Every Gilmore Girls rewatch brings moments you want to live in forever (the Bracebridge Dinner! Rory and Jess in the sprinkler!) and others you can’t help but cringe through, if you don’t skip them altogether.
In the latter camp, you’ll find Luke and Lorelai’s breakup — a split so devastating that TikTokers still make fan-edited videos set to Taylor Swift’s moody tracks, “Cardigan” and “Exile,” 17 years after it aired.
The fan-favorite couple postponed their June wedding before ending their engagement altogether in the Season 7 premiere, following a nasty fight about Luke’s daughter, April, and her role in their lives. While many fans blame her for the split, April is innocent. But her unexpected arrival prompted a lot of the couple’s issues to come to the surface, like their communication differences and insecurities about family.
There were, indeed, some specifics to work out: How involved would they be? Would April affect their future plans? What about her mom, Anna, who might not be happy with any arrangement? But all those problems could be solved, especially for a couple with plenty of experience raising kids in less-than-conventional circumstances.
Nearly two decades and countless rewatches later, their breakup still doesn’t make sense. Even Lauren Graham, who played Lorelai, didn’t understand the trajectory of the couple’s fallout in Season 7 — especially her character getting married to Rory’s dad, Christopher. “It just seemed so out of character that I literally blocked it from my memory,” Graham told Entertainment Weekly in 2016.
So, what went wrong?
Luke Didn’t Learn His Lesson
By this point in Luke and Lorelai’s relationship, the pair had been together for two years, engaged for one, and had already been through one breakup. In Season 5, Luke told Lorelai he’d “need more time” to process things after realizing how much Lorelai’s family (including Christopher) could interfere in their lives.
They both took the split hard, but upon reuniting three episodes later, they seemed to grow closer from the experience. “You’re lucky I’m back in your life, because clearly you were lost without me,” Lorelai teases. “I mean, it’s a miracle you’re even still alive… right?”
“You bet,” Luke replies, suddenly serious. (It’s adorable.)
But at the end of Season 6, Luke is the one dealing with family drama. Instead of remembering how it went last time, he repeats his misstep of holding Lorelai at bay while demanding time to work things out alone.
It’s a decision that contradicts a year’s worth of character development, like when he didn’t flinch when Lorelai wavered about their living situation. “We can get along fine here for a while… maybe forever,” he confidently tells her in “Fight Face” while renovating her home. Now, he’s suddenly incapable of planning for the future through uncertain times?
They Were Doomed From Day 1
Maybe Luke and Lorelai’s breakup feels hasty and illogical because their entire engagement started that way. Lorelai proposed on the night she fought with Rory over her decision to drop out of Yale and move in with her supportive grandparents, Emily and Richard. While the couple was definitely heading toward “forever,” Lorelai’s proposal felt like a stress response to losing Rory — not a carefully reasoned next step.
Later, when Luke said planning the wedding and dealing with his new fatherhood was “all too much” in the episode “Just Like Gwen and Gavin,” Lorelai reluctantly suggested postponing the big day.
Would Luke and Lorelai have been able to work through April’s arrival if they were just dating, and not dealing with the added pressure of their nuptials? Probably!
A Creative Split Was Happening, Too
While Luke and Lorelai were parting ways on screen, a creative split was happening behind the scenes — between Gilmore Girls and its creator, Amy Sherman-Palladino.
Sherman-Palladino and her husband-slash-collaborator, Daniel Palladino, left the show before Season 7 due to contract differences with Warner Bros. Even though they did begin Luke and Lorelai’s breakup, they weren’t around to resolve that conflict.
“Look, that’s something that I’ve got to deal with, man,” Sherman-Palladino told TV Guide in 2006. “I’ve got to wake up and go, ‘Sh*t. That last scene that I was going to do? Not going to happen.’”
The breakup and aftermath were the result of multiple creative visions, which could explain why certain aspects of it don’t totally add up.
Fortunately, Luke and Lorelai did ultimately reunite in the series finale after spending the entire final season apart. The Netflix revival series, A Year in the Life, caught fans up on the couple — revealing that they spent the intervening years living in Lorelai’s house together, before having a gorgeous wedding in Stars Hollow. Just a decade late, of course!
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