Monday, April 27, 2015

Cordia's Review of S2E12 - Richard in Stars Hollow

Richard in Stars Hollow
Season 2, Episode 12
Original airing: January 29, 2002

My Rating: 72

The Good:
This was a pretty interesting episode. It’s always nice to see more extensive interaction between Lorelai and her parents. And while this is basically the same story of Emily visiting Stars Hollow (with the same ending of the parent storming home), it had a very different vibe. The main thrust of the difference for me is the emotional focus; Emily gets mad at Lorelai, but Richard is really mad at himself.

Throughout the episode we see Richard attempting to find purpose. He wants to join Emily’s lifestyle, then he wants to “correct” his daughter’s. Of course, both women find him invasive and overbearing and push him off. I found it completely believable that he is lashing out in anger at the world, feeling forced to quit his job and purpose in life, and likely himself for not knowing how to handle the situation. I found his obnoxious behavior completely believable and thought his final speech made perfect sense. Of course, that doesn’t make it all ok and he really should apologize to all women in his life. But he doesn’t.

However, it all works for me. To me, this wasn’t a comedy episode; it was a rather intense emotional drama. Yes, Lorelai’s reactions to her father are mostly a bit over the top and played for laughs, but Richard’s journey is deeply painful and extremely difficult. And the actor, Edward Herrmann, was fantastic. His fake joy at the end with Emily was particularly poignant. After unloading on Lorelai in anger, he doesn’t feel he can have an honest conversation with his wife. His final shot of entering the office and sitting dejectedly in his chair was quite raw.

For Lorelai’s side of things, I appreciated how hard she tried to keep the peace during the day. We’ve seen her lash out at her father with far less provocation in the past, so I was proud of her maturity in handling things here. Even when Richard berates her in the inn, she just avoids a scene, moves on, then deals with it later in a private setting.

Richard and Dean were a surprisingly great pairing. It was nice to see Dean finish the car he first gave to Rory as a pile of junk in S1E16 – Star-Crossed Lovers and Other Strangers. Richard’s reaction was completely consistent with his behavior during the day and led to a great scene with local mechanic Gypsy. I loved the idea of her finally trying to give Richard something to complain about by ripping off the windshield wipers with her bare hands.

The Bad:
The one thing that didn’t really play for me was Lorelai’s responses during Richard’s final speech. Her facial expression is one of sudden understanding and pity. But emotionally, would his confession of feeling useless really wipe out all of the terrible ways he’s treated her in the past 12 hours? I expected her to still feel anger and the way she played the scene just felt awkward to me. Her reaction feels to me like the show saying I’m supposed to forgive all of Richard’s bad behavior and I don’t feel that’s appropriate. He should be asking for forgiveness.

The B and C stories were mildly entertaining. Paris’ obsession with a newspaper contest was fine and her belief that there must be a seedy underbelly in Stars Hollow led to some great humor in the diner with Luke. But the video store story was less successful. Exactly how many businesses does Taylor own in this town? And the censorship of the videos is a little too much, even for Stars Hollow. I know they often play the town characters well beyond the bounds of normal reality, but this particular image of only six or seven videos left on the shelf was a little too powerful and stretched my suspension of belief a little too far. I also didn’t feel like this was the story that would win the contest for Paris. Trying to contrast the ridiculous extent of the video censorship against Paris’ belief that this was the hard-hitting human interest story she needed was probably what broke my immersion. The two ideas are too polar.

But Jess playing a prank by swapping out cassette tapes of who knows what for Bambi and Dumbo was a good ender for how he seems to try and cheer her up.

Favorite Moment:
I was really proud of Dean for standing up to Richard about the car and their last encounter in S2E1 – Sadie, Sadie. I was particularly struck by the strength it can take for a teenager to respectfully say to an intimidating adult “I’m not trying to make you feel better, I’m trying to be honest.” It’s a great response to Richard’s pressure and showcases the relationship between Dean and Rory that the show always talks about and that we rarely get to see on screen. They are young, but they are also in love. Youthful love is often different from mature relationships, but that doesn’t make their emotions less real.

The Bottom Line:

While I overall disliked the secondary stories and I think the ending could have been stronger on Lorelai’s side, I was pretty wrapped up in this episode. The intensity of Richard’s story and the way it was presented through Emily, Lorelai, and Richard himself was incredibly engaging and will definitely be the memories I take away.

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