Lorelai’s Graduation Day
Season 2, Episode 21
Original airing: May 14, 2002
My Rating: 67
I really enjoyed the way the stories tied together in this episode. The set up for Lorelai’s graduation led very naturally in to some sweet moments with Lorelai’s parents. And it fed perfectly in to Rory missing a big event in Lorelai’s life and opening up the conversation about Jess.
I adored the scene at the Gilmore manor when Rory invited Emily and Richard to the ceremony. It was very impressive to see her balance her mother’s wishes against her grandparents’ feelings. I like how calmly and nicely she lays out the idea that Emily and Richard should only attend if they genuinely want to see Lorelai graduation and will be bringing a spirit of goodwill with them. She doesn’t accuse anyone of being spiteful on purpose, but makes it clear that they will not be welcome if they can’t be happy for Lorelai. I especially love how Rory shuts down Emily’s small bit of temper when Emily asks why Lorelai didn’t invite them herself. It’s because Lorelai would expect her parents to act exactly how they are acting when they first hear the news. Now they have some time to get their heads on straight and at least attempt to enjoy the event.
Of course, even when they do arrive they are initially more concerned with propriety than anything else. Emily must have the perfect recording of the ceremony and Richard can’t help but complain about the commencement speaker. But it’s all wiped away when Lorelai steps on stage. The sudden emotion in Emily and Richard’s faces is fantastic. They both look like they’ve been hit by a truck as they realize they are proud of their daughter. And I absolutely love that Lorelai sees them from the stage. She gets to spend one perfect moment basking in their adoration of her accomplishment.
After the ceremony, the good feelings continue with Lorelai asking for a picture with her parents. I love that their photo taken as a family is done with Lorelai’s disposable camera and not one of Emily’s fancy cameras brought by her cameraman. It’s down to earth, simple, and very Lorelai.
Meanwhile, Rory’s divergent storyline with Jess is practically perfection. The show does a great job of making her arrival in New York and ability to find Jess quite believable. He name drops Washington Square Park which is much smaller than Central Park. Being able to wander up to his bench worked really well. I like that they can’t seem to really talk about what happened or what’s going on back in Stars Hollow. Jess can barely even say Luke’s name. They’re time together is sweet and based on mutual interests, not rehashing an accident neither could control. The sparks and smiles are extremely strong as it feels like they’ve been separated for weeks.
But my favorite part was after Rory got back on the bus. Jess waits until the last moment to ask her the big question – why did she come to find him? It felt completely in character for him to take this risk after she was safely distanced from him. All they have is eye contact and their voices and their able to put themselves out there just a little bit. Their goodbyes are incredibly sweet and painful.
The reconnection of the stories didn’t work quite as well as other things in this episode (See The Bad). But I did like the second half of the final scene. I thought this was a great way for Rory to finally admit that she likes Jess. She’s in full on denial now which should be interesting for future scenes involving Dean. And it made sense for Lorelai to forgive Rory missing her graduation. Rory is obviously distraught about disappointing Lorelai and her confusing feelings for two boys at the same time. Lorelai is able to forgive her and see things much more clearly now. I was really proud of Lorelai for stepping in and trying to tell Rory it’s ok to be confused at this point. She’s not a bad person for liking two guys; it’s really going to come down to how she handles it. And Lorelai even implies that if this means the end of Rory’s relationship with Dean that would be okay as well. That’s a pretty powerful concept, especially coming from Dean’s biggest supporter.
In the background, I liked that Lane is continuing to practice her drumming and I liked that we had a small scene showing that Lorelai and Luke are still on the outs. I don’t want these things to be forgotten by the show.
While I really liked the second half of the final scene, I thought the first half was flubbed. It was fine for Rory to focus on missing the graduation and try to avoid talking about Jess, but it went on rather excessively long for me. And it felt like it was supposed to be funny with the manner that she delivered an on-going list of self-punishments. But that all fell quite flat for me. I think this could have been shortened a great deal and it would have been a better lead in to the meat of the scene (See The Good).
I was also not a huge fan of Paris’ rant. While she’s a generally fun character, I thought her involvement in this particular scene was distracting. Rory is making the decision to skip school and go to New York in this moment and instead of paying attention to that, I’m listening to Paris complain about her math teacher.
But those are relatively minor complaints. The really bad part of this episode was the mini subplot of Lorelai trying to fit in with the other graduates. Liza and Zak were completely random characters and extremely annoying. Again, I think this is intended to be funny, but it’s not. They’re rude to each other and hateful about everything Emily is doing. They don’t come across as nice people and I don’t understand why Lorelai is supposed to be concerned with what they think of her. This was an irritating and confusing part of the episode.
My favorite moment was Jess and Rory finally saying goodbye at the bus station. It was extremely bittersweet.
The Bottom Line:
This was a pretty solid episode with some great development of Lorelai’s character and the Rory and Jess romance storyline. It had some failed humor, but the preponderance of strong moments at the end really lifted the whole thing up.