TV Review | Gilmore Girls | Season 2
Season Summary: Sookie gets engaged to Jackson Belleville, a local farmer. Luke's teenage nephew, Jess Mariano, comes to live under his care. Jess is sullen and angry with everyone apart from Rory. The two strike up a friendship, causing jealousy in Dean. Lorelai is disapproving, especially when they are in a car accident, which leads to a blow-up with Luke. (Wikipedia)
This season turned out to be a little disappointing compared to the potential I thought there was in this series. The reason for this is how poorly I think the title characters were used, Rory in particular, but neither gets a great story-line this time.
I excused Rory in the first season for some of her behaviour as what you'd expect from a teenage girl, especially growing up with just Lorelai as a parent. While there are some minor things that can be excused this same way in season 2, there are a lot of things that really, really can't.
The main reason for why I feel this way is the introduction of Milo Ventimiglia's character, Jess. He's a borderline parody character by modern standards, as a 'bad boy' with hidden depths. Unfortunately, he's so good at hiding these depths that I couldn't stand seeing him on-screen.
I think the intention with Jess was for him to be 'redeemed' because Rory liked him, so he must be a good guy. Instead, Rory's behaviour and how she manages her relationship with Dean makes her come across as selfish and leaves Jess looking even worse.
In fact, I disliked Jess so much that I felt I had to spoil myself about his future in the hope that he wouldn't be around for too long and was disappointed to see that he would be staying. It was while doing this that I also spoiled things about how Rory turns out.
While I was disappointed with what I found, it does seem to show that at least there was a really long-term character arc developed for her because the roots of how she ends up do seem to be sowed in this season. For a show with seven season and a mini-series, that's pretty impressive.
The problem I have with Rory's character is that she does come across as quite manipulative and selfish when taking the season as a whole. There's more than one point where she does something wrong while knowing it's wrong and then provides an over-the-top apology and all is forgiven.
She doesn't ever stop to consider that while Jess may be nice with her, he's not like that with anyone else. Her regular defences of his behaviour comes across as telling people to not be offended by someone deliberately trying to offend them, and repeatedly proving that she only really cares about herself and the little bubble she lives in.
Lorelai never really gets to balance this out either, as she spends the majority of the season reacting to others and the events of their lives, rather than having one of her own. Lauren Graham is still great fun to watch, but she feels quite passive and never quite as entertaining as when she actually had strong stories of her own.
Not even Luke can save things, thanks to being Jess' uncle and meaning that the latter gets even more screen-time. Luke's still probably the most entertaining character of the lot, but with his relationship with Lorelai being a little more spiky this season, even that usually enjoyable pairing suffers.
In fact, reading the notes I made as I watched this season, there are a lot of times when recurring characters truly annoy me with how selfish they are being. Richard, Emily, Paris and more all get at least one mention and, while you could claim that the harmful effects of selfishness is the theme of the season, it doesn't make it any more enjoyable to watch.
One thing I will say, is that the characters I mentioned there all get their moments to be funny or do something nice or positive for others. Considering their reduced time on-screen in comparison to Rory, it really does show up just how exasperating it is to watch the latter mess up her own life.
Knowing how Rory ends up, it's just so disappointing to see an otherwise grown-up, intelligent and level-headed young woman self-sabotage her life and relationships for the sake of her own love life. Realistic? Yes. Still disappointing.
Gilmore Girls' second season isn't as good as the first, with Rory showing the first real signs that she's not really that good a person and Lorelai is left with what feels like very little to but react to her daughter's life. None of this is helped by too many irritating or unlikable characters not being balanced out at all.