With last week’s release of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, fans got a chance to get the ending they had long been deprived of, while new fans finally had a reason to cross the show off their watch list. But if you’re one of the people who’s always been meaning to stream the show but never had time, we’re here for you.
Gilmore Girls originally ran for seven years. These are not the new normal of 13-episode seasons, but network hauls that lead to six- and seven-disc DVD sets. So that means the seven seasons are 22 course meals apiece. That’s 154 courses for you to catch up with, and that math is making my stomach turn just typing it out.
As someone who’s been through the show a gloriously obscene number of times I can ease your pain. I’ve combed over the series and made a list of 10 must-see episodes. These can serve as an appetizer to convince you to commit to a pilot-to-finale watch, or be your CliffsNotes guide before you watch A Year in the Life. Whichever route you choose, grab your coffeecoffeecoffee, cue up Netflix, and settle in.
1) ‘Pilot’ (season 1, episode 1)
Starting at the beginning is obvious, but for a show with such a distinct voice it’s a good idea to use this as a way to get on the show’s wavelength before it really starts bringing the heat. (Bonus viewing: “Dear Emily and Richard” from season 3 provides a great deal of exposition on pre-“Pilot” events).
2) ‘Rory’s Birthday Parties’ (season 1, episode 6)
Rory turns 16 and her upper-crust grandparents throw her a party to compete with a more standard (re: fun) party thrown by her mom. It highlights the show’s bread and butter themes (familial discord and class divide).
3) ‘Nick & Nora/Sid & Nancy’ (season 2, episode 6)
Everyone’s favorite leather-clad brooder, Jess, makes his debut—and quite the mark on an impressionable Rory.
4) ‘The Bracebridge Dinner’ (season 2, episode 10)
Two of Gilmore’s trademarks (quirky small-town events and dinner scenes) are on display here. The Rory-Dean-Jess love triangle becomes angle-ier, and the Jess-Dean scenes are always a treat.
5) ‘They Shoot Gilmores, Don’t They?’ (season 3, episode 7)
This 10-episode pack is meant to save you time, here we’re jumping ahead to the inevitable conclusion of Dean versus Jess. This episode, set largely at Stars Hollow’s annual 24-hour dance marathon, is a top-three Gilmore outing.
6) ‘Max! Keg!’ (season 3, episode 19)
We all need more Jess and Dean conflict. Hep Alien has their debut show at a house party, Jess and Dean are the closing act. (Bonus viewing: Let Netflix roll into the next episode and stay for the cold open, which shows the morning after the party brawl.)
7) ‘Festival of Living Art’ (season 4, episode 7)
Of all the events seen on Gilmore, the titular festival is among the most eccentric and impressive. The town comes together to recreate famous pieces of art, which makes for an oddly dramatic climax of watching people be completely still. It’s also a great showcase for the supporting players.
8) ‘Raincoats and Recipes’ (season 4, episode 22)
This is the best episode of the show. Long-gestating tension between Luke and Lorelai, and Rory and Dean, finally pays off. It’s worth the 87-episode wait.
9) ‘We Got Us a Pippi Virgin’ (season 5, episode 5)
Poor Dean can’t catch a break. One of the series’ running themes is that Rory’s suitors are never good enough. Dean is the butt of that one again, but this time the judgement is coming from working man’s hero (and the proto-Dean) Luke.
10) ‘Wedding Bell Blues’ (season 5, episode 13)
Congratulations, after this one you’re now equipped to take a side in the “Team Dean,” “Team Jess,” “Team Logan” shipping that divides the show’s fans faster than the show’s theme song can bring them together. This one has everything Gilmore fans have come to love: Emily-Lorelai drama, Luke-Lorelai drama, Christopher-Lorelai drama, Rory-Logan drama. All that drama and the show still has time for some immaculate punchlines.