Gilmore Girls has a special place in my heart and in the hearts of my family. Gilmore Girls is the first show I can remember watching with my parents on an equal level. It wasn’t a kids’ show my parents tolerated or an adult show I happened to walk in on. The Gilmore girls are fast talking, pop culture obsessed, quippy, strong women. Their references can be wildly obscure to strikingly relevant and insightful. I can watch any episode of Gilmore Girls whenever, wherever (just like Shakira).
Todd VanDerWerff, a Critic at Large with Vox, wrote about the Gilmore Girls reunion at the 2015 Austin Television Festival, saying “What struck me most while sitting in the crowd was how different this Gilmore Girls reunion was from almost every other nostalgia-tinged event I’ve attended. For the most part, we still code pop culture nostalgia as male, but this event was full of enthusiastic, happy women.” VanDerWerff’s comment rings all too true, most nostalgia based pop culture events are aimed at men; but Gilmore Girls is different. The show is about the relationships between mothers and daughters. These Top 10 Must Watch Gilmore Girls Episodes were hard to choose but in the end I chose episodes that best exemplify and represent the bonds between Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Rory (Alexis Bledel), as well as both of their relationships with Emily (Kelly Bishop).
1. “Pilot” (Season 1, Episode 1)
“Pilot” introduces us to the world. Besides meeting our main gals, we meet Luke (Scott Patterson), Sookie (Melissa McCarthy), Lane (Keiko Agena), Richard (Edward Herrmann), Emily, as well as most of Stars Hollow. It’s a quick glimpse into what the show is going to be about. It’s important to start with the very beginning because Gilmore Girls has a very straightforward pilot that does its job well, giving a glimpse into the characters without forcing trite bios or backstories.
2. “Emily in Wonderland” (Season 1, Episode 19)
Rory takes Emily on a grand tour of Stars Hollow. They take the scenic route through town, stop at Kim’s Antiques, and eat at Teriyaki Joe’s. To end their trip Rory takes Emily to the Independence Inn to say hi to Lorelai at work and show her the old potting shed they used to live in. “Emily in Wonderland” is an awesome episode because it gives Rory and Emily one-on-one time as well give a deeper background on history between Lorelai and Emily. Though unsaid, Emily no doubt gained a greater understanding of her daughter’s struggle. However, she seemingly only focused on the hurt caused by realizing Lorelai needed to get away from that badly.
3. “The Bracebridge Dinner” (Season 2, Episode 10)
This is a classic episode. The Independence Inn was rented out to host an authentic 19th century dinner party, replete with Old English speaking waiters, authentic dress, and the Squire Bracebridge himself presiding over the proceedings. However, a snowstorm keeps the group from coming, so instead of letting all the food and their hard work go to waste, Lorelai hosts the dinner for the whole town. I love “The Bracebridge Dinner.” It was somewhat bizarre but hilarious. This is a must watch episode just for the scene where Rory watches as Lorelai and Emily conduct an eerily similar nighttime routine. “Human Behavior” by Bjork plays the episode out, which absolutely epitomizes “The Bracebridge Dinner.”
4. “There’s the Rub” (Season 2, Episode 16)
Emily offers Lorelai a voucher she won to a spa because she doesn’t understand the point of spas. However, Lorelai makes the experience sound so fun that Emily decides to join her for the weekend. “There’s the Rub” is great because it’s almost completely devoted to Emily and Lorelai. They have a difficult, but relatable, mother/daughter relationship and we get to see a glimmer of how they could become friends.
5. “Dear Richard and Emily” (Season 3, Episode 13)
“Dear Richard and Emily” is a flashback episode. We get to see when Lorelai was young, when she discovers she’s pregnant, when the parents find out, when she gives birth, and when she leaves. It adds a little more dimension to what we already know of her relationship with her parents, especially her mother. It also shows how much Lorelai did on her own and how Emily has not changed all that much.
6. “Happy Birthday, Baby” (Season 3, Episode 18)
Lorelai is turning 35. Rory is planning a birthday bash with the world’s largest pizza as its centerpiece. Richard bestows Lorelai with a check for $75,000 from an investment he made in her name when she was born. We already know that Lorelai and Rory have an unconventional mother/daughter relationship but “Happy Birthday, Baby” drives it home. Rory goes above and beyond what any normal teenage daughter would do for her mother’s birthday. On the flipside, Lorelai pays Emily back the money that was “chaining” her and Rory to Friday night dinners. Emily, of course, does not react well. Emily wants in to Rory and Lorelai’s special club but is not on the same wavelength, and with so much time gone by Lorelai is set in a habit up pushing away and not taking favors. While Rory is doing everything to make her mom happy, Lorelai is doing everything to distance herself from her mom.
7. “Raincoats and Recipes” (Season 4, Episode 22)
“Raincoats and Recipes” is jammed packed with stuff. But the most integral, at least to the theme of this list, is Lorelai walking in right after Rory loses her virginity to a married Dean (Jared Padalecki). Lorelai has always been a bit weird about sex, which is understandable as she got pregnant at 16. However, it never seemed like a super healthy mindset. On top of that, when Rory was dating Jess (Milo Ventimiglia) she promised Lorelai she would tell her first. I’ll also mention again that Dean is still married, which is what really causes the fight. Lorelai is disappointed that her thoughtful, intelligent daughter would make this kind of decision, with all the justifications that go along. Rory is angry her mom is ruining this moment for her. This leads to a doozie of a fight which is not fully resolved until well into season 5.
8. “A House Is Not a Home” (Season 5, Episode 22)
We jump from one conflict between Lorelai and Rory to another. After being told by Logan’s father that she doesn’t have what it takes to be a reporter in the episode before, she and Logan (Matt Czuchry) steal a yacht. “A House Is Not a Home” opens with Lorelai walking into a police station to pick Rory up after being arrested. Rory decides she is not going to go back to Yale so Lorelai goes to her parents for back up. They end up siding with Rory and taking her in. This cause rifts between daughter, mother, and daughter. This episode is paramount in establishing a deeper relationship between Emily and Rory, as well as placing Rory in a position that Lorelai had initially run from. It also begins a prolonged fight between Rory and Lorelai with them not talking for the longest time in their history.
9. “The Prodigal Daughter Returns” (Season 6, Episode 9)
Up until this point the tension between Emily and Rory has been growing. Emily felt that Rory was a second chance but Rory felt smothered. After a meeting with Jess, who published his own book, Rory has a grand revelation. She’s made a huge mistake. Most of this episode is devoted to things other than Rory and Lorelai uniting, which takes place in the last few minutes of the episode. “The Prodigal Daughter Returns” is well worth the watch, however. Rory is back on track and the Gilmore girls are together again.
10. “Bon Voyage” (Season 7, Episode 22)
The season finale is bittersweet. It’s the last time Lorelai and Rory will be together for the foreseeable future. After graduation, the girls began planning a roller coaster road trip to hit all the good amusement parks. However, their plans get cut short when Rory is offered a job reporting on Senator Obama’s presidential campaign. Though written way after Amy Sherman-Palladino left the show, “Bon Voyage” is the final piece in the relationship between Rory and Lorelai.
Get ready for the revival, A Year in the Life, debuting on Netflix Friday November 25th. There will be four 90-minute episodes, each corresponding to a different season. Check back here for my review!