You may have heard by now that Gilmore Girls is set to debut on Netflix October 1st. Like many, many young women who came of age in the early-aughts, Gilmore Girls is a beloved part of my young life. My best friend and I had Gilmore Nights on the regular and I remember one of my college roommates and I yelling at the TV together during those last, rocky seasons. I don’t want to even try ranking the series’ episodes by excellence or cultural relevance. It’s too daunting and, I think, too dependent on where a person is in his or her life. I know that I’ve seen the series in its entirety countless times, and the older I’ve gotten the more I’ve sided with Emily over Lorelai. My thoughts on Rory’s boyfriends have changed, too. It’s all as nuanced as it is over-caffeinated. So, instead, I present this list of the episodes that have meant the most to me over the last decade or so of Gilmore fandom.
From this list, it’s clear that Season 4 is my favorite, although I have a lot of affection for Season 1 too. There are also tons of individual moments that I cherish, from makeshift ice rinks to 80s themed sleepovers. And Sookie drunk on Thanksgiving. And all the coffee. And where did all the anvils go?
Anyway, In chronological order:
1. “The Deer Hunters” Season 1, Episode 4
I have anxiety and when I’m feeling particularly overwhelmed, this episode comes to mind without fail. While a lot of Season 1 was particularly relatable when I was a teenager (I particularly loved “The Breakup Pts 1 & 2”), this episode still speaks to me as an adult. Rory has just transferred to Chilton and is overwhelmed by catching up mid-semester and adapting to new social and academic pressures. After she gets a D on a paper (I would feel like dying too), her English grade hangs on her performance on an enormous Shakespeare test. As she frantically drives to the exam after oversleeping, a deer runs into the side of her car. What a metaphor. I regularly pull this one out when I’m attempting an all-nighter to catch up on things like research or grading. Even better than the whole deer incident is the conversation between Rory and Lorelai about pressure and achievement. And Luke is right. If you are driven to the point of throwing pencils, you should get pie.
2. “That Damn Donna Reed” Season 1, Episode 14
As a teenager trying to figure out feminism, this episode was important to me because of the way Rory moves from writing-off Donna Reed as a lobotomized housewife to researching her life and discovering what a mover and a shaker she was in the industry. I think it’s a more academic example of the Lorelais’ general approach of considering the whole of women’s lives and situations. This is a pretty cute, nostalgic episode that I just have a lot of affection for. And that lime jello and Cool Whip dessert is good. I made it for a pre-wedding Gilmore Night with my BFF, Emily.
3. “Red Light on the Wedding Night” Season 2, Episode 3
This episode has really stuck with me because of Lorelai’s bachelorette party. I’m somewhere between Lorelai’s romantic side and Emily’s pragmatic side, so I’ve long had this fear of marrying the wrong person. I’d get really committed and then balk. What if I find my soulmate years from now, and I’m stuck? It’s not a great quality, but I’m engaged now to someone who I feel confident that I can love forever, so maybe it worked out. Anyway, for her bachelorette party, Lorelai and company go to a drag club and Emily talks wistfully about the feelings she had in the days before her wedding, sending Lorelai into enough of a tailspin that she calls off her wedding. It’s a fun and really lovely scene, but it haunted me for years.
4. “Take the Deviled Eggs…” Season 3, Episode 6
This episode is great just because of its beginning and end. First, it opens with the hilarious scene about the different names Lorelai’s given to companies, resulting in duplicate catalogs mailed to the likes of “Squeegee Beckenheim.” It ends with Lorelai and Rory devil egging Jess’s car. When a certain guy blew me off, he lived in the same complex as Emily. We spent many Gilmore Nights talking about devil egging his car. We never did it, but we talked about it so much that it feels like we did.
4: “A Tale of Poes and Fire” Season 3, Episode 17
Like the Bracebridge Dinner episode of Season 2 (episode 10), this episode stands on its own really well in its absurdity and how it brings the town together. In the episode, Rory decides she’s going to Yale, but, more importantly, we get dueling Poe impersonators and Kirk’s topical t-shirt business, which gave us the gem “Faux Poes Foes.”
5. “Those are Strings, Pinocchio” Season 3, Episode 22
This is Rory’s graduation from Chilton, which is memorable mostly for the gorgeous speech she gave about books and her mother. I think it clearly encapsulates what was so wonderful about the relationship up to that point and Rory as a character in general. The episode was also meaningful to me as I was getting ready to graduate. Plus, at our graduation, Emily and I stuck our tongues out at each other Gilmore-style.
6. “Ballrooms & Biscotti” and “The Lorelais’ First Day at Yale” Season 4, Episodes 1-2
I watch these episodes whenever I’m feeling homesick or am approaching a big change. In the first episode, the girls come back from backpacking around Europe to find that they have a few days instead of two weeks to get ready for Rory to go to Yale. And Emily holds Rory hostage watching ballroom dancing tapes. Because, why not? In the second, they move Rory into school and Lorelai ends up staying the night, orchestrating a big party to sample the local delivery places. My dog is named Rory, and the scene in which Lorelai and Rory howl back at the boys’ dorm is the only time she’s ever noticed the show. Anyway, the frantic energy and fresh start of these episodes helps get me braced and even amped up for change.
7. “The Reigning Lorelai” Season 4, Episode 16
This episode pairs with “The Deer Hunters.” It’s a great episode for when I’m feeling anxious, because it falls after a series of episodes in which each Gilmore girl has been breaking down. But, in this episode as they’re pulling it together, Emily is hilariously melting down in the most brassy manner, after Richard’s mother passes, and she finds a note in which Lorelai-the-elder implored Richard not to marry her. It’s a good episode for when I feel like a mess, but want to pull it together, like Emily would.
8. “Girls in Bikinis, Boys Doin’ the Twist” Season 4, Episode 17
I’m not much of a partier, so in college, I loved this episode. In it, Rory and Paris decide to go to Florida for Spring Break and spend the beginning of it in the hotel eating pizza and watching Mythology. They test out the hardcore Spring Break lifestyle, but end up accepting that it’s just not for them. It’s a really fun and cute episode and Rory eating Mac’n’cheese to cure her first hangover came in handy when I finally did start drinking.
9. “Tick, Tick, Tick, Boom!” Season 4, Episode 18
This episode is essential because of Kirk’s subplot about the Easter Egg Hunt. Kirk is easily one of my favorite parts of the show and this plot is possibly his best. Aside from the independent movie. Or his terrifying dance. Or when he revealed how much money he’d saved by working all those jobs. Who am I kidding, the show should be called Kirk.
10. “Lorelai’s First Cotillion” Season 7, Episode 3
The last few seasons were pretty hit and miss and didn’t have the charm that the first four, maybe five, did. I love this episode, however, because of how Lorelai reacts to her mother. First, the question of whether Lorelai has based most of her life on doing the opposite of what Emily would want is significant. Also, however, that Lorelai can see her mother working with the girls for Cotillion and see how Michel admires her is a step toward healing that relationship. I love that Lorelai goes to the Cotillion and has fun. It’s just one of many episodes focused on Emily and Lorelai (including the great “Like Mother Like Daughter” and “‘There’s the Rub”), but it’s possibly the most mature.