The sum of its parts was definitely greater than the season whole as Gilmore Girls
kicked off its fourth year by separating its high-powered mother-daughter duo. After years of toil at snooty private school Chilton, Rory (Alexis Bledel) was finally off to the greener pastures of college as she began her first year at Yale. The not-so-long distance put a crimp in her relationship with her mother, Lorelai (Lauren Graham), as the two were forced to continue their chatty conversations via phone--not exactly the same as trading barbs face-to-face. While Rory adjusted to college life with cranky roommate Paris (Liza Weil) in tow, Lorelai found herself without a daughter, but gained a boyfriend in the form of Jason "Digger" Stiles (Chris Eigeman), a childhood friend and now her father's business partner. But the lure of Stars Hollow, the Gilmores' cherished country town, would prove too hard to resist, as Lorelai finally made plans to open her own inn, and the two ladies found themselves attracted to town residents--for Lorelai, an intensifying of her friendship with diner owner Luke (Scott Patterson), and for Rory, a return to old boyfriend Dean (Jared Padalecki), which put a decided tension into a show that sorely needed it. Nevermind that both men were married to other women!
The first half of the fourth season definitely foundered, as the show's usually topnotch creative team struggled to find a way to keep the Gilmore chemistry afloat despite separating their main characters. There wasn't much drama to be found for Rory in starting college, and though it got off to a great start, Lorelai's relationship with Jason never fully gelled. However, once the show got its girls into the arms of their Stars Hollow men, it turned around almost immediately, surging towards a creative revival that put its ratings higher than they'd ever been before. Along the way to its surprising and complex season finale, there were great episodes to be had: "Girls in Bikinis, Boys Doin' the Twist," which found Rory and Paris on spring break; "The Reigning Lorelai," centering on an unexpected funeral; "The Festival of Living Art," which had Stars Hollow resident re-creating classic works; and "Luke Can See Her Face," which finally brought the Luke-Lorelai romance to the forefront. The season may have started out rough, but this fourth year ended with a bang, and the promise of more fireworks to come. --Mark Englehart
Gilmore Girls: The Complete Fou