about that big thing that happened to Lane? That was great, right?
Ha, I’m just messing with you: Nothing cool or interesting happens to Lane in A Year in the Life. Honestly, we get more quality time with Kirk and his pet pig than we do with Lane. I suppose it’s inevitable that, with an ensemble this large and only four “episodes,” some characters will get short shrift. It’s just unfortunate that the revival doesn’t allow for more Lane, or more Sookie (I know, I know: Melissa McCarthy is busy), or more Paris, or even the chance to meet Michel’s husband.

Four more last words: One last thing (for now) that I will say about the end of A Year in the Life: Watch it all again. The first time I viewed the finale I was just trying to take in and process what happened. After recovering from the shock of “I’m pregnant,” I went back and watched the final half-hour a second time and was able to appreciate more of the details, especially the gauzy, twinkly beauty of the wedding as it unfolded to the sound of Sam Phillips's “Reflecting Light,” the same song that Lorelai and Luke danced to at the wedding of Liz and T.J.

The opening lyrics to that song — “Now that I’ve worn out, worn out the world” — imply that perhaps Amy Sherman-Palladino has worn out the world of Gilmore Girls. If that’s the case, those last few moments, as open-ended as they may be, are still pretty lovely. Not only do they suggest that life for the Gilmore girls comes full circle but that it goes on, too, whether the rest of us get to witness it or not.