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Spoiler alert: If you didn’t spend the last 48 hours watching the new Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life mini-series on Netflix and don’t want to know how it ends yet, don’t read this.

As Gilmore Girl fans around the world closed their laptops and switched off their TVs after a weekend of binge-watching, I’m pretty sure that the common feeling that united us all was shock.

We’ve been waiting so long to hear the last four words that creator Amy Sherman-Palladino had always planned to end the series with, before her disagreement with Warner Bros. stopped her from being involved with the last season of the original series run a decade ago. And yet, despite all of the speculation and wild guesses, when I finally heard those four last words, I was completely taken by surprise. (Or did you guess? If you did, I don’t-believe-you-slash-am-very-impressed.)

For those of us who were expecting a comfortable happily ever after kind of ending (perhaps the phrase “Mom, I love you” or something along those lines), we couldn’t have been further off the mark. What we actually got in the end was an exchange that, rather than wrapping all the storylines nicely, blew everything wide open. “Mom…” Rory says, turning to her mother as they sit side by side on the gazebo steps. “Yeah?”, responds Lorelai. “I’m pregnant”, Rory says.

And just like that, it’s the end. 

Suffice to say, it's a little shocking. It's tempting to be heart-broken. We can only imagine how devastated Lorelai must be, feeling that despite all of her efforts, Rory still ended up mirroring her own less-than-ideal situation, getting pregnant under circumstances where the father is more than likely going to be absent. We too, as viewers, wanted better for Rory. What happened to the promising young woman who read classics like Anna Karenina? Why is she making such horrible mistakes?

I had mixed emotions as I watched the new episodes over the weekend. I found myself involuntarily muttering "Oh Rory, Rory, no..." under my breath. But ultimately, I have come to view the ending—the ending that the show’s creator always intended—as one that leaves us all to imagine these characters living on, experiencing new things, building new relationships, developing old ones, and, yes, making some of the same mistakes again—but perhaps this time responding differently. It’s the ultimate cliff-hanger ending, an ending that feels just like real life.

Because often in real life there is no “happily ever after;" there's only growth. In the past, when Rory made similar bad mistakes (sleeping with her married ex-boyfriend, Dean, going for a joy ride on someone else's yacht, dropping out of Yale), Lorelai responded by telling her exactly what she thought of Rory's behavior, which ended up with the pair not talking for a long time. This time, when Lorelai finds out she's been sleeping with Logan (an engaged ex-boyfriend), she gently calls her out for her bad judgment, but at the same time doesn't push Rory away. It's clear Rory feels very lost, and isn't proud of her choices. Still viewers get a sense of how supportive Lorelai will be, how she’ll keep the judgement to a minimum and help Rory flourish through this next phase of her life.

Sherman-Palladino has implied she would consider continuing the series, and the enthusiastic reaction from fans has proven that there’s definitely a large enough audience. But while my Gilmore Girls fan brain is aching for a brand-new series unpacking everything that those final four words implied, I also think that it would be a pretty bold and elegant move to just leave it there for our imaginations to play with.

Ultimately, if there’s any “message” from the show, it’s that Rory and Lorelai’s love is a bond that can’t be broken, no matter what disagreements and mistakes they may make along the way. We’re not defined by our mistakes but by how we rise to face the consequences. You don’t need to look any further than the theme-song lyrics, “Where you lead, I will follow,” to see that, after all.

And despite Rory’s mess of a love life, riddled with infuriatingly bad choices, there’s something very relatable about her situation in Gilmore Girls: A Year In the Life, too. She’s 10 years out of college, still trying to find her feet in her career and a sense of peace and purpose. So many of us late-twenties-early-thirty-somethings find ourselves feeling, just like Rory, that the ground beneath our feet is made of straw and might fall through at any minute—in fact, it’s such a generation-defining phenomenon that there’s a whole gang of lost thirty-somethings (and a support group for their parents) in Stars Hollow.

One of the most satisfying things about A Year in the Life is the sense that the journey matters for all three generations of Gilmore women. Emily, Lorelai, and Rory each have their own struggles and issues as they experience different seasons of life. All of them are works in progress, with plenty of regrets but also unique hopes for the future. Emily’s journey was actually one of my favorite things about the reboot; we see her finally reject the BS of her D.A.R. circle, work through her grief for the loss of her husband, and embrace a new home. Her therapy with Lorelai is inconclusive, and seems to throw up more issues between them than it resolves; but again, that’s real life, isn’t it? Despite the frustrating lack of connection between the two during those sessions, both characters come to a greater sense of self-awareness and, therefore, a greater sense of peace by the end of it all.

So, after I finished watching “Fall," the final episode of the mini-series, my reaction wasn’t one of unequivocally satisfied enthusiasm. It took a while for it all to sink in. This trip back to Stars Hollow was a lot meatier and a lot more complicated than I was expecting. But it was also a lot better; I keep thinking about those characters in all their messy, frustrating, flawed glory. I think about timeless characters like Anna Karenina who too were flawed and whose stories tell valuable lessons. I think about my own messy, flawed life and personality, and how to be the best person I can be through the ups and downs of my own story. And, to me, like any art that causes us to look at our own lives in a new way and try to live better, that’s a sign of a great show. 

Photo Credit: Netflix