The Shakespeare Project

PROFESSOR ANDERSON: Believe it or not, Shakespeare probably never intended his plays to be read by students sitting at desks more concerned with getting As than with the fate of Macbeth. His plays were meant to be experienced, lived. So with that in mind, together with my third period Shakespeare, you’ll be split up into five groups and each group will assume responsibility for one act of Romeo and Juliet, which will be performed a week from Sunday. You will nominate the director, you will cast the scene, rehearse the scene, and interpret the scene in your own individual manner.

This is the main plot of this episode, revolving around the group project that Rory’s class is doing for English Literature (?). Her new teacher is Professor Anderson, according to the credits, so she no longer has Mr Medina, like at the start of this year. I’m not sure if he’s just conveniently faded out of the picture (like Mr Remmy did), or if Professor Anderson is teaching English instead.

Professor Anderson references Macbeth, previously discussed, a callback to it last being mentioned when Rory had to do a project outside class with Paris, Madeline and Louise. The project is focused on Romeo and Juliet, previously mentioned, a play which has become a touchstone for Gilmore Girls.

Jess the Prankster

POLICEWOMAN: Everyone’s accounted for Taylor. It looks like this is just an elaborate prank.
TAYLOR: But it looks so real. Where’d they get the police tape?
POLICEWOMAN: Kids have their ways.

TAYLOR: Who’d be depraved enough to pull a stupid prank like this?
POLICEWOMAN: Hard to say.
[Rory sees Jess standing across the street smirking as he watches the crowd]

The police officer reassures Taylor that the chalk outline and police tape is just a prank. Somehow, she knows that a child or teenager is responsible. To be fair, Rory also knows – Jess isn’t exactly being subtle here. The police officer seems to be remarkably blasé about someone stealing police tape from the police station. The bizarre way the police behave makes me think that they were in on the prank with Jess, either overtly or tacitly. It’s actually the only way this scene makes any sense.

Once again, one of Jess’ pranks is connected with Rory – it takes place outside the grocery store where her boyfriend works, at a time when he’s doing a shift, so that there’s a good chance of her seeing it. It seems to be a calculated move to get her attention and show off to her, as well as encroaching on her boyfriend’s territory.

In line with the autumnal colours of this episode, Jess wears a dark red tee shirt – Dean is also wearing a red sweater in a bright tone, as if Dean and Jess are the light and dark attractants for Rory (or the public and the private). Red is love and passion, but also aggression and danger, like a red rag to a bull. Both Jess and Dean wear grey sleeveless jackets over their red tops, as if in partial concealment of their feelings. There is nothing on their sleeves – yet.

Jess’s top is a vintage 1980s tee shirt with a Tasman Empire Airways Ltd logo on it – the former name of New Zealand’s flag carrier airline (since 1965, Air New Zealand Ltd). The show keeps connecting Jess with travel, journeys, and flight.

The fire truck going past is also bright red; in fact notice how many things in this scene bear the colour red. It’s a callback to when Rachel was telling Lorelai about her distress in discovering Luke’s romantic preference for Lorelai with the fire department in the background. It’s another painful love triangle situation marked with sinful scarlet, bloody red.

The poster in the background announces another Autumn Festival, nearing the anniversary of Rory and Dean’s first kiss. This suggests that the date is Tuesday 30th October, the day before Halloween. Yes, I know it looks bright and sunny, but that’s because we’re in TV Land, not the real Connecticut!

Does the big number 7 on the fire truck mean that Jess is blessed with luck in his endeavour? Or does it represent the seven days of the week, and the great wheel of time?. It might be a sign that Jess’ time has come. So much can change in just one year.

NOTE: Thank you to reader M for pointing out that the red vehicle is a fire truck or fire engine, not a bus as I incorrectly stated!

“It never does”

RORY: Feels like we’ve been gone a long time.
LORELAI: You know what’s weird? Every time I leave town, even for just a little while, I always expect everything to look different.
RORY: And it never does.
LORELAI: It never does.

Lorelai and Rory were in Portsmouth for Monday and Tuesday night, so today is Wednesday and they’ve been gone for two or three days.

Their dialogue is a comment on the unchanging timelessness of Stars Hollow, providing a stable base for Lorelai and Rory.

Red Light

[Early the next morning, Lorelai and Rory are in Lorelai’s jeep driving through Stars Hollow.]
LORELAI: We’re almost there and nowhere near it. All that matters is we’re going.
RORY: We’re practically gone already.
LORELAI: Look out world.
[They stop at the red light and stare at it, waiting for it to change.]

There have been so many mentions of great American journeys in Gilmore Girls, from On the Road to Huckleberry Finn to Thelma and Louise, that it seems in tune with the show’s theme for Lorelai and Rory to hit the road at some point. Their conversation is even vaguely reminiscent of a famous exchange from On the Road:

““Sal, we gotta go and never stop going ’till we get there.’
‘Where we going, man?’
‘I don’t know but we gotta go.”

That urge towards the journey and not the destination is the same one that is driving Lorelai away from her home.

As luck would have it, before they even leave town, they get stuck at the new traffic light, which is timed to come on even if there is no other traffic on the road, and will stay on until the oldest and feeblest person in Stars Hollow can safely get across the road. It’s symbolic of the way that it will always be difficult for them to leave Stars Hollow, even temporarily. There is something in the town which holds them captive to some extent. Scott Patterson’s I’m All In podcast makes note of the fact that while they are trapped at the lights, the door to Luke’s Diner is already open … perhaps a hint of where Lorelai’s future lies.

This is the literal “red light on the wedding night” alluded to in the episode’s title, although strictly speaking it isn’t the wedding night, but several days before the wedding. Symbolically though, it means that Lorelai has put a stop to her wedding going ahead.

The Traffic Light

Taylor lets Luke know that he is getting a traffic light installed in Stars Hollow, even though there hasn’t been an accident in ten years (he apparently has powers to make decisions unilaterally in the town’s best interests when it comes to public safety).

As usual, Taylor is all about town progress, while Luke is all about keeping Stars Hollow exactly the way it has been – two different ways they show their love for the town. Their struggles and interactions end up giving Stars Hollow better outcomes; without Luke, the town would change too much and lose its character, while without Taylor it would stagnate and become a backwater.

This traffic light is the one alluded to in the episode’s title.

Lorelai Gives Rory a Hammer

RORY: What is that?
LORELAI: A hammer.
RORY: It has feathers on it.
LORELAI: Yes.
RORY: Why?
LORELAI: So the rhinestones and bows won’t feel lonely.

This is the hammer referred to in the title, Hammers and Veils. Of course Rory can’t go off to help the needy like anyone else – she has to do it in an especially quirky, girly manner that immediately marks her as special and the centre of attention. It’s the Gilmore way.

Rory wouldn’t even buy purple legal pads for school because they’d make her look unprofessional at Chilton, but somehow she’s happy to take a gold-painted, pink feathered hammer to volunteer work which she is doing through Chilton, and for which the hammer would surely be useless. Maybe she’s more relaxed now that she’s one of the top students in her class.

Typically for the show, Rory is running ten minutes late for her volunteer job in this scene.

Stephanie Seymour in the Guns N’ Roses Video

RORY: So, what kind of dress are you thinking of?
LORELAI: Um, the one Stephanie Seymour wore in the Guns N’ Roses video.

Lorelai is referring to the music video to the 1992 power ballad November Rain, written by Axl Rose and from Guns N’ Roses’ 1991 album Use Your Illusion I. The song got to #3 on the charts, and at over eight minutes long, is the longest song to ever get into the Top Ten.

The music video, directed by Andy Morhan, shows Axl Rose getting married to his then-girlfriend, model and actress Stephanie Seymour, intercut with a live performance of the song. Seymour is wearing a traditional white wedding dress with a long train and a veil, but the front of the dress puffed up to be as short as a mini skirt. On a budget of over one million dollars (with $8000 spent on the dress), the video won the MTV Award for Best Cinematography.

The song is about a man’s unrequited love for a woman who no longer loves him in return, another foreshadowing of what is to come between Lorelai and Max. (The name Axl even looks and sounds a little like the name Max). The music video is based on the short story Without You by Del James, a friend of Rose’s; in the story the girl shoots herself, but the music video is ambiguous whether the Stephanie Seymour character’s death is a suicide or a murder. Yet another love leads to death reference in Gilmore Girls!

In 1993, Stephanie Seymour abruptly left Axl Rose to be with someone else – a foreshadowing of Lorelai’s future behaviour.

Everyone is Interested in Lorelai and Luke

Once word (instantly) gets around town that Lorelai has had a marriage proposal, all the townspeople are inordinately interested in seeing how Luke takes the news.

This is taken to exaggerated levels when a line of people, most of whom we have never seen before, form a line and begin following Lorelai to the diner. They then proceed to press their faces against the diner’s windows so they can watch Luke hear the news. They won’t be able to hear anything from the street, but apparently they don’t care.

For normal people, only friends and family (maybe) are interested in your wedding news; for Lorelai and Luke, they are the celebrities of Stars Hollow that even strangers find completely fascinating.

Rory tells Lorelai that “everyone knows” that Luke “has a thing for Lorelai”, which means that Rory knows too, and still discouraged Lorelai from seeking out a relationship with him.

My Little Corner of the World

This 1997 song by Yo La Tengo plays at the very end of the episode, as Lorelai and Rory run towards each other from opposite sides of the street. It creates a “bookends effect”, as this was the song that played at the end of the first episode of the season, and we are now watching the final moments of the last episode of the season.

It repeats the theme of safety and security, as Stars Hollow itself becomes a sanctuary. The final thing we see is the gazebo in the town square, the heart of the town and a sacred place dedicated to love. Its twinkle lights echo the stars above who gave their name to the town, and lead lovers back into each others’ arms.

Mother and Daughter’s Dating Lives Intersect

Lorelai and Rory run towards each other, like parallel lines which finally cross at some point due to the curvature of the earth. They excitedly jump up and down, both with wonderful news to share. Rory has got back with Dean! Lorelai has had a proposal from Max! Their dating lives converge while both are at their peak, and all is joy, all is light, all is love. The promise of Stars Hollow is fulfilled, and lovers are reunited at last.

This is an oddly complete resolution to a season, which ties everything up into a neat package and gives a fairy tale happy ending to both our protagonists. The reason is that they were not sure if Gilmore Girls would be renewed for another season, and if if this was to be last episode ever, they needed it to also be a possible finale of the show. Of course the show was renewed, and from then on season finales tended to end on cliffhangers, leaving many questions unanswered.